We said goodbye to Queenstown where we spent almost three months, sat in the camper we got over that car relocation site, and headed north.
Two days of driving were before us, and we had plenty of time to think about all that is behind us, and what is ahead. The plan was to go to the North Island, to spend three weeks in Wellington, in the house we stayed at the beginning of our stay in New Zealand. And then figure out what to do and where to go.
Also, soon we have to figure out whether we try to stay in New Zealand after our visa expires, or not. Shall we go in search of the place in which we will live, look for a permanent job, try to get the work permit – or not?
It was actually an idea that we were thinking about ever since we landed on this island on the other side of the world – are we going to stay and live in New Zealand? Are we going to find something that will motivate us to, after years we spent on the road, drop the anchor?
Driving and thinking about it, the night fell down, and we turned left on the first lay-by, in a grove of trees.
As we had a camper, we had the freedom to sleep wherever we wanted. New Zealand law allows wild camping outside the cities, provided that the vehicle is “self-sustainable”, ie. has a toilet. Although a lot of travellers sleep in cars or vans that they bought for thousand bucks on arrival in New Zealand, and thus risk a fine of $200.
We parked, prepared dinner, slept a couple of hours under the warm blankets, and prepared to go first thing in the morning – we had a long journey to the far north of the South Island.
The first stop was Lake Pukaki, from where you can see Mt Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain.
Too bad the day was cloudy and gray, because we knew what kind of view can be when its clear. Google it, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
We continued to the north, and continued thinking about the advantages and disadvantages of staying in New Zealand.
New Zealand is, without a doubt, a great place to live. The standard is one of the highest in the world, the economy is growing swiftly, unemployment is almost non-existent, and nepotism, corruption and crime appear only as exceptions and not as a rule.
Here, nobody talks about politics, religion or history. When they lose to the fiercest rivals in sports competitions, even though unfairly, give them a hand and don’t blame the referee. Nobody asks you where you’re from, nor does it matter.
People are approachable, smiling, polite. They do not condemn you if you’re different, whether you walk barefoot in the supermarket or lovingly holding a hand a person of the same sex while walking down the city. You never feel like a stranger, because they are all foreigners. While you are away from the rest of the world, all this world can be found here.
And finally, the country is beautiful and varied.
These were all excellent reasons to stay, but…
Hundreds of kilometers went by, another night fell down, and this time we turned to the right and found parking a few meters from the ocean, and hordes of sea lions who are were sleeping on the surrounding rocks.
Another dinner, another night’s sleep, another awakening.
We missed something. We could not help but feel that staying in New Zealand is not for us. We had plenty of reasons.
By staying we would be tied to one place. Our movement would be limited. Marie or I would have to find some full time job so we can get a work permit. And for people who don’t like to be tied up – this is not a top priority.
In addition, although we were rarely nostalgic, the fact that our family and friends were literally on the other side of the world, also played a role in our doubts.
But most of all, New Zealand seemed too tame. Too predictable.
You know what to expect here. Which is perfect, if that is what you are looking for.
But to us, carrying in our minds memories of travels in recent years – we missed a little bit of spontaneity and unpredictability. After a relaxed life in South America, life that played out on the street, mañana mentality, colourful mercados – it wasn’t enough to visit Saturday market once a week. After the chaos of Asia and its noise, odour, colour, heat – its not easy to get used to the quiet, neat and gentle way of life.
We missed eternal summer, and all it entails. We missed our not-so-developed around-equatorial life.
Maybe it’s a curse – years spent on the road enriches our lives, but at the same time gives us something that we can not get past – a choice. The knowledge that we can go anywhere in the world. All those years of traveling have given us the urge to look for perfection that we will probably never find, but at the same time, perfection we will never stop looking for.
As you travel, you look and experience so many things, invisible pole always raises. Yeah, that’s nice, but not as in… This food is amazing, but remember when we ate… Wow, look at this beautiful sunset, remember the one in…
And so on.
For how long? Until we pull ourselves together. When we arrive in a place and say – that’s it. Or at least when we decide that we will do our best to create something in a certain place.
But the decision was made: we will not try to create something in New Zealand.
We arrived to Picton, boarded a ferry, took a last glimpse of the South Island, and said goodbye. Who knows if we will ever come back.
We crossed the canal and arrived at the well-known Wellington. Our house and cat are still in the same place.
– Hi Ed – I started a weekly Skype-meeting with my boss, founder of HomeExchange.
– Hi Tom, what’s up? – he said.
– Just one thing: my girlfriend and I decided to leave New Zealand after the expiry of our visas – I crossed my fingers. – But I definitely want to continue to work for you.
– I’m glad to hear it – he immediately answered. – I have a few ideas on how we could use your experience, no matter where you are. But lets leave that conversation for when we see each other. You’re coming to France?
– Definitely – I fired.
– Excellent – he finished.
It was agreed – I fly to Zagreb at the beginning of the July, hang out with my friends and family, go to Biarritz on annual HomeExchange gathering, and return to New Zealand.
And then…then we’ll see.