Journal Stories & Essays Working Holiday

6 Months in New Zealand + Why I Almost Left

I’ve just hit the half-way mark on my year-long journey through New Zealand. I’m surprised by how content I am at the moment, considering I’ve settled into a job and a routine here rather than just traveling. It’s even more surprising considering just two months ago I was ready to pack up and leave the country altogether.

Before I arrived in New Zealand, I imagined I’d spend most of my time traveling, stopping only for a couple of months at a time to work. I never imagined I’d find a job two weeks after I first set foot on Kiwi soil, and I definitely never imagined I’d still be at the same job 6 months later. But not only am I here 6 months later, I’m planning to stay put for 4 more months!

Four to six months may not sound like a long time to most people, but to me it sounds like an eternity. For the last 3 years, I’ve only taken jobs for short periods of time, the longest being 5 months back in 2014. Forget the jobs—I haven’t even lived in the same place for more than 5 months since 2014. I move around a lot, and I’m lucky that I’ve been able to find seasonal and temporary work wherever I go.

So yeah, 6 months is like a lifetime. By the time I leave this job, I’ll have spent the better part of a year in one place (10 months). Yes, I did take a 2 month break from this job to wander around New Zealand, but it feels like I never left.

I tend to associate each place I live or spend a significant amount of time in with a lesson. My time working on a farm taught me how to stand up for myself instead of shying away from confrontation. My time in Seattle taught me how to be social and how to be more confident around people. My time in Wyoming taught me how to start working towards bigger goals instead of focusing on instant gratification.

During my 2 month break in June/July, I was struggling to figure out what New Zealand’s lesson would be. I felt like I wasn’t progressing in any way and that really messed with my mood. Suddenly, instead of enjoying my time in a new country, I was so fixated on finding a way to make some big step forward…a step forward to where, I didn’t know.

The anxiety from that whole situation started to weigh me down. I was stressed out and exhausted. I was in New Zealand, free to go anywhere and do anything, but I just felt like I was missing something. Since the moment my plane touched down in Auckland, I’ve been waiting to feel the “magic” of New Zealand—that special something everyone who visits seems to feel. I wasn’t feeling it. I was ready to pack up my little suitcase and catch a flight home. I didn’t want to be in New Zealand anymore.

Luckily, another thing I’ve learned in the past few years is to not make big decisions while anxious. When I’m anxious, my instinct is to run back to whatever or wherever feels familiar. After giving myself some time to think, I realized that going “home” would not make me any happier, it would not make my life easier, and I would more than likely be super upset with myself for leaving New Zealand.

When I left this job at the end of May, I wasn’t entirely sure I’d return. I said I would, and I thought I’d like to, but I was also hoping I’d find somewhere on the South Island to call home for a while. After all the unexpected emotions and roadblocks I experienced over the New Zealand winter, I was more than happy to be invited back to a job I knew, a place I knew, people I knew. It was exactly what I needed.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been back here for 2 months already. My first stint only lasted 2 months, and it felt like fooooreeveeerrrr. I was restless because I hadn’t experienced anything else in New Zealand yet. Now that I’ve had a chance to see a bit of the country, I’m pretty content with settling into this one place again for a while.

I don’t know if I’m content because I wasn’t overly-impressed with the rest of New Zealand (blasphemy, I know), or if it’s because I’m starting to crave a little tiny bit more stability. Every plan and idea I had about how this working holiday would go has completely changed. What I’m doing now, what I want to do for the next 6 months, and what I’m focusing my time on is not what I thought. But I’ve found a compromise that I’m happy with. I’ve found out what it is I need here, what I need at this time in my life.

So I didn’t leave New Zealand early and I’m so happy I stayed. My feelings about this country are mixed, but I’m not so set on figuring them out just yet. Lessons only become clear in hindsight—and maybe that’s a lesson in itself.

Here’s to the next 6 months in New Zealand!


Have you ever felt like you wanted to leave a place earlier than planned while traveling? What did you do?


6 Months in New Zealand + Why I Almost Left

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9 Comments

  • Reply
    Flo
    September 27, 2016 at 7:50 pm

    Courtney, thank you for sharing! I struggled with the exact same thing last year when I moved to San Francisco for work, and ultimately decided that I needed to make a career change and move back to Asia. I can identify with the difficult conflicting emotions and am glad you found a way through it! Whatever happens, I think the one thing I’ve learned is that there is no “right” decision and things will find a way to work themselves out!

    • Reply
      traveldaze
      September 28, 2016 at 6:40 pm

      Thanks for reading! And you’re right–there is no right or wrong decision or “should” or anything like that. I just have to keep following my gut. I’m glad I decided to stick it out here in New Zealand for now. 🙂

  • Reply
    Chiera
    October 9, 2016 at 4:18 am

    I’m planning to move to NZ next year and tbh the anxiety has already hit! Will I be able to afford it? Have I built it up too big that now my expectations are too high? I too am planning on travelling but stopping for a couple of months at a time for work – but who knows what will happen. I really enjoyed reading your post. Glad you’re now enjoying NZ 🙂 x

    • Reply
      traveldaze
      October 9, 2016 at 4:35 pm

      I know I had really built it up in my head based on the fact that EVERYONE always hypes it up–like really hypes it up. It is no doubt a beautiful country, but not everyone is going to feel the same way about it just because it’s beautiful. It is more expensive to live here than I thought it would be, but than can be accounted for by making budget adjustments. Don’t be anxious, though! It’s an easy place to live in, an easy place to get around, and it’s pretty easy to find work. If you ever have any specific questions about New Zealand, feel free to email me. 🙂

  • Reply
    Juliette @ Snorkels to Snow
    October 10, 2016 at 9:51 am

    Thanks for sharing – as a Kiwi I must admit NZ is not much fun in the winter months unless you are a skier or snowboarder! Summer gives you lots more options especially if you’re into the outdoors. It depends what you are searching for too and what defines beauty for you – sometimes big expectations can only set us up for disappointment. But perhaps that’s the lesson that NZ is teaching you – it’s less about the country itself but more about learning to embrace each moment as it comes rather than anticipating some big lightbulb moment. Not everywhere is going to change your life – but sometimes it will be on reflection years down the track where you realised it was a period of growth. Sometimes growth happens slowly over a couple of years, and sometimes it’s so subtle you don’t notice it as it happens, only a couple of years later when looking back. I remember a volunteering trip in India with a group & some of those on the team hated every moment and wanted to leave as soon as possible. It was only after we finished the stint in India and returned home that they realised how much they wanted to return! But one thing in life is the same for everyone – it will be what you make it to be. No one will make it for you – it’s up to you to create your own personal NZ journey.

    • Reply
      traveldaze
      October 10, 2016 at 2:11 pm

      Thank you so much for your comment & I couldn’t agree more! I was expecting something based on everyone else’s experiences, and that got in the way of finding/making my own experience. I knew I needed to ride it out to get past the initial…disappointment…in order to find out what New Zealand could really be for me. And my disappointment isn’t so much with the country itself, but with my expectations, which is a totally different thing. And a lot of it has to do with the fact that I’ve spent most of my time working, and my current environment does not give me a lot of freedom to experience NZ as I’d like to. I’m excited for the chance to explore the South Island in the summer months, when I’ll have more opportunity to enjoy the outdoors.

  • Reply
    Mimi Rose
    October 10, 2016 at 10:02 am

    Good for you for deciding to stay! I spent a year living and working in Wellington and there were definitely times I felt like it wasn’t the right fit for me too, but I stuck it out and came away with an experience I’ll remember forever…and a Kiwi beau who came back to America with me so it wasn’t bad at all! 🙂 Here’s to more New Zealand adventures for you! #flyawayfriday

    • Reply
      traveldaze
      October 10, 2016 at 2:14 pm

      Thanks, Mimi. I’m glad I decided to stay too. I know I’ll appreciate my time here in the end, and I’ll be happy to look back and say I spent the full year in NZ.

  • Reply
    Kana
    October 18, 2016 at 7:32 am

    Courtney I love the honest post! When I moved to the states at 18 after being born and raised in Tokyo, I think I searched for flights back the entire first year of freshman year in college. I’ve been here for 10+ years now and I STILL get really homesick and contemplate moving back. So glad you love NZ though!! Thanks for joining Fly Away Friday!

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