Monday, March 21, 2011

Why New Zealand? And why Blog4NZ?

I chose NZ as my destination for a career-break-working-holiday for any number of reasons. My feelings and reasons at the beginning of my trip I’m sure have grown or changed a bit, so if you want the story from the start, then go ahead and check out my first ever blog post. I decided on NZ because I wanted to travel. I wanted to spend a year outside my home country in order to live and experience a culture different from my own. I didn’t speak any foreign languages and wasn’t up for that sort of challenge, so narrowed it down to English-speaking countries. I have a mother who worries more than any other person I’ve met, so there was no question my destination had to have a “safe” reputation (particularly for the solo female traveler). I also needed a change. I wanted to feel like I was away. New Zealand may not be directly on the other side of the world from Pennsylvania, but it’s pretty darn close. I knew there were heaps of outdoor activities to appease my taste of adventure and any photographs I’d seen were just plain stunning. It was a far off fantasy of mine to spend a year abroad, and everything I learned about NZ seemed to make the choice ever more clear.

After a bit of time here, I can’t say that I’ve traveled to a place all that different from home. I say I wanted to see and experience a culture different from my own, but to be fair, the US and NZ are both thoroughly developed countries. Sure, there is an overall more laid-back attitude among Kiwis, but I’m sure there are parts of the states you can find similar mindsets. People are also more welcoming and generous than you could expect – again an attribute you might find somewhere in the states. It’s fun to learn the accent and the various idiosyncrasies of language, but for the most part I can live and communicate much like I would back home. It’s just the combination of all these things that make the experience so special! The friends I have made and the experiences I’ve had with them are what I will cherish in the long term. Aside from the people, the most appealing part for me is being outdoors. There are endless nooks and crannies in this country you would never have enough time to explore!  There are different climates in different parts of the country, varied terrain everywhere you look, and such diverse environments to discover. I’m not sure I will ever have had “enough!”

In light of the earthquake I have joined a grassroots blogger movement called Blog4NZ. Though my entire blog is about my travels in NZ, the Blog4NZ group is using the next three days in an attempt to inundate the international travel media about traveling to NZ. At first it may seem odd that we want to essentially advertise NZ as a travel destination rather than dwell on the devastation, but it makes sense to me.

There have been horror stories and hero stories, tales of faith and tales of destruction. And by now we have all heard them. Christchurch will never be quite the same, but the events of last month have only improved camaraderie in this beautiful country. There is a television commercial that mentions how “New Zealand is a village” and it encourages Kiwis to continue supporting one another after the earthquake. The key to this image is that Christchurch is only a small part of the whole, and the destruction took place in a fraction of the city itself. The rest of this country – filled with panoramic views, wide open spaces, must-see sights, and adventures galore – is still very much alive and well!

In preparation and inspiration for composing a related post, I brainstormed and tried to write a Top 10 list for the NZ activities that remain on my to-do list. I wanted to prove that even though I have been here 5 months now, there are still heaps of things I would like to accomplish. Looking at the list I feel as if I must not have been doing anything during my time so far because at this point it has tripled and just keeps growing! Sure I have 7  months left, but it feels as if it’s nearly winter and I wonder just how many of my intended activities I’ll be able to do before I leave. I could go squeeze them in now, but my budget is low and I need to be working for a while so I can continue to say here. Perhaps I’ll just have to plan on coming back to visit someday in order to continue checking things off my list!

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