I think it’s fair to say I’ve traveled a bit. In my twenties I did what young New Zealanders do and did the big OE [Overseas Experience] – it’s sort of a rite of passage here because we are so far away from the rest of the world. Many young kiwis [New Zealanders] go to Britain and then on to Europe from there. Not all but most New Zealanders end up coming home at some stage. Until I traveled, I didn’t understand the reason so many kiwis come back home (other than family and friends).
I was overseas for several years the first time, then traveled again in my thirties but for much shorter periods. I’ve spent a lot of time in Britain, traveled through parts of Europe as far as Turkey (loved Turkey!), explored big chunks of southern and eastern Africa and Morocco (also particularly loved Morocco). Have spent a little time in the States (but not enough), parts of Asia, Australia and the South Pacific.
What I learnt from travelling (that I hadn’t expected) is that I love to explore. I never knew that I’d so enjoy exploring new cities – and it didn’t matter whether I was travelling with someone or on my own – I just loved it!
I also didn’t realise how patriotic I’d become until I was away from home. I didn’t realise what I loved about New Zealand until I was no longer there. I knew I’d miss family and friends but there’s so much of the kiwi lifestyle, and parts of kiwi culture that I really love. The mountains and hills, forests, lakes, the wide expanses and freedom, native trees and native birds – the incredible beauty that is my homeland – I just never really appreciated it until I was elsewhere. I also didn’t realise how friendly New Zealanders were until I wasn’t around them! Then there’s the culture, the ‘can do’ attitude, the mix of nationalities and the diversity those nationalities have brought to current kiwi culture. And ice cream. The koru. Jandals. Togs…. And there’s so much more I could say (I could go on and on).
The point is – I did all my exploring and came back to where I started, and because of the experiences I’d amassed along the way, I found that I saw things differently; my perspective had changed.
“…we shall arrive where we started and see the place for the first time”
That’s what coming home was like for me after that first trip away, and each time since. That sense of seeing my country for the first time, seeing it differently, and the renewed appreciation of being back home. It’s incredible and awesome. I’d even go so far as to say: priceless!