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Thoughts on Six Years of Expat Life

Thoughts on Six Years of Expat Life

I can’t believe it’s been six years since I boarded my flight to New Zealand. Six years since Luke and I said see ya later to the normal post-graduate life and took the leap into the complete unknown.

We landed in New Zealand with a hotel booked and a tentative rental agreement in Christchurch. That’s it. We didn’t have jobs lined up, we didn’t have a massive amount of savings, and we didn’t know anything about the place we were moving to.

We arrived in Auckland to weather that I wasn’t prepared for. It was September, so coming to the end of Winter there. I had a pair of jeans and a t-shirt on. I thought it was going to be warm, I pictured beaches and blonde lifeguards everywhere. I literally knew nothing about the country I had just moved to.

We went for dinner at a bar on the Aqueduct. We had burgers and beers and I tried not to shiver. Luke started making friendly chit-chat to the bartender.

“Where are you off to next?” he asked.

“We’re moving to Christchurch in a few days” Luke told him.

He stared at us very seriously.

“Haven’t you heard?”

We just looked at him, shook our heads.

“They’ve just had a massive earthquake” he said.

All I remember is feeling kind of disconnected from the situation. We paid the bill and walked back to our hotel talking about what we should do. There were newspapers in the lobby, a special night edition had been published. On the front page was a picture of a car on fire, building debris all around it.

I emailed our soon-t0-be landlord and asked what was going on there. I asked if it was safe for us to still head down. In the meantime, Luke searched for places in Auckland for us to stay.

The next morning we had decided we would stay in Auckland. All night the news played a loop of buildings on fire, shattered glass in the street, the story of a boy who narrowly escaped death.

I was just about to cancel our flight down to Christchurch when Luke told me just to check my emails one more time.

Sitting in my inbox was an email from our landlord in Christchurch. I found it the other day and re-read it:

Hi Laura,

Please do not worry about a thing.  All is fine.  Yes we have had a most busy weekend and Christchurch has never seen anything like this before, but we are all ready for your arrival. In fact I have an even better room come available for you. The media always magnify everything.

Luke was reading over my shoulder. I don’t think I breathed while I was reading it. We looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and the next day we got on a plane to Christchurch.

I truly believe this choice has shaped so many of our decisions over the last six years. Being there for all of the earthquakes, being a part of the community there, the jobs we had, the friends we made. It shaped who we are today and the choices we’ve made since then.

christchurch square

Christchurch Square before the February 22, 2011 earthquake

We talk about our year in New Zealand often. It’s where we found our feet as expats, as travelers, as adults. It’s where we fell in love with the world and the idea of seeing as much of it as we possibly could.

I could never sum up six years of my life into a single blog post. It’s gone by in a flash and yet I feel like we’ve seen and done so much in that time. We’ve been to 17 different countries, we’ve lived in four of them. We’ve had jobs we hated and learned how to get ourselves the jobs we love. We’ve been down to our last $50 and we’ve lived extravagantly without having to look at the price of things at all. We’ve shared houses with strangers, slept in the backseat of our car, and had an apartment on the 20th floor. We have eaten foods I didn’t even know existed six years ago.

I could never have imagined that this would be my life. If you’d asked me at my graduation where I would be in 2016, I wouldn’t have said working for myself in Mexico City. I credit mine and Luke’s bravery, our decision to live this nomadic lifestyle, our love for travel and food and people, on those first few days in New Zealand; on our decision to move to Christchurch.

I wouldn’t change a thing.

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Six years of expat life

Ryan | Blogging From Paradise

Wednesday 14th of September 2016

Laura that's awesome. 6 years ex-patting it ;) We're traveling 5 and a half years - feeling like a wandering ex-pat - and our transformation has been something to behold. Pulling up roots and rooting somewhere else gives you a different perspective on life. Namely, how many truths you held dissolve into open minded-ness. Thanks! Ryan

Laura Bronner

Wednesday 14th of September 2016

Thanks, Ryan! It's definitely opened my mind and changed the way I see things for sure!

Shannon - SoleSeeking

Monday 12th of September 2016

Amazing story, Laura! In January 2017 I'm moving to Canada for two years. I've visited many times as a tourist but I'm so excited to start a new chapter as an expat. Hopefully I'll find the same success that you seem to have :)

Laura Bronner

Monday 12th of September 2016

Thank you Shannon! How exciting - Canada is such an awesome country! What part are you moving to? Good luck to you :)

Ben Zabulis

Friday 9th of September 2016

Yes, there's something about living overseas which really gets to you, perhaps it's the challenges and rewards. I think once people have lived abroad rather than just travelled it becomes nigh impossible to return to their home country, life just isn't the same and indeed how can it be ?

Laura Bronner

Monday 12th of September 2016

Thanks for your comment, Ben. I think you're right - it is definitely difficult to ever "go back".