Since deciding to come to New Zealand, I’ve been asked several times what my expectations are for my time here. My first reaction was to laugh – expectations? Please, I learned to do without those my second year of college. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that life is never what I expect it to be, be that better or worse. My time in London was pure magic, so I decided the safest thing to do coming to New Zealand – to avoid disappointment and such– was to keep it simple; to hope to see the beauty of the country and anything else beyond that would be icing on the cake.
The plan was to live in Christchurch for the year, get a PA job at a university, and hopefully have a chance for a few roadtrips here and there. I even applied for some positions at the University of Canterbury while I was home in the States – and as I received one rejection email after another, I didn’t take it too hard. I almost hoped it wouldn’t work out, because I wanted to see if something unexpected – something I couldn’t have organized from anywhere else – might come my way once in the country.
The first job I applied for in Christchurch was everything I could have asked for – a PA role at the University of Otago’s Christchurch campus, a fixed-term contract of one year (hence avoiding the issue of them wanting someone permanent), a great salary that would give me the financial freedom to travel, and four weeks of paid holiday. However, I had about two weeks to wait until the closing date before I could expect to hear from them, so to get the cashflow flowing, I started temping. I’ve written already about my first two placements, and how even though we worked ourselves out of a job at Statistics New Zealand, the post at Community Energy Action came about.
Now…not to seem like I’m changing the subject, but forgive me as I set the stage for the rest of this post. At the same time as I started work at my new office, I talked to a friend back home who told me I should work at a ski resort in Queenstown during the winter. I didn’t give it much thought initially, but by the next day – last Monday – I found myself thinking more and more, “Why not? Why the heck not?” And while I thought I could just come back to Christchurch once the ski season is over in October, I found myself googling info on another job that’s popular with backpackers: seasonal agricultural work. Pretty soon I’d come up with a plan:
Temp office work in Christchurch until June
Ski resort in Queenstown until October
Vineyard work up north in Nelson through the rest of my time here
Coincidentally (or not), one of my flatmates, Kenny, also works at a Mexican restaurant in town called the Flying Burrito Brothers. He mentioned one night that they were short-staffed – having had some experience as a server, I thought it might be a great way to make some extra money. He talked to his manager about me, and when I went in to see her Monday night, she told me to come in Saturday night for a trial.
Okay…so here we are come Tuesday morning. I’ve got my new “plan” for New Zealand set up, the temp job for the time being and a potential second job in the works. I don’t know why, but it seems that as soon as you get one thing lined up, the powers that be always seem to throw you off-course. Eleven am Tuesday, I get a voicemail from the University of Otago asking me to come in Thursday for an interview. Of course.
Immediately my head’s filled with numbers and possibilities. With the salary I would be earning, I’d be able to stopover in other countries like Hong Kong and Japan on my way home next year, and have some leftover to put towards grad school in London. I got to the point where I decided that if they offered the job, I would take it. Too torn by the two alternatives, I couldn’t bring myself to choose.
Wednesday didn’t help. While the chief executive of my office had joked about me staying on longer, that morning my supervisor came over and asked me if I’d definitely be available to stay through the end of June…right when the ski season begins in Queenstown. It was all lining up a little too perfectly. And to think I was actually stressed when my job at Statistics New Zealand finished early! The only thing now was the struggle to figure out what my head was telling me versus my instincts/heart/gut/dare I say soul? Did I want to stay in Christchurch, work a “real” job, and travel other countries later? Or take a bit of a paycut in exchange for seeing more of New Zealand while I’m here?
The interview for the PA role was on Thursday and within two hours, there were two messages on my phone. One from my temp agent officially extending my temp post until June. The other from the University of Otago offering me the position of PA and Research Administrator. I could only think one thing:
But then…when I really thought about it, it was an easy decision, right? The last thing I came to New Zealand to do was work in an office everyday and the motive furthest from my mind was money. Was I really that tempted? Was I really that thrown off by the offer? In a way even, I was ashamed of myself, for as far as I’ve come, the idea of a bulked-up savings account still tugs at some part of me. I knew I have to go, I have to move and travel while I’m here. As beautiful as Christchurch is, it’s not worth staying here, in one place, for a working holiday. In fact, you might say it would be the antithesis of the whole reason I’m in New Zealand. I’d be not exactly wasting my time, but then again, not taking full advantage of it either. In the end, I asked one question:
What Would Bill Do, of course, Bill being the preeminent travel writer Bill Bryson – one of my idols. And as an aspiring travel writer myself, I made the decision that will give me the most experiences as possible to draw from one day. I called my temp agent and accepted the extended contract with CEA. I called the University and did something that two weeks ago, I would not have done – I turned down the PA role, surprising even myself. And now I’ve switched mindsets completely and started to view New Zealand like the world itself and each city a different country with its own stories to share. I’m so anxious to see the world, to cross as many countries off my “list” as I can, but sometimes it’s not about the numbers. What I had to realize is that this year in New Zealand may slow down my international conquest, but I’ve got a crazy chance to get to know this country in a way many may not.
So what’s on the agenda?
The TranzAlpine Express
Dunedin and Invercargill
Fiordland and Milford Sound
The West Coast
Franz Joseph Glacier
Nelson and the Marlborough Sound
And that’s all before Christmas! In my last remaining months, I hope to work on a few vineyards on the North Island and explore up there as well. I may not have originally known what I was coming to New Zealand for, but my expectations have grown exponentially in the past week. It’s exciting, it’s thrilling, to be mapping out routes and looking up rates and getting ready to drive on the left side of the road for the first time. So is this what the great Mr. Bryson would do? I can only hope. But one thing I do know…
And that’s what I’m going to do.