When I decided to backpack in New Zealand for a year, practically everyone I shared my plan with responded with an enthusiastic “Wow! Go for it!” This was really encouraging, and honestly played a role in launching me on my adventure: visa in one hand, one-way plane ticket in the other–and for the first time, practically no idea how life would unfold next.
But often I also received feedback that left me perplexed, smiling vaguely while grasping for a response, even mildly annoyed. Here are three ridiculous things people told me when I said I was moving abroad:
What will you do when you get back?
Seriously–what is this question? This is more pointless than asking a university student what they’re going to do when they graduate; at least they have a major and a few years experience in collegiate bullshitting so they can fabricate an aspirational answer. I’ll be living abroad for 12 months.
Here’s the thing about quitting my career, moving out of my house, selling my stuff, and flying over 8,000 miles away from home to backpack and live out of a van: my life has split wide open in an unprecedented way. It literally forces me to live in the present. I don’t know where I’ll be three weeks from now, much less a year from now.
Trying to plan or even guess where I’ll be in 12 months cuts off possibilities for embracing new opportunities and growth that could be unfolding right now. It’s now-me trying to make decisions for future-me–and the two could be completely different people by the end of this experience. In the next 12 months, I could develop a new skill, accept a previously unanticipated job offer. Or meet my future husband. Or choose not to return home, and keep wandering the globe.
I hope that, by the time this journey is over, future-me is headed on a path that now-me can’t even imagine.
Wait, you’re selling your car?? Wow, so you’re really doing it!
Er, was the one-way ticket not convincing enough? Time after time, people expressed more surprise that I was selling my car than at the fact that I was moving to the other side of the world. I would stare and say, “Should I just let it sit in the driveway for 12 months?” They would blink slowly. “Oh. I guess that’s a good point…but won’t you want it when you get back?”
My car was 11 years old and had over 180,000 miles on it–nothing precious. As far as I know, there’s no shortage of used cars in the world; with a little money on reserve, the ability to buy a car will present itself again in my future life. I’m much more interested in the fact that the money I earned from selling my car is furthering my travels right now–including buying a campervan here in New Zealand.
You’re so brave. I could never do that.
This one really leaves me scratching my head. Originally, I had to consider the strong possibility that I would travel to New Zealand alone. This frightened me; the isolation, the loneliness. A beautiful vista or sunrise is good when you’re alone, but it’s better shared. While discussing my fears with a friend, I ultimately decided that if I had to go solo, I would.
“That’s brave,” she sighed. “I’d never go if I had to go alone.” This made me pause. “But,” I said, “if going solo is the only option, then that means you never go.”
There’s no in-between with travel: you either do it, or you don’t. The thought that my fear could deprive me of this experience entirely was more frightening than going alone.
It didn’t feel “brave” per say; it still doesn’t. It feels rational, necessary. Go, or don’t go. There was really only one option for me–especially once I knew how easy it could be.
And that’s just it–it was easier than I ever anticipated. Blessedly, one of my best friends decided to travel with me. Our New Zealand working holiday visas arrived electronically less than 24 hours after we applied, everything taken care of online (and for the over-30 crowd, New Zealand has a range of visa options). You can book a plane ticket any day of the week; we got ours on sale from Air New Zealand. No shots. English is predominant; no new language skill required for us. No need for a new license or even a driving test to hit the roads here–just make sure you stay on the left side! I saved carefully for this trip, but thanks to WWOOFing (Willing Workers on Organic Farms), we sometimes go weeks without spending at all (not to mention all the great people we get to meet along the way). It’s not always easy–but it’s way easier than you’d think.
Which is why “I could never do that” feels so puzzling, so blatantly untrue. “Doing it” is possible (not to mention rich, fun and rewarding).
But only if you do it.
Love travel pics? See what we’re up to and check out some of New Zealand’s most beautiful spots on my Instagram!