Delving into my life as an expat I think it’s best to start with where we have come from. We’ve been expats for eighteen months now. Living in the hot, humid and sometimes VERY wet Bangkok. Overall we LOVE this crazy city, but what it does highlight is what we miss and love about our home.
New Zealand is so very different to Bangkok. Our country population numbers a quarter of the population of Bangkok?! Auckland is surrounded by sea and benefits from the sea breezes. Even on the hottest of Summer days it barely touches 30 degrees. Oh and goodness I didn’t know what humidity was!
Auckland is a beautiful harbour city with more than her fair share of beaches, wild spaces, and hills… I didn’t know we’d miss hills so much.
We are lucky to travel home to New Zealand a couple times a year to connect with friends and family and get a good dose of the outdoor life. Our most recent trip home was a highlight with a few days in Queenstown to celebrate my husbands ‘significant’ birthday. Four nights to ourselves, cycling, tramping, eating and of course drinking the wines.
Most significant for me however was the mountain summit of Ben Lomond. Whilst a fairly simply accessed mountain it is still a climb. And not so simple! Six hours of slog, a good dose of doubt followed swiftly by vertigo made it quite the challenge. But I made it, meeting a few friendly Kea locals on the way. The view is sensational and has to be one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Back in Auckland we are surrounded by our family and friends, and each time I return I am flooded with memories, that only the place you grew up can invoke. The first couple of days (thanks to jet-lag I’m thinking) are overwhelming, but once back on NZ time I’m making new memories with my kids. During this time, I think I have an insight into New Zealand (or anywhere ‘home’ is) that I just wouldn’t have whilst living here. It’s like seeing it for the first time, and sometimes through visitors or my kids eyes.
There is something special about watching visitors arriving into Auckland. I sat next to a young German couple who had travelled straight through from Europe and were so excited to be arriving in Auckland to start a years travel and work. They kept exclaiming how it was like the pictures and how could it be so beautiful. It was a gorgeous blue sky Spring morning, and as I looked out my heart jumped with joy to be back.
I can’t help but compare my life in New Zealand to being an expat in Bangkok, and can be a little harsh! But New Zealand wins me over each and every time.
Our kids love coming home, of course, playing with their cousins, friends and seeing their Grand-parents. Our son remembers a lot of New Zealand and enjoys asking me if I remember this or that and going to this place or the other. My daughter, a couple years younger, is more keen on the people we surround ourselves with. It’s always a huge wrench taking them back to Bangkok.
One place has become especially important in maintaining these ties and creating many beautiful memories with family. This is Great Barrier Island, I’m not sure you could get much more remote. It’s a half hour flight from Auckland, off the grid, and until recently didn’t even have cellphone reception. Like it’s name says it acts as a ‘barrier’ for the inner Auckland harbour. Standing on the east coast of this island can be a little daunting imagining that the next land fall is Chile!
We have a family bach (holiday home) on a beautiful stretch of beach where at it’s busiest only has a few dozen people, and that really is only four days a year. The rest of the time it truly is all to ourselves.
Our kids have been coming here since they were a few weeks old, it’s a retreat from work, life and an opportunity to relax, swim, fish, dive, tramp and be away from it all. Days of adventure, we are blessed to have this place, and our son is already planning to live there!!
Part of the joy of being an expat is the temporary nature of it. Knowing that home is always there, always a part of us, our lives and who we are. This has become all the more important with our children and what being an expat means to them.
We are living a blessed life with the excitement and opportunity of a large Asian city and travelling home to slow life down a little and enjoy all that New Zealand has to offer with a new appreciation.