I think I just want to go home
This is what I expected: I’ll go to New Zealand, get a job on the mountain, live right near the mountain, and ski every day.
This is what happened: I went to New Zealand, I lived out of my bag, bounced around hostels for 16 days, finally found a place to live over an hour away from the mountain, worked two jobs, skied once or twice a week, and came home a month before I planned.
I wasn’t the only one who went to New Zealand to ski for the season. People from all over the globe arrived in Queenstown the same time I did. We were all after the same jobs and the same houses. Employers and Landlords kept telling me the same, “Ah, if you’d only come a few weeks earlier…”
I wanted out of hostels. I wanted to give up and go home. I felt frustrated, uninspired, and scared. I became quiet, short tempered, and lonely. I was surrounded by the most natural beauty I’d ever seen, but I couldn’t touch it. I watched people walking to the bus stop with their skis, but mine stayed in my bag. I smelled people cooking spaghetti Bolognese in the kitchen, but my stomach grumbled. I woke to my bunkmates readying themselves for work, but I was still unemployed. I heard strangers in the common room celebrate the lease they signed to get out of this place, but I’m on my way down to the front desk to pay for another night. What am I doing here? I came to feed my addiction for skiing. I could see the mountains from town. That would only serve as torture.
I didn’t anticipate any of it. They’ll see where I went to school, the certifications, the little bit of traveling I’ve done – they’ll hire me. Only I didn’t consider that no one’s impressed by where I’m from, no one’s impressed by where I went to school because they’ve never heard of it, no one’s impressed by my connections and how important they are because they’re not here, no one’s impressed by my job experience because everyone’s just as, if not more, qualified, and no one’s impressed that I’ve lived in Australia because they’ve all been there too.
Travel became a great education in frugality. I learned the value of living with less, living below my means. I’d eat once a day because a head of garlic is $34, an avocado $9, and forget about meat. I’d keep my phone on airplane mode because a data plan is $90 a month that I’m not sure I’ll have. I’d stick out my thumb and ask a stranger for a ride home because they were willing to help me out. I’d drink boxed wine because a six-pack is a couple dollars more. I’d walk 45 minutes to work because this country is beautiful and I need to try to appreciate that. I’d sit in a room and enjoy the company and conversation of friends because we don’t have cable or Wi-Fi.
Travel became a great education in appreciation. I grew up surrounded by good fortune. I won the lottery. I was born to amazing parents in a great neighborhood with great friends. I never had to worry about much, and I was oblivious to how much I took for granted. My prestigious high school and college educations, paid for. My phone bill, paid for. Car and gas, paid for. Rent, furniture, food, water, electricity, cable, Wi-Fi, all paid for. I was brought up to say please and thank you because that was important to mom and dad. Those words became habit, I didn’t know how to mean it. Travel showed me how to mean it, so to my mom and dad – Thank you, sincerely.
We’d eventually find our shitty unfurnished house in the town we’d learn the locals call “Fernhill”. We’d find jobs in cafes and ski shops to cover rent and minimum expenses. The ski fields closed for the season around the same time my lease expired, and only two weeks after we ditched our broken down, shitty car on the side of the road near one of those ski fields. I felt drained. I missed my home, my family, my friends. I changed my flight and came home a month earlier than I planned. I think I’ll look back and consider moving to New Zealand one of my finest achievements.