Our first New Zealand road-trip
It all started with a 3 and a half-weeks honeymoon holiday trip to New Zealand in November 2005. Before we arrived, we knew that the country was beautiful, with lots of green and lots of sea. But something was different to our previous holidays in Italy, Switzerland, France, Greece or the United States. We experienced a feeling of freedom and peace in New Zealand that we have never had anywhere else before.
We did an extended road-trip across both Islands, driving 4000 km or more. You know, when you’re travelling 18,000 km from home, you want to make sure you don’t miss anything. Who knows when you’ll have a chance to come back again? Though, after those almost 4 weeks it was clear for us: We have to come back here again!
Our second New Zealand road-trip – lesson learned
Time went by and after the arrival of our second daughter in 2006 we thought it would just be too difficult to do such a long flight again. But 3 years later, we couldn’t wait any longer and asked Christian’s parents to look after the girls while we would spend some time off on a second, 5-weeks journey to New Zealand. We had a great time, doing less kilometers on the road, only on the North Island. But in retrospective it was a stupid move. We realized that we had a family now and travelling without the kids just felt wrong. At least that trip helped us to get clear about that…
Spending a year in New Zealand – the best idea ever!
December 2011: The days were short, winter hit us early, and the grey half of the Austrian year was just about to get really nasty and annoying. To top that, we found a new issue of the German travelling magazine 360° Neuseeland in our mailbox. There it was again, that incredible desire to go to New Zealand. Now! Is it possible to fall in love with a country?! Yes, totally. (Here you can read why.)
What we did next, is described in detail in our “How to prepare your adventure“-guide.
Our girls were at the age of 6 and 8 by the time we arrived in July 2012. The younger one attended the Motueka Rudolf Steiner Kindergarten for a few more months and the older one joined class 2 at the Motueka Rudolf Steiner Lower School. It didn’t take them long to adapt to the new language and the environment and they enjoyed going to school and finding new best-friends.
In our sabbatical year, we had an awesome time, managed to develop a stronger family bond, got much more relaxed and learned a lot about the Southern Pacific culture. We’ve also seen the less amazing aspects of New Zealand (to say it nicely) that you normally don’t see as a tourist. Such as the horrible methods used in agriculture (which may cause an urge to only buy organic food once you’ve seen the spraying activities in large fruit orchards) or the lack of technical standards that we were used to from Europe (now it makes more sense to us that the EU spends massive effort in defining standards that ensure product quality and safety).
When we went back to Austria, we were pretty much done with New Zealand. Our year was actually never intended to be the start of a permanent immigration process. But on departure day, there it was again, that weird sad, but divided feeling in the gut area. Should you laugh or cry to go ‘home’ after such a crazy and amazing year?
We were confident that we would be able to continue our new, more relaxed lifestyle in Austria, and we actually did it – but only for 3 weeks, not a single day more. The truth is, you automatically jump back into the same boots that you have left a year ago. The same habits, the same thinking and the same overly perfect, but boring environment that doesn’t leave much space for creativity, uniqueness and different thinking.
After a few months it became clear to us that we don’t fit the system anymore and we wouldn’t be willing to accept certain things that were normal before, but were now put in a different light after seeing how life can be elsewhere.
Our one year New Zealand adventure was the foundation for us to get clear about what we want. If we had immigrated immediately, we probably would have always thought about the “what if…?”-questions which often lead to moving back after a couple of years. Several of our friends who directly immigrated to New Zealand with all their stuff, still have this occasional urge to move back to Europe. Interestingly, most of them who really moved back to Europe came back to New Zealand after a while again. They experienced the same problem that we had after leaving New Zealand. Though, moving all your household stuff back and forth again and again is definitely the most expensive way to learn the lesson.
Let’s be clear about that: Going to New Zealand requires some sort of pioneering and adventuring spirit. If you expect to find paradise here, you will only be able to find it if you make it one – New Zealand will not make it for you. You will have to work hard for finding your luck, but it will pay off, promised!
Moving permanently requires 10 times more planning, expenses and nerves, than just spending an adventure year. That’s why we can just recommend doing a trial period first, to everyone who tinkers with the idea of leaving the Old World.
It took us about 10 months from getting clear that we want to relocate, to actually sitting in the airplane. New Zealand immigration law is very strict and the procedures to apply for an Entrepreneur Visa (the only one possible for self-employed people who would bring their own job rather than applying for a job at another company) are utterly complicated and complex. Selling your house and basically everything you own, except the things you can fit into the shipping container, is another major step to take.
In October 2014 we finally arrived in New Zealand. We bought a typical lifestyle section on a hill near town to build a new house. We have got almost 14,000 m² of land for a reasonable price (totally un-thinkable in Austria!) where we currently live the dream of having some sheep and chickens, a large garden with more than 100 different types of fruit trees, and an extensive veggie plot that provides a big part of our food throughout the year. In late 2015 we moved into our newly built home that follows eco-house design guidelines. We still enjoy travelling around.
That’s where we are now. We still love it to be here.
Christian, Eva & the girls – Motueka
PS. All pictures on this website are our own ones that we took during our many travels across the country. Please drop us a message if you’re interested in licensing any of them. All funds will be donated to the new campus project of the Motueka Rudolf Steiner School.