Hey guys & girls!
Marc here, bringing you a little look into the part of travelling that few people talk freely about.
Currently back in Liverpool (my hometown) after a few years abroad between Australia & New Zealand. That is actually where Laura and I met, in Auckland, working a fancy insurance firm. Who knew that the witty Canadian girl & I would become such quick friends, but sometimes all it takes is a few banter filled e-mails & a love of travel to bring you new friends!
Despite all the thrills of travelling, which are countless, there is a dark side to travelling which many people experience and choose not to open up about... What am I doing with my life? What do I want from my life? The same dilemma that plagues most people when their life becomes a bit stagnant in their early twenties. Being English, I decided that for me, I wanted to see something I've heard so many people talk about, but something I've never had the pleasure of laying my eyes upon in England... the Sun.
From early on, I'd always wanted to go to Australia. Why Australia? I'm not sure. I think, as a kid, I just really wanted to meet Steve Irwin and ask him how he hadn't been snapped up yet. That dream sadly died when he got too close to a stingray, so my second pull to Australia was it’s sports culture. I'm a bit of a sports fanatic (to say the least). Cricket and football being my two favourite. The number one favourite alternates depending on how my team is doing at any given point in a season. Cricket is way ahead at the moment as England has never been too great in my lifetime and as an Everton fan I’ve just learnt to accept that, week on week, I'll be upset. But I digress, back to the dilemma. I'd reached my 23rd birthday, and I was pretty unhappy with how my life was turning out. I was going through the same mundane routine week in, week out. So, the night before my 23rd birthday I jumped on a flight comparison website and booked a flight, just like that! That was probably the most spontaneous thing I've done, and it filled me with excitement! I went downstairs the next morning to the usual "happy birthday son, here are your presents" and I did get some great ones... but none as exciting as the piece of paper I held in my hand. My flight details. This was it, I had decided. I'm going to go travelling. And I already didn’t want to come home. May 27th, 2013 arrived and I left my family at the airport. Most of whom were in tears; besides my younger sister who managed to deadpan a "goodbye, I'll miss you" with a most curt response of "tra" (aka thanks for those non-British readers). I landed in Adelaide (South Australia), my first stop on my tour as I had family friends there and, given that I travelled alone, I thought this would be wise. Indeed, it was- I was taken in and well looked after. After two weeks however, I wanted to get out there and see all that Australia had to offer. And I wanted to get the fruit picking done straight away as it was winter and I thought my body would cope better with the climate (I reference back to having never seen the sun before). Sure enough I made some calls and was offered a fruit picking job immediately. (“Come right away, we are short of workers” was my job offer). So the next morning I headed north of Adelaide, through the Barossa valley and onto the middle of nowhere. Which was where my first hiccup occurred. The hostel for the workers was a shoddy shed, and my bunk was already taken… by none other a red back lurking just above it (first encounter with Australian spiders & there he was over my bed) So, as I'd like to think anyone would in the same situation, I got drunk and fell asleep trying not to think of Rupert the Redback lurking up above. I woke the next day to be told that I'd be waiting three weeks for a job, despite being told I was needed immediately. The first of quite a few disappointments on my Aussie adventures. Sadly, Australia didn't work out in the end. I travelled across to Brisbane and grossly underestimated the cost of living before going out there, so it wasn't long before funds were being racked up on the credit card. When that happened I did what anyone in that position would have... I thought about going home. That is until it was suggested I try New Zealand. Now I had heard of New Zealand because of rugby (again sports nut over here), and the Haka, and that delicious little green fruit which is so amazing. So I thought, what the hell, I've nothing to lose. This was the moment that travelling went wrong for me. After a couple of weeks getting used to my new surroundings, finding myself a job (which I landed almost immediately. #nailedit), I very, very, very quickly fell in love with the place. I was welcomed into my new job by, what remains to this day, the nicest, most warming bunch of people I have ever had the pleasure of working with. People told me in Australia that I ought to be careful of Kiwis... they aren't the nicest of people, don't like foreigners etc. No Australia, the people of New Zealand show a warmth I've only experienced in India.
I was in the country on a two year working holiday visa, which expired before I knew it. But I didn't want to leave. And even more than that, I couldn't leave. The country, the people, the lifestyle captivated me so much I had started calling it home. So with that, I managed to get my visa changed to a full working visa. One year! I was thrilled. I was on the track for residency, something I'd wanted since I first arrived in the beautiful country. My travels up and down the country dwindled somewhat in the final year as I fell in love, had a job that kept me occupied and a manager who drained every ounce of strength and energy I had. But due to that, I picked up the hobby of bush walking. Which was the best thing I could have done. New Zealand's natural beauty is often hidden... off the beaten track so to speak. So often it is stumbled upon, and bush walking is an incredible way to do this. Leaving your house with what feels like the weight of the world on your shoulders, you arrive to a tropical oasis of waterfalls, bush, wildlife and much more. You leave the track forgetting what got you so stressed in the first place.
Before I knew it, that year was up and my visa came up for renewal and, unfortunately, it was declined based on a technicality. This is where that “dark side” of travelling starts to ring true. Having spent three years of my life in a country I love, making the best friends I could ever wish for from all corners of the earth, my adventure was instantly cut short. Before I knew it I was jobless, and boarding a plane back to The UK to I life that 3 years prior I was beyond happy to be leaving behind. I was instantly thrust back into the, the life I had worked so hard to absolve myself from. Back in New Zealand, my relationship inevitably broke down, my friends, my really close friends, the likes of which I never really had in the UK, were now 30,000km away. My life had been turned upside down, and, truth be told, it affected me more than I expected. I am a pretty positive person; Laura will be able to tell you that. I never look at the negative things in life. But in this situation, what were the positives? Sure, being back with my family is amazing. I've got two younger brothers aged 10 and 13, and I missed out on a crucial period of their lives. Catching up with them has been a big silver lining. I’ve only been home 6 months before and, whilst I loved catching up with family and friends, I knew the UK wasn't for me. New Zealand was my home. Or at least I thought it was until it was ripped away.
But there is one major positive that keeps me going more than anything... and that is I'm fortunate enough to have the opportunity to go back on the IEP visa (available to only UK and Irish citizens). Next year I intend to travel more, adventures to the USA & Dubai are up in the coming months & I’m excited to have some kiwi friends visiting over Christmas & hopefully again come summer. So that is definitely keeping me going. But in the back of my mind... 2018 is the year I intend to take the leap back to New Zealand. And in the words of Six60... this is forever. (if you haven't already heard of Six60, I'd recommend clicking here. They are a New Zealand band and, true to everything New Zealand provides, they will not leave you disappointed.)
So there it is, the dark side of travel, which in the midst of it is the best feeling you could have. Falling in love with a country & the people, and more so your life there. But with that comes the possibility that it may not last, so what I leave you with is – savor it. Every. Single. Second. Make it all count, have no regrets (and all sorts of other cheesy quotes) & take it all in because you never know when it could come to an end.