It’s been a week today since I arrived back in New Zealand, and not surprisingly, I’m having a bit of reverse homesickness. I’ve had itchy feet almost all my life. In fact, I haven’t managed to stay put in New Zealand for more than 12 months since I was 14 years old. It’s lovely being home and being surrounded by the familiar, but as they say, familiarity breeds contempt, and already I feel it creeping in on me.
It’s not that I don’t love New Zealand. I do. In typical Kiwi fashion I take a lot of pride in being a Kiwi, prancing around the globe with my pounamu proudly on display. We’re a nation of patriots, but in a modest ‘we come from the edge of the world’ kind of way.
It seems to be a bit of a kiwi thing, this travel bug. Interview the crowd at any backpackers, anywhere in the world, and I can almost guarantee you’ll meet a kiwi (and probably a handful of Australians too). Brits make up the rest of the pack, a Canadian here and there, and rarest on the backpacker trail, an American. You would struggle to meet a kiwi who hadn’t spent significant time overseas. The majority of us embark on our OE (overseas experience) either after high school or after our undergrad. It’s a bit of a right of passage for the kiwi young adult. In order to be initiated truly into adulthood, one must have experienced the outside world.
Where does this innate need to escape our comfort zone come from? New Zealand is young. You’ll notice a lot of travellers still hit London for their OE, tracing their roots and spending some time in the ‘motherland’. Most of us have grandparents from other countries, maybe even parents. We’re a country of immigrants, and the desire to explore the roots of where we all came from (and where each other came from) is bubbling away in us all. Add to that the fact that we are almost literally located at the edge of the world (emphasised almost painfully when looking at an American map, have a look, we’re almost slipping off the edge) and the need to get out there and see what’s what is near unbearable. It’s not an option, we just have to go.
It’s bloody expensive though, and time consuming. Recently I remarked to a friend that a 12 hour flight to Hong Kong was ‘short’, which from New Zealand to an overseas location is short, in relative terms anyway. He looked at me as if I were insane.
But I’m not insane. I’m just your typical kiwi, yearning for adventure from my own little corner of the world. Must be time to get planning again.