Saying Goodbye To New Zealand
Heather Markel, Writer, Speaker, Photographer, Traveler, Business Strategist
Saying goodbye to an unexpected new home is very strange.
As you read this, I may already be at the airport getting ready to leave New Zealand. A trip that should have lasted a few weeks became almost two years. Getting ready to leave this beautiful country, that became a second home, I’m thinking about the things I’m grateful for. Strange to have weathered a presidential election, and four time changes in one country that is not my own.
Chair with a view. Auckland, New Zealand
Copyright, 2020. Heather Markel.
1. I Had The Best Refuge From Covid
I had more than a year to live a normal life while the rest of the world went through the travesties of Covid. I’m so grateful for having this time to adapt, slowly, to the new world, and to be in a place where, up to now, people treated one another with respect and compassion through lockdowns and government policies.
2. I Was Surrounded By People Who Always Wanted To Lend A Helping Hand
New Zealand is full of really helpful people. No matter what hardship you’re facing, there will always be someone who wants to help you reach your destination, pay the bus fare when you don’t have a fare card, talk about something getting you down, and just be there. I’ve made some beautiful friends and they will be missed. And, I have a lot of them to thank for putting up with me as a flatmate for way too long – thank you! Thank you for your friendship, thank you for your kindness, thank you for teaching me so much about your culture, about being less wasteful, and living happy.
3. The Chance To Learn About The Maori
Another unexpected joy has been learning about the Maori. Traveling through the Southern hemisphere in 2019, I began my lessons about inidigenous peoples. There is so much I didn’t learn in history classes and I’ve been grateful for the real world education. The Maori are one of few indigenous people that have been treated better by their government. This is a country trying to make reparations, which includes ensuring that everyone makes an effort to learn to speak Maori.
4. Two years To See Spectacular Scenery Over And Over
Most tourists zip in and out of New Zealand, choosing the better-known locations, and then return home. I’ve now been able to travel all over the south and north islands 2 – 3 times. I’ve seen the view from the top of Queenstown, I’ve traveled around the Bay Of Islands, I’ve visited vineyards in Marlborough Sounds and visited the prison and Gannet colony in Napier. I’ve taken the tram in Wellington and visited the Weta workshop, and I’ve gone home to the Shire with hardly any other tourists in sight.
The sea view track at Marsden Cross. Copyright 2021, Heather Markel.
5. An Intimate Relationship With Local Birds And Nature
Learning to recognize the call of the Tui, the chattering of the fantail and the heavy flight of the kereru (wood pigeon) has been magical. Going deeper into the woods and learning about local plant medicine, and living with friends who grow their own food has been a wonderful education.
6. Latin Fit, Pilates And Steep Hills
I haven’t avoided the dreaded “pandemic belly”, but I did get to keep it in check thanks to Latin Fit dance and pilates classes in Kerikeri, and though I complain when I’m on them, the steep uphills that are part of most of the country have definitely been helpful managing my weight!
7. Delicious Kai Moana
Kai moana is Maori for seafood, and New Zealand has some of the best. Fresh salmon that hasn’t been farmed has become one of my favorite foods here, along with green lipped mussels, some of the best and meatiest I’ve ever tasted. There’s a long list of other fish I’ve never heard of that I’ll miss seeing in the supermarket.
8. Wonderful pets to keep me company
I did a lot of housesitting during my time in New Zealand. I loved the many companions I had. Recently, I had what felt like my own cat. I named him Max. I’ll miss his daily visits, nap-time cuddles, and his ever-growing intelligence figuring out which door to meow from to get my attention, and even climbing on the roof to make sure I saw him!
I knew this day would come, and feel an odd mix of sadness and excitement about beginning my long journey back to friends and family I haven’t seen for 2 years. Thank you Aotearoa, and New Zealanders, for a lifetime of great memories. You have become my whanau, and I won’t soon forget.
Staring out my window, my last evening in Auckland, I caught a glimpse of Sky Tower. I guess I’m not the only one feeling a bit blue about my departure.
Check out my New Zealand playlist on YouTube – a walkthrough of many of the places I got during my time here.