[Ed note] Maiera Mazelev is not only one of my oldest (and best!) friends, but she’s also easily the most courageous person I know: A few years ago, she packed up all her belongings, and moved from Maryland, to the other side of the world (not literally, but almost!) to Australia, and now Auckland, New Zealand, where she happily resides (and feels at home), not least of all because she has learned to go with the flow (even when she’s getting rained on). And in so doing, she’s also changed as a person, from the logistical (how she gets from place to place), to the most fundamental parts of herself (she’s changed her pace of life, and learned to enjoy her own company through living in New Zealand). Here in this post, Maiera is sharing 5 big ways living in New Zealand has changed her: (1) she has learned to prefer public transportation, (2) she is able to be one with nature, (3) she’s become way more patient (and is slowly adjusting to a slower pace of life), (4) she’s learned to be a “tourist” in her own home, and (5) she’s learned to embrace being alone, and even doing nothing. Even if you have no intention of packing up all your belongings and moving to another country (or ever living in New Zealand yourself), you might enjoy this peek into how changing your environment can change you, and learn from what Maiera has learned.
Here’s Maiera on how living in New Zealand has changed her…
1. I’ve learned to embrace public transportation
Today, I made the decision to take the bus instead of driving to work (I don’t own a car, but my flatmate was out of town and let me borrow hers). But even with the option, I decided it would be worth the time and effort to take the bus rather than driving.
The moment I went through my front gate I got caught in the rain, and couldn’t have been any happier.
See, here in Auckland the rain is as unpredictable as Trump — the forecast this morning had said zero chance of rain — but there I was, caught in the rain. And New Zealand is also known as one of the sunniest places on Earth. And what happens when you get a combination of sporadic rain and strong rays of sun? RAINBOWS!
There are few things in life that make me as happy as a bright rainbow stretching from one end of the horizon to the other.
So even though it took me twice as long to get to work today and I got caught in the rain, I started the day with a big smile.
Obviously, when you own a car, you don’t get caught in the rain. But one of my life goals is to never again own a car. I know there are a lot of pros and comforts that come with having a car, you come and go when and where you please, you don’t get rained on, and you don’t have awkward moments with strangers that are part of taking public transportation (PT).
But those happen to be the reasons I love taking PT. I enjoy my walks in the beautiful neighbourhoods that have stunning tropical plants and flowers with beautiful views of all the mounts in the distance (mounts are inactive volcanoes). I like running into people and exchanging good mornings and seeing the families walking to school together.
But more than anything, I enjoy the random occurrences that I wouldn’t have otherwise had. For example, this past Friday I was at my bus stop when I noticed a bus approaching. It was raining, so I was glad to see it, but I was disappointed when I read the bus was out of service.
To my surprise the bus stopped anyway, the man opened the door and asked me where I was going. When I told him, he said it was on his way and gave me a lift! On the way there we had a nice chat and got a beautiful view of a rainbow all the way to work. (Shout out to Sunil for his kind gesture!) If I had driven, I never would have had that experience. This change of perception and expectations is just one of the many insights I’ve gained from living in this stunning country.
2. Going “out” means I get to enjoy the beauty of nature
I used to live in Maryland. There, if we wanted to do something on the weekends it would typically be going to a nearby pub or restaurant or possibly venture into DC to check out the Mall or some of the free museums. Driving to Ocean City would take about 3 hours and most places to hike at least an hour. But here, “going out” on the weekends means waterfalls, beaches, and hikes. Here, I can drive to a stunning waterfall within 45 minutes. There’s an abundance of beaches within 10 minute drive and hikes within 30 minutes.
For someone who loves being outdoors (like me), this is heaven on earth.
You can go on a stunning camping trip with a view akin to one you would see as a desktop background over a short weekend. (You might be asking yourself how I do these things without a car. There are heaps of people doing these things who have a car I just catch a ride with!)
There are plenty of websites and groups people post to when they are doing things like this and are happy to have company. Try to meet, or even stay with locals when you’re living abroad, like through CouchSurfing.com — or if you’re staying or living in New Zealand, try this group.
3. I’ve become more patient, and adjusted my pace of life
Recently, while walking home one day, I was waiting for the pedestrian sign to light up to cross the street (most people wait for the light here, even if there are no cars). Then, the light then turned green for the cars, but there was a car in the front that didn’t move.
And no one honked.
It was easily 10 seconds of the car not moving, and not one person honked their horn. (I wasn’t even in a car and I wanted to honk at him, so I still have some growing to do). After the 10 seconds the guy realised and began driving. That’s it. The pace of life is just different here, it has taught me patience.
This past weekend I went to the corner coffee shop to enjoy a coffee with my mate. While we were there we saw none other than Jacinda Ardern (the Prime Minister of New Zealand). She lives in my neighbourhood and walked with her mate to the coffee shop. (If that doesn’t attest to how chill this country is, I don’t know what will.)
Even my mornings have changed. I used to always be in a rush to get ready and get to work on time.
Now I take my time in the morning, I enjoy my breakfast, watch the sunrise, even clean up the house a bit, then leisurely walk to my bus stop.
4. I’ve learned to embrace adventure, and living “like a tourist”
There’s a podcast I listen to called “Happier,” with Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft (Podcast 167 – you can hear it here) where they explore the idea of living in your hometown as if you were a tourist. (Luckily for me I have only been here a couple years and still have the sense of being a tourist.) But what does that mean really?
It means live your life like you don’t know how much time you have left, and go explore!
- Go to that museum you’ve always been talking about seeing.
- Go to a meetup and investigate some subject you’ve always been interested in but never knew enough about.
- If there is an event coming up that I’m even remotely interested in and I have the time/opportunity/money to do it, I’m there! I always pleasantly surprise myself with how much I enjoy it!
- If money is an issue, start volunteering!
To that last point, I have a story: I volunteered at an event that led to volunteering at All Blacks games (a big deal here). That then led to volunteering at a concert venue, where I got to see Paul McCartney, Foo Fighters, Ed Sheeran and more — for free.
You never know how one adventure might lead you to the next.
5. I’ve learned that it’s okay to be alone, and to do nothing.
Many of the events that I mentioned earlier, I would go to by myself and/or meet people when I’m there. I have no trouble going to anything by myself anymore. (In the States, I would expect someone to come with me — and if they canceled, I’d end up not going “because of them,” and then resent them for it!).
The longer I traveled by myself the more I realised that if I want to do something, it’s up to me to do it.
And while having someone come with you can add to the experience, it can just as much take away from it. I have gotten to a point where I would prefer to do certain things on my own, even prefer to stay at home alone because I prefer my own company to others.
(I think that’s a really exceptional point to get to in life if you can truly enjoy your own company.)
Which brings me to my next point: I used to have a really hard time giving myself permission to do nothing. (i.e., if it’s good weather, I shouldn’t be inside.) But I have come to accept that there are times when doing nothing is okay. You know yourself better than anyone else and when you think you need a break, it’s probably because you need a break. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Final thoughts on living in New Zealand, where the grass really is greener
There’s a common expression “the grass is always greener on the other side.” When it comes to New Zealand, this might actually be correct, because this country is as green as it gets. But figuratively, life is as good as you make it.
For example, I wanted to live in a neighbourhood where I would pass by neighbours who said good morning. If I didn’t encounter that, I would create it by saying good morning to everyone I passed and it became my reality. Everyone has the power within themselves to live in a place they want to live, you just have to put in some effort.
It wouldn’t be fair or accurate to say that life in New Zealand is better than life in the States. There are pluses and minuses to both places and to everything. But, I can confidently say that I have learned to embrace new aspects of myself I don’t think I would have found had I not moved here and pushed myself out of my comfort zone. Who knew one day I would prefer public transport or run into the leader of a country while having a cup of coffee? My dream of exploring beautiful places has become my reality. I have learned to live each day to the fullest and best of all, learned to love myself. If you aren’t living your dream life, consider why that is, and how you can too make it your reality.
I hope this post has been interesting to anyone curious about how moving to another country can change your perspective, and enjoyed reading about how living in New Zealand has changed Maiera. You can follow Maiera’s adventures while she’s living in New Zealand (and all her travels!) on her Instagram page, here.
P.S. – You can see part of the amazing speech Maiera made at my wedding (Maiera was one of my two maids of honor!) in our wedding video, which is here. Also, here’s another post linking to Maiera’s instagram, plus four other accounts you should check out.