It was the perfect trip to get away from everything and everyone I knew, out of my comfort zone and into the open and unknown. I questioned everything I’d envisioned for myself in the past and tried to imagine what I wanted from life in the future. I didn’t find an answer… until I got to New Zealand.
It was meant to be a "trip of a lifetime" but little did I know just how life changing it would end up being. Coming out of a 5 year relationship and having just completed my master’s degree in London, I travelled to the other side of the world for a 3 month trip around Australia and New Zealand.
I needed some time to myself to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I had a degree, big dreams, my family and lots of friends at home – but I had no job, no flat, no partner, nothing holding me back.
I flatted with a New Zealander in London who I promised to visit on my trip. I spent a couple of months in Australia first, traveling on my own from Perth to Cairns and all the way down the East Coast to Adelaide. This was not only the furthest trip from home I'd ever done, but also the first one I did completely on my own. I stayed in hostels and took the Greyhound bus to get from one location to the next. I met lots of interesting and inspiring people, some of whom I’m still friends with today. It was the perfect trip to get away from everything and everyone I knew, out of my comfort zone and into the open and unknown. I questioned everything I’d envisioned for myself in the past and tried to imagine what I wanted from life in the future. I didn’t find an answer… until I got to New Zealand.
Nick, my flatmate from London, picked me up from the airport. I stayed with him for a few days in Auckland and then we went on a 6 week trip around the most beautiful country I had ever seen. Nick went to great lengths to show me around his home country and New Zealand wasn't the only thing I fell in love with during our travels together.
As a teenager I would buy myself one of those wall calendars that feature a different "paradise beach" for every month. I would tell my parents over and over again how one day I would visit all those wonderful places and how my biggest dream was to live by the sea.
My mum's reaction to the first photo I sent her of my trip around NZ was "You made it! You always told us that one day you would go to those places featured in your calendars. I’m so proud of you for chasing this dream. You made it happen...dreams do come true." They did! And after 6 weeks in paradise, I knew that this was where I was meant to be. Maybe not forever, but definitely for now.
I came to visit a friend and a new country, but what I left behind after those 6 weeks was my new life - the place that was meant to be my new home, and the man that turned out to be the love of my life.
I flew back to Germany over Christmas and I told my family and friends that I was moving to New Zealand for someone they had never met. I applied for a work and holiday visa and arrived back in New Zealand on the 15th of March, 2011. This was the craziest and scariest decision I had ever made - it also turned out to be the best one.
I have now been living in New Zealand for almost 5 years and can say, without a doubt, that these past 5 years have been the best ones of my life. I found love, I found myself, I found lifelong friends and I found a life that I could have only dreamed of living 5 years ago.
Author - Natalie Gruner
A travel girl at heart, Nat is a Travelher co-founder and is currently working remotely on a few different projects from her homeland, Germany. She is planning to settle in New Zealand in the near future, while building a more flexible life for herself that allows her to live in paradise without compromising regular home visits and continuous globetrotting.