Vacation or long-term traveling? Quick visits or living abroad? We asked Kiwis to share their unique experiences of long-term traveling or living abroad, how these experiences impacted their life and changed them as people, the challenges they faced, and lessons learned. Read on to hear from Vero, who hiked in Nepal and experienced a roller coaster of adventures, Liang, who is exploring local non-touristy places in the Czech Republic, and Carolyn, who lived out of a bag for 18 months!
Breaking free in Nepal – Veronika Pelcova
Last year, in 2021, I decided to spend Christmas with my sister away from home with adventure and warm weather. We had to combine many important aspects to choose a destination: current weather, general safety, effective routes, personal preferences – and mainly – the pandemic situation. This left us with the top 2 choices: India or Nepal. We chose India. Two days after purchasing flight tickets the restrictions changed and we weren’t allowed to enter the country. Whoopsie!
Many calls and a few tears later, we successfully landed in Nepal, which welcomed us with a warm hug and an omnipresent Namasté.
For the next 17 days, we experienced a rollercoaster of adventures; we tracked rhinos and Bengal tigers in the Chitwan jungle for three days while our only protection was two guides carrying a wooden stick for a weapon. We trekked in the Annapurna mountain range, slept in tin shacks with a lovely 3°C inside, and tasted the true flavor of highly spiritual Nepali life as we stayed and dined with the loveliest folks you can imagine.
A million times a day we realized how, despite the difficulty of life for people, everyone was smiling, nice, and incredibly heartfelt. There was no hatred, anger, or envy, not a pinch of it.
In moments like these, thousands of kilometers away from home, relying solely on the beautiful minds of people who might not have iPhones or running hot water, we broke free.
We broke free from everything we take for granted and suddenly felt the true values in this world: love, kindness, and care. I felt it when a random stranger took my bike with a broken pedal and carried it on his scooter to the rental to bring me another one. I felt it when I saw local people sitting around a fire in a barn together with their buffalos, all equal. I cannot compare it to anything I’ve ever experienced before and am endlessly thankful for every bit of it, including ice-cold showers and boiled eggs for breakfast every single day.
Staying adaptable in the Czech Republic – Liang Jian Zhang
My first living abroad experience was an internship in Thailand, which ignited my interest to seek work abroad. While every tourist is rushing to travel to the most attractive places, I prefer to go to places less traveled. It always ended up that I fell in love with the places more than I expected to. Living in the Czech Republic gave me a whole new experience. Living abroad is different than taking a vacation; there is rent to pay, weekly groceries to buy, and a genuinely new social circle to engage in.
Understanding a person takes time; the same goes for understanding a city or a place. As I have more time to travel around Brno, my favorite activity during the summer is to take a train to the South Moravia region and enjoy a few glasses of wine with the surreal view at the Palava region. What a perfect way to spend a weekend. A short stay would not give me the same unique experience. Of course, language will be the challenge that needs to be solved, especially when I travel to the outskirts. I need to learn the basics to order the wine I like, pay the right amount with cash, and buy a few bottles. “Dám si sklenku bile suche vína, dva dcl, prosim”. I survived with my broken Czech to get my glass of wine. It works! As I used my experience back in Thailand, I know learning the language will bring me further in understanding the culture and the place where I live.
Learning to stay adaptable is the key to all the challenges regardless of what happens. I believe it will bring us to our destination one day. It’s how they say, “It’s not about where you travel, it’s about the experience and the connection you have with the place.” If I were to leave Brno one day, I would surely come back to visit it again with friends or my family. It’s a place where I grew up and feel connected. It’s a genuinely life-changing experience that I will never forget.
From Australia to the whole world – Carolyn Gindein
When I was growing up in Australia I read or watched movies about so many beautiful places. I dreamt of living a nomadic lifestyle to see them but it didn’t feel possible as they seemed so far away. Once I started working, travel wasn’t so affordable and I had other priorities but when my son was 15 months old, we took a family trip to Malaysia. When I stepped out of the plane the heat hit me and I felt so happy and excited that tears came to my eyes! I couldn’t believe I was in another country!
My son was a natural-born traveler and the Malaysian people loved him instantly. They quickly taught him how to say hello and goodbye in Malaysian so he almost had more Malaysian than English words! Experiencing the friendliness and generosity made me think how similar people really are and I felt more determined to experience other cultures and places. Later, I took my son to Thailand and realized that a holiday wasn’t enough for me. I told him I wanted to live my nomad dream when he grows up. When he started working, he called me one day and said, “Mum, I’m all set up now, when are you going to travel?”
I was worried about leaving everyone but I sold my home, bought a round-world ticket and went! My only plan was to start in the USA, work in a Summer Camp for 6 weeks then see as much of the US as possible. I had a few world iconic things I wanted to see like Niagara Falls, Eiffel Tower, and Colosseum but I mostly wanted to learn from other travelers and locals and head to places I didn’t know about. Selling everything was scary but also liberating. I felt so free and living out of a bag for 18 months made me realize how little I need and it’s experiencing more than possessions that make me happy. Living in hostels builds tolerance and openness and I carry that culture with me and quickly make friends with strangers.
I’ve had scary moments in places where I didn’t speak the language but I’ve had more experiences of kindness and generosity. I was taken to a wedding in India and a young man’s initiation ceremony in South Africa, stayed in people’s homes that I recently met and took lifts with strangers. I’ve learned to trust my instincts and gained faith in the goodness of people and now have more friends around the world than in any one place.
For now, I’ve settled in London because it’s a great travel base so I travel whenever I can and don’t think I’ll ever stop. I wish everyone would travel more so we’d have more understanding and unity in the world.
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