Working Abroad: After the Honeymoon

Taylor and friends skiing on the Back Bowls at Coronet Peak. (Photo credit: David Hunt.)

Written by  October 4, 2013
What happens once the culture shock has worn off?

I’ve been back in New Zealand for four months now, and lately I feel like I’ve hit a bit of a wall. The start of my return trip was filled with exciting things: reuniting with my boyfriend after five months apart, moving back to Queenstown and reconnecting with friends from the last winter season, finding a new apartment, lots of skiing, and just enjoying the new routine I’d established for myself.

A few weeks ago, though, I started noticing a change. Work at the ski resort stopped feeling challenging and fun, and daily life in Queenstown seemed stale. I was starting to lose perspective on what I came here for and what I wanted to take away.

There is a seductiveness to travel. It’s what spurs you to book a flight and leave home on a whim with visions of grand adventure. It’s the initial pull of everything exotic and fresh. When you’re traveling from one spot to the next, hardly anything you do doesn’t warrant a postcard home. But staying rooted in one place for more than a few days or weeks is a different game.

My feelings of being stuck may have originated from the fact that, as of a month ago, I hadn’t left the boundaries of greater Queenstown since the start of May. At the best of times this town is a bubble, and if you don’t make an honest effort to take part in new activities or go explore the stunning environment unfolding in all directions, you’re bound to feel trapped after a while. I noticed it in my mood—getting irritated at little things that shouldn’t have bothered me. My partner and I were trying to stay home and save our pennies as much as possible, but after a while it was like the walls were closing in on us.

In mid-August I was finally able to get out of town. A group of us traveled to nearby Cardrona ski field to catch some of the NZ Winter Games. Then we spent a night in a hostel in Wanaka, a beautiful lakeside ski town an hour’s drive north. Wanaka has managed so far to avoid the tourism machine that has taken over its sister to the south. It felt so nice to step outside, look around, and not see anything that reminded me of Queenstown. The following week, we spent three days adventuring around with visiting friends: going paintballing in nearby Cromwell, taking the scenic drive out to Glenorchy at the top of Lake Wakatipu, skiing at the other resort in town.

But when things quieted down again, I still couldn’t seem to shake this dull ache of apathy. What was wrong? I’m living in paradise, working on a mountain where I get to ski everyday, and enjoying the company of great friends. I felt guilty even acknowledging to myself a loss of enthusiasm.

In the last week or so things have started to look brighter. I can’t say exactly what’s made me feel more myself again, except that I’m trying to take everything as it comes. But also, I’ve realized this is a natural part of travel. The reality of working abroad is that you are planting yourself in one place for a period of time and, just like the life you left back home, there will be ups and downs; periods where you feel frustrated with work or stuck in your personal life and monotony may start to creep in. Spice things up as much as you can, but also know that it’s ok to feel stuck now and then. It’s just a part of settling into routine, no matter where in the world you find yourself.

It’s also dawned on me that I’ll be leaving Queenstown in just four weeks. Nothing like the fear of having to say goodbye to make you remember what you love about a place. Suddenly I can recall many months ago sitting at home in the States, wishing myself back to a mountain town in a far off corner of the world. I remember the day I flew back and our plane circled down through the rocky Southern Alps, landing in the valley next to Lake Wakatipu, and I thought I was so lucky to call a place this beautiful home.

I know Queenstown is not somewhere I want to stay permanently, but I love it for what it’s been for me. Here I’ve found some amazing friends and done things I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to elsewhere. When I remember that, and remember how much little time is left, I start to regain perspective on my time in New Zealand.

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Published in Work Abroad Blogs
Taylor St. John

Taylor St. John is a freelance journalist and native Jersey girl who has spent the last couple years living and working in New Zealand. Now she's jumping across the Tasman Sea to find out what adventures are waiting for her in the other Land Down Under, Australia. Follow her travels at An Alternate Route.

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