“Think I’ll pack it in
And buy a pick-up
Take it down to L.A.
Find a place to call my own
And try to fix it up
Start a brand new day”
Neil Young – “Out on the Weekend”
When I was in Wellington, I went to this amazing taco place called Boquita. It was small and felt like the kind of place where I could be a regular if I ever moved there with small tables, cheap beer, and a couple of comfortable seats up against the five-foot-long bar area. In fact, I stayed in Wellington for four days and went there twice not just because of the food, but also for the people. The first night, I met Lucas, the owner. He was from California and had worked on the set of Lord of the Rings when it was filmed in New Zealand. Clearly a foodie, Lucas noticed that New Zealand had an emerging vegetarian/vegan population and decided to stay and start a business. He told me all about the business, the Wellington restaurant and bar scene, as well as some of his personal favorite wineries in the region.
Behind him was Luis, a Venezuelan jack-of-all-trades in this tiny taco shop. Luis moved to Wellington from Venezuela years before and didn’t seem to have a reason why. He mostly just wanted to get out and try something different. It was a story incredible in its simplicity. He might as well have thrown a dart at a map and picked a place to live.
The second night I went back and Lucas was working at his other place so a young woman was working there (sadly I forgot her name… I know, I’m a terrible blogger. It’s my 4th post, I’ll get better). The place was small enough that a staff of two could handle it and minus a small rush right when I walked in, it wasn’t too busy anyway. We quickly bonded over a crazy coincidence that she lived on the same street as me in Oakland, California when she grew up. Though she’s much younger than me, it goes to show once again how small the world is. Anyway, she had recently graduated from Tufts University after studying abroad in Wellington the year prior. Despite a degree in political science at a prestigious university, she, too, decided to just pick up and leave it all behind.
And so it went during my time in New Zealand. There was Chulaka, the Sri Lankan Uber driver living in Wellington for seven years to protect his family from the violence in his home country. He put on hold his plans of starting his own bakery to move to a safer place… though he had plans to go back now that Sri Lanka is relatively peaceful. And then there were several young adults, wandering around the country, living legally in New Zealand under their holiday work visa program. This program, designed for people in their 20s, allows people to stay for a year and seek employment and ultimately apply to stay permanently. It was amazing how easy it was to find people living there under this arrangement.
The common thread that really blew my mind was the spontaneity with which all of these people uprooted their lives. I like to think of myself as a pretty adventurous person. I travel freely all over the world but a vacation, while adventurous, is ultimately temporary. I’m a self-diagnosed overthinker and the idea of dropping everything to start over is something that I could never do… at least not without months of pro/con lists. I have such amazing respect for those with the conviction to commit to something so unfamiliar. We’ve all fantasized about living in a faraway land but so few people (myself included) have the courage to do it … but on this trip I met a few and they all made it seem so easy. Is the security of home so superior to the adventure of the unknown? Money is obviously a consideration but that’s a solvable problem with a little bit of hard work as each of these people taught me. So what’s stopping me?
What’s stopping you?