Yep, I know what you’re thinking… recipe for disaster, right?
In the past, a few of my more personal posts seem to have resonated with quite a few of you, so I’ve made it my early 2019 resolution to get a bit more personal on the blog, inject more of myself into my writing and become something more than just words on a screen dictating all the things you simply must do in X, Y or Z.
I want to well and truly share my life beyond travelling, warts and all.
Where better to start than the real reason I came to New Zealand?
Well, part of the real reason, at least…
There are three types of people reading this post right now:
- the cynics (and realists, tbf) who already have their head in their hands, gobsmacked at my stupidity simply after reading the title.
- the lovers of love, who transformed into real-life representations of the heart eye emoji as soon as they read ‘for a boy’ and just can’t wait to read all about my Happily Ever After.
- my brother, who, after finding out about aforementioned boy, straight up asked ‘Is this why you’ve gone to NZ?’
And of course I answered no! Which is why I like to think he’s either spitting out his coffee in outrage right now that his otherwise pretty sensible (according to moi) sister has made such an impulsively stupid decision or scratching his head in confusion at the inconsistency between my answer to him and the title of this post. In reality he’s probably doing neither of the above, and I’ll almost definitely get a text once he’s read this telling me so!
Anyway, you can rest assured that even in my most emotionally fragile, post Up movie marathon state of despair, I would not up sticks and blindly move my entire life all the way across the world for a boy.
You see, I don’t have the best track record when it comes to mixing travel with love.
Or rather, mixing travel with almost-love but not-quite-love as it turned out to be.
Case in point: my ex-boyfriend dumped me at the very beginning of what was supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime 4 month trip around South America together. As if that wasn’t enough, he then brought his new girlfriend to join him at the halfway mark.
I mean, is that not the best plot line for a particularly tragic coming of age romcom featuring Hailey Steinfeld as the incredibly weird but totally relatable protagonist who gets dumped on Copacabana Beach in front of a street salsa class that you’ve ever heard?!
Hollywood, you can hit me up any time. I am waiting.
On a side note, the true tale of the end of my last relationship is so calamitous it’s actually quite fantastic and one I definitely plan on sharing one day!
Like most solo female travellers out there, there’s also been a mixed bag of near-misses with tall, dark and not-so-handsome strangers met on the road. The most bizarre of them all involved an Israeli ex-soldier who took to softly stroking my arm with a look of such intense pleasure on his face that I fled the hostel that same night.
So with all tragic and hilarious past experiences taken into consideration, do you see where my trepidation about the whole mixing travel with a love life comes from?
I’ve always been comfortable enough with the thought that I’ll forever be the “Cool Aunt”. The one who spends 90% of the year travelling to exotic places alone, returning only at Christmas, arms laden with unique gifts from far off lands. A boomerang for nephew number 1, a hand-whittled flute for nephew number 2 and a ceremonial knife for the niece who is definitely more of a Merida than Snow White. The Cool Aunt who, upon reaching the age of 60, still unmarried and childless but about to purchase her 8th budgie (because she doesn’t do cats), would be known forevermore as the Spinster Aunt.
And then I met J.
(That’s what we’ll call him. Partly to, you know, protect his identity and what-not but mainly because you probably won’t be able to pronounce his name anyway, it’s a bit of an odd one.)
And I’m not saying he completely changed my way of thinking, or my desire to wear floaty skirts, chiffon scarves and 40 bangles on each wrist in true Cool Aunt style for the rest of my life, because that dream is one I’ll never relinquish! But he’s definitely influenced some element of change, minor as it may be.
This is where I veer off-topic for a little while just to explain how we came to be exactly that: we. We were friends before anything. And of course we’re still friends now. Because what’s a relationship without friendship, huh? A business agreement, as I was once told by a wise old man with a trophy wife half his age.
We’d been friends since 2014 or something, but never anything more. Of course we weren’t, as I was well and truly
shackled to loved up to a bloke who didn’t like mayonnaise. Looking back, I’m not sure why that didn’t set alarm bells ringing at the very start of our relationship. Who doesn’t love mayonnaise?! Apart from vegans and people with egg allergies. But yeah, I definitely should have run a mile that first time he asked for his KFC burger with no mayo.
Anyway, around the time of the now infamous (in my own life at least) dumping on Copacabana Beach in May 2016, we grew closer . But still, we were friends in every sense of the word and nada más than that. Unshackled from the Mayo Hater, what followed was a year and a half of intense, uninterrupted trans-continental friendship, him in India and me in the UK. Not that I have many real life friends to choose from in the first place, but he quickly became my very best friend who I’d turn to for absolutely anything and everything. He provided an odd sort of long distance emotional crutch after my mother passed away and I proofread his essays whenever he asked. All in all one hell of a mutually beneficial relationship, I’m sure you’ll agree.
We were friends, and just that, but friends who would set alarms for 3am just to be in the same timezone for a phone call. Friends who would see the same movie, days and continents apart, just to be able to talk about it with each other afterwards. Friends who consciously avoided entering into a relationship with anybody else. But still, just friends.
And then I went to Goa.
Quick pause…have I mentioned he’s Indian? Because that’s quite an important fact for this next bit to make sense. I also feel like I should state that as fond of him as I am, my love for all things Indian actually preceded him by a good 3 years or so. Paneer butter masala has always and will always be my first Indian love, with real street food samosa as a close second and maybe – just maybe – J can come in third.
Goa was supposed to be a solo trip but he met me there for a few days and, without wanting to make anyone vom up their breakfast, that’s where our story really began. I won’t go into all the sordid details, but I will say that it’s makes me chuckle when I think that my previous relationship came to its car crash-esque end on a beach in Brazil, and this new one began on a much nicer beach in India. What is that thing they say about life coming full circle?
After a week in Goa, I flew back to the UK and he went home to his state. He then moved to New Zealand and, happy to grab any excuse to visit a new country, I went out to see him.
As friends, of course.
But our friendship had moved up to the next level. To the level that involves watching the most gorgeous Indian beach sunsets while making art out of pistachio shells in the sand. The sickly sweet, giggle together at things that aren’t even funny level. The level that is spending about £15 shipping a Cadbury’s Dairy Milk advent calendar to the other side of the world because you don’t want the other person to miss out. I’ve since found out that both Dairy Milk and advent calendars exist in New Zealand, which just emphasises how tragically soppy a tale this really is.
So yeah, I flew out to New Zealand, and this is the fun part.
After spending 3 weeks exploring one of the most visually breathtaking countries I’ve ever stepped foot in together, I’d fallen head over heels. Whether I was head over heels with the human, the country or both, who knows? But the feeling was there, and before my China Airlines flight had even picked its wheels up off the runway, I’d already subconsciously decided to return.
The plan has always been to take up the opportunity of a Working Holiday Visa somewhere in the world, and it’s been that way long before J came along. The only problem was I couldn’t decide where.
Like most travellers out there, I want to go everywhere! So you can imagine how difficult it was for me trying to choose between Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. And I mean, I technically could have gone for all 4 as I’ve only just turned 26 and the general rule is you have to be under 30, but that would just be greedy, right?
So after those three weeks in New Zealand, I’d sort of come to a decision that New Zealand was the one for me. For the views, for the non-deadly wildlife (as my Waitomo Caves tour guide put it: the only animal that can kill you in NZ is man!), for the friendly people, for the Raspberry Coke, and for the boy who can make me laugh harder than anyone I’ve ever met.
Naturally almost as soon as I’d made the decision in my head, a wave of doubt came crashing down on faster than you can say Aotearoa. A part of me thought that in taking the leap and moving to New Zealand, no matter how temporary that move is, I’d be losing a little bit of myself. I’d be carving out a part of my kidney or spleen or whatever and handing it to this kind and generous boy on a platter, for him to keep and never give back to me. I’d be offering myself up to him as the puppy dog who would quite literally follow him all the way around the world!
Irrespective of the fact that I wanted to move to New Zealand for New Zealand (with his being here an added albeit very welcome bonus), it felt like I was giving up, that I was sacrificing who I was for a boy, something my mother raised me well enough to know is something I should never ever do.
I’ve always considered myself a solo female traveller.
Solo, strong and mighty. A bit like King Kong but with better language skills and dexterity in my thumbs. Since the age of 18, with garishly yellow box-dyed hair and a naive belief in people, I’ve traversed this world solo. Of the 40 countries I’ve been to, at least three quarters of them have been alone. Did I really want to throw away this entire identity I’d built up for myself for the sake of a boy? I mean, this whole blog is sort of halfheartedly focused around solo female travel. Would I be able to continue that theme with a boyfriend in tow? Surely I’d be a fraud if I called myself a solo female traveller, but then had this lovely bearded fellow waiting back home for me after every trip?
I thought about it long and hard. I’d like to say there were sleepless nights, but I work night shifts so I just sort of thought about it on the job. Eventually I came to the conclusion that the only person who can take away that identity is myself.
There are three things you need to be a solo female traveller and they are to be solo, to identify as female and to travel. Even with a fella, if I were to go on a trip alone then that would still be my identity. And if I took him along, then I’d get a completely different perspective on the places I visit, something I’ve never had before (most romantic places in New Zealand, anyone? *insert shifty eyes here*).
And the more I thought about it, the more excited I became about the possibilities. I realised that any concerns I had about who I’d be if I moved to New Zealand were completely unfounded. You don’t have to lose yourself to be with somebody you just might love.
So yes, I moved across the world for a boy.
But more importantly than that, I moved across the world for me.
I moved as far away from my home and my family as is humanly possible (that’s an actual fact – the furthest point on the globe from Wales is New Zealand) because I wanted to. Because I wanted the experience of living and working in another country – an English-speaking one, for a change. Because I wanted to throw myself in at the deep end. Because I wanted to discover a new country slowly and in-depth. Because I really like The Hobbit and cows, both of which New Zealand is full of! Because I think the Maori language is absolutely beautiful, and the linguist in me is in love with it.
And lastly, because I wanted to take a leap of faith. Because I wanted to take a chance on a boy.
And you know what? The future definitely might not pan out as I expect, or even hope for. Our cultures, our backgrounds and, at times, our values are so vastly different that it surprises me we’ve come as far along as we have. Just a few weeks ago I spent an hour explaining the importance and relevancy of the Eurovision Song Contest because he’d never heard of it. Would 2013 Rhiannon ever have believed she’d be spending all her time with someone who’d never been blessed by the sweet, sweet sound of Lordi’s Hard Rock Hallelujah?! Absolutely not! And I don’t think J ever thought he could be with someone who doesn’t share his deep-rooted love of biryani, but there we go.
But if it doesn’t work out, that’s okay.
The worst thing that could happen is I eventually end up back in the UK, single and penniless, but with a belly full of TimTams and Raspberry Coke, a head full of memories and a heart full of happiness. Which doesn’t sound too bad at all. And at the very least, I’ll be able to say I tried. I took a chance, I flew across the world for happiness, and most importantly, I finally got someone to take photos of the back of my head.