OE opens eyes in more ways than one

ALANA DIXON
Last updated 14:47 27/01/2014

Any excuse to pop open a bottle of champagne, amirite?

Yes, folks, today marks a year since The Bearded One and I arrived in London.

Without sounding like a crotchety old bag again (get off my porch!), you really do learn that your parents were right when they said time flies as you get older.

(And older and older and older, until you realise you really do need to start doing all that virtuous stuff like using eye-cream and wiping off your makeup before going to bed after a night out and alternating each glass of Malbec with one of water booooorrrrrrring).

In some ways it's hard to believe it was so long ago that I set off on that most Kiwi of pastimes, my Big OE.

There have been moments my hatred for the whole experience has been visceral, full-bodied.

There are moments I've been convinced I would have to be forcibly removed from the plane that would one day take us home - because, much to my chagrin, this working visa will not last forever.

Most of the time, though, I haven't given it much thought.

I've been so busy living, that the only thing on my mind has either been: a) what is the most time- efficient way to get to Bethnal Green, b) how the hell did I mix up Southend and Stansted airport, or c) wine from the Loire or Douro tonight?

But as we drew closer and closer to this day, Mark and I have been contemplating what's changed since we left home.

(Usually as we do the dishes, because that's the most hideous of all household tasks and you sadly must continue to do them, despite living in London. Great experience, it is; alternate dimension, it is not.)

My parents, as I've mentioned before, were also firm advocates of the adage that travelling would open my eyes, and make me appreciate what I have and where I come from.

Thanks to a group of kids playing in the dirt in Cambodia, I certainly learned that on my first big trip overseas, and that has continued.

(Actually, the first time overseas travel opened my eyes was Vegas, when I saw people throwing around thousand-dollar chips like they were nothing, outdoor escalators and what is considered a "small" Coke at the movie theatre. Oy.)

Being so far from the security blanket of home has given me one last dosage of the grown-ups: high time, too, at 25.

It's embarrassing to admit, but before I arrived I was still a Baby Big Kid, a fledgling, guilty of many (if not all) negative connotations people associate with Gen Y.

Don't get me wrong, I paid my bills, got my rent in on time, and ate vegetables independent of a proper adult towering above me.

I got by, by myself, but I knew that if anything ever went wrong, there'd be help in my corner.

Now, though, separated by thousands of miles and several time zones, I know I'm very much on my own.

Becoming a fully-fledged staff member - bringing with it a once-a- month pay cycle - has taught me that if I don't budget properly I can't afford to even get to work, let alone Portugal.

In the moments I've had a truly horrific day, I no longer soothe myself with a whinge to mates/ parents/extended family.

Getting sick and having to deal with (short, angry) specialists by myself felt like another transition.

My time overseas has taught me many valuable things: It's impossible to have a bad night in a pub called Filthy McNasty's, my lady friends are fabulous, and worrying about people's perceptions of me is both pointless and the opposite of what life should be about.

It's taught me to be willing to befriend anybody.

(If you aren't, you're going to end up either living in a bubble of already-had-'em acquaintances, or lonely. The one criticism I will make of my fellow countrymen and women is that we are really letting the side down in this department. You might have been cool at high school guys, but if that's your peak, well . . . You need a taste of the grown-ups, too.)

It's taught me there's still no place like Wanaka.

It's taught me not that many people care as much as we do about rugby.

(Don't fret; I'm just saying that it's not live-or-die stuff. Year of the Stag.)

It's taught me the state of New Zealand's yoof is not as bad as we all think.

It's taught me that Google Maps is my friend, but if I don't have service my brain computes well enough - usually - to figure things out myself.

It's taught me to relax and stop looking like I'm smuggling three kilos of crack through customs.

It's taught me I am capable of doing things I'm afraid of.

It has also taught me that my father is capable, too - of making Skype calls without setting off a nuclear activation code.

(Good news all round.)

Being overseas has taught me there really is no place like home, that home will always be home, and it will be home again - one day.

Just not yet.

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