My big OE: A Kiwi that flew and grew

Last updated 12:00 05/08/2013

The Swiss Re Tower, also known as the Gherkin, in London.

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How the big OE changed me

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I was 27. I had just got married and we had bought our first house together. We were doing everything you were supposed to do, in the right order. And at the same time as our friends. I had just secured a promotion, and although I didn't necessarily love my job, it paid well and they were a good employer.

But somehow it wasn't enough. For either of us.

A couple of months after our wedding we did a trip around the North Island. It was amazing and we felt proud to be Kiwis. But it started us thinking about what else was out there.

And so, much to the surprise (and I suspect horror) of our friends and family, we came home, did some research and promptly placed our house on the market just eight months after we had bought it. 

My husband had a British passport and we applied to emigrate permanently. We sold everything. 

One day we had a house and furniture and cars and jobs, the next we were standing on the pavement in Christchurch waiting for a bus with all our belongings in backpacks and $5000 from the sale of our last car. This was it.

I was terrified. But my husband was excited and believed in us and what we could achieve. So I learned to follow his approach, and we boarded a plane.

And for the next three years we lived and worked in London. They were three of the most incredible years of my life. I learnt to let go of things and focus on experiences. I learnt to have faith in my abilities and skills. And I learnt that although New Zealand would always be home, there was so much more out there to explore and experience.

I was shocked by the people I met there who had never chosen to travel outside their own city, let alone their own country. 

These were not people without opportunity, they had the means, but none of the desire. But worse for me were the Antipodeans who moved over to London and spent the entire duration of their OE in pubs or clubs. A whole new world on their doorstep, and they never opened the door.

We tramped in the Austrian Mountains, clambered inside the pyramids of Giza, cruised down the Nile, touched the wailing wall in Jerusalem, celebrated our birthdays in the Greek Islands, climbed the peaks of Yosemite, viewed New York from the top of towers, drank (and drank) with the Germans at the Oktoberfest, travelled extensively throughout Britain and explored quaint old villages in the south of France. 

We even spent six weeks on an overland safari through Africa camping in the Ngorongoro crater, jumping out of planes over Namibia and whitewater rafting. We patted cheetahs and ate kudu. It was the stuff dreams were made of.

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But we never forgot where we came from. One of our first trips was to visit Gallipoli on Anzac Day, joining thousands of other Kiwis and Aussies to remember our home, our people and our history. It still brings goosebumps to me. 

I was a Kiwi. A Kiwi who had the privilege to travel the world and work in an incredible country. For just three years. But what an incredible life changing three years they were.

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