Kiwi life: An American in Wellington

Nicole enjoys Wellington's relatively compact feel, variety of bars and restaurants, and accessible walking trails.
Nicole LaBarge

Nicole enjoys Wellington's relatively compact feel, variety of bars and restaurants, and accessible walking trails.

Serial expat Nicole LaBarge, originally from Wisconsin in the US, has planted roots in the Kiwi capital. 

Where are you from?

I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin, USA.  I originally came to Auckland but then quickly moved to Wellington as I liked the smaller feel of the city.

A trip to the South Island made Nicole realise why it's often called God's Own.
Nicole LaBarge

A trip to the South Island made Nicole realise why it's often called God's Own.

What inspired your move, and how long have you been here? 

I gave myself my twenties to travel. I lived in London for two years before moving to Japan for a year and then onto NZ where I have been for the last 12 years. You could say I am a serial expat as I have lived in five different countries. When I arrived in Wellington, I loved the feel of it and at the time the job market was great.

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Nicole likes to make the most of living near the beach when the Wellington weather obliges.
Nicole LaBarge

Nicole likes to make the most of living near the beach when the Wellington weather obliges.

What do you do here? 

I work in IT and also work part-time on my travel website Travelgal Nicole (nicolelabarge.com). I have been travelling for twenty years and it is my goal to visit all 193 UN Nations someday. I'm about halfway there with 97 countries to date. In March, I am off to South America for five months while backpacking around and visiting Iguazu Falls and Machu Picchu.  

What are the greatest advantages to living here?

Travel is still hugely important to Nicole (pictured here at the Great Wall of China).
Nicole LaBarge

Travel is still hugely important to Nicole (pictured here at the Great Wall of China).

The work/life balance. In the States people live to work, here we work to live. And of course the beautiful scenery.

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Disadvantages? 

For me as a traveller, it's how far NZ is from everywhere.

How expensive do you find it compared to back home? 

It is quite expensive, especially homes. My parent's home is worth about $150,000 and it is four times the size of mine. I've gotten used to it though.

What do you do in your spare time?

I spend a lot of time updating my website and learning how to improve it. Luckily the weather in Wellington is agreeable to this, but when it is nice out I like to take advantage of living near the beach and recently I've joined a few clubs that go on different walks around Wellington. There are some great trails around the city.

What are your favourite NZ foods? 

I haven't been able to bring myself to try marmite but after visiting Brisbane last weekend for the Adele concert I was reminded just how fresh our food is here and good quality too. Hands down the best lamb and we've just started getting some passionfruit off our vine, which is something I hadn't tried before moving to NZ. I'm also spoiled now for coffee as I can't really drink it abroad anymore because it's just not as good!

How do you get around? 

Mostly public transportation. I live in the eastern suburbs so it's easy to get into town.

How do you find the shopping?

I'm not much of a shopper but I do find it difficult to find specific things when I need them. 

Favourite after-dark activity?

I love the restaurant and bar culture in Wellington and there is so much choice. When meeting up with friends after work, our most difficult choice is where to go.  

What are the top three things you recommend for visitors? 

I spent a month travelling around the South Island when I first arrived. It really gives you an idea of why its called God's Own. Two areas I keep coming back to are the Queen Charlotte Track and the Abel Tasman National Park. Stunning scenery that makes you feel incredibly lucky to live here. I also think Te Papa is a great museum to visit.

Besides family and friends, what do you miss most about home?

I do miss driving on open roads. Also, no matter where you go there will always be a car park. After I had lived in NZ for a year, I went back to the States and I wasn't used to such wide open spaces.

How easy is it for you to go home?

I don't head home often unless I'm adding it onto another trip I'm taking. It is a long flight but the connections out of Auckland have gotten so much better in the last few years. I'm heading direct to Buenos Aires this month to spend time in South America.

If you know an expat who has made New Zealand their home, email travel@stuff.co.nz with Kiwi Life in the subject line.

 - Stuff

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