NZ Minus Two

I’ve been slowly freaking out about the whole New Zealand thing for at least a week now. I’m in full-on avoidant mode: people ask me about it, saying “You must be so excited!” and I sort of pull my eyebrows and the corners of my mouth up and go “Yeah! I am!” for three seconds and then I just can’t live the lie anymore and my face crumples into a worried frown and I go, instead, “I’m sort of scared.”

I’m scared that I won’t be able to support myself when I’m there. I’m scared that I’ll run out of money. I’m scared I’ll make bad choices while traveling. I’m scared I won’t take advantage of opportunities for fun and awesomeness because of money worries. I’m scared that I won’t be able to find a good place to live. I’m scared that I might have to drive a manual car on the wrong side of the road and get into an accident and die. I’m scared I won’t dance for a year and completely forget how and not be able to be part of the new troupe again. I’m scared that all my friends will forget me when I come home. I’m scared that I’ll be lonely. I’m scared that I will be too shy and intimidated to meet new people. I’m scared that I’ll lose something important and irreplaceable. I’m scared I’ll be excoriated for being an ugly American and that people will yell at me about Bush. I’m scared that when people come to visit I won’t know anything about whatever city I end up in and won’t be able to show them around. I’m scared of getting the time difference wrong and not calling my mom on her birthday. I’m scared that I’ll be overwhelmed by simple things like getting on the bus or going to the store. I’m scared that I’m planning to bring too much stuff. I’m scared that I’m planning to bring not enough stuff. I’m scared that my pack is too big for me to physically carry. I’m scared that I’ll stop writing because I’m not going to have the laptop for a while and maybe I’ll just get out of the habit. I’m scared I’ll miss everyone so much that I won’t be able to concentrate on adventure and experience but will be consumed by nostalgia. I’m scared, I’m scared, I’m scared. I AM SCARED.

This whole past week, when I’ve expressed these feelings, my good sweet friends have all immediately said, “It’s going to be wonderful. It’s going to be such an adventure and you’re going to love it. It’s going to be amazing and you’re going to have such a fantastic time. You have to do this now or you’ll always regret it.” And I’ve nodded and said “Dude, just keep telling me this, okay?”

I guess I have cold feet, a little. Maybe cold toes. I’ve found myself being super grateful for giving myself such a long time to get ready, because it means I’ve made all the preparations (well, most of them) and that everything’s in place. I haven’t seriously considered not leaving, but I can see how, if I didn’t already have tickets and stuff like that, I might self-sabotage by procrastinating getting them, and then, oops, they’re too expensive and oh well, it was a dumb idea anyway. The way I’ve done it, I have to go. I’ve already bought my (insanely expensive and non-refundable) tickets and I will be out of a job on July 7 and out of a house on July 15 so since I’m going to be uprooting myself anyway I may as well go to the other side of the planet, right? Since I already bought the tickets? And am booked at the Octopus Resort? It just goes to show you that sometimes being obsessive is helpful and not just annoying, you know?

I’ve been saying, for months now, that this trip is going to be an exercise in learning to let go, to be more spontaneous and less of a control freak. I wish I could start learning those things now, though, instead of going insane in the slow and somewhat orderly way I’m currently doing. Although, honestly, if I have to lose my mind about this, I’m doing it particularly pleasantly, with a lot of support and understanding from other people and also with a pretty fun to-do project, which has focused a lot of this itchy nervousness into productive things like going out and having fun. I call people and tell them that I have to knock off a couple more list items this weekend…they don’t want me to not make a list item, do they? No? Good, see you at eight-thirty then. Sneaky, right? As helpful as the list is, though, and as pleasantly robust my social calendar is, there’s this undercurrent of Whose Idea Was This Anyway and What The Hell Are You Thinking and This Is All Going To End In Tears.

But. Also. Underneath all that, there’s something else. I feel is most often when I get into bed at night and stare at nothing and realize that soon I won’t be sleeping in the bed in which I am currently nicely tucked. As I wrestle with that realization, another one slowly emerges, just for a couple of seconds, usually right before I close my eyes: I am doing this. I’m doing it alone, exactly the way I want to. I am doing it at exactly the right time. I am going to be unrecognizable this time next year, closer to the person I want to become. I am scared, yes indeed, I am terrified, but I am also the strongest and bravest I have ever been. New Zealand has given me that gift before I even get there.


  1. I was going to tell you that it’s all going to be OK and fabulous and wonderful, but you already know that. I’m not going to tell you to stop worrying, because I know that’s ridiculous. Instead, I’ll stay that when you start to worry, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and try to find that feeling of knowing this is the right thing to do that’s buried underneath all that obsessiveness.

  2. Change is scary. Stagnation is deadly. You chose wisely, so go forth and enjoy.

  3. The most interesting thing I found about living abroad is that it’s just *life.* Except, somewhere else. Good stuff happens, then some bad stuff happens, then more good stuff happens, except it’s happening in a different place. And, of course, you love it intensely and deal with the difficulties, because you’re *you,* and that’s what you do with life. The point is, you’re perfectly capable, and you’re going to have exactly the right experience.

  4. Hm. Did that sound too ominous? Because in the end, even the “bad” stuff is good.

  5. Oh, Chiara, you sound so much like me as I was preparing for my semester abroad. It was scary as all hell, and I was TERRIFIED – and then I did it. And it was amazing. And I’m so, so glad I went.

  6. It’s ok to be scared, but know that you will be fine, and also that in my few trips abroad in recent years, no one gave me crap about our president (which is good because frankly some of their political leaders aren’t so hot either, and I give as good as I get.)

    As for your pack, you know the drill. Pack it full of everything you plan to take and then go wander around Pikes Place Market and the Aquarium all day. That’ll let you know whether you need to lighten the load. But remember–anything you don’t take that you find you need, the Kiwis probably have.

    You must post the revised To Do list with lines through all the things you’ve already done so that we can all make plans for the rest!

  7. One scared thing I can help you with is learning to drive a stick shift if, indeed, you haven’t learned before. However, I must say I cannot support practicing driving on the left anywhere around here.

  8. It is a good idea to learn here if you think you are going to be driving a stick, so I applaud Calin’s offer. However, as I learned in Japan, driving stick on the wrong side of the road also means that the gear shifter is on the wrong side of the car! But don’t worry, it is much easier to learn to drive there than it is to re-learn how to drive here when you get back.

  9. Kia ora – I am a random person who found your blog because I am at home sick and was searching for NZ blogs and this came first…(?)
    I am moving from NZ to Boston around the same date your moving here. I just liked reading about how much you’ll miss Seattle (not because I enjoy other people’s pain, I am not a sadistic random…), but because that is how I feel about NZ. I guess I am freaked out about the same stuff (but excited too!). I really think you will like it here.

  10. When is the last time you had the time of your life and weren’t scared beforehand? When is the last time you even had a good time and weren’t scared beforehand? Remember your 30th birthday party with karaoke and thousands of people who love you? (I may exaggerate the number but not the amount of love that surrounds you.) You were terrified. You told me you were hoping no one came but every face you saw did nothing but fill your heart with joy. Trepidation makes the fulfillment of your excitement that much sweeter.
    You are damn right that you are strong and brave! What you are doing takes courage and presence of mind that few have. You also have a common sense that will take you far. You can nod and drift off as you read this but I’m not going to tell you that you have nothing to be afraid of. You have things to be afraid of that you haven’t even considered. Honestly though, if you call your mom the day before or after her birthday…I can guarantee she will be thrilled to hear your voice and won’t hold grudges about the time difference. As for being all alone, physically you might not have people from home to take you in their arms at the end of a long day but you will meet plenty of people who would love to take you in their arms and you are a phone call away from an ear to bend with your troubles and jubilations. (I know from personal experience that prepaid cell phones are cheap and have great rates for calling the U.S.) Keep in mind, you carry with you the dreams of all those who wish to be walking in your shoes and you stay behind in the thoughts and prayers of everyone who has had the pleasure of your acquaintance. You will never be all alone. I don’t know how to wire money, but I would find out how and do it if you asked me to and I am not even one of the people you hold dearest. You are gutsy, smart, and loved. I know you don’t need comforting but I needed to tell you that.

  11. One small addition about stick shift driving (I’ve just done 2,000 miles of it in the last 2 1/2 weeks so it’s on my mind)–while it’s true that everything you learn here will be reversed, I found it to be surprisingly easy to do that. When I drove in Scotland a few years back, I noticed that I didn’t have trouble driving on the left; rather I immediately lost all sense of which was my right hand and which was my left. Since all the road cues are reversed, not just the car itself, it’s just mirror-image driving. No problem! Especially when you add jet lag, a completely different battery of roadsigns, and the endlessly exhilarating roundabouts. But don’t worry, you’ll totally be fine.

  12. Are you really going to the Octopus Resort? Cause if so I want you to pack me in your bag.

  13. What’s the worst that could happen? You hate it, and come home to friends who missed you…you have nothing to lose! It’s going to be so fab! And you can finally tell me if it’s true that toilets flush in the opposite direction in southern hemisphere!

  14. I am delurking to say that I have been reading for awhile now and holding my breath with you, and that I think you are brave and strong, and that I think being scared like you are now is life, real life, and that you will be okay. I can’t wait to read about it all, and continue to live vicariously through you.

  15. It’s funny – I’m wanting to live in the States for a while now, but I’m too scared to leave my boyfriend and family. Also – don’t worry – I’m pretty sure no one will hassle you about the president. :)