Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Life is a journey, not a destination," but every once in a while, the destination is so amazing that it is the journey.
The year I spent in New Zealand was this type of destination. In my travel memoir, I share the mountain top highs and valley lows that made up every day for me. I give history about the country and tips on my favorite destinations.
Although I had already had some short term international experiences - 6 weeks in college studying in Europe and 6 weeks as a young family in Togo, West Africa - this was my first true expat experience. In New Zealand, I made deep friendships, learned the rhythm of the locals and discovered many things about myself that only come through leaving who you are to find someone new.
The Long White Cloud is available on Kindle or paperback through Amazon.com.
Faber says writing about their adventures was one way to share her feelings throughout the transition.
"Seeing New Zealand through the eyes of local people, living there as an expat - rather than experiencing it as a tourist - evoked deep emotions in me. There were highs and lows, emotional mountains to climb and valleys to rest in."
After reading her honest and informative account, I asked the author more about raising a family here, and the week they spent in and around Queenstown, New Zealand.
"Living in the North Island afforded me the time to visit and revisit many places. I was able to get to know places intimately and fall in love with them, not just from the window of a tour bus, but through time and exploration. I'd like to have that type of experience in the South Island as well."
Q: You say your trip to the South Island "whetted my appetite to return." If you could come back and spend more time in the South Island, what would your itinerary look like?
A: We often don't take the time to dream. To simply close our eyes and see distant lands, full of hope and adventure. My best journeys began with a dream that worked out over time and came to fruition. But that period of yearning, and trial and error planning, made the realization of the dream that much sweeter. Spending more time in the South Island is one such dream.
Fiordland is considered one of the most beautiful places in the world, it offers an opportunity to observe a wide variety of sea life and birds. I would like time to tramp through the rain forest of Milford Track and dive in Milford Sounds. I want to take a scenic boat cruise in Doubtful Sounds and kayak through Fiordland's waters. It's one of those unique areas in the world that I would really like to focus on.
Q: You also mention that in NZ, "wine is like water." Were you able to try - or have any opinion on - Central Otago's world renowned Pinot Noir?
A: My introduction to the world of wine was while we were living in New Zealand. The local cellar offered a monthly wine club. Each meeting a wine rep. or vineyard owner was brought in to showcase their products. The meeting were jovial but included a lot of education as well. I had the opportunity to sip and taste wines from all over the country. I have a sweet tooth and that has carried over to wines as well.
The fruity aspect of Central Otago's Pinot Noir appeals to me. When I am able to find a bottle, wherever we are currently living, I tuck it away until I prepare salmon, invite some friends over and enjoy a glass and everything else that goes with a well paired meal.
Q: What about New Zealand culture do you think is conducive to raising a family?
A: In New Zealand, a kid can be a kid. The friendly environment aids in a sense of community. The children feel a part of a greater whole. There are many opportunities for kids to be involved in sports and music, yet the culture is not wrapped up only in achieving, there is plenty of time to go to the batch for the weekend or take a tramp as a family. The land itself is ideal for children. The air is clean, the meat and dairy is naturally organic. Outdoor activities are abundant. From a mom's perspective, New Zealand offered my children a well- balanced and healthy lifestyle.
Q: What are your top five favorite family activities in New Zealand?
A: Five of my favorite activities we did as a family were unique to being expats. These are experiences we still reminisce about and were unique to our time there.
1. Time in the kitchen - As an expat, you wish for the taste of home. When the days get long and your heart is yearning for the familiar, food is the first topic that will come up. The kids had their favorites that the missed, so we often turned to the Internet and googled how to create something we were longing for. We cooked and baked together then sat down and enjoyed eating together. Some things were a great success and others a major failure. But all of the time in the kitchen created memories and skills that will last forever.
2. Trying something new - New Zealand opened up a whole new world for us from the food, to the sports, to the lifestyle. We made an evening of trying fried moro bars in the park. The kids learned to water ski, row, play netball, field hockey and squash. We learned to knit and borrowed a spinning wheel to try making our own yarn. Each of these things became family endeavors that grew us closer. Sometimes they created a lot of laughter, but even when we failed, we were there cheering each other on in the new adventure. When we talk about these experiences, it takes each of us back to those days when we only had one another to rely on and new experiences to try.
3. Relationships with locals. - We are folks from the suburbs. We love large cities, shiny stores and fancy restaurants. Suddenly, we found ourselves lining in a small, rural town. Everything was different. A new opportunity was waiting around every corner. Through friends made at school and in the neighborhood, my kids came home every day with a new experience to talk about. From a new word they learned, to a different way of doing things, to the freedom of living in the country, each day presented an adventure. We marveled at the differences, but quickly my kids learned that there were more similarities. Kids are kids. They love to laugh and plan and have fun--no matter where you live in the world.
4. Take advantage of local clubs and interest groups - Small towns in New Zealand offer many opportunities to find your niche. Clubs and interest groups are always happy to have newcomers. They lend a helping hand as you stumble your way through trying something new. Locals find great pleasure in sharing what they love. The more you get involved, the more friendly faces you recognize around town.
5. Look at the world thought the eyes of others - Although New Zealand doesn't seem strikingly different from America, we found that many things, including the language, were different enough to take notice. It's very easy, as human beings, to become critical of the different ways people do things. We worked very hard with our children to take each new difference and look at it in a positive way. We may be more comfortable with the way we did something back home, but that doesn't make our old ways better. Sometimes they are just different and other times we learn something better.
Q: What advice do you have for someone wanting to move to New Zealand?
A: Moving to a foreign country is a big step. Home is no longer just around the corner, it's several flights away. You will live in a different time zone, so that will limit the available hours to call home. Sometimes internet can be touch and go making Skype conversations frustrating. It's expensive to move across the country, and much more so to move to another continent. There will be periods of loneliness, even after you settle in and make friends because Christmas just isn't quite the same without family to celebrate with.
But when you consider the cost, if you still long to live in New Zealand and reap the benefits of a life there, do your research. What Island do you want to live on? Do you want to live in a small, remote town or one of the cities? What type of access do you need to medical and other amenities?
If you have children, make this a family decision and adventure. Your excitement will wear off on the kids, but be honest with them about your sadness of leaving Grandma and Grandpa. Let them cry, then dry their tears and hug them. Walk with them through the ups and downs of the transition and make sure they know that their feelings are one hundred percent valid.
Interview by Kelli Mutchler
May 21, 2015
3. How did you find the time to write?
Writing time was a bit like a really season, then a drought due to the events in my life. When I move, I don't have much time to write. After we are settled and I'm still looking for a job, I have lots of time to write. For me, it was keeping the dream alive and not loosing it when life got overly busy.
4. How long did the project take?
It took me two years of writing, with a six month moving break in there and then another year of revising and editing. It's still a continuing process as I learn how to market the book.
Sherrie: I love that even with a six month break you never quit. I really think that is something we need to remember. That we can always return to our work. So often I think we figure that since we have not worked on a project there is no point anymore. Yet it is only if we abandon it completely will it never be written!
5. What do your family think about you writing about their experiences?
Everyone is so proud of me. It's been a family process with each member editing and giving suggestions. My daughter carried the copy she was working on around school and told all her friends about my project. It made me feel good to have so much love and support from my family. They have been my cheerleaders along the way! I was very careful in my writing to keep a positive spin on all of our experiences. I would never want my husband or children to be hurt about what I wrote, no matter how honest it was. All the passages with struggle deal with my thoughts and emotions in specific circumstances. I think my kids love seeing some of the things that mom dealt with in this journey. Possibly they had some comfort in knowing that mom struggled with some of the same things they did.
Sherrie: So true! I find it can be difficult to know what to write when it comes to your family (that applies to blogging as well as books). I think in the end hurting those you love is not worth it. And there are so many layers and truths to a story like this one, you can write about challenges and struggles from your viewpoint without exploiting those you care about.
6. How did you choose what to write about?
I used our family blog and photographs to trigger memories of our experiences. From there I threw to go deeper, moving beyond our experiences to history and information about the country and culture. The book is about me, but it is so much more of an education of a people and country. Because of this, things came out in a very linear timeline type approach. On of my beta readers suggested I take another look at the order and refine it. Didn't know exactly how to do this, so I printed out a copy of the book and taped it up in a line, snaking through the house. I kept a roll of tape and scissors nearby and over the next several weeks I literally cut and pasted my book into order that would flow better for the reader.
Sherrie: I am presently working on a book about our motorcycle trip from Germany to Turkey and back and I want to approach it in a similar manner; not just what we did and saw but information on the history and of the countries we visited and particularly the food. It can be difficult with a memoir not to let it fall into strict journaling. It may have been great for you, but less so for a reader. It is not so easy to avoid that trap however! I really like the idea of printing out the book and cutting and pasting it in such a visual way. I will try that once my first draft is finished. (Like The Long White Cloud, my Turkey book is one that is taking years to complete!)
7. You now live in Moscow. Do you think you will write a book about that experience?
Our experience in New Zealand was unique because we were surrounded by the culture and had the freedom to explore the country. The places we have lived in since (Bogota, Colombia and Moscow, Russia) have required many restrictions because of my husband's job. Language has also created a huge barrier. I feel I have had amazing experiences, but am lacking in knowing the heart of the country. I don't want to stop writing, I just need to find something that will pour from my heart.
Sherrie: Well I for one hope you continue writing! Thanks for the great insights and I will be following your blog!