The seas that soothe.
The mountains that offer tranquility.
The golden rays of the evening sun hitting the lush moss.
The emerald green and dusty yellow plains that exudes serenity.
The hypnotising white froth from raging rivers hitting river rocks.

New Zealand, to me, is such a special place. It harbours nothing but happy, meaningful memories, forged by the people and Earth’s crusts.

I’m down to my last 3 weekends in New Zealand, and I am filled with nothing but bittersweetness.

lake wanaka sunrise mist cloud new zealand

Honestly speaking, I’ve had the worse expectations about being here – thoughts about being too different and hence unable to fit in because you’re Asian, having to put up with poor living conditions because you chose the cheapest neighbourhood to live in in a big city, being stuck at home on my weekends because I don’t own any mode of transport (the thought of owning and caring for a car, which I know absolutely nothing about except driving it, scares me), not making any friends because maybe you just look too awful that it scares everyone, getting fat and sluggish from travelling too much, losing touch with the friends I had back home from not being in touch…

Who would have thought that in the 2 months that I’d started working, I’ll be pouring my life story and quandaries to my co-workers, that we’d be fighting over who’s right and who’s wrong, punching each other, stabbing each other in the back (with tickles), that we’d be chasing sunsets together, and dancing together?

wanaka picnic new zealand

I’d be spontaneously invited over for breakfast or dinner at a neighbour’s, we’d be offered extra vegetables from those who harvested his/ her own garden veggies. Even going to the gym would warrant making a new friend.

fox glacier new zealand

Time passes so, so quickly here. You have nothing going on, yet you never seem to run out of anything to do, even though it’s a small little town you’re in. There are so many hikes around, secret lagoons to explore, fish to fish, animals to hunt, off-road drives, tunnels to discover, gorges to jump into.

New Zealand is everything, and more.

breast hill wanaka new zealand

Being away makes me feel even more appreciative of what I have back home. I’m grateful for those who remind me of home, for those who visited me at my workplace (hiya Brandon and family, and Maros), even more grateful for my girls back at home to make the time to chat, supporting my every crazy decision I make.

I feel like the times spent on my own have been spent fully being in the moment – I’m truly enjoying my run, how my skin heats up with the sun beating down on me, and not hurrying to get back, taking the time to go back on my journal entries to relive each monumental moment and virgin experiences I’ve had, scrolling through pictures of my adventures and counting my blessings for the great fortune I’ve had.

It’s got me going back to my roots of writing, to write about real stories, instead of what people Google for. It’s got me to open up and accept myself for who I am, instead of what I would be accepted for.

What’s Next?

fox glacier new zealand

If you thought my jump from a stable, full-time job in Singapore to a working holiday in New Zealand was unprecedented and shocking, my next phase of life, I’ve decided, is going to be crazier.

It definitely isn’t a decision made impulsively – not everyone can live without stability, without financial security, and without having a future planned. The pressure is real, when you see your counterparts celebrating promotions or getting hitched.

Me? I only want to live each day without regrets, simple as that. That’s my life’s mantra.

Making decisions while growing up, I never know what I wanted, but I sure know what I didn’t want. I don’t believe in dwelling in a situation that would make you miserable and wishing each day to pass quicker. I couldn’t stand my youth frittering away. I refuse to spend the prime of my life shrivelling because I’m not working hard enough to impress others, or having to prove my worth to anyone who are unable to see it.

In this crazy world that’s trying to make you like everyone else, find the courage to keep being your awesome self.

And when they laugh at you for being different, laugh back at them for being the same.

Spend more time with those who make you smile and less time with those who you feel pressured to impress. Be your imperfectly perfect self around them.

We are not perfect for everyone, we are only perfect for those select few people who really take the time to get to know us and love us for who we really are. And to those select few, being our imperfectly perfect self is what they love about us.

If you’ve lived in the city and grew to love the wilderness and vastness, how can you go back to living in a place where people are omnipresent, where there is no physical space or mental capacity for you to explore within yourself and grow, where you are bounded by the lifelessness that surround you – the concrete walls, the mechanic act of going to work, staring at screens and going home – where you are clouded by the superficiality of life?

gorge franz glacier new zealand

That’s exactly the reason why I love to travel. It opens up new learnings with each experience, each encounter. It makes you aware of the world that exists beyond you, and be more acute to the peripheries of life.

More than the freedom it gives, travel allows you to be whoever you want to be. Travel accepts you for your differences and embraces your individuality.

Travel is not an escape; it’s an awareness.

Travel is not ostentatious; it’s humbling.

Travel is not an expense; it’s an expanse.

Will you be in it with me? Will you journey with me as I go forth and embrace uncertainty?

Other useful posts on New Zealand:

Get your FREE travel expense sheet and track your expenses!

Region(s) you’re most interested about?

Isabel Leong

Isabel Leong

An explorer at heart, the world is Isabel's playground. She enjoys seizing every moment exploring every hideout and doing the unimaginable, like bungee jumping in Phuket and couchsurfing in Europe. If she had wings, she’d definitely be soaring right now. Also a fitness trainer, if she’s not at the gym, you can find her doing yoga or rock climbing! Read more about her on


Leave a Reply