Starting Over in New Zealand

New Zealand
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Larry Prosor, age 54: Let's start at the end of our story. It's the best part. It's now. As I write this, I'm looking out a window at our beach, a few miles up the coast from the town of Gisborne. I see our pond, green hills, enticing surf. It's been almost eight years since Cindy and I sold our stuff, including a nice home near Lake Tahoe, California, and moved. At this moment I still feel like a 19-year-old kid who's left home for the first time. Time has slowed down. I'm exploring new land. Meeting new friends.

But then there’s the beginning of our story. The “starting over” part. It was wobbly and awkward. And it took a few expat friends to get us where we are now.

Cindy Prosor, age 56: We boarded a plane bound for the bottom edge of the planet the day after my 50th birthday. New Zealand's beauty had mesmerized me on previous trips, but this time I felt like I'd jumped off a cliff. When we landed, I already missed our well-worn home. Our daughter was a million miles away. The phone didn't ring for days. The calendar was empty, and so was the mailbox. Riding bikes to the beach, morning tea in hand, was idyllic. But I had nothing to distract me from me.

And then we started meeting people who’d made the same leap. People who needed connections, not total isolation, to make this island come alive. To make it home.

Rich Davis, age 57: When we moved last year into the Gisborne area, not far from the Prosors but a moonshot from our nice house and close friends in Mosier, Oregon, a strange feeling soon came over me: I'm a foreigner. Every time I exchange hellos with someone, I have to remind myself that now I'm the one with an accent. I also have to be careful not to be too disappointed about missing my morning latte and my dill pickles. We can't get them here. But we made this move to add some excitement and adventure to our routine, so now we make our own pickles with home-grown horseradish root. I take my surfboard out at dawn and pick up giant lobsters instead of tall lattes.

There's no escaping that we're on the other side of the world, or this sense that we're rolling the dice. But we're in good expat company. It's made the transition to New Zealand much easier. And seriously, you should see the view I'm looking at right now.

Mary Davis, age 48: We had a busy social life in Oregon, so the most uncomfortable part of starting over here was feeling like an outsider. I didn't expect that. I even missed our cat, which we had to leave back in the States because of the rigid quarantine process. But those moments of loneliness forced me to get closer to this beautiful place and its people. I tried surfing and waka ama (outrigger canoe), activities we didn't experience in America. So now I get up at 5:30 in the morning and paddle with my new friends at the local waka ama club – sometimes a dolphin we call Moko joins us. This is why we moved to New Zealand, for the simpler life and laid-back approach. Now, if we could just find some pubs with beer that tastes like the microbrews crafted in the Pacific Northwest.