I go wherever the wind takes me.
At least that’s what I tell people when they ask me why I left New Zealand and came to Ireland. New Zealand is an amazing place. Beautiful, with an endless array of awesome, extreme things to do (think bungee jumping and zorbing – both invented in New Zealand). After graduating from university at the age of twenty-two, I felt like a little fish in a big pond. Out of place. Struggling to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do. While so many people were desperate to come to my country, I was dying to leave. I wanted to have an adventure.
In primary school, I was the child who preferred to sit inside with an atlas rather than go outside and play. My teachers had to kick me out of the classroom! As gorgeous as New Zealand was, I was incurably curious about the world and the extraordinary things on it.
When I was fifteen, I found out that my local council ran a short exchange programme with Fukuoka, Japan. My parents had always fostered my interest in travel, so it did not take much convincing for them to let me go. This was my first trip (mostly) on my own. I lived with a local family and attended local school. The experience was an utter delight. I learned so many new things and returned home with a passion for Japan that still exists today. Looking back, I’m surprised it took me until the end of university to realise that I needed to travel to be truly happy.
That’s what brought me to Dublin in March 2012. I had finished university and wanted to go somewhere – anywhere. Dublin was chosen at random with the help of a travel agent. I had no plans and no expectations. Before I left, I picked up a working holiday visa that would allow me to stay for a year and work, if I wanted to. The luck of the Irish must have been with me because I found a casual job in a hostel almost immediately. Even more astounding was the fact that the company I worked for allowed me to tour Ireland on my days off, free of charge. Soon I had seen more of Ireland than most Irish people. I loved the lifestyle, the craic, and the fifty shades of green. Most importantly I met husband, Tiernan in Killarney.
When my year was up, I was offered a job in the Philippines. A country that had never crossed my radar before. So, of course, I jumped at the change. I refer to this time as ‘my first proper job’. I worked for the New Zealand government, I had a cubicle in a high rise office building which I lovely covered in my favourite cartoon characters, and deserted, white sand beaches were only an island away.
Although I got to experience another beautiful landscape, I also saw poverty in a way I never had before when I saw the slums of Manila. I finally experienced culture shock. The lessons I learned about having compassion and empathy for other people is probably the most precious thing I have taken away from five years of travel.
Finally, this year, Tiernan and I moved back to Ireland. It is our first move that was calculated – rather than chance. Looking back on those five years, I can hardly believe all the different things we’ve done. Sometimes it seems like someone else’s life. Then again, I don’t know anyone whose life has gone exactly to prescription. Not all doors have opened for us: I’ve made two attempts to get a teaching job in Japan but have yet to get the application in. But by being open and curious, we have been able to visit places we never dreamed of visiting.
So what can I say to you if you are fifteen and reading this post about the story of my life? Well, I hope you will take the word of an almost thirty: being young and Irish is a gift. You are going to enjoy a freedom of movement between the ages of 18 and 35 that many young women around the world can only dream of. If you’re like me, curious about the world and want to get out into it, the door is wide open for you.
Whatever you choose to do, I ask you to be curious.
Rachel can usually be found at her blog www.celtandkiwi.com. Also, follow her Instagram (@celtandkiwi) which is all kinds of lovely.