Unlike most people around the world, Andy’s spent the last few years in a whirlwind of travel. He left the UK and arrived in Australia in 2019, narrowly missing long lockdowns in England and trading it in for safety and adventure in Australia and New Zealand instead. But now it’s time to go home. 

From The Unknown to a Second Home

In the last three years, I’ve gone from not knowing anybody in Australia or New Zealand to now being blessed with a sprawling network from Margaret River in Western Australia to deep down in Dunedin on the South Island of New Zealand. It’s a bittersweet double-edged sword, because now I’m faced with leaving that all behind and travelling 18,000km back to the UK. 

When I first looked around cities like Wellington and Melbourne I saw an alien environment, and I relied on Google Maps to find my closest supermarket. 

Now I see a cityscape of memories; that street corner where I drunkenly cried over a boy, the beaches where I spent long afternoons laughing with friends, the harbourside market where my boyfriend and I enjoyed a Sunday morning ritual of groceries and breakfast. 

The relationships you form when you’re travelling are intense. One minute you’re strangers sharing a hostel dorm, a few weeks down the line you’re housemates with shared core memories of hikes, nights out, and deep, bonding conversations over dinner. Travelling and emotional goodbyes are intertwined. I’m all too familiar with leaving drinks, the final night out, one last beach trip, and that last, long hug at the airport. 

It’s not all doom and gloom though, I now have an excuse to visit friends on all corners of the planet, from New York to Toronto, Hong Kong, Bali and across Australia and New Zealand

Read more: I Took Hiking in Australia for Granted – But it Took Moving to the UK to Find That Out


Finding Similarities (and Myself) Half a World Away

I’ve been amazed to find people with the same sense of humour as me, who are willing to get up to silly antics in every new place I’ve called home.

We’ve thrown an Olympic themed party with rap battles between teams dressed as Margaret Thatcher and Gordon Ramsay, pub golf days with groups dressed as Karens competing in an impromptu talent show against another team in costume as a rowdy stag do. We had hilarious slam poetry nights in lockdown and weekly pot luck dinners accompanied by intense Mariokart competitions. 

Travelling for me has been a huge learning curve. 

I’ve discovered new parts of my identity, from being more proud and visible with my queerness to becoming more open-minded and laidback.

I think for me that’s come with meeting such a diverse range of people, I’ve learned about cultures and identities I would’ve struggled to come across back in the UK. I’ve performed a haka, learned Te Reo Maori, worked in a Maori workstream for a government agency. I’ve attended lectures on Australian climate policy led by Kevin Rudd, attended Invasion Day protests, and learnt about the history of colonisation in Australia. 

Taking all these changes and relationships on board can make leaving quite overwhelming. So you might be thinking, why on Earth would he want to leave? 

However, for me, I know it’s the right thing to do. As much as I love life Down Under, my culture and my family are waiting for me back home. Three years is a long time to be away and I’m excited to be welcomed back into my friends’ lives.

Read more: An Introduction to Adventuring Alone


A Very Weird Three Years

Saying the last few years have been memorable would be a bit of an understatement. Thinking forward 10 years I imagine sitting around a table at a bar with strangers talking about where we were for the Covid lockdowns. I’ll never forget being in New Zealand during this time. 

New Zealand made headlines for its strong and fast response, closing borders and going into lockdown as soon as community cases were found. Whilst it was great for public health, it created a deep and personal struggle for the remaining backpackers in the country.

Do we go home and be with our families in this generation-defining moment? Or do we get locked out of our home, for what’s turned out to be two years? 

For me, going home when Covid hit would’ve meant giving up the life I’d built for myself on the other side of the world. All of those beautiful memories would never have happened. 

Instead, I faced anxiety-riddled phone calls with my immunocompromised parents, unable to safely leave the house for the best part of a year. After repeatedly asking and negotiating, my parents definitively told me they didn’t want me to come home, they wanted me safe. I was told to come home once Covid had mellowed out. I didn’t quite expect that time to reach well over two years. 

I used to stay up at night checking case numbers in my hometown, worrying which friend would test positive next. I saw from afar my country struggle to deal with overflowing hospitals and lockdowns for vast swathes of 2020 and 2021. It’s a collective struggle I’ll never really understand. After a few weeks of lockdown, life in New Zealand went back to normal, with only a few snap lockdowns since. 

Read more: Has Lockdown Stolen Your Love of Adventure? Here’s How To Get It Back


Turning my Eyes Towards Home

New Zealand is beautiful, and it’ll always have a place in my heart, but it’s just a bit too small for me and the opportunities here aren’t the same as they are back home. Due to visa issues, I can’t return to work in Australia as I didn’t do my 88 days of farm work to get a second year. So I’ve been on a mission to go home.

But in the last few weeks, my attempts to leave have been pushed back twice, by contracting Covid and then an issue with vaccine passes. 

Whilst I’m so happy to have been gifted this extra time with my nearest and dearest in Wellington, my drive to leave is still there. 

It’s such a strong feeling once it kicks in – the thought of seeing my family and friends again, living in a big city and having all the job opportunities without the restrictions of being on a visa is pushing me home.

They say the third time’s a charm, and I have strong faith I’ll be able to fly to Melbourne next week and then onto London. I haven’t let the nightmare of the last few weeks distract me from the magic of my last few years. I’ve made life long memories and friendships, formed a beautiful relationship, and grown immensely as a person.

I’ll be taking all of this with me on the long road home, and carry a piece of the land Down Under with me for the rest of my life.