We’d done it: we finally left Southeast Asia after spending nearly half a year trekking through this incredible part of the world. Eventually, one needs to move on. Teresa and I weren’t quite ready to just head straight home, though. We wanted to experience a place that would help us transition back into our normal lives, back home in Canada. So, we decided to spend about a week and a half in New Zealand, a place Teresa had dreamed of travelling to since her youth and which turned out to be one of the most amazing countries we’ve ever visited.
We knew accommodations would be a great deal more expensive in New Zealand compared to anywhere we’d stayed so far (except maybe the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore). We were running out of money and neither of us had had any income for over five months, something neither of us had experienced in our young adult lives. While on our travels, we’d heard of a service called Couchsurfing. We decided to give it a try.
Couchsurfing is for travellers looking to crash at the home of a local in the place they are travelling to, generally free of charge. Those who are willing to open their homes to complete strangers are varied, but many of them are former travellers or people who have been in the same position that Teresa and I were now in. Others are retirees whose children have left home and are looking for some company or wanting to show someone around their town or city while getting to meet someone new. Occasionally we saw some Couchsurfing accounts belonging to young families with small children, but certainly not quite as often.
While in Indonesia, Teresa and I created an account, which is extensive and asks you a great deal of questions. Those willing to open their homes to strangers are a lot more inclined to do so the greater detailed the applicants’ account is. People are trusting, but rightfully still wary. After all, they’re letting complete strangers into their home.
We tried about five or six different people and eventually got into contact with an amazing young couple named Katy and Paddy. Born and raised in Ireland, the two moved to New Zealand for work because of the tumultuous economic situation in their home country. Katy is in architecture and Paddy builds custom designed furniture. They are some of the coolest people we’d met on our travels and clearly as welcoming as people come, but more on that later.
Teresa and I landed in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city (but not the capital) where we had a short layover before hopping on a brief flight down to Christchurch on the south island.
Christchurch is a city I knew little about before arriving. I first heard of it on the news here in Canada when the city was devastated by an earthquake back in 2011. Despite it being weaker on the Richter scale compared to a quake that hit six months prior in 2010, the violence of the second earthquake caused a great deal of damage and killed nearly two hundred people. Of course, you only ever hear about bad things happening in the news so up until this point I had no idea how beautiful and peaceful the city is. It didn’t take long for us to find out how much we’d love it here.
We landed in Christchurch and jumped on a bus which took us to the central station, across from a library which I checked out before waiting for our next bus. One thing I’ll mention is that everyone we came across was extremely friendly and helpful, especially the bus drivers who often offered us directions without us even asking. Apparently, it was pretty obvious that we were foreigners and no one ever hesitated to guide us in the right path.
We arrived in Katy and Paddy’s neighbourhood and after a short walk, we found their house. No one was home yet so we waited on the front porch, a little bit anxious because we’d never done anything like this before, despite having felt fairly well travelled by now.
It wasn’t long before Katy pulled up in the driveway, welcoming us into her home and immediately making the anxiety melt off of our shoulders with her warm and hospitable nature. Paddy arrived home from work shortly after and the two of them proceeded to make Teresa and I a massive and amazing dinner for which we were more than grateful.
After hearing some of their stories on past Couchsurfing experiences, we felt even more privileged that they decided to take a chance on us, at the time two complete strangers. A young lady who’d previously stayed with them never wanted to get to know them and essentially just used their place as her own, staying away from home when they were home, eating their food, and then leaving abruptly without saying anything. A guy who stayed with them before that was really nice, but when he got called up for a job where he had to fly down to Antarctica for an extended period of time (Christchurch is a jumping off point for individuals doing work in the southern continent) he wound up burning through all of their internet data. He’d decided to download gigabytes worth of TV shows to keep him occupied for those long lonely nights he’d undoubtedly be facing during his down time. I couldn’t blame Katy and Paddy for being skeptical. But the fact that they decided to take us on despite these past occurrences just underscores the kind of optimism and positivity in their outlook that people like Teresa and I truly appreciate.
We had a solid eight days to spend in Christchurch and we immediately felt welcome here thanks to our two new friends. It’s a beautiful and peaceful city. It was late October and in the southern hemisphere that means spring is in the air, which is as fresh as it comes, and the flowers are blooming in a wide spectrum of inviting colours. A truly chill place to be, a city that both Teresa and I would not hesitate to move to if we had a solid employment-based incentive. I’m looking forward to sharing the rest of our experiences here with you, from Christchurch as well as the few days we spent in Auckland and the mesmerizing countryside surrounding it.