A Texan in Kiwi-land

With a severe case of wanderlust, Leah Walker lives by the motto: Life is too short to live with a someday attitude.

When she’s not home in Houston, Texas dreaming about travel, she’s getting her passport stamped, seeking out street food that won’t make her sick and writing all about it. When given the chance to travel to New Zealand she packed her suitcase, and jetted off to the Southern Hemisphere with her husband, Matt.

I backed out of bungy jumping in Rotorua and braved the cold wind and rain in Wellington. I soaked up the sights, green-lipped muscles, and Sauvignon blanc in Marlborough. Our heli-hike was canceled not once, but twice, at Fox Glacier. Dipping our feet in the Tasman Sea almost led to frostbite, and we were inspired driving through Mt. Aspiring National Park. We set down roots, at least for a week, in Queenstown where we soaked up the area’s sights.  Through the lupines and the Lindis Pass we cruised to Mt Cook. After a Hooker Valley hike, we were lured by the turquoise water to Lake Tekapo. And with our three weeks in New Zealand drawing to a close, Matt and I set out for the phoenix-like Christchurch.

Our interactions with Kiwis and observing their societal nuances were some of the best parts of our trip. Here are a few Kiwi observations that stood out to us:

New Zealand Reflection #1: Kiwis are trusting.

I was able to fill up before paying for gas, something almost unheard of in the USA. I laughed out loud the first time a store clerk told me to take as much as I needed and pay afterward. He must have thought me crazy.

New Zealand Reflection #2: I'm very fond of roundabouts.

Why these haven’t caught on in the United States is beyond me. They make for smooth traffic flow, and for someone not so fond of complete stops (me), they’re quite convenient.

New Zealand Reflection #3: I met a Kiwi who'd NEVER seen a snake, and I envied her.

There are no snakes in New Zealand, not even in the zoos. Coming from Texas, home of four kinds of poisonous snakes and countless non-venomous ones, this is a foreign concept for me.  I loved that sand flies were the only thing biting me while hiking.

New Zealand Reflection #4: Kiwis aren't keen on directional signage.

A road sign only reads the highway number, and if you don't know the name of the next town, you're screwed. How about South 1 or North 1? Note to the New Zealand Ministry of Transport: A simple N, S, E, or W above the highway number would make navigation for visitors much easier.

New Zealand Reflection #5: Many bridge crossings are solo car affairs.

Would it be that much more difficult or expensive to just make them a little wider? Cool nonetheless.

New Zealand Reflection #6:  The sheep have it made.

Not only do New Zealand sheep get to live in the most beautiful place in the world, but they don’t have to worry about a single predator. There are no coyotes, cougars, mountain lions, bobcats, or foxes to look out for. In my next life, I’d like to come back as a New Zealand lamb.

New Zealand Reflection #7: Even the most unattractive part of New Zealand is more beautiful than Texas, which is my highest compliment.

With its diverse terrain, I love everything about my home state, but I also understand that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Still, I’d be shocked to find a single person who didn’t find unparalleled perfection in every square metre of New Zealand.

New Zealand Reflection #8: Savory pies are outstanding.

I think I would make a killing by bringing them to the USA. I can see myself launching a food truck empire selling only New Zealand-style pies. There’s nothing like them in the United States.

New Zealand Reflection #9: When there's a sign labeling a road as closed, it's probably not just there for decoration.

The road really is closed. I’m looking at you, Tekapo Canal Road!

New Zealand Reflection #10: Shoes are optional and grooming is acceptable in public places.

I wish I’d counted the number of people I saw without shoes. In the grocery store, coffee shops, or on the sidewalk...it didn’t matter. The American credo of “no shoes, no shirt, no service” doesn’t apply in New Zealand. On a similar note, I saw a guy getting his head shaved by two friends in the middle of Queenstown. A bucket full of water, two disposable razors, and shaving cream was all that was needed for a new look.


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