I’m so excited. I’m about to go to Europe for three months and my first stop is England. My home. I haven’t seen it in six years.
I moved to New Zealand when I was ten. I’m twenty-three now and, in thirteen years, I’ve only been back to England once. I was seventeen then and I loved it. I hadn’t, as my parents said, idealised it in my mind. The good bits were just as good as I remembered. This time, however, will be different.
This time, I will have my boyfriend with me.
My boyfriend is a New Zealander. He’s grown up taking it for granted that he lives in the most beautiful country on earth. He, like most New Zealanders, thinks England is a dreary, grotty, rainy place with little or no unspoiled countryside. And to a certain extent he’s right.
I’m determined to show him that England does actually have places of natural beauty. I’m going to take him to the most beautiful place I can think of, a place where I seemed to spend a lot of my childhood: the Lake District.
But I’ve been looking at some old photos of the Lake District and it suddenly struck me as barren. In New Zealand, most places you can go walking are covered in luscious rainforest – the great New Zealand bush. The Lake District is all bare hills and fields (and lakes, of course.) I’m worried Tim will survey it and say, “The Waitakeres are better.”
I don’t know about the Waitakeres, but the southwest of the South Island…
I just want him to like England – to be impressed by it – to appreciate where I come from. I suppose it’s like introducing him to an important relative who I know has flaws.
I know he’s going to be disappointed when I take him to Sherwood Forest. He spent his childhood pretending to be Robin Hood – as did I, actually – but his Sherwood was populated with tree ferns and kauri. My Sherwood, the real Sherwood, is a bit… sparse.
Well, let’s put it this way, you probably wouldn’t want to shoot a Robin Hood film there. Yet I still hold a torch to it.
I love England – that green and pleasant land – and I don’t want my standards to be questioned. At least I’m safe in my certainty that England has better historical buildings that New Zealand.
After three weeks in England, we’re flying to Germany to meet Tim’s extended family. I’ve never been to mainland Europe, so I know I’ll enjoy it. Even if I’ll have to try incredibly hard not to make a Great Escape reference every time we get on a bus.
We’ll be going by train mostly, though, through France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic, and maybe Spain if we can squeeze it in. It’s going to be the biggest adventure of our lives, one that most young New Zealanders aspire to, the Big O. E.
O. E. stands for Overseas Experience and it’s a great Kiwi tradition. As beautiful as New Zealand is, it is very small and isolated, and young people can get a bit claustrophobic. Having lived here since I was ten, I completely get why. I’m itching to get away, but definitely not for good. New Zealand is the place I want to grow old in.
Because New Zealand is awesome.
There’s a reason I’m worried my boyfriend won’t be impressed by England. You’d have to have seen New Zealand – especially the southwest of the South Island – to understand why.