Tourist's love letter to New ZealandSave
By Heath Moore
"Thank you, New Zealand".
That's the heartfelt message from one US traveller who has credited his time in New Zealand for rediscovering his happiness after years of heartbreak.
Reddit poster El_Oso_Blanco lost his brother to cancer after an 8-year-battle, and feared he would never again find happiness.
Blanco wrestled with the idea of moving from the state of Georgia to the west coast - but he concluded the move could not shake him into a state of happiness. "Same shit, different state," he wrote.
However, it was a conversation with a friend in Auckland, initially a joke at first, that sparked a trip across the Pacific and into a state of euphoria.
"At this point a friend in Auckland suggested I come to New Zealand. I had a 'Haha that'd be fun' type reaction," Blanco explained.
"That 'haha that'd be fun' turned into, 'What could it hurt to look into this', which turned into seriously considering it. Another couple months down the road and I was applying for my work holiday visa."
Fast forward to January, 2017, Blanco arrived in New Zealand, where he knew just one person, while carrying the emotional scars of his brother's death.
"After settling some, things started to take a wonderful turn," he wrote.
"The feeling of being in such a wildly different place and starting from the ground up was amazing. I felt like I truly was able to make something beautiful out of this. I got a job in Auckland, travelled around the South Island for two weeks, saw some beautiful stuff and met some phenomenal people.
"And now, here I am. After my time here, I learned what it's like to feel happy and free again. That joy has returned, my sense of adventure is back. The happiness that I had lost had returned. I have now proven to myself that, even with one of the most important people in the world to me being gone, I still can have a good life. I still can have fun, even if he's not here."
As for Blanco's highlights of his trip around New Zealand, he said it was the people and the lifestyle that he'll remember most.
"NZ has such a great personality. I love how chill the people I encountered here are, how friendly everyone is, how beautiful a place it is, and how the general go with the flow attitude is what helped me out."
Despite planning on seeing out a full year in New Zealand, Blanco headed home early, saying he felt the time was right to reconnect with his friends and family, but not without a final message for the people of New Zealand.
"My time in New Zealand gave me the tools it takes to enjoy life, which I feel like I can now apply to all aspects of my life, and truly be able to be a happy person again, for the first time in a long time.
"It'll be bittersweet to go home. I absolutely love New Zealand and it will always hold a very special place in my heart. I truly had the time of my life here, and I believe it was the most important and significant thing I've ever done.
"So I want to thank all of you Kiwis. Thank you for showing me that happiness still exists. Thank you for welcoming me with open arms. Thank you for making me the happiest I've been in a long, long time."