Posted by: Matt | August 31, 2008

Tourism vs. The OE

We have been back in Queenstown now for a little over two weeks. Liz has found a job and is dutifully reporting to work now. I’m getting caught up on work from home and then I’ll be pounding the pavement and looking for a job too. One thing that I’m starting to notice is the difference between being a tourist in a country and living somewhere as a temporary resident. They have a term for it in countries where a significant percentage of the population takes time off and moves to another country, it’s called an Overseas Experience or OE for short.

View from our house this morning

View from our house this morning

Tourism, as we all know, consists of going to a place for the purpose of visiting that location. You go, you take pictures, you participate in the activities that make that location famous, you bond with family and friends over the experience, and then you go home. The OE takes on a significantly different point of view, and it’s not nearly as obvious as the tourist experience. That’s probably because the OE is much more of an internal experience. I’m starting to find that when people are out of their normal element for a significant period of time, they start to look inwards and while they may still be tourists in many senses, they have the time to reflect as well.

Our first NZ party w/ our new flatmates

Our first NZ party w/ our new flatmates

We’ve met a number of people here that are not only here to travel, but have also taken their temporary break in existance as an opportunity to learn something new or pick up a new hobby. In addition, we’ve met people that have taken back up hobbies or enjoyments they didn’t have time for in the “real world”, but all of a sudden, between trips to the mountains, they have found a place for. One of our new flatmates, in particular, has pretty much made his trip to New Zealand a chance to learn everything he comes across, from weaving to journalling to art.

Kea bird seen during our hike to Rob Roy's Glacier (Aspiring National Park)

Kea bird seen during our hike to Rob Roy

Liz and I haven’t been able to escape the pull of the OE either. Both of us have started journalling again, something that I haven’t done since the AT. Liz has had the time to knit to her heart’s content, and we both have NZ wool scarves to prove it. For me, I’m reading book after book, which is something I haven’t been able to focus on in a long time. I also got to go rock climbing on a real rock wall for the first time yesterday, something I’ve been wanting to do for years, but other things always seemed to get in the way. We’re both going to a yoga class tonight for the second week in a row, and plan on making it a weekly thing.

Liz scaling the climbing wall near our house.

Liz scaling the climbing wall near our house.

I think the best part about the OE however is the chance to sit and think in a different setting, from a perspective that is temporary. It’s not often that we get the chance to do something like it and we’ve both noticed that we’ve developed an appreciation for home, friends, and family that is sometimes hard to realize when you’re surrounded by those things. Basically….we talk about you guys all the time. 🙂 That being said, we love it here. We plan to be in Queenstown for awhile longer. Eventually we’ll move on to the next place, live there for a bit and then do it again.  So, while tourism and the OE may look like the same thing on the surface, we’re quickly learning the difference.


  1. Liz, what kind of work are you doing over there?

    Tony and I are wrapping up a long weekend in Tampa visiting the Cornells; we’re hoping Gustav doesn’t mess up our travel plans!

  2. I’m gainfully employed as a receptionist at The Crowne Plaza, a 4 star under the InterContinental hotel group, which is located smackdab in the heart of QT.

    The Crowne Plaza attracts travelers from Australia, South America and Asia, business folk from all over NZ, and ski bums from the states and England (met a U.K. guest yesterday with my same surname). It’s sweet as, mate!

    We’ve been keeping close tabs on Gustav – take care ~

  3. Wow – that view from your house is great! All it needs is a sailboat and it would be perfect!

    Glad you’re having a blast and having time to contemplate your existance – always time well spent! Your camera (the indestructible one that you broke in 6 months) and your climbing shoes are on their way via the USPS. If you’re going to go rock climbing…you need your red climbing shoes!
    Hugs to you both!

  4. Liz–you went rock climbing?! Awesome! Miss you so much!

  5. That’s fantastic! I’m so glad things are working out. I’m thinking about the whole rock-climbing thing myself. I visited my buddy Kelly (aka Fife Diggity, she who broke her neck and survived/thrived through it) in R.I. She got back into climbing right after healing from aforementioned neck injury so obviously there must be something there to love. There’s a starter package at a nearby gym here in D.C… I guess I will have to let you know! Hugs and smooches to you both.

  6. Maybe it’s because I’m hungover on a Tuesday morning (work-related, don’t stage an intervention), but I just found this entry to be so poignant. I’m getting all sentimental about you guys and friends and family. Just live your life out there, you know? Knit and read and do sun salutations. Make sure to come back, though, I’d get too weepy.

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