Two questions we hear most frequently are 1) ‘How do you find places to live’, and 2) ‘What does Whit do for school’. Our answer is pretty simple: we figure it out when we get to each new place.
It’s been easy to find a home to rent in every country we’ve visited so far by asking for realtor recommendations in Facebook groups for local expats. Real estate agents almost always cover furnished rentals, and can arrange for a monthly-to-month lease with their clients on our behalf. We find and tell them what we’re looking for before we arrive, book a hotel for our first few days, and spend our first full day with the realtor looking at 3-5 rental options. We make our final decision by the next day, and it’s ready for us to move into 48 hours later.
Finding a school is a similar process. I join a Facebook group for local moms and ask if anyone knows of an English-speaking school that takes monthly students. I end up with a list of schools so-and-so and such-and-such entered a few months ago and begin making calls to inquire about openings and tuition fees. We end up with less options for schools than homes, so we try to find a home nearby the school so we aren’t stuck driving around all day.
(For the record, we only lease a home or enroll Whit in a local school if we are staying 1+ months. Otherwise we book hotels or AirBnBs and homeschool Whit with a rigorous U.S.-based grade 1 curriculum of reading, math, writing, and language arts, supplemented by learning opportunities in the area we’re visiting.)
After finding homes and schools in various countries with minimal effort and maximum options, we were pretty confident in our ability to design a life we’d love in North Island, New Zealand. We were wrong.
Moving to New Zealand is crazy hard! Here’s the thing- word is out that New Zealand is an awesome place. Lots of people want to be here!
We asked about local real estate agents; Nothing. We joined rental groups; Nothing. We cold called real estate agents about listings on rental websites; Nothing. After being in Auckland for 3 days and fearing we’d be homeless by the end of our stay, we finally went to the last place we like to check: AirBnB. We only had a handful of options for decent 2-bedroom places within a 2-hour drive of the city.
Choosing one of our four main options came down to which had a neighborhood school that would accept Whit. Whit doesn’t qualify for a student visa because we aren’t working or paying taxes in the country, so we’re left with finding schools which have participated in an educational program to accept international students paying out-of-pocket for tuition. We asked the listing owners for the unit’s addresses so we could find nearby schools, then called each one to ask if they accept international students and had space for him.
That cut our options down to three.
Two of our final three homes were in different neighborhoods of Auckland, and the third was in a beach village an hour north.
I could tell that Ben was more interested in staying in the city suburbs so we’d have the opportunity to make friends with our neighbors, but that village house had my heart in my throat when I saw the pictures on AirBnB. Have you ever connected with something that way before?
We drove up to the village to see if we could survive in a one-road town. Whit and I fell harder in love once we walked through the house. Eclectic furnishings and a full kitchen overlooking fruit trees is pretty much my idea of heaven. The village, Matanaka, has an upscale bakery, deli, and chocolate shop and I can not wait to be a regular customer at each of these places. I have visions of sitting and chatting with the local chocolatier which have become so vivid I already mourn the memories.
A huge thank you to Ben for giving in to renting that house without much effort.
We’re still “homeless” for the next week as we spend a few more days stomping around Auckland and then touring the North Island with my mom (who will be fulfilling her lifelong dream of visiting New Zealand. I’m so excited to spend time with her!) It’s been over three months since our last “home.” We left our 6-week homestead in Chaing Mai, Thailand, in early December and have been to Myanmar, the United States, Malaysia, and New Zealand since. The longest we’ve stayed in one place was 2 weeks in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, but we’ve mostly been moving around every 2-4 days. It’s hard to constantly adjust to a new bed, find the outlets, pack and unpack, find the best neighborhood restaurant, etc., etc., etc.,….
I’m so so so so ready to be settled for a while.
I’m ready to be home.
We’re all ready to be home.