After quite the hiatus, I decided that today was the day to pick up the proverbial pen, and write.
It had been a while, what with work, learning to ski (at work), and living on a farm with no wifi (and lots of very distracting puppies) – but when it’s time, you know it’s time.
I grabbed my laptop, plugged in at a coffee shop, and got to work.
The last time I wrote, I interviewed people living in different areas of the world about their situations during the pandemic. Now, I will tell you about my current experience of living in visa-related limbo.
The past week has been quite the rollercoaster.
I thought I had everything worked out. I have an amazing job, until early October, when my current visa expires. I live among the snow-capped mountains, in a valley filled with horses and puppies. The people around me are crazy and lovely in equal measures. Life is sweet.
And I love New Zealand. Since I came here last October, I have lived on a boat in the middle of a beautiful fiord, travelled around in a campervan, been based on a farm in the middle of nowhere and worked in a ski field. The adventures have been plenty and the impact of the pandemic has been pretty minimal, compared to most countries. Leaving this safe, adventure-filled haven to return to covid-battered Ireland is not appealing right now.
So when the opportunity to extend my work visa by another twelve months arose, I jumped at the chance. It was expensive, but it would be worth it to stay here. The visas are limited, so there was no time to waste. The company I went through is relatively well known – a subsidiary of STA travel – and I know people who have successfully organised visas through them, so I did not hesitate to book and pay in full, thinking this would secure my spot.
I was in the process of gathering the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious-ly long list of documents and checks required (medical, criminal, etc.) when it was announced that STA travel had gone into voluntary administration. What this meant for me, and for the hundreds of others in my position, was unclear.
A Facebook group was quickly formed, and proactive members have banded together to try and to make sense of a very tricky situation. Will we be refunded? Possibly not. Will Immigration New Zealand (INZ) agree to process the visas they had allocated to the company, despite its insolvency? For everyone whose visas expire soon – should we hold out hope that the situation will be resolved, or should we make other plans, and quickly?
I won’t prattle on and on about the intricacies of the situation (there are so, so many), but basically, it’s not great.
I am quite an organized person. I am fine with a bit of flexibility, a smattering of uncertainty – I have been living abroad for a while -but I like having an overall plan, at least short-term. As of today, I am unsure what I will be doing in four weeks’ time.
I struggle with this thought.
Don’t get me wrong – I am happy to have the chance to travel about for a while, especially as I am currently working. There is plenty I have left to see in this amazing country, and I can arrange a tourist visa at short notice.
But free time is most valuable when it is finite.
At the moment, I feel as though I am living in limbo. I am sure plenty of others feel this way too.
Today’s world is full of uncertainty for everyone, but particularly those living far from home. It is unsettling when you don’t know if you can stay where you are, on top of everything else going on in the world.
No-one can do much except wait, and see.
I think I speak for most backpackers and travellers in this great country when I say, in the words of Jason Derulo; Daylight come and we don’t wanna go home..