Looking back: a decade since my “OE” began

Looking back: a decade since my “OE” began

Look how young we are in the photo! That’s me on the left (obviously) and my girlfriend on the right.

It was taken at Christchurch Airport on 1 June 2008, just before we set off on our Overseas Experience, or “OE” for short. That’s a Kiwi term for an extended overseas working period or holiday; it’s a traditional rite of passage for young New Zealanders.

We were very young (just 22 and 21 respectively) and naïve back then, having travelled to just one other country before (Australia). Now, more than ten years later, we’ve been to as many countries as we’ve had birthdays, we’re married, and we’re expecting.

That’s right. We’re going to be parents! How crazy is that? Our baby boy is due in late November, just in time for Christmas.

I guess that’s what’s got me feeling nostalgic all of a sudden.

Looking back: a decade since my “OE” began
Venice in 2008

Our first stop 10 years ago was Bangkok, Thailand. From there we visited Chiang Mai and Koh Samui. It was our first taste of Asia (we’d later spend nine months or more backpacking through Southeast Asia in 2012). We were completely overawed by the experience; we mostly ate at Western-style restaurants and seldom ventured off the beaten track.

Then we flew to Europe, where we backpacked through France, Italy, Greece, and Belgium. We quickly learnt that we like staying at backpackers but hated sharing rooms with strangers. We didn’t have much money, so we picnicked in parks rather than eat at restaurants.

Later, when we lived and worked in London, we had more money and therefore the ability to travel more lavishly (suddenly we could afford to drink in bars rather than from brown paper bags in parks like homeless people).

Looking back: a decade since my “OE” began
Paris in 2008

What else has changed since way back then? That’s a good question and I’m very glad you asked it.

Well, when we first left New Zealand, I swear half my backpack was filled with paperback novels. Kindles didn’t exist back then (or if they did, they were certainly too expensive for us). When I inevitably ran out of books to read, we’d have to traverse whatever foreign town or city we were staying in, searching for a second-hand bookshop that sold English-language novels.

We also used to spend a lot of time in internet cafes, messaging friends and family back home. We didn’t have a laptop (too heavy to carry around back then) or tablet (didn’t exist), and even if we did, free WiFi wasn’t anywhere near as common as it is today.

We didn’t have an iPhone either (or any other cellphone) and we took horrible-quality photos with a digital camera.

Looking back: a decade since my “OE” began
My first day in London (also 2008)

It was difficult to blog without a computer, but we kept up a basic one. It still lives. The blog posts are pretty basic and kind of embarrassing now – you can check it out if you fancy having a laugh. One day we’ll show it to our son and he won’t believe how young his parents were.

I can hardly believe it myself. Here’s to many more international adventures!

About Simon Petersen 505 Articles
Travel blogger, journalist, sports and movie fiend. Chronicling the life and times of a Kiwi at home and abroad.