Besides their national symbol being a rare, flightless bird who shares its identity with a fruit; there is a whole lot to love about Kiwis. It starts with the beauty of their outdoors and continues with the Kiwi diversity, many first or second generation immigrants.

I find myself falling in love with New Zealand more than any country I have visited thus far and these are my top 15 reasons why:

1: The beach is never too far. 
The longest drives still takes less than 30 minutes. It is a bonus that the beaches are often secluded and diverse—from forests to black sands to hot water and more.

2: Casual work is the norm.
It is common for people to work short-term or on “gigs” then spend the rest of their time traveling before repeating it all over again. 

3: Government forms and processes are simple.
I got my visa online and once in-country, I filled out exactly one page to apply for my NZ Identification number. 
I could tell you horror stories of my experiences with the French system.

4: It is easy to be myself—no makeup or fancy clothes required.
I showed up a professional job interview in business casual and was the most formal one in the room. The Kiwis appreciate a more low-key style.

5: Shoes and shirts are not required.
Nor will service be denied without them.

6: WWOOFing is a term I can use in every day language. 
The Kiwis understand and frequently use volunteer exchange programs to travel cheap.

7: I am never the only one singing along to the in-store radio.
I am not exaggerating when I say that each time I catch myself jamming to a song as I shop, I see someone else doing the same.
Photo credit: James Parsons
8: I still pee in the bush.
Like the beach, the bush is never that far either…

9: Kiwis are helpful and stop to talk.
I routinely enjoy long conversations with complete strangers, all too often ending with invitations for tea at their residence or a place to stay if I visit their hometown.

10: Time off is a thing.
Public businesses run on schedules more in line with the government holidays. It is accepted that everyone take a break.

11: Honesty is accepted, expected, and ok.
Kiwis have mastered the art of discussing strong opinions to even deep-seated issues without dramatically affecting their friendships. I appreciate that.

12: Running is possible at almost any point of the day.
I loved the tropics but the heat of Togo then Florida limited my runs to an early morning or late evening affair. The experience of 'all seasons in one day' offers more flexibility for my running schedule.

13: Organic and local consciousness.
The food standards are high, with a great emphasis on local and organic. All food products are also labeled with their origin and producer/distributor source in New Zealand.

14: No worries.
The phrase "no worries" is synonymous with "thank you" here but I was still surprised that even the road signs have manners in New Zealand. Almost all the roadwork and construction sites say more than “slow down”, they say “thank you” too. Plus, there are virtually no billboards!

15: Acceptance.
The Kiwi’s take people, things, and ideas as they are and hold each other to that standard.

I could go on, adding the fascinating star views (even in cities), glow worms grottos, lack of poisonous creatures, and all the wonderful assets that make this country unique.

It has been less than six months but the longer I stay, I find that New Zealand has picked up some of the best practices from the rest of the world. I continue to marvel in gratitude as I settle into this place I now call home.

I arrived to Auckland after four months of leisurely travel. My motives for New Zealand were different though. I came to earn back the money I spent along the way—even if each dollar is worth just 60% in my home currency.

I planted myself near the largest city to save and only recently started to venture out.

When I arrived, I immediately started work at a retreat center gig I lined up using WorkAway. I signed up for six months to balance the professional experience with some personal time; attending the yoga, meditation, or indigenous culture events offered at the center.

Thus far, it has provided all that and more. Professionally, I gained experience in the events and marketing field including an interim a marketing director during her absence. I also find lots of personal time for myself with almost daily visits to the library, lots of home cooking, and wonderful sit downs with our on-site Maori Oracle.

The next two months will take me out of the homebody life and send me on the road. It is summer here in the Southern Hemisphere and I will spend it volunteering for at least five events—not including the two I am organizing—from eco-festivals to stadium running to large-scale yoga retreats like Wanderlust.

My first was a New Year’s celebration on the beach, alternative-Kiwi style. During the Prana Festival, I camped with more than 1,000 people at a beachside forest, withstanding two full days of rain.

I also celebrated my 26th birthday at this event; where I came to the realization that I could not be in a better place.