About the Women Taking Leaps series:
This blog - my life - would not be what it is today without the inspiring women in my life. Near and far, close friends and new acquaintances, incredible women have come into my life in my later years and opened a realm of possibilities for me, simply living by example. This blog series is the first of (hopefully) many to highlight the females that are forging onward, creating lives they love, and making a positive mark on this world.
This week, I've interviewed Arielle Zadok, a woman who has made taking leaps her modus operandi. She's a producer, a yogi, a life coach, and a jeweler. This interview focuses on one of her bigger leaps: moving to New Zealand
Interview: Arielle Zadok, World Traveler - Media Producer - Powerful Do-er
Taking the leap to move to New Zealand with nothing but a visa and a couch to crash on
Share a bit about your life before you decided to move your whole life to New Zealand:
Before I moved to New Zealand I literally had no idea where it was. I actually thought it was a Scandinavian country (don’t tell my Kiwi mates that!). I had a friend who did a semester abroad there in college but besides a few MySpace photos (yes, I’ve just dated myself) of her having fun at someone’s house saying it was New Zealand, I had no idea it even existed.
I would never have thought of myself as adventurous or as a risk taker throughout my life, but I think at heart I always had it in me. I’m the daughter of two immigrants, and even more immigrants before that. It’s in my blood.
I grew up in the suburbs of NYC and took the easy road to college. I applied to one school that I knew I’d get into and I knew people from home who were there (including my ex-high school sweetheart). It was all a no-brainer. My biggest risks really were in acting and theater production, which is all about putting yourself out there time and time again.
I graduated and moved to Florida, which to me was also a no brainer. I didn’t want to live at home with my parents, New York was way too expensive to live on my own, and my boyfriend at the time was moving to Florida. It’s not where I would have chosen, but it was the easy thing to do. So there I went. Most people seemed to think this was a big deal, but to me, it was just a thing to do. It was the easy road.
The biggest risk I took before New Zealand, which again wasn’t a risk at all to me, came in three parts:
A move from a foreclosing house, a breakup with a person who was making me unhappy, and quitting a job that was so incredibly unaligned with who I was that I can’t believe I was there in the first place. In a matter of 6 weeks, I turned my ENTIRE life around and started my career freelancing in film production. I had previously worked as a Talent Agent so this wasn’t a foreign industry for me, but freelancing was. Being on my own was. Having my name on a lease by myself was.
So that’s what life was for the next few years. Being single, enjoying my life as I saw fit, working in an industry I was in love with and just jammin’ away. But I still didn’t want to live in Florida. This wasn’t the place I chose and I knew it was time to leave – even if I was booking jobs left and right and it felt like I was on top of the world. Back home to NY was the obvious place to go, but somehow I knew that wasn’t it.
Was there a growing pull or a single moment that moved you to fully pursue your dream?
Once I decide I do or do not want something, it’s hard for me to ignore it. The six weeks that changed my life all happened in flow. The series of events that lead me to fully pursue my dreams made space for New Zealand to even be an option for me.
From that point forward, and still to this day, I follow my intuition. I don’t let things fester within me. I do not compromise my long term goals and my vision for fear of the unknown or for dealing with anyone else’s inability to handle their own life.
I will say that as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to be more measured with my intuitive pulls. I’ve learned to plan more than just jump, but if I hadn’t had the experiences of just doing it I don’t know that I would know the difference between stalling (or giving up completely) from fear, and creating a plan with the vision to follow through with my intuition.
How did those around you react when you told them what you planned to do?
At the time I fully decided to move to New Zealand and I applied for my visa, I was working on several films with an entirely German crew. I don’t know if you know any Germans, but these guys travel – a lot. That’s actually something that American’s don’t do that other nationalities do. They live abroad. It’s a thing. In the UK they call it a “Gap Year” even if it lasts 5. In New Zealand and Australia, they call it an “OE” – Overseas Experience.
Working in film production, you work with a lot of free spirits and travelers, so no one in my community had a huge reaction. Other friends knew I lived this crazy freelance film life, so although they were going to miss me, I think everyone came to expect something like this from me.
Through the years I’ve heard other people say “Wow, New Zealand. I wish I could do that” which is such a ridiculous thing to say because… they can. Anyone can.
My parents took it the worst (of course). Florida was far enough, but New Zealand? No way. In fact, that’s literally what my Dad said “What? No, you’re not”... to which of course I had to say “yes Dad, I am. This is real”. My mom, although also super sad, was only slightly more accepting and she began to call me her “wandering Jew”. Which makes sense. It was kinda the Israelite's forte for thousands of years, so I get it.
The thing that hit home the most was when she explained to me what that brought up in my father. He left Israel when he was 25, and he never moved back. It wasn’t until I moved to a different country that he could fully understand what that did to his own parents. My move brought on not only the loss of his daughter (in a non-permanent way of course) but it also brought on an influx of guilt for leaving his own parents behind – even if he did go visit twice a year.
Was there a person or situation where you received help/support that changed your journey?
A conversation with my buddy who was living in Australia at the time that sparked the whole move. I had just gotten back from Europe and he told me to come to Australia, which just wasn’t possible after 6 weeks in Europe! That’s when he told me he was moving to New Zealand right around the time my lease was up. I didn’t even have to think about it. I told him I was going to come and live on his couch and he’d better check with his flatmates… because unlike most people I do what I say I’m going to do – especially when it comes to travel! Without his invitation (maybe it was a joke, maybe he was for real – we’ll never know), I would have never even thought New Zealand was an option… or even living in another country was an option.
My thought process was this: I see all these other people doing this, mostly with no education or professional experience… I’ve had a successful career, I’m educated, I’ve worked in hospitality – there’s literally no reason why I can’t do this too. So I did.
What’s been your greatest challenge (personal or otherwise) so far?
Coming back to the US, which is still a decision I struggle with almost every day. New Zealand is a part of me. I was always meant to be there. It will always be in my soul. I left a year short of applying for permanent residency and if I believed in regrets, that would be my biggest one. The final decision was an intuitive one (I left 6 weeks after I woke up thinking it was time), but the factors that played into it were quite practical.
I was single after 4 years of living there, being on the brink of 31 so I knew I didn’t have a partner keeping me there and having one would complicate things at this age. I thought a lot about my parents getting older and a lot about missing my sister’s kids growing up. Mostly, I thought about seeing the world, which has always been a dream and a passion of mine.
I knew if I stayed there, the one big trip a year I’d be able to take was to go home and see my family. It’s really expensive to fly in and out of New Zealand so the choice would always be “do I see my family this year or do I follow my dreams”. I’d have always picked family first. Looking back, it was easier to come back to the US and see the world from here. But my heart still hurts for Aotearoa (the Maori name for New Zealand), and it remains the hardest decision I’ve made in my life. I’m still not sure it was the “right” one, but it was the one.
You’ve been back in the states for three years; how did your time in New Zealand impact the future you’re living?
I’ve now been back longer than I was there which is a certain kind of heartbreak. My soul was born in New Zealand. It’s like a piece of the puzzle of my own connectedness to self, spirituality and this Earth were all found there. It was a culture shock coming back, so it’s taken a long time to adjust. I decided to become a Health Coach while living in New Zealand and between the lifestyle there and my education, I’ve become a lot healthier, a lot more grounded.
Having parents from two different countries so I already had a global outlook but it’s grown even deeper. I connect with people, travelers especially, on a much deeper level. I’m way more educated on the world at large. I’ve found more peace in my life and more compassion for others and myself. I’ve learned to plan with my intuition, not just act on it. I’ve learned that I don’t need a TV, but I do need a garden. I’ve learned how beautiful and simple life is meant to be. I’ve learned that I measure success on whether or not I can leave the country ever year because otherwise, I’ve missed the point of being back here at all.
What advice do you have for others who are considering a life abroad?
If you’re telling yourself “I can’t” or “I wish I could” you’re bullshitting yourself. Get to the root of your beliefs. What’s behind that? Fear? Money? What others will think? What is the truth and I mean the real truth?
If you want to do something, really want to do something, you’ll find a way. Stop making excuses. Millions of people from around the world with a lot less than you have done it. You can too. Resources exist. Communities exist. If an opportunity comes, take it. What’s the worst that can happen?
If you could dispel one myth about moving to New Zealand, it would be:
New Zealand is NOT Australia.
And no, I didn’t go there to shoot the Hobbit (thought I did work on Spartacus!).
Thank you so much for joining us for the third of four in the Women Taking Leaps: Interviews & Inspiration series.
Be sure to check out the first interview in this series: Manuela Baron of The Girl Gone Green; and the second interview: Livia Gil, Professional Ballerina. Subscribe to the blog to get the latest posts each Friday.