By Sarah Jost
New Zealand has a fairly temperate climate most of the year, particularly in the North Island. While the South Island gets its fair share of snow, the North Island remains about 50 degrees Fahrenheit throughout winter. To me, this seems like nearly ideal weather: a hot/warm summer, a warm spring and fall, and a mild winter. Kiwis get to enjoy the beauty and excitement that comes with changing seasons without the misery of a completely freezing winter.
For some reason, however, there seems to be a widespread misconception/fantasy among Kiwis that they live in a tropical climate. You can almost see why, with their palm trees, beaches, and ferns. Some parts of the Northland even look downright like a rainforest.
Because of this notion, many houses in New Zealand have been built for a climate much warmer than is reality. In one home where I WWOOFed for two weeks, they hung wool blankets as curtains over all of their windows and over every doorway to prevent drafts. All this in lieu of any real insulation built into the house, and it was still often quite chilly, even with summer approaching.
When I started working, my partner and I moved into a house in Tauranga with six friends. Again, it was almost always freezing inside. It would be a lovely, sunny day outside, but ice cold in the house. Everyone had to buy extra blankets, and there were mornings when we would wake up to find one of our housemates covered in two blankets, their coat, and their towel. It was that cold.
A Swedish friend I worked with in New Zealand shared my shock at the lack of insulation and heating in buildings there and told me that in Sweden it was always warm in buildings and homes because it was so cold outside for much of the year. When I arrived in northern Norway, I was initially a bit disappointed that the weather was fairly cold, much colder than one would expect at the end of June. Yet I soon discovered that I was hardly ever cold, because the apartment where I was staying, along with every shop, cafe, and train station waiting area were well-insulated and warm.
While waiting for a train connection on my way from Norway to Sweden, I was surprised and delighted to find that even the small, rundown, deserted waiting area was nice and toasty. I spent an entire ferry ride from the North Island of New Zealand to the South Island curled in a small ball and covered in every jacket I owned, still shivering. In the summer. In Norway, I often enjoyed comfortable ferry rides with no jacket at all. New Zealand television is forever airing commercials about the health effects of poor insulation, particularly for children.
In addition to being eternally grateful to Scandinavia for their warmth (a huge boon for someone who’s perpetually chilled), and learning the invaluable lesson to always travel to NZ with a multitude of layering options, this all got me thinking about the significance of self awareness. An honest understanding of oneself is a critical gateway to sincere interactions with others, full knowledge of your desires, and a basis for making self-improvements.
Trying to be someone you are not, no matter how cool or interesting you think that made up version will seem to someone else, will only act as a detriment to a full realization of life’s potential. Sweden may have much colder weather than New Zealand, but the Swedish likely feel much less of the cold from within their snugly warm homes than the Kiwis do in their drafty abodes in much warmer weather. Recognizing, admitting, and accepting yourself and your circumstances allows you to act from a real place to make real improvements. Understanding the difference between what is a fact of life and what is something that can be changed will not only help you achieve peace of mind, but also make you better able to cope with both. Live in the moment, act from reality, not what may have been or might be, and, for the sake of your warmth and the environment, properly insulate your home!