I’m excited to welcome Jamie Baywood to Lit, etc! Jamie wrote a memoir about her time in New Zealand and if you’ve ever traveled or lived abroad, I’m sure you can easily connect with Jamie’s experiences.
Q. Tell me something about Jamie Baywood other than the standard bio on Goodreads.
For the past three years, I’ve been disassembling and reassembling my life by moving to different countries. I’ve lived in five countries now; America, American Samoa, New Zealand, Scotland and now England. It was always my dream to live abroad when I was growing up in California. I had bad dating experiences in California and read in a New Zealand tour book that the country’s population at 100,000 fewer men than women. I wanted to have some me time and an adventure. New Zealand seemed like a good place to do so.
Q. What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Reading my book would be similar to receiving emails from a friend living abroad. I didn’t really come up with the distinct writing style. It’s just how I honestly observed things and described them. I only know how to write my truth. My truth tends to be stranger than fiction.
Q. Moving to another country can be scary and yet very liberating. Did you do much research or prep for your move to New Zealand other than the standard research for a visa?
It was shockingly easy to relocate to New Zealand literally a few weeks after I made the decision. It only took a couple of weeks for my work visa to go through. I was 26, single, I quit my job, I moved out of a little cottage I was renting and put the few things I had at my mom’s house and brought a suitcase with me to New Zealand.
Q. What are the most common misconceptions people have about moving abroad?
As an American citizen there are actually very few places in the world you can get a work visa and just show up. If you are an American under thirty you can a work visa in Australia and if you are an American under thirty-five you can get a work visa in New Zealand.
Q. What advice you would give to young women who are interested in moving abroad, but aren’t sure if they should take the chance?
If things aren’t working out for you at home with relationships, instead of staying at home crying that you’re single, consider yourself free. You are free to do whatever you want.
I really feel travel is the best teacher. I didn’t know a soul in New Zealand before I went there. Within two weeks of my plane landing in New Zealand, I found a place to live and a job. I don’t know anywhere else in the world you can do that. I’ve been living abroad since 2010. It’s made me resilient, self-reliant, fearless and adaptable. I’ve really learned to trust my instincts and believe in myself.
Q. Why did you decide to write a memoir about your time in New Zealand?
While living in New Zealand, I had funny experiences that I had trouble believing were true. I wrote the stories down to stay sane. I wrote situations down that were happening around me and shared them with friends. Most of the book was written as the events happened; it just took me a few years to work up the nerve to publish. Publishing my book Getting Rooted in New Zealand was my way of transforming poison into medicine. I hope that it can help people that have had bad dating experiences or bad work experiences – make them laugh and not give up hope.
Q. What surprised you about New Zealand?
Just about everything. New Zealand is famous for its scenery, but I loved the creative scene in Auckland. Spend time in Auckland watch Steve Wrigley stand-up and watch a Thomas Sainsbury play.
Whenever I go back to California, I am always shocked by how busy, crowded and loud it is. Everyone is rushing around, there is so much traffic, and it just feels chaotic all the time. I was amazed with how quiet and unpopulated Auckland felt. People in Auckland would complain about traffic and I would laugh.
California and New Zealand are roughly the same size. It wasn’t until I went to New Zealand that I understood how enormous America is.
New Zealand feels so safe. In California, I would carry pepper spray with me everywhere I went. I was always on edge living in California. It was amazing to me that in New Zealand the police didn’t have guns. I felt much safer as a single female traveling alone in New Zealand than living in California.
The flip side of the feeling of being sheltered from the world in New Zealand was I felt isolated. There was a palpable feeling of being at the end of the world in New Zealand that at times I found overwhelming.
Q. Your family doesn’t know you’ve written a book. Why have you kept it a secret?
The hardest part has been trying to promote the book while simultaneously attempting to stay anonymous. My life is literally an open book, but Jamie Baywood is a pen name. I haven’t told my family that I’ve written or published a book. They think I’m just been living in the UK working on a MA in Design studying book covers.
I am rather enjoying leading a double life. I am living in a different country from my family and my husband’s family so that aids the author secret. I have a few relatives on both sides of the family having babies this year, so both sets of families are mostly talking about the imminent arrivals and not questioning what I am doing.
It’s just such a soul-baring book, it’s literally my diary. In many ways it is easier to tell strangers my story. I know they would be proud of me, but for now it’s nice to have the privacy from my family about the book. All of my relatives and in-laws don’t need to know extremely personal details about my life that are in the book.
Q. What has been the most surprising or exciting experience so far in terms of your travels?
Although I intended to have a solo adventure I ended up meeting my husband a Scottish man in New Zealand.
By the time I meet my husband at the age of twenty-seven, I had fulfilled my dream of living abroad, been single for over a year and felt healed from previous heartbreaks. We had a mutual friend that invited us both to watch the fireworks on New Year’s Eve. At first all I heard was his Scottish accent in the dark, rolling Rs and all. It was the sexiest accent I had ever heard. We found out we were living in the same neighborhood and he asked me out for neighborly tea. I tried to say no, but he just looked and sounded so mesmerizing.
He was a perfect gentleman. He was more clueless about dating than I was. I found comfort in our mutual awkwardness. He was very different than the guys I dated in California. We spent the first couple months going on long walks and talking. It reminded me an old-fashion courtship. I knew very early into dating him that he would be my husband.
Q. One of the best experiences a person traveling can have is connecting with the locals. What has been the most memorable interaction you’ve had either in New Zealand, Scotland, or England?
I was very lucky in New Zealand to meet a lot of talented people. I had the opportunity to write and perform for Thomas Sainsbury the most prolific playwright in New Zealand. I performed a monologue about my jobs in the Basement Theatre in Auckland.
The funny thing about that experience was Tom kept me separated from the other performers until it was time to perform. I was under the impression that all the performers were foreigners giving their experiences in New Zealand. All of the other performers were professional actors telling stories that weren’t their own. At first I was mortified, but the audience seemed to enjoy my “performance,” laughing their way through my monologue. After the shows we would go out and mingle with the audience. People would ask me how long I had been acting. I would tell them, “I wasn’t acting; I have to go to work tomorrow and sit next to the girl wearing her dead dog’s collar.” No one believed I was telling the truth.
Q. What are your favorite travel rituals?
I love to try local food and drinks when traveling.
In American Samoa, Tisa’s Barfoot Bar serves the best piña colada in the world.
In New Zealand, I highly recommend taking a short ferry ride from the Auckland city center to Waiheke Island and wine taste at the island’s numerous vineyards.
In Scotland, go to Arcade Haggis and Whiskey house on Cockburn Street in Edinburgh. It’s one of the oldest bars in the city of Edinburgh. The street is cobblestone, amazing architecture – all the magic to be expected from Scotland. Order their Robert Burn’s Famous Haggis. I highly recommend ordering one of their whiskey tours sampling whiskeys from all over Scotland. If I had to choose just one whiskey to drink I would go with the Arran 1998. It’s has a smooth, buttery finish.
Q. Everyone experiences culture shock differently and still many people believe that it’s a myth. Did you experience it and how did you deal with it?
Culture shock is very real and so is reverse culture shock when you return home. I deal with culture shock by writing. It helps me process things.
Q. New Zealand was very good to you in terms of being the place where you met your husband. If you had to do all over again, would you change anything or chose a different location?
Absolutely! I wouldn’t change anything. I had good, bad and weird experiences in New Zealand. I’m grateful for all the people I encountered, heroes and villains, the experiences I had turned me into a writer.
I love being married to my husband. We got married in a little castle in his home town in Scotland at the beginning of year 2012. My husband wore a kilt. I was hoping for a white winter wedding, but we ended up getting sunshine in Scotland during the winter. It was a magical day; we had a rainbow over a loch, bunny rabbits hoping by us, birds chirping and a full moon reflecting on the loch at night.
We still can’t understand each other if we aren’t in the same room and there are always new words or Scottish sayings I’m learning. I hope I never stop swooning over his accent. Being married to a Scottish man is the best. I love the Scottish accent and all the words he uses. I love hearing wee in every sentence. He calls me wee fluffy bunny. I married the sweetest man. He is also incredibly kind, handsome and humble.
Q. Finally, and on an entirely unrelated note, who would play you in a film of your life?
1. Favorite Old Hollywood Movie?
The Birds by Alfred Hitchcock.
2. Book or movie?
3. White wine or red?
4. Backpacking or luxury hotel?
5. Sleep in or get up early?
6. Chocolate or vanilla?
7. Beach or mountain?
Jamie Baywood grew up in Petaluma, California. In 2010, she made the most impulsive decision of her life by moving to New Zealand. Getting Rooted in New Zealand is her first book about her experiences living there. Jamie is now married and living happily ever after in the United Kingdom. She is working on her second book.
Getting Rooted in New Zealand is available in paperback and ebook on Amazon