First of all Jamie, welcome and thanks for finding the time to answer my questions. The first one for you is: What brought you from your home in California to New Zealand?
I’m from California. In my mid-twenties, I had bad dating experiences in California and a dream to live abroad. I read in a tour book that New Zealand’s population had 100,000 fewer men than women. In an attempt to have some ‘me time’ I moved to New Zealand.
Why New Zealand as your destination?
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 get a work visa in Australia and if you are an American under thirty-five you can get a work visa in New Zealand.
What was the hardest lesson your learnt starting a new life alone?
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.
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.
What was the most difficult aspect of living in New Zealand at first? What did you miss most of home?
The visa I was on only allowed me to work temporary positions. I worked in a basement, with ex-cons, next to a perverted mime and with a girl that wore her dead dog’s collar around her neck. All of the jobs were mundane office work, but the cubicles were filled with curious characters.
Recently on Twitter, the characters in Getting Rooted in New Zealand are described as, “Wicked. Lots of heroes and villains. It’s a story you can read again and again- it’s laugh out loud shocking in parts and cringe worthy, some office peeps are monsters!” by Colin Mathura-Jeffree, a male model and judge for the TV show New Zealand’s Next Top Model. Colin is one of my favorite characters that I meet in New Zealand.
What did the experience help you discover about yourself?
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.
What do you mean by “being rooted”?
My title is another way of laughing at myself. One night I was brushing my teeth with my flatmate and I said, “I'm really excited to live in this house because I have been travelling a lot and I just need to settle down, stop travelling and get rooted.”
I had meant get rooted in the America way to settle down, lay down roots. He started choking on his toothbrush and asked if I was hitting on him. He explained to me what rooting meant in New Zealand.
I decided on Getting Rooted in New Zealand because it’s funny and the book is about rooting – both meanings of the word.
What would you suggest to young people looking for their own roots?
If things aren’tworking 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.
When and why did you decide to write a book about your experience?
I was very lucky in New Zealand to meet a lot of talented people outside of work. 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.
What is your new life as a writer living in England like at present?
For unwanted and complicated reasons we had to move to Sheffield, England (a couple hours north of London). We have to move out of Edinburgh to Sheffield, England last year for my husband graduate school. We will have to live here until summer 2014.
I decided to be displaced with the goal of publishing. I’ve just completed a MA in Design. Designing, publishing and marketing my book was my dissertation project. I published Getting Rooted in New Zealand in April and have been traveling around the UK doing book talks at libraries, with book clubs and reading festivals. Last week I was at a library in Merthry Tydfil in Wales, Words Over Waltham Forest in London and The Festival of Romance in Bedford. I’m trying to network as much as possible.
What is the most beautiful memory/image you’ve treasured in your heart from 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.
Will you go back to New Zealand?
I currently have to live in the center of England. I desperately miss the ocean and being warm at the beach. I really miss the warm, friendly nature of the people in the South Pacific. As crazy as my job experiences were in New Zealand, I would actually like to return to New Zealand and give it another try working as a writer. It would be great to return to New Zealand to make Getting Rooted in New Zealand into a TV show.
What are you up to in your writing career?
I plan to divide my books by the countries I've lived in. I've lived in five countries; America, American Samoa, New Zealand, Scotland and now England. My next book will be about attempting to settle in Scotland.
That’s all, Jamie. Thanks a lot for our little chat. I’m always glad to meet special people like you thanks to the Net and my blog. Good luck and best wishes for your personal life and writing career. I’ll wait for you back at FLY HIGH! soon to present and discuss your next book.
Getting Rooted in New Zealand
Craving change and lacking logic, at 26, Jamie, a cute and quirky Californian, impulsively moves to New Zealand to avoid dating after reading that the country's population has 100,000 fewer men. In her journal, she captures a hysterically honest look at herself, her past and her new wonderfully weird world filled with curious characters and slapstick situations in unbelievably bizarre jobs. It takes a zany jaunt to the end of the Earth and a serendipitous meeting with a fellow traveler before Jamie learns what it really means to get rooted.
About the author, Jamie Baywood
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.