Photographer Maria Memet asked seven travellers what it’s like being in the country with one of the world's most effective responses to Covid-19 pandemic.

When Covid hit, many travellers had to pack up their bags, cancel their plans and begrudgingly make the long route home. But what if going home wasn’t an option? Some were stuck with no flights, some had to make a difficult decision in order to stay with their partners and some couldn’t afford to go back.

John 

John, from Scotland

How did you get stuck?

I’ve been on a working holiday visa since December. Originally, I had planned to stay out here and work for the year but when Covid hit my family needed me home. I tried to get a flight back to Scotland but it was too late. All the seats were fully booked and there were no more flights scheduled to depart for weeks.

What have you spent your time here doing?

I was lucky enough to get a wage subsidy because I work in the hospitality industry. Over lockdown I started a blog all about my previous travels and then took up fishing once some restrictions were released. It was nice to have the time off to enjoy Wellington and spend some time relaxing.

Are you pleased to be here or do you want to go home?

I’m definitely pleased to be here! Back home is a mess, I have so much freedom here in New Zealand and feel very grateful to be able to enjoy myself while others at home don’t have the opportunity. I’d still like to travel around New Zealand, and plan to do a road trip with my housemates once I’ve worked a bit more and the weather warms up.

Martina

Martina, from the Netherlands

How did you get stuck?

After making plans to fly home to the Netherlands in May, a national lockdown was announced in New Zealand and as a result, my flights were cancelled. There are possibilities of flying to the Netherlands, but it will not be possible for me to return to New Zealand after I do. My partner is from here, so that complicates things.

What have you spent your time here doing?

I chose to stay longer working at my job that allowed me to work from home and save my money. We couldn’t really go anywhere to spend it anyway, and I will most probably not have a job for some time after my return.

Like so many people, I proudly started baking and cooking more and luckily I borrowed some books from the library right before lockdown. I had months to read them, but I must admit I didn’t even finish them. I heard a lot of people were having problems with reading books.

While I used to like going for runs, I stopped doing that as it made me feel anxious trying to avoid and zigzag around people -- even though there hardly were any. I did enjoy my daily yoga outside in the garden and I found I have a talent for headstands.

Are you pleased to be here or do you want to go home?

A little bit of both. I am happy to be in New Zealand, where it is safe compared to a lot of other places in the world. I have my boyfriend here and we can go for dinner and trips without thinking about restrictions. But within New Zealand only. That does make me feel trapped, especially because it feels like I have a whole life outside of this country. I am very much looking forward to going home.

Nirmal

Nirmal, from India

How did you get stuck?

I was here studying culinary arts and had planned to go home to India once my course finished but when the virus hit I had no choice but to stay put in Wellington. It’s been a scary time for me as my visa is due to expire next week leaving me in limbo, but I’ve managed to extend things here for now and hopefully I’ll be able to get back in the near future when needs be.

What have you spent your time here doing?

During lockdown I was able to complete my course. I was also experimenting with new recipes - every day I invented a new flavoured burger!

Are you pleased to be here or do you want to go home?

I feel quite glad to be here to be honest. I have a good group of friends and I’m a lot safer here than in India. I am worried for my family but they are doing okay and I was lucky to see them in Sydney just before we went into lockdown.

Ed and Josie

Edward and Josie, from England

How did you get stuck?

We came here in January and intended to be here for the year but were really concerned when the country went into lockdown and seriously considered going home. In the end we decided it was best to stick it out, since we couldn't really afford to go home anyway.

What have you spent your time here doing?

During lockdown we were kiwifruit picking for around eight weeks, until the country went down to level 2 when we did some travelling around the Coromandel and East Coast. We are in Wellington now, still looking for jobs.

Are you pleased to be here or do you want to go home?

We are pleased to be here but the job market isn’t great so we’re finding it tough to find work. If we can get work we want to stick it out until February at least.

Soel

Soel, from Chile

How did you get stuck?

The visa I applied for in New Zealand got rejected so I made a new plan to go to Australia (I had a working holiday visa there). I decided to spend my birthday in New Zealand with my partner and friends on a visitor’s visa, but Covid happened and I was forced to stay. Luckily my visa got extended until September 25th.

What have you spent your time here doing?

I've mainly been looking for jobs, I would need a sponsor to be able to work and sustain myself. I haven't been successful with this yet so I've been living with friends since Covid, in three different houses mainly sharing a room or sleeping on the couch. So thankfully I haven’t had to pay rent, I don't have the money for that.

Are you pleased to be here or do you want to go home?

This question is a little bit tricky because since Covid my time in New Zealand has been really hard, it’s like living in limbo, you don't know what's going to happen. I'm really lucky to have good, supportive people around me to go through this hard time with. Immigration is not giving answers for people like me and home is not an option at the moment with the situation being really bad over there. We're one of the top 10 worst countries with the virus and the first one with cases in the millions.

Nicole

Nicole, from Scotland

How did you get stuck?

I have been on a working holiday visa since July 2019. My sister is a permanent resident so I felt much safer staying with her than flying home to the U.K.

What have you spent your time here doing?

During my time here I have travelled and been lucky enough to see a fair bit of the country. I’ve been working for the New Zealand government and was able to do this during lockdown. I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve done here so far.

Are you pleased to be here or do you want to go home?

I am pleased to be in a country that has managed to minimise the community spread and allowed me to live life normally for the past few months. It will be weird when I finally do go home as the risks will be a lot higher and I imagine things will be a lot more restricted.

Carlos

Carlos, from Mexico

How did you get stuck?

I’m not necessarily stuck, as New Zealand is my second home but I had to change my travelling plans. I was supposed to be seeing my family back home in Mexico and staying with them for a while. I miss home.

What have you spent your time here doing?

I’m doing what I’ve always done which is making music and performing as well as casual catering contracts. During lockdown I was able to really focus on my music.

Are you pleased to be here or do you want to go home?

I’m definitely pleased to be here in New Zealand being productive and carrying on the best way we can. I believe we are in a good place to keep our spirits up. At least we can continue working and living our lives which puts us in the position to help and support people in other countries, which is what I’ve been doing with my family in Mexico since the beginning of the pandemic.