What is the shape of your world?

Image by James Cheshire (
Image by James Cheshire (

I started 2014 in Brazil, my native land. As many times in previous visits I heard my family, friends and acquaintances highlighting the fact that New Zealand is far away.

And it is indeed. New Zealand is one of the most isolated countries in the world and this is what we hear over and over again in South America. Although this isolation is probably the reason why it still keeps the feel of ‘real life paradise’, I still struggle to understand this perspective.

If we draw a line with the length of the earth’s diameter, crossing the earth’s centre and starting in New Zealand, the other end of this line will be in Spain. So New Zealand is really the furthest away land… From Europe! So how can it be that far away from South America?

The reality is that… It isn’t! From New Zealand to Spain the trip consists of two flights around 12 hours each. From New Zealand to Hawaii takes around 8 hours, or to San Francisco around 12. From Auckland to Santiago, in Chile, the flight takes around 12-13 hours… And that is it! So why then does it seem so far away, especially if we consider that a flight from São Paulo to Berlin also takes 13 hours and Germany is not in the ‘other side of the world’?

After a month trying to convince my friends that I am not living any further than any of our friends living in Italy or Germany, I still feel unsuccessful. The Pacific is not as large as in our mental images, but there are reasons why our imagination feeds this idea:

  1. In the world map – as we know it – South America in one corner and New Zealand in the opposite one
  2. Availability of flights – only one air company flies NZ-South America, so you can imagine the…
  3. Price of flights – high, very high. This reinforces the idea that the trip is a very long one.

I traveled with this air company that does the direct route. Hopeless! Delays and problems with tickets that were paid (very well paid I should say!) but didn’t seem to exist. Looks like the most straight forward way to go to South America is going to United States first, as the Americans have discovered the beauties of the Pacific routes much earlier than us. This way the trip ends up being much longer and New Zealand seems much further away than it actually is. Because of the available flight routes and prices, my world has now the strange shape of a ‘pear’: while the northern hemisphere is all pretty well-connected and the distances are shorter, the southern hemisphere is widely spread out.

What about you? Where are you from? How is your world shaped?

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