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Americans Head to New Zealand and Leave ‘the Chaos’ Behind

In 2022, Lucy Schultz was fed up. She and her husband were traveling across the United States in a recreational vehicle while she worked as a wedding photographer. Everywhere they went, communities seemed polarized and the news felt bleak. “Our opinion of America was at its lowest,” she said. “It was an endless time warp of confusion.”

Then Ms. Schultz was hired by an American client who wanted to marry in New Zealand. She had previously visited there once, in 2014, before meeting her husband. Later, when she had described the remote Pacific archipelago to him, she said, “It fell on deaf ears, because the way I described it to him felt like a fantasy.”

This time, after the assignment was over, Ms. Schultz’s husband joined her for a road trip through New Zealand’s sparsely populated north. The country proved an easy sell. In a tiny cafe near a golden beach, he turned to her and asked, “When do we move?”

As the mood in the United States grows increasingly tense, New Zealand has become an object of fascination for many Americans, as it was for Ms. Schultz. After Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory, the number of Americans moving to New Zealand jumped by 65 percent. During one 2020 presidential debate, “How to move to New Zealand” was trending on Google search. As another U.S. election lurches into view, those who have made the move say they have few regrets.

“One of the big advantages of leaving the U.S. is I get to hit the unsubscribe button on the chaos,” Ms. Schultz, 31, said. “The politics and the election stresses out your nervous system when you live there. And I’ve just been able to check out of that.”

Ms. Schultz and her husband have settled near Hamilton, a small city on the North Island, and are applying for