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Christchurch, Auckland, LA - living better in Dunedin?

By Anna Campbell

It's not that I don't have time to do things, it's just that sometimes I don't use my time wisely.

I have had a few hours to get started on this column while sitting in LA airport, yet here I am feeling annoyed at my lack of productivity. My inertia has certainly not been helped by the good-sized doughnut I ate this afternoon; maybe I should have saved it until I was on the plane - it was better than any sleeping pill!

Oh, but it was delicious, and I feel no guilt. It was filled with Nutella and I ate it in one sitting; oh my goodness, how I suffer.

One of the things I like to do while travelling is imagine how my life would look if I lived in my travel destination. This month, I have hardly been at home, having spent two school holiday weeks at hockey tournaments with my kids and then coming to LA for work.

So here comes my Dunedin versus three other cities commentary.

Christchurch, well they do say the biggest problem with Christchurch is that it is filled with Cantabrians, and there is an element of truth in that. What is it with those guys in checked shirts and tan pants? When I lived there years ago, I had a boyfriend who wore tan moleskins - what was I thinking?

For this visit, I stayed in a grand old Merivale home, cheap as chips on airbnb as it has seen better days. I remember when I lived in Christchurch in my twenties, Merivale and Fendalton were the places to be, but now not so much as the city has moved west.

Slightly soulless subdivisions have popped up everywhere, much like the new Mosgiel developments (sorry Mark) - nice places to live I guess, with double-glazing and all that. Christchurch will come back, but it's in need of a lot of love or at least a bit more urgency on the building front. How long will the cathedral sit there as a mass of stone while people decide what should be done?

Is that indicative of the level of decision-making we have in this country?

The garden city still has its charms and the spring blossoms were heart-warming, but now it's time to move on to Auckland. I stayed in Takapuna, a lovely walk from a very tame, urban beach - even their dogs look citified and aloof! Bravely, I drove myself around Auckland. I have always relied on my husband to drive in the past as I am not fond of busy motorways - well, I had to get over that one fast!

Auckland is actually a pretty cool city, but I can't get past the traffic. When you live in a country like New Zealand you expect to have a good lifestyle - that's what we value, right? If you waste any more than an hour of the day commuting anywhere, I think your quality of life is seriously diminished, especially if any of that time is spent crawling along a motorway.

In Dunedin, I can whip from my work to my daughter's assembly and back again without anyone noticing I'm gone. No chance of doing that in Auckland. And the stress levels of living that lifestyle must take it out of you, not healthy at all - says the woman who ate the mega doughnut! I say no more.

So to Los Angeles, the place where dreams are made and lost. The gulf between the haves and the have-nots is in your face. I have been staying in the bubble that is ''UCLA'', the University of California, but bursting that bubble have been cleaners and service people protesting about their pay rates.

I walk past groups of protesters, dominated by Latin and African Americans and surrounded by huge, expensive buildings including the Ronald Reagan Medical Centre on a campus where there is serious wealth. It's a pretty sobering walk.

Not so sobering is walking the beaches of LA, which are humming with the scent of pot - it's legal here and the world hasn't stopped. In fact, all around are mellow groups of people chilling out, making music and dancing - probably more civilised than Castle St under an alcoholic fug on a Saturday night.

I love meeting new people, learning and shaking myself out of my comfort zone, but I so love coming home. The smell of silage as I walk out of Dunedin Airport, the shock of a 10degC reduction in temperature, the fact you can never walk around a supermarket without bumping into half a dozen people you know, the small-minded letters to the editor in our local paper and the complete and utter lack of traffic. For those complaining right now on that one, get real!

Dunedin, where the people I work with are as wonderful and smart as any of the people I meet while travelling. Dunedin where sport and outdoor living is in our blood and where a face-lift is wearing a beanie that's too tight. Dunedin, where my beautiful family is.