After months and months of preparations, I am finally here. I am boarding the jet plane heading for New Zealand today. My plane leaves at 3:30pm with a brief layover in Texas, and I will be arriving 22 hours later in the land of hobbits and kiwis. It is surreal.
I have planned as much as possible and am as ready as I can be, so now I just have to wait to see what the world throws at me. My biggest worries are: Driving on the left side of the road, buying a car without my dad, setting up a bank account in a different country, and flying for 22 hours without going insane. On the plus side, Air New Zealand seems pretty awesome (for an airline)…
Many people asked me “Why New Zealand?” Depending on my mood, or who asked the question, I would usually respond with one of the following answers:
- Why not?
- Last year’s winter in Ithaca.
- Because it’s awesome.
- Because I am a nerd and I love Lord of the Rings.
- If you have seen pictures, you probably wouldn’t be asking me this question.
That is a lot more of a loaded question than people think it is. There are a lot of little reasons that I chose to go on a grand adventure to New Zealand at this point in my life. I have the same feeling about New Zealand as I did about Ithaca before I moved there for college. The place has been calling me for a long, long time and I know that it will teach me so many things about who I am and where I belong in the world. Now is the best time for me to go, as I have held off on making any serious life commitments and responsibilities.
As of right now, these are my goals for my adventure in New Zealand:
- Have a lot of fun and be grateful everyday for this opportunity.
- See what else the world has to offer. Marketing is great, but what else can I do?
- Learn about the New Zealand culture and the different ways people live, along with share ideas and learn from all who I meet.
- Be immersed in Nature and ground myself once again.
- Continue to grow my relationship with Luca and find out more about love.
- I heard they have a good work/life balance, which I need to learn about. I tend to over-work myself (typical American, eh?).
The plan is that for the first month we will travel from Auckland down to the bottom of the South Island and end up at our first job at Orepuki Horse Treks, a horse trekking and sheep farm. After that, we do not know.
On the way down, we will visit:
- Tree Church
- Glowworm Caves
- Kawhia Beach (Hot water beach)
- Tongariro National Park (Mordor)
- white water rafting
- Blenheim (wine country)
- Abel Tasman National Park
- Nelson Lakes National Park
- Kahurangi National Park
- Lake Matheson/Fox Glacier
- Blue Pools Walk
- Roys Peak
- Routeburn Track
- Milford Sound
Don’t worry, you’ll get full coverage of all of the different places…
Moving to a different country has obviously taken a lot of planning, which requires asking the right questions and thinking things through. My biggest piece of advice for anybody planning anything is to follow Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. This is no joke! I have outlined what we did to plan such an adventure:
Step 1 – Tell everybody you are going
Now you have to go! You are locked in. Even if you have doubts (which you will) you have to go for your ego’s sake. It is no longer an idea that you had in the back of our mind. The idea is out in the universe and your dreams are set in motion. So go ahead and buy your plane tickets!
Step 2 – Gather information and inspiration
Talk to Friends
Whether they are your friends, or friends of friends, or friends of friends of friends, every piece of advice that was given to me was useful in some way or another. Every single person that I talked to about New Zealand was extremely helpful and his or her love for New Zealand was contagious. Their excitement about the country reassured me that I made the right decision.
I am so grateful for my co-worker, Kitty Gifford, who introduced me to Jenny Rothenberg, an ex-Ithacan world traveller and wine-enthusiast, who travelled to New Zealand on a work holiday visa. Her advice was simply perfection:
“Okay, so…. NEW ZEALAND IS FUCKING AMAZEBALLS!!! You will both love it! Here are some rambling thoughts to share with you on NZ and I enjoy giving advice and convincing more people to come live here :)…
I know EXACTLY how you feel, wanting to plan everything and feeling nervous about visas… having done the same thing myself. I wanted all my ducks in a row before I arrived, from accommodation to work to banking, etc… but just try to relax and trust that its going to work out even if you showed up with a backpack and no plan! I am a planner by nature so my compromise was to have a detailed plan for the first month of my journey and then see what happened next. In my case, what happened was spectacular and resulted in a job offer and a work visa! 🙂 so maybe plan the beginning with some detail and choose a destination where you will be based for a few months, and then look for work.
My favorite thing about NZ is the lifestyle. People really value their free time and there is a very strong work-life balance. People are VERY laid back and relaxed about everything. You don’t even need to wear shoes. Ever. Lol… I would say to *try* to embrace a flexible, open-minded, less structured approach to your adventure. A little structure is very good but you never know who you will meet and what will happen! It was a HUGE adjustment for me to leave the compulsive planning behind for a much more relaxed pace of life. Something about New Zealand, the sun, the ocean, the mountains… its just very healing, therapeutic… that sounds all mystical and weird but its so true. It is a magical place.”
Along with these important words of advice, she went on to give me information on wine regions, how to go about getting a job in New Zealand (basically just show up with a smile, ask for work, and mention your American because we are known to have a good work ethic), places that she recommends for Luca and I to visit, accommodation information, travel insurance, and even hooked us up with some of her friends that are currently in New Zealand.
All of this information saved me time, energy, and my sanity. Someday Luca and I will make Jenny a big dinner for all of her help.
When my adventure to New Zealand was set, I became obsessed with the place. I started following every Instagram account that highlighted New Zealand, watched documentaries about the country that talked about its history and wildlife, researched New Zealand culture, re-watched all of the Lord of the Rings films to gawk over the beautiful scenery, explored travel websites to learn everything about the country, read travel blogs to get ideas and advice from people who have explored New Zealand, and bought some travel guidebooks.
Step 3 – Organize
After researching and gathering information, we started to get overwhelmed with the abundance of incredible things to do and places to see on the two tiny islands of New Zealand.
We started with geography.
Where are things relative to each other and when should we do things? What will the weather be like in these places during certain seasons? When could we easily find work in each place? We made a map on Google Earth with pins of the different places to visit and things to do in New Zealand. This helped us to visualize and conceptualize our trip.
I also kept a pin boards on Pinterest to keep research organized.
How do you even pack for such a trip? We will be gone for an unknown amount of time. New Zealand’s weather has mood swings and we will probably be experiencing the weather of all four seasons every day. Most of the time we will be camping or living out of a car. We will be trekking through mountains and desert, swimming at the beach, getting our hands dirty on farms, riding horses, and trying to look cute.
I decided to ditch looking cute. When I asked myself when I would even wear a dress, my memories flashed back to when we visited Yellowstone National Park and saw a women trying to hike with high heels and a tight little dress. She looked like she was going to break an ankle. I vowed to myself to never be “that person.”
The only “dressy” clothes I brought were 2 dresses, which are both layer-able for the colder months, a nice pair of jeans, a pair of cute sandals (light weight), a pair of black boots, and 2 “dressy” tank tops. I figured I might need something nice if I am working in the hospitality industry. The rest of my clothes that I packed are workout and barn clothes, and a lot of under ware. How do I feel about that? Fantastic! That is all I ever want to wear anyways.
Other than clothes, my bags are filled up with hiking and camping gear, my riding helmet and boots, and a few toiletry supplies that would be more expensive to buy in New Zealand.
Somehow I still look like this:
That is it for now! Next time I will be writing, I will hopefully be situated in Auckland, be a proud owner of a car, and have visited the beach a couple of times.
Ka kite ano (Until I see you again in Maori)