Before I get into this story, allow me to set the picture…
It was 2011 and I was fresh out of college, working in a shitty retail chain which rhymes with Mall Tart. I also didn’t have much clue as to what to do for the rest of my life because I had studied Police Foundations for 2 years and then decided that it wasn’t for me. So, I just saved as much money as I could in 7 months. Then I took off overseas on a Working Holiday Visa to live and play in New Zealand. It was the most daring moment of my young adult life because I had never done anything so adventurous before. There was a mix of both excitement and fear in me.
I had also traveled with two friends, Dan and Gerrit. We all only shared a part of our journeys together but we made for good support in the beginning
Anyways we found out that New Zealand was a hell of a place to spend some time and money. With thousands of dollars saved up in the bank, we traveled around the country a few times over and spent a lot of cash while living on the cheap. Here is my takeaway from those 6 months in New Zealand!
New Zealand is All About Adventure
There are so many different, interesting and adventurous things to do in New Zealand that it had almost boggled my mind. I could be on a beach surfing in the ocean one day, then hiking a live volcano on the next. I could start my week in a subtropical climate on the beaches of North and end my week in a Sub-Antarctic climate hiking frosted mountains in the South. There’s is so much variety in the land compacted into a relatively small landmass, so in my opinion, the place is pretty amazing.
On the North Island, I hiked a live volcano that most nerds would know as Mt. Doom from Lord of the Rings. Tongariro Mountain to the Kiwis. We had to climb something called The Devil’s Staircase that had hundreds of steps up the mountainside to the peaks of live volcanoes. On the other side of the peak were two few thermal volcanic lakes emerald in color. I learned that day, that just because it’s warm outside at the bottom of a mountain doesn’t mean it’s going to be warm at the top! The clouds passing by chilled me to the bone.
After hiking a live volcano in the North, Dan and I wandered to the South Island for a road trip, bungee jumping, and to do some skydiving. I learned that day that I was able to push myself through some of my most terrible fears. Heights, particularly. I had trouble sleeping for two days before that bungee jump on the Nevis with its 134 meter drop from a cable car. Yet I lived to see another day. Skydiving was afterward and it was surprisingly less scary than bungee jumping. Perhaps it’s because we were tandem and it felt safe. I believe we jumped at 15,000 feet near the Franz Josef Glacier.
Also during my time there, I was able to ride a plastic kart down a mountainside in both Queenstown and Rotorua, surf in Raglan, explore the bubbling mud pits of Rotorua and hike the Queen Charlotte Track outside of Picton. Most of what they offered was cheap because their dollar was weak. There are also many tourists in New Zealand (3.8 million in 2018) and the population is so small (4.8 million). It’s estimated that 7.5% of New Zealand’s workforce is in the tourism industry.
The Place is Incredibly Beautiful
When most people think of New Zealand, they think of the Lord of the Rings films. Many of the epic scenes in the Lord of the Rings were filmed in epic locations across the country. Beautiful sandy beaches, hills covered in thick rain forest, meadows filled with sheep and behemoth mountains stretching out to touch the sky.
Living in a backpacker hostel in New Zealand was a lot like living in a dorm full of really cool people from around the world. Sometimes, it can be better than a dorm and sometimes it could be excruciatingly worse. Some backpacker hostels that I stayed in had 6 people to a room on triple-layer bunk beds. Life in backpacker hostels can be lacking in personal space and finer comforts but sometimes they’d have barbecues, semi-private rooms and fun events.
New Zealanders and Aussies Have a Rivalry
Do you think New Zealanders and Aussies sound alike? I did too for a while, but they might get offended if you tell them that. There’s a bit of a friendly rivalry between the two countries, and they like to take shots at each other frequently.
A quick search on YouTube turned up this gem, The Kiwi Sheepfucker Song.
Warning, that song is pretty rough around the edges and very long. Let me know if you actually make it through the whole thing.
The New Zealand people are friendly, the Maori natives are bad-ass and scary, and the Milford Sound is a must-see for anyone visiting the South Island.
New Zealand is a writer’s dream, with inspiration a stone’s throw in any direction.
If you ever end up on that side of the world. I’d highly recommend you check it out. 🙂