Alex Taylor tells us about his six months in the land of the long white cloud, also known as New Zealand!
‘It was always my dream to visit New Zealand after seeing how stunning it looked in films and on TV. It was only after I had finished college and got a job that I really seriously started thinking about visiting Kiwi Land.
‘After a few months of working overtime, I applied for a working holiday visa from the Visa Bureau, and started edging closer and closer to the New Zealand-shaped exit sign.
‘December loomed into view, so I took the first step and paid a trip to STA Travel to find out some more information about travelling. One hour later I was stood outside the door with an itinerary sheet in my hand. I was booked to catch a plane on January 26 to Auckland with a one-day stopover in Dubai.
‘So that was that. I had signed up to travel to the furthest part of the world from England as is humanly possible, completely on my own, nothing to do now but wait and prepare. I continued saving, set up travel insurance, handed my notice in (with a smile) and then waited.
‘Seven weeks, and a mammoth 26-hour flight later, the Land of the Long White Cloud began to drift into focus.
Arriving in Auckland
‘With STA Travel, I’d set up a basic itinerary for when I arrived in Auckland. I was going to spend the first few weeks travelling before starting my job search. I’d planned a five-night starter kit through a hostel called the Base Backpackers, with an orientation session, a NZ SIM card and a shuttle bus to collect me from the airport. I hopped on the bus and began a six-month life of hostel living.
‘The first few days of hostel life definitely take getting used to. Constantly sharing a room with up to seven other people can be a bit awkward, especially after meeting a girl on your third day who has had her passport, camera and money stolen.
‘It was however also a bit of a lifeline. I found the hostels to be a social hub, especially for people like me who are quite shy. Being in such close proximity to people, you can’t help but socialise and so during my entire stretch in New Zealand I very rarely felt lonely or homesick.
Travelling in New Zealand
‘After familiarising myself with Auckland I then took the next step on my itinerary and boarded a tour bus called the Kiwi Experience. This is basically a hopon hop-off coach company that takes travellers on a number of routes through New Zealand.
‘I had decided to book the ‘Rangi’ route, which travels through both of the country’s islands. For an entire year I was able to get on and off the tour from any stop.
‘I spent two weeks on the bus and met some good people but to be honest, for the type of trip I was doing, it wasn’t for me. It was more suited for people going on a short-term holiday. I found it to be too fast paced to enjoy fully and there were too many large groups of friends travelling, making the experience a bit off putting for solo travellers.
‘Despite this, I still thoroughly enjoyed myself and did some amazing things, such as quad biking, black water rafting in the Waitomo Caves, sledging in the rapids of Rangitoto, skydiving in Taupo, two bungee jumps in Queenstown. Added to that I made a friend who’ve I’ve since been invited to travel to Canada with next year.
Working in New Zealand
‘I truly started experiencing New Zealand after I left the bus.
‘Through research and talking to fellow travellers I found and signed up for an organisation called WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) which welcomed travellers to work on farms and small eco-friendly businesses in exchange for food and accommodation. These jobs filled out my trip easily and proved to be my favourite parts of the trip by far.
‘I really can’t stress enough how important these jobs were in helping me sustain myself financially for six months. There were times when I could live for two weeks at a time without having to spend a dollar.
‘The name itself might put people off, but contrary to what I initially thought I only actually worked on one fully certified farm in the end, and that turned out to be the most interesting job. Highlights included a spot of possum hunting, and helping shave the family pig in a bathtub full of water (seriously).
‘The other jobs allowed me to meet some colourful characters and do odd jobs such as stripping logs and helping to build a cabin, working in homesteads and cooking for guests. I was even trusted to paint someone’s entire kitchen after knowing them for only a day. All in all this proved to be the lifeblood of my trip and I implore every curious traveller to try it.
‘I bulked out the rest of my trip with a stint working in the vineyards in Blenhiem, which I would advise future travellers with caution. I found pay-day to be a surprising one and not in a positive way, shall we say.
‘I found my time in New Zealand to be an absolute pleasure and would recommend it to anyone. If I had to single out any specific must-sees I would definitely choose Milford Sound, Stewart Island, Fox Glacier, Cape Reinga and the Tangariro Alpine Crossing to truly appreciate just how awe inspiringly beautiful New Zealand is. The photos really can’t ever do justice to seeing these wonders with the naked eye.
‘Travelling really gave me room to breathe and reflect on life. Since I’ve come back the world seems smaller and I’m less scared of throwing myself into things. For anyone contemplating travelling, get to your local travel agent, let them talk you into parting with some cash and get going because I guarantee it will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.’
Read more about working in Australasia: Extending your gap year in Australia? Consider farm work