Ever thought of getting away from it all? Ever dreamt about quitting your job and your 9-5 existence even for a little while? If the answer’s YES you might like to consider taking the plunge to do some serious travelling.
How we got to New Zealand – not the quickest route!
(Article by James Moss, author of ‘Ultralight Cycle Touring: Self-sufficient with 4.2kg and a road bike’)
The way we (my partner Ellie and I) arrived in New Zealand involves a story of travel and adventure in itself. We didn’t scour the internet for the cheapest flights, (which is the only fast and practical way to arrive – if you can call a 24hr flight fast!?) Instead we cycled. I started out in England and met Ellie in Slovenia, who flew to meet me off the back of a 6 month stint in Taranaki, New Zealand. The plot thickens further as we actually had intended to go to China, or perhaps Japan. During our Easterly cycle adventure our destination changed several more times eventually ending in Australia, where we spent about a month before deciding that we wanted to be in New Zealand. So here I am nearly 18 months later in Taranaki, New Zealand, the very same place that Ellie had spent 6 months previously, whilst I finished my degree in England.
If you want a job, just start talking!
Given the nature of our arrival you’d be correct in guessing we didn’t have any jobs or accommodation lined up on arrival. Luckily working holiday visas are cheap and easy to acquire. 48 hours, £125 and internet connection is all you need! On arriving, it was in those first few weeks that quickly catching on to how New Zealanders (Kiwis) get things done became essential. With cities so small that anywhere else in the world they would be called towns, opportunities in New Zealand came not so much from scanning the newspaper for job advertisements but from talking to people. Ellie, whilst in Australia just days before we left, negotiated with Taranaki Base Hospital to take her on in her previous role as a midwife that she left 6 months earlier. But the earliest she could return was still a couple of months away. In the meantime we were slowly watching the last of our savings disappear and we needed money fast.
With a 1 year working holiday visa under my belt I walked into a hardware store and asked a guy how I might go about getting a job, it was the first place I tried. He was helpful and chatty as is the norm in New Zealand and after about five minutes of covert interviewing he revealed that he managed a big garden just out of New Plymouth and that he was looking for some help. That is a textbook example of how to get on living and working in New Zealand.
Trade work and skills for accommodation
We secured a place to live in a similar way, talking to people who knew people that were looking to trade accommodation for work and skills. We live in a kind of prefab holiday home on 11 acres of beautiful land surrounded by a stream. The owners (who live in another house on the property) needed help managing their land so the deal was that 50% of our rent comes from a day working on the land each week. There are also tons of vacancies in select areas of industry in Taranaki, namely; dairy, agriculture, oil and gas, healthcare and engineering so it’s not just gardening!
We are far wealthier, not just in terms of our disposable income, but most certainly in our quality of life too.
One thing we have really noticed is that we don’t earn as much here as we did in the UK but we’re far wealthier. Personally, I would say that the cost of living is comparable to the UK; food is more expensive, but accommodation and energy costs are all lower. What’s remarkably different though is the amount of leisure facilities. Even though our town, New Plymouth, has a modest population of just 53,400 people, it has: a huge outdoor swimming pool; an indoor pool; a stadium; a racecourse; a huge city park where you can go rowing (see video below); an unrivalled array of plants, shrubs, ferns and orchids; a small outdoor ampitheater for concerts; a beautiful coastal walkway; fantastic beaches; cafes; surf spots; surf and dive schools; an impressive library and information centre; and it sits between the perfectly symmetrical volcano of Mt. Taranaki and the Tasman Sea. All these great, cheap or free facilities, coupled with the fact we now grow a lot of our own food mean that our outgoings have plummeted.
There is so much to do on our doorstep. Even today, on my morning run, I succumbed to spontaneity and ducked down a trail in our city park that led me through beautiful temperate fern and ponga filled forest that ended really close to our house. Despite being so close to home and after 18 months of running New Plymouth’s public tracks and trails I had no idea this trail existed until this morning!
To give you a better feel for what Taranaki has to offer here’s a fun video to the Pharrell Williams ‘Happy’ soundtrack. Enjoy…
On the downside – internet connection and the road system in New Zealand leaves much to be desired!
After all that praise there are a few small gripes with New Zealand that I should mention for the sake of a balanced view. The internet still feels like a new idea here – the cost of an unlimited home connection is breathtaking! and the cost of a mobile connection is prohibitive. Due to the large distances between towns and due to the rugged terrain, New Zealand relies heavily on cars for transport and speed limit signs are regarded as more of an aspiration than a limit. Also, it’s not very convenient for me to cycle to the next town and the roads don’t accommodate cycling well. In that respect it seems very reminiscent of many parts of America.
Perhaps the last thing I miss not having here is the long distance public trails; there are lots within the city as I describe, but they don’t have anything to rival the network of public rights of way that span the UK from coast to coast. Even to travel to Mt. Taranaki, where there are some world class hikes, requires that we cycle on roads. We can’t walk the 20 km as the land is all privately owned. Leaving New Plymouth under my own power whether walking or cycling is not something the country seems keen on facilitating.
Overall, a fantastic place to live and work
I don’t want to end on a negative though, and overall New Zealand and Kiwis have so much to offer that the few gripes that I have should not be seen as a failing, Most of them are a product of a large, rugged country with a small population, which is also one of the country’s charms.
For more information about cycle touring (or to follow James and his friends as they travel the globe) visit James’ Travel and Lifestyle Blog http://www.cyclefar.com/ and check out his ebook on Ultralight Cycle Touring: Self-sufficient with 4.2kg and a road bike
You might also like to read Work-Life Balance – Cycle Touring England to Indonesia