RAINBOWS AND UNICORNS!
Before I left New York, I had a goal of saving $18,000 for my six-month to one-year trip. But I only made it to $14,000. I should have saved more, since I was working at least 80 hours a week, but I struggled. Because of the anxiety that came with an office job that made me want to jump out a window and working two additional jobs, I spent the little shreds of my free time meeting up with friends for drinks or dinner (or drunk brunch, of course). On days that I wasn’t with friends, I would go back to my apartment with a $10 bottle of wine and $15 worth of sushi. I spent hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on comfort eating and drinking before I left.
So, I knew when I came to New Zealand, that I was going to have to work.
I have been in New Zealand for over three months now and, overall, I am loving my adventure here. It is an adventure that poses an entirely different challenges from the ones I had in Southeast Asia. Buying a car, learning to drive on the left side of the road, and spending my days looking for paid work are just a few of the hurdles I’ve had to overcome. Now, I can say that I have done these things. I have my beautiful (if a little slow) van, Minerva.
I have learned to drive without killing anyone.
And I have a job for the next three months at a holiday park in Te Anau. I am excited to begin saving money for my adventures after New Zealand.
So, where have I been? What have I been up to?
So much, I don’t know where to begin.
My top New Zealand highlights so far are:
I have had three great WWOOFing hosts so far in my travels. For those of you who don’t know, WWOOF standing for Willing Workers on Organic Farms. Basically, you work for four hours a day in exchange for room and board.
So far, I have spent three weeks on a family farm doing gardening and looking after chickens, donkeys, horses, cows, and goats. I have spent four nights at a dairy farm and almost gotten my nose taken off by a flying hoof. And, I’ve spent a week on a vineyard planting new vines (and drinking tons of pinot noir).
I am living in a van the size of a matchbox. It is the smallest backpacker car that I’ve seen so far. But my cozy van has turned into my little home and I love the freedom it gives me to go wherever I please.
3. Outdoor adventuring
After four years living in New York City and being stuck at an office desk, I am so happy that now I get to spend my days outside in this beautiful country.
And the best news is that I still have eight whole months to explore. Of course, the next part of my travels are going to look a little different.
I got a job. (Ugh. I know.) But, I’m actually very excited that I will be working in a holiday park in Te Anau for the next three months. Yay, income!
I applied for my one-year working holiday visa online and bought a plane ticket and now I am in the land of Hobbits (and elves and wizards).
Of course, the first touristy thing I had to do was go to Hobbiton—better known as Matamata.
After the conclusion of the filming of the Hobbit trilogy, the owner of the farm where the Hobbiton set was built decided to make the location a tourist area. Now, there are 44 hobbit holes immaculately maintained where all geeks are free to revel in their geekdom. Even for non-geeks, the beauty of the area makes the trip worth it.
And, of course, no trip to the Shire would be complete without a pint at the Green Dragon!
Things a person does not want to do when they are sick:
- Not shower for four days
- Sleep on a plastic mat without any blankets on a boat floor
- Be stuck in the scorching Indonesia sun without any possibility of aircon
I have always considered myself a solo traveler. Solo traveling is easier and better for me. I can go where I want to go when I want to go and not have to worry about stepping on anyone’s toes. If I’m cranky, I don’t have to worry that I will snap at someone (a common issue at home)–I can just curl up in bed and watch TV or go take a walk alone until I feel better.
I have heard many stories of people who traveled with their friends from home and how the trip nearly destroyed their relationship.
So, I decided to always remain a solo traveler. I would travel with someone I met in a hostel for a couple of days or even a week at a time and then I could say goodbye before I had a chance to get sick of them or vice versa. For the first month and a half I was traveling, this method worked well for me. I met many awesome people who I’m now proud to call friends.
My solo traveling adventure was going beautifully.
Then I met Sophie.
I have a tendency of not thinking things through.
On the day of my twelve-hour journey via car, plane, and ferry from Kuala Lumpur to Bali, I agreed to trek Mount Rinjani, the second highest volcano in Indonesia. The summit juts 12,224 feet above sea level and the climb takes three days, two freezing nights, and a good degree of physical fitness.
For the previous four years, I spent my days trapped in a cubicle hunched over a computer. I lived a relatively active life for a New Yorker and worked out on a regular basis, but nothing that prepared me for the next few days.
When I first started traveling, I only planned on doing one volunteer project. And that was really so I could chill with elephants at the Elephant Nature Park.
But after my recent trip to the Juara Turtle Project on Tioman Island, I have really fallen in love with volunteering and I am already looking for another project to join.
The Reasons I Love Volunteering:
Upon arriving in Kuala Lumpur, I quickly realized that I had done absolutely no research on Malaysia. (This was actually not surprising, since I never do research on anywhere I go. I’m a true procrastinator.)
I knew, though, that I had been feeling a bit aimless during the previous couple of weeks. I was feeling a bit out of sorts. I needed a routine. I needed a project. After a bit of research, I decided to volunteer at the Juara Turtle Project, a sea turtle hatchery on Tioman. (More to come on my volunteering experience later.)
The project was located away from all of the popular tourist spots, a 30-minute ride away in the back of a truck through steep hills covered in jungle. The trip was worth it though. When I finally reached the project and walked out onto the beach, I felt like I was in a scene from a movie. I mean, no way could a place this beautiful be real.
Okay, Mom. Don’t freak out. I was not mugged.
But my super awesome travel buddy of 6 weeks was. On the day before we were set to fly to Kuala Lumpur. Actually, it was about 12 hours until we had to fly out.
We were walking home from dinner when a motorbike drove up behind us with two men on it. They barely even slowed down as they grabbed my friend’s purse, cut the thick leather strap and drove away with the entire thing.