Greetings from New Zealand!
It has now been 10 days since I bid farewell to America – the land of Starbucks and burgers – and journeyed halfway round the world to New Zealand, where they also have Starbucks and burgers.
Maybe this transition won’t be so hard after all.
For any newcomers here who have managed to miss me hooting and hollering about New Zealand for the past three months, I have somehow tricked the NZ embassy into giving me a working holiday visa for a year here. This means I am free to roam around this little country without threat of deportation for 12 months! A nice change from Spain.
Originally I was supposed to arrive in Christchurch on August 9th, but since I only got back to the US from Iceland on July 25th, I realized I was emotionally, physically and mentally drained from 2 months of trotting around Europe that I postponed my flight by two weeks into Auckland instead. Yeah, yeah, yeah I get it, my life could be so much worse – can it haters. After 60+ days of nonstop running around, all I wanted was to curl up in my childhood bunk bed with my grumpy old cat and sleep for a week.
I was burnt out; I needed some recovery time.
Some of my favorite memories from California
On August 20th, my mom drove me for the 4th time to Dulles airport with my life squeezed into a suitcase, backpack and tote bag as I prepared to move abroad again. Hugging her goodbye and trying not to cry (does it get any easier?) I made my way to the gate and boarded a one-way flight to San Francisco and my VERY FIRST TIME IN CALIFORNIA OMG!
Reunited with two of my best friends from college, I spent a few days eating all the foods in California and relaxing before boarding another long flight to Auckland.
Arriving in Auckland was fairly painless considering the total lack of sleep I got on my 13 hour flight – though I will never forgive the customs officer for not giving me a Middle Earth stamp when I arrived. Not cool. She didn’t even look at all the damn visa paperwork I ran around like a crazy person trying to print before I left. Moral of the story: New Zealand > Europe when it comes to visas.
I nabbed a last minute deal online for a nice hotel in downtown Auckland for a few nights. My plans about New Zealand were changing up until the very last minute. You see, I have some exciting news – you guys are the first to hear it!
I will be back in Italy for October to speak at a conference about travel blogging. Me?! Public speaking?! ITALY?! More flip outs on that account to come in the near future. So yeah, I flew all the way to New Zealand only to leave after a month for a month and then come back. Yeah…..
So that kinda threw a gear in the works of my big definitive plan to fly to the South Island and find a cool city to live in for the year, especially since I’ll most likely be leaving from Auckland. Here’s a map so you know what I’m talking about.
Back to Auckland. Because I was so busy catching up on work for the week I was in Auckland, I didn’t really give it a chance, especially knowing I would be back. Therefore, I will not be a douche and say I didn’t like it – even though Auckland is a big city, and I’m not a city person and thus inclined not to like it.
That being said, Auckland has some cool cafes and fun drinking spots. Did you know there is a bar that sells booze in teapots? Besides alcoholic teapots, the only other observations I have about Auckland are lots of Asians and really decent foodie scene, and OMG New Zealand has the worst internet in the entire world.
The entire world. I don’t know how I am going to survive this year.
Urban Auckland, not exactly my cup of tea
After polling in you guys on my Facebook page about where to live on the North Island for a month, everyone and their mother chimed in and said Wellington, Wellington WELLINGTON! I never put Wellington on my radar because I thought it was overrated and I really didn’t want to be in a city. But after much googling and drinking, I realized it would probably be a good base for my first month in New Zealand
New plan: buy a car in Auckland, drive to Wellington and find a sweet place to live for the month, while drinking all the coffee and stalking Peter Jackson.
But more on that later.
Amazing coffee at Remedy Cafe
Buying a car in New Zealand
When I decided to sell my car back home, it was in the hopes of buying a car in New Zealand. I wanted the freedom of being able to drive wherever whenever I wanted. New Zealand is packed full of little hidden spots and beautiful drives. Having a car means freedom here.
After struggling for days with TradeMe, NZ’s version of Ebay, and thanks to my friend Laurence’s guide to buying a car in NZ, I found the perfect little car on Backpacker Car World, a place in downtown Auckland that sells used cars geared specifically for foreigners.
Buying a car in a foreign country is scary. Learning to drive on the other side of the road is also scary. Hell, moving to a new country is scary. But I was determined to face up to my fears and tackle this all on my own, without help.
Say hello to my new (quite old) baby! A 1997 red Volkswagon Polo that has definitely seen better days. It’s quite a piece of shit actually, but it’s my piece of shit, which makes all the difference.
After getting all the paperwork taken care of and little things fixed here and there, she (or he) was good to go! Leading up to my departure date from Auckland, I literally had nightmares about driving on the left. I had only driven it around the block a few times in Auckland with the backpacker guys. Driving 8 hours down to Wellington alone was going to be another story.
I may or may not have had a sticky note taped to the steering wheel that read “LEFT!!!”
Also, let’s ignore the part where I drove for an hour with my brights on because I couldn’t figure out the normal headlight setting. But I made it all the way to Wellington without killing anyone and only had a panic attack in a roundabout twice. I call that success in my book.
Huka Falls near Taupo
Now, I don’t know about you guys, but the only thing left is to give my new little car a name, right? Please leave a comment with what you think his/her name should be! Scroll the FB comments and see what others have got to say!
Personal favorites include Shadofax, Bazinga, Red Ninja, Bilbo, and Lucille. But you decide!
WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME WELLINGTON IS THE COOLEST CITY IN THE ENTIRE WORLD?
Oh wait, everyone did and I didn’t want to listen because I hate it when people blab on about capital cities. I always feel like they are overrated and can never live up to expectations.
Well, let me just say Wellington is NOT overrated. In fact, it’s not too big of a city which suits me just fine.
Because I was only looking to rent a place for a month, I was struggling to find an affordable place that would let me stay on for such a short time. Once again, thanks to you guys, I found a great house to sublet on Oriental Bay in Wellington for the month. It was fate.
With awesome roomies and the beach right outside my door and 15 minute walk to downtown, I couldn’t be happier.
Wellington is quite hilly so a good chunk of the town is built stretching along the coast, so you get great views just about everywhere. I walk along the harbor on my way into town. The only thing I’m worried about are earthquakes. I’m not ok with that, Wellington.
The vibe around Wellington is just amazing. It’s pretty international and it’s chock full of cute cafes, independent shops, amazing restaurants and fabulous bars. Every little spot is unique, I love it! There is also a great craft beer scene in Wellington as well, which I am discovering bit by bit.
Conclusion? I might never leave but I do need to join a gym immediately.
Also, if anyone plans to come to Wellington in the next month, please let me know and we can meet up!
I’ve always heard that kiwis were friendly folk, but I had no idea how friendly!
New Zealand wins being home to the nicest people in the entire world. Just being around locals makes me me cognizant of my own attitude and persona. If I don’t leave New Zealand in a year 100 times friendlier than I am now, I won’t know what do with myself.
But let me just say if you are thinking about moving abroad, coming to a place with the friendliest, smiliest, happiest people makes all the difference. Don’t mistake me; my first week in Auckland was really hard. I felt like nothing was going right and I kept thinking maybe all my choices were a mistake. But little by little, things started to look up, and being around friendly people helped loads.
Did I mention it’s winter in NZ right now?
As of now, the only other thing I feel worth mentioning is that I have learned lots of new words since I’ve arrived! Growing up a big reader and a big fan of the BBC, and especially after being forced to teach British English for two years in Spain, I thought I was pretty aware of most of the major differences between American English and British English. Well, NZ has it’s own take on it that I am fast picking up on – some of these are probs British expressions I’m only now hearing.
- Arugula is called rocket
- Cilantro is called coriander
- Bacon is called streaky bacon
- Whinge means to complain
- Go on a bach is like renting a vacation house
- A dairy is a convenience store
- Sweet as means great
- Wop wops means the middle of nowhere —-> WTF?
Have you ever been to New Zealand? Have any tips for me? Would you consider visiting? But most importantly, HELP ME NAME MY NEW CAR!
***All photos taken on my iPhone in an effort to help me live in the moment and not focus as much on photography