Written by George Thomson
I love a road trip, the ability to be able to make a simple holiday into an epic journey is such an alluring thought to me. More so is the ability to remove yourself from the confines of a resort and to delve into the places and people that make up a location. A more tangible slice of reality, somewhat removed from what the lens packaged holidays allow you to see through.
On the back of my third summer camp experience in Canada and free from previous restrictions of completing my degree, I joined three friends as we took a Dodge Journey across the Canadian Rockies. The trip centred around the sole idea of wanting to visit Moraine Lake in Alberta and while this may be obvious advice, a good tip for any trip is to have at least one primary goal or location to work towards. With this knowledge, and knowing that one member of our party was time restricted to flying back to Florida, we boarded a 5am flight from Toronto Person Airport to Vancouver.
The first port of call was to pick up our transport and for this we hired a Dodge Journey from Wicked Campers Vancouver. Having searched for viable options, Wicked Campers offered the best range of vehicles alongside creative paint jobs that’ll get you noticed on the road. Alas, we hired an all grey 4x4 aptly named ‘Plain Jane’ who we, in our sleep deprived state, quickly renamed ‘Cletus’ and made our way towards our first stop, Whistler.
The road to Whistler is one of the most beautiful coastal roads I have rode on in my life. High up among the evergreens gazing west towards snow-capped mountains that dwarf over Howe Sound and Squamish below, the scenery was a far cry from the somewhat flat landscape of Ontario. There was a real sense of freedom here, a landscape so far removed from the concrete jungle of Vancouver mere miles behind us that, taken out of context, could have been mistaken for a locale hidden in one of the most remote corners of the globe.
What I didn’t expect was the road signs, written in both English and the language of the First Nation communities of the Pacific Northwest Coast, a cultural co-existence I’ve only ever seen in parts of Wales. This is a theme that I soon learnt is commonplace for many of the notable places across British Columbia, the colonisation and cultural assimilation of the First Nation peoples of Canada is interwoven in a self-reflective narrative.
A few hours later and our arrival to Whistler is greeted with one of manmade infrastructure’s biggest oversights, a traffic jam. However, I wouldn’t have wanted to put the brakes on anywhere else with a perfectly central view of Whistler Mountain. Staying with an old friend of ours, the source of the traffic jam was also the source of his excitement for the weekend he had planned for us. Crankworx World Tour 2019 had reached Whistler and with it came the promise of a weekend of partying with NERO performing the headline set. It’s safe to say that I spent most of my money this trip on both of my visits to Whistler, fully immersing myself into the Whistler lifestyle, partying in the sun while exploring the vibrant and open Olympic village surrounded by lush forests and looming peaks.
By the end of the weekend and headed north east, out of the mountains, into scenery that completely subverted my expectations of Canada. The change of scenery starts to appear in the town of Lillooet an old mining town that contends for B.C’s hotspot location every summer. Gone was dense greenery and in its place, a semi-arid landscape clinging to the valley walls. The aesthetic was something I’d only ever seen from towns in the Arizona deserts and continued as we got closer towards Kamloops. What I soon learnt was that Kamloops sits on the northern edge of Canada’s only desert, the Okanagan Valley, a rain shadow region for the Coast Mountains that envelope Whistler and Vancouver.
As the afternoon set in, we looked for our first camping spot, a recreational ground by Inks Lake. However, the deeper we drove towards the lake, the more uneven the ground became. Eventually, we reversed Cletus back towards the entrance of the park and found a place to park. A big feature of our car was that we had a fold out tent on the roof, simple to use and extremely comfortable and spacious inside. As evening set in, a herd of cattle came in to graze around us and we slept that night with a cool breeze carrying the occasional rustle of hooves on the dry ground.
Kamloops, with its yellow and orange aesthetic, came and went as we drove across the desert towards the mountains of Alberta. Soon, we were back among the stereotypical alpine lakes and peaks of the Canadian Rockies. The distances between places in Canada is vast compared to the UK and while this is a fairly obvious observation of North America in general, it does mean that locations along the way are often seen from the view of a car window. Our next camping spot was the inverse of the night before, parked on the banks of Kicking Horse River, just west of Wapta Falls, braving the ice-cold glacial waters.
Feeling refreshed, the next day we crossed the border into Alberta and towards our initial goal, Moraine Lake. From two days of relative freedom driving along the Trans Canada Highway, entering the tourist hotspot of Banff National Park was a sharp reminder that we were tourists more than wanderers. Both carparks for Lake Louise and Moraine Lake were packed and entry would come down to patience and a lot of luck. The latter was on our side as we entered our second attempt, seeing the marshals open the gates towards Moraine Lake and letting through three cars, ours being the last. The cars in front stopped to soak in the view of the valley below as we raced ahead, eager to arrive at our prized destination and stunned at how lucky we had been.
Moraine Lake did not disappoint, and was just as our friend had dreamed it would be. The glacial waterfall beyond drew crystal clear water into the lake, thick with an aethereal blue hue. Water so opaque, the sight of canoe hulls disappearing under the surface felt otherworldly, adding to the serenity of the landscape. Behind the sea of blue was an equally impressive sea of green with the National Park encompassing the valley floor and walls as far as the eye could see.
A brief visit to the gift shop introduced us to a lovely shop worker from Brighton who said she would vouch for us and get us free canoe hire through ‘mates’ rates’. I can’t remember why we didn’t accept her offer. We spent the night outside of Canmore, in a small area known dauntingly as Dead Man’s Flats, braving the freezing waters once again and aimed to spend some proper time in Banff before our inevitable farewell stop in Calgary.
Banff itself was an amazing town, sprawling with tourists and full of life and character. Our diner breakfast had us meeting another Brit who encouraged us to visit Mount Norquay which would provide a perfect viewpoint over the Banff and the Bow River Valley. Local knowledge is an invaluable asset and sure enough, the views atop Norquay were astonishing, with a pleasant chair lift ride to boot.
At the viewpoint, we spoke to a woman who visited Banff every year and was on the lookout for grizzly bears who liked to raise their young on the slopes. Talk in the town was that a sighting had been confirmed a few days before and subsequently, the walk to the viewpoint had been closed for safely. Sure enough, as she told us the story, we noticed movement among the trees below and suddenly, a mother emerged from the treeline with two cubs cautiously in tow. Fulfilled, we stopped by a liquor store for some celebratory drinks and left the mountains for real civilisation in Calgary.
Calgary wasn’t a location we were fussed by and driving in concluded that we weren’t going to miss much from not visiting what felt like a rather generic city. Instead, when four became three, we swiftly retreated back into the wild and north towards Jasper National Park. Jasper was far colder and wetter than we ever expected it to be and staying in Waterfowl Lakes camping grounds, we relied on a steady stream of firewood to keep us warm. Our goal for the return journey to Vancouver was to cover some new ground before we took the familiar route back west and Jasper achieved all of those ideals. We had gone from lush forests, to arid deserts and the flat grasslands of Calgary and now we were in a truly glacial environment.
The Columbia Icefields dominates the southern region of Jasper National Park, its glacial waters feeding into the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The Icefields offer a variety of different activities, the cheapest in price being a visit to a skywalk. Overlooking the Sunwapta Valley 280 meters below with views of the Icefield was a unique, yet slightly underwhelming experience where tour guides told us the history and geography of the Icefield and the uncertain future it faces as a result of global warming. While the factual knowledge imparted was fascinating, the views on a cloudy day such as ours failed to justify the money spent.
The free option however, to walk over the terminal moraine to the mouth of the Athabasca Glacier, was a beautiful yet harrowing sight. One of the six ‘toes’ of the Icefield, the glacier is an impressive sight, a pearly white and vast hulk of ice and snow lodged between its massive valley walls. Beyond its bordered fence, hikers and specialised coaches climbed its surface to the top along strict, well worn paths. The tragedy of this majestic piece of natural geography is signified by strategically placed markers along the walk to the glacier mouth.
Further inspection informed that in our current climate, the glacier is receding 5 meters every year, a total of around 1.5 kilometres since the beginning of the 20th century. With such a high rate of recession, the fear among scientists is that the Icefield will at some point fail to feed water into all three oceans leading to what may be dramatic effects for our climate. As we journeyed south, I was left with a sobering reminder of what natural wonders will be lost as a result of climate change and can safely say being able to visit the Columbia Icefields was a privilege and a major highlight of the entire trip.
The return journey west greeted us with much appreciated clear skies and warm weather, joined with a fantastic camping spot at Waitabit Creek where we enjoyed relaxing in the calm waters of a small eddy on the riverbank. From here we visited Revelstoke, a small city and resort on the edge of B.C, guided by one of my companions who had prior experience with the place and regularly reminded us that he ‘nearly did a season here’. From our brief tour around the city, I could definitely see why. Revelstoke is a charming town with classic architecture and a relaxed feel, mixed with a diverse mix of local and seasonal residents. We spent a lengthy amount of time at a local café, charging our phones, chatting with the international staff and soaking in the ambience around us.
Our camping spot for the night would be across the Columbia River near Begbie Falls, another recreational spot, shrouded in thick forest. With more time, we could have seen far more of what Revelstoke had to offer but we were now effectively racing to get back to Vancouver before our hire period expired, spending overnight stops in Cache Creek and Whistler, where we spent most of our money again.
Throughout our time on our road trip, we had gotten constant questions from locals and travellers alike either fascinated by our car’s roof tent or amazed to see such a mix of nationalities on the road together. For the record, our party was two Brits, one American and one New Zealander and this combination of accents had us approached by inquisitive Canadians and fellow internationals alike, eager to hear the story of how this journey came to be. In turn, we met some of the most fascinating people, from stereotypically friendly Canadians who had spent time growing up in the UK to seasonaires, keen to tell us the experiences they’d had while living and working in the mountains.
As my time in Canada was coming to the end, I waved goodbye to my two remaining travel partners, as they ventured off to spend a week on Vancouver Island, and visit Stanley Park. With my feet firmly in the Pacific Ocean and the warm sun on my face, I reflected on the experience I had been on. Living for two weeks in such close proximity with each other was on a few occasions a challenge. However, I now felt a sense of loneliness traveling on my own in a large and unknown city.
The road trip I’d dreamt of since I was young had been everything I’d hoped it would be; full of excitement and beauty, filled with laughs and plenty of joy. Traveling by oneself can be enjoyable but traveling with friends is a must and being able to share all of the experiences in real time with each other further cemented our friendship. Having spent the last two weeks being in the total opposite situation, shielding and not leaving my house, I have had plenty of time to reflect on this adventure. As the road trip’s anniversary draws near, now more than ever do I look forward to getting in a car with some friends and driving somewhere beyond.
After many years of wanting to explore the ‘City of Stars’, I decided to make it part of my journey back to the UK at the end of 2019. Previously when I had lived in Utah, USA, I had dismissed travelling to LA due to the lack of interest in a trip from friends. After a further three years of travel and a newfound confidence in my ability to travel by myself I booked my trip.
With eight days booked in the LA area, I decided to split by time between two main areas. I first spent four days in Santa Monica and a further four in Hollywood. This post will recount my time in Santa Monica and my top things to see and do here.
I first landed in LAX at a very early 8am. My flight had left Auckland at 7.30am that same day so this was an odd experience, knowing no time had passed and I was set to embark on the longest day of my life. I left the airport and went in search of my shuttle service to the hostel. This was easy to find and I was glad I had pre-booked a shuttle as the Uber system has recently changed making the pickup point a trek from the terminal. The shuttle dropped me off right outside of the hostel, HI Los Angeles Santa Monica Hostel, which was well located in the middle of Santa Monica.
Since I had arrived at the hostel so early, I was fully expecting to not be able to access my room until a lot later. Luckily, this was not the case and I was given my room from the off! I used this opportunity to have a rest and a shower. I felt so stiff from sitting on a plane for so long that I decided the first thing to do was to go for a walk.
My walk took me over the highway to the promenade a couple of blocks from the hostel. I was amazed at how expansive the beach was, it seemed to go on forever! I walked along the beach and enjoyed a bit of a paddle. The sun was starting to get quite hot around midday as I sat under the Santa Monica pier and simply people watched. The pier reminded me of the many videos that had been filmed under here and I could not believe I was in LA after so many years of wanting to go.
After a walk and this short break under the pier the time was only midday! I could not believe I still had half of the day to go when all I really wanted to do was sleep and start afresh. I headed for some lunch on 3rd street promenade and went to the T-Mobile store to get some data to use in the US. Interacting with Americans again was a slight culture shock as their attitudes are typically less subdued than Aussies and Kiwis. After a few days though, I was back into the swing of being in America and felt comfortable.
I spent the rest of this long day chilling and napping, desperate to not fall to jetlag. I headed to Chipotle for dinner and tried to plan out what I wanted to do for the next four days. I was yet to meet anyone in the hostel as the girls in my room were quiet.
I went to sleep that evening excited to hopefully meet some more people in the hostel and explore the area fully.
The hostel I stayed at was the only hostel in the area and was highly rated. It did seem to lack the charm of other hostels I had been to around the world and served more as a hotel than a place to meet other backpackers. That morning I headed down to the breakfast and everyone was seated alone, not engaging with others. Finding this strange, I adhered to the social norm and ate alone, amazed at the amount of plastic the hostel deemed necessary. Ever heard of individual slices of bread wrapped in plastic?!
After speaking to the reception, I was recommended a good place to hire a bike from and made my way there. This bike shop was a walk from the beach but offered a good rate for the day and I was also able to score a sweet pink bike for my cycle trip!
Armed with my new mode of transport, I made my way to the pier once again and onto the famous boardwalk that spans the whole beach district. I started by cycling to the right, towards Ratner Beach. This route takes in the expansive beach and is generally quieter than going towards Venice. I enjoyed a quiet bike ride all the way out to Ratner where the trail stopped. The path was dotted with other cyclists, stylish runners, and well-off fast walkers.
I stopped on the way back for a quick drink and a sit down and spend the next 30 minutes trying to find my Fitbit which had fallen off on the ride! After retracing my steps and feeling confident that it wasn’t coming back, I kept on going back towards the pier.
I continued all the way to Venice Beach. This was fascinating to see after seeing it so much on the TV and online. The main beach street is packed with interesting people and a huge variety of stalls. Across the path from here is the famous skate park where I stayed to watch a few skaters show off their tricks to the crowd. Further on from here was muscle beach where there were many pumped up sweaty athletes working out. My PT back in New Zealand has suggested I get a pass for a few hours and work out there but looking at the people I think I would have looked very out of place!
I continued from this iconic spot and made it to the end of the ride trail at Marina del Ray. The bike lane goes inland from here and then back out at the beach after the airport, but I didn’t fancy navigating a busy main street. Instead I used the opportunity of the end of the trail to have a late lunch at a small sandwich spot. I left my bike and strolled back to Venice and the famous Venice canals. The houses here were all large and fully decked out for Halloween, I am always amazed by how America decorates to the full for every holiday.
I reunited with my pink bike to leisurely cycle back to the Santa Monica Pier. I made sure to take a break to sunbathe and have a little paddle in the water. The coastline is so expansive that there is a huge amount of room for everyone, it seemed a world away from the city of LA that I knew was bustling a few miles away.
Back at the pier I took a brief walk along the boardwalk, again so familiar from the many movies and online content I had watched over the years. I decided to come back here in the evening and try out some of the rides and food.
Back at the hostel I freshened up, feeling 100% better than I had the day before and feeling proud of my ability to beat jet lag this time around. At dusk I made my way across the road to the pier and bought some tickets for the rides. They are quite expensive for what they are, $10 for the roller coaster and Ferris wheel, but it felt like something I had to do since I was there.
I went for the roller coaster first and enjoyed the short but sweet bumpy ride as the sun set. Next up was the Ferris Wheel where I learnt about the dreaded no single rider rule. I assumed I would be bundled up with a group of two or four and be able to ride but it seemed that the Ferris Wheel only put people who knew each other in each carriage. Since I had already bought my ticket, I was told I would have to wait until someone else wanted to find single as well. Luckily after a minute or so of waiting, a man was called over and agreed to join me. He was also travelling solo and was in LA for a business trip. We both took photos of the other for them and enjoyed the view from the Ferris wheel.
I tried to get a glimpse of the Hollywood Hills and what lay ahead for the rest of my trip, but it was a little too dark and far away to spot. After the ride was over, I made my way to get a pizza and stroll along the pier until nightfall. Although it was a little embarrassing to be outed as a solo traveller by the staff at the Ferris wheel, I was happy I had ridden it regardless and that I had taken my first big step on an unusual solo outing.
The next day I had a mission in mind which was to conquer 3rd Street Promenade. I set out and explored the shops, some familiar and some new to me. One of my favourite things about America is the shopping so I happily spent the morning snapping up Victoria Secrets deals and trying to convince myself that I had enough room in my backpack to fit these extra clothes.
After a successful morning, I met up with my friend Bre for lunch. Me and Bre met in a hostel in Auckland and I was excited to see her again in her city. We went for lunch at The Misfit on Santa Monica Blvd. and enjoyed a catch up over what we had been doing since we last had seen each other.
We went for a walk around Santa Monica after lunch and then headed into LA city and K-Town. We had a fun afternoon together and I was amazed to be with her again but in her own surroundings of LA. That evening Bre invited me to watch her play at a bar on Universal walk where she worked. Bre is a really talented artist and did many gigs in New Zealand and record a live album at her hostel (ps. Check it out, it is amazing). Watching her again was fab and I was really happy I had made the trip to LA and was able to see her perform again.
On my final day in Santa Monica, I signed up to do a walk of the nearby Temescal Canyon with the hostel. Around 10 people signed up for the hike and we made of own way to the start using public transport. I was thrilled to be around a group of travellers who wanted to chat, and we had a really fun time hiking to the summit.
There were quite a few Aussie’s in our group and after successfully completing the hike and making it back to Santa Monica we went for lunch together where I tried my first beyond meat burger. It was insane how much the texture resembled beef! I had spent a lot of the hike regaling one of the Aussies about the joys of the Cheesecake Factory. After my pitch he was sold, and he joined me for a mid afternoon snack at the famous restaurant. Jack was suitably impressed with the cheesecake; I was thrilled to finally have a slice after many years and we spend a few hours just getting to know each other.
After this I headed back to the hostel to grab my bags and get in an Uber to my next hostel in Hollywood. My time in Santa Monica was perfect. It was the perfect amount of time in the city and a great first impression to LA. The smaller city and laid-back vibe settled me back into America again and without this I think I would have found Hollywood overwhelming. Santa Monica is also where I first dipped my toe in solo travel on this trip and I was proud of myself for enjoying my own company and ticking off everything I wanted to do.
The next few days in Hollywood allowed me to explore more of LA and get a different side of the city.
After living in Australia for a year I decided to hop over the Tasman and see what New Zealand had to offer. After an extensive job and house search in Auckland I was able to score a job with STA Travel and a lovely townhouse near to work.
With this blog post I was to share my job and house search in New Zealand and tips and tricks for landing the perfect situation for you.
Choose a direction
Moving to a new country can be daunting, especially if you don’t yet have a set plan in mind. Many people, myself included, travel to new Zealand on a working holiday visa which allows you to work and travel for up to 23 months.
During this time, you can work for a total of 12 months with as many employers as you wish. Whilst some will work a number of short-term jobs in different parts of the country, others will seek work that may boost their career and CV.
It is great to decide your direction early on and act accordingly. If you are looking for short-term work, head to the backpacker hostels and areas to ask around. Word of mouth is a great tool to use and you may find a helpful receptionist who knows of a job going.
Handing out CVs in coffee shops or bars is also a good way to gain attention and be memorable over a sea of travellers. If a place seems interested in you, ask for a rough time of when you can expect a call from them. If this deadline passes by it is always worth going into the place again to jog their memory. Never assume that they will stick to promises, with so many people passing through with CVs it can be hard for employers to remember everyone! I have worked part time jobs where there is a stack of CVs under the desk which rarely get looked at. It is the ones who come back and get their face recognised that are remembered.
If you are interested in a more long-term job these are in good supply in New Zealand. Although Covid-19 may change this, the job market in New Zealand is healthy with great opportunities to progress. Use recruiters in your field and job boards to search for suitable roles. I decided I wanted to work in travel so applied online for all my roles. I also signed up with a recruiter just in case I didn’t have any luck with the travel industry. Luckily, after a few weeks I started to get call backs
Research how best to present yourself in the job market there
Applying for a job is different for every country in the world. For example, when I was applying for roles in Australia, I learnt that it is preferred to attach a photo of yourself to your CV. This is rare in the UK but complying to small things like this will make your changes a lot higher.
A quick google of [insert country] CV will give you some tips on how to organise your CV to that country.
It is also a good idea to omit any jobs that do not really suit the role you’re going for. For example, if you are applying to work in a bar, that time you worked in a hostel in Thailand will be great experience. For a job in engineering, it might not be so appropriate.
New Zealand uses a few different job boards to advertise jobs. I used mainly Indeed.NZ and Seek. Both are good for giving you a wide basis of roles all over the country.
Research where you want to be based
When I moved to New Zealand, I had no idea where I wanted to be. I hadn’t really researched the country and only knew of the main cities. Don’t be like me! Give it a good deal of thought when you first decided to move to New Zealand and if you have a place in mind, move down there! You are much more likely to get a job in Queenstown if you are already there than applying remotely.
I applied for jobs all over the country but only got call backs for jobs based in Auckland. Since I was staying there at the time, I ended up staying in the city for the rest of the year. Although I enjoyed living in Auckland, after travelling the country, I felt I missed out on the laid-back Wellington lifestyle and backpacker haven of Queenstown.
Give yourself time
When I lived in Sydney, I found a job and an apartment within a week. This was most likely a bit of a fluke and I was very lucky. In New Zealand it took me just over a month to be offered a job with a start date two weeks from the offer. This lead to me taking up the offer of work in the hostel I was staying at to stay afloat. It took me a while to feel safe financially again after spending some much time without an income.
Come with the expectation that it may take a few weeks to find work, especially if you are looking for something more long-term.
Be aware of the Working Visa
Once you are settled into life in New Zealand and enjoying your new lifestyle and work, it is good to know about the opportunities open to you to extend this experience. Your working holiday visa is valid for 23 months, but you can only work for up to 12 months of this time.
If you and your employer would like you to stay working for longer than this, it is a good idea to investigate the working holiday visa. You company does not have to sponsor you, but they do need to prove that you can do the job better than a native Kiwi. Your job will need to advertise on job boards for a select amount of time and you will to be asked to attend interviews potentially. After this is over though, you will have another year on your visa to work and this can be extended for another few years until the option of citizenship becomes available.
The work visa process is a lot easier than that of Australia and your company does not have to pay to keep you. It is therefore a viable option for you if you find yourself in a role you’d like for longer than a year.
Research the area
This is a given, but it is great to do some extensive research of the area you are planning to settle in. Where is the nearest supermarket and other conveniences? If you want to socialise, are there any bars or pubs nearby. If you like heading outside for exercise or a walk is there a park or green space nearby?
This is unique to every person so make sure you choose the suburb or place depending on your requirements. When I got my job in Mount Wellington, Auckland, I chose to base myself in Point England. This was a 20-minute bus ride away and my house was a 10-minute walk to the beach with an amazing sidewalk along the estuary. Shops and a direct link to the city centre were another 10 minutes’ walk away so for me this area suited me perfectly.
The draw backs were the lack of social life in the area and the higher level of crime. However, when making my decision I weighed everything up and found that this area best suited me and my lifestyle. I perhaps didn’t socialise as much as I would have if I had lived in the city, but I enjoyed coming back to a quiet and relaxing neighbourhood.
Use Trademe and Facebook
These were my two best friends when searching for a home in New Zealand. Facebook moves quickly and posts are updated by house mates looking for a new roommate everyday. All you have to do is send a message to the advertiser and arrange a viewing. This is especially good for those wanting a short-term property.
Trade Me also had many listings and was more frequented by professionals, single lodgings and long-term rentals. I found my house on this website and was expected to stay in the property for the long-term which I did. It was advertised by the main rent holder and not the landlord itself although this varies from listing to listing.
Always make sure you tell someone where you are going for a house viewing just to be safe.
Show yourself in the best light possible
When contacting a listing or making your way to a viewing remember that this is your opportunity to impress each other.
Presenting yourself as a reliable, tidy, and friendly tenant will make your potential new housemates warm to you a lot quicker. In return they should hopefully make a good impression and be willing to talk a little about themselves as they show you around the house.
Try not to be late and make as much conversation as you can to see if both you and renter will be right for each other, just like a blind date!
Be aware of deposits
This is a given with most rentals and depends on the listing. Some will ask for a key deposit and others will ask for two weeks rent up front. Make sure you have budgeted for this as it can be over $1000 NZD depending on the property. Also make sure you are aware of what you can claim back when you leave the agreement and be sure to get it back.
I know a few people who forgot they gave a $600 deposit at the beginning of a tenancy and never got it back because they never chased it!
Check your contracts
Again, every tenancy is different, but if there is a contract make sure to read it. It is also good to get someone in the household to write up a contract so everyone is clear on what is expected of them. Since my home was rented by the main tenants and I rented the room from them, they could dictate how much I paid.
When we had a housemate leave a few months into my tenancy, my rent went up which would not usually happen if I just had a contract for the room.
I hope these tips help you secure your ideal home and job in New Zealand and help you to not make the blunders or mistakes I made! If you go with a plan and some motivation I am sure that you will succeed in making your dream a reality!
After living in Australia for a year I decided to hop over the Tasman and see what New Zealand had to offer. I had no concrete plan in my mind when I boarded my flight to Auckland but wanted to work somewhere for a few months and then travel the rest of the country in a campervan. My overall experience turned out very different to what I originally envisioned but was ultimately an amazing experience.
I decided to start off my journey in New Zealand in Auckland since it was the largest city and seemed to have a lot in common with Sydney which I had previously fallen in love with. I researched the various suburbs of Auckland and liked the sound of Mount Eden for its proximity to the town centre and the unique volcanic feature in the middle of the suburb. I found a hostel online that had good reviews just off the main street of Mount Eden, Oaklands Lodge. I booked in for a week’s stay here and figured I would either decide what I wanted to do with my time in New Zealand in a week or extend my stay.
My first thoughts of Oaklands Lodge were just how cosy it was. The hostel was small and had a lounge which was perfect for socialising and relaxing. It was more like a large house than a hostel, with a nice garden and many common spaces. The couple who ran the hostel were friendly and welcoming, helping me with anything I needed for my stay.
In my first week, I took my first tentative steps in Auckland. I slowly made friends with my room mates and others in the hostel. Days were spent applying for jobs in Auckland and exploring the city and evenings were spent playing games, watching movies, or going out with other hostel goers. By the end of the week I had made a few friends and signed up for another week at the hostel.
Unlike when I was in Sydney where I found a job within a week of applying, it seemed it would take a little longer in Auckland. I had set my sights on working in the tourism sector and had applied almost exclusively to travel agents and tourist sights. The money I had saved from living in the outback for five months was slowly running low and I was getting worried about how I was going to be able to continue to stay in Auckland without running out of money.
As these worries started to surface, I noticed a new sign had appeared on the hostel noticeboard. They were advertising for people to stay on long term to help cleaning and upkeeping the hostel. In exchange we would be given free bed and board which would really help my struggling wallet!
I asked if they would accept me staying for only two weeks rather than long term and they agreed although joked that they imagined I would be their double the time than I offered. Little did I know that they were right!
I moved rooms to stay in the cleaner’s room. This was a four-bed dorm which was VERY homely. We had wardrobes and chest of drawers to properly unpack our bags and a designated area of the room that was ours. With four girls in this space to begin with, we had a lot of stuff and it quickly spread around the room making it hard to navigate! Our duties meant we were up at 9am to strip the beds and re make them for new guests, tidy and hoover the rooms, clean the kitchen and the bathrooms.
We were finished by lunch and the rest of the day was ours to do what we wanted with. I used this time to attend interviews or continue to hand our CVs and apply for jobs online. We were given a day off or two in the week as well which is when I would have a lie in and explore parts of Auckland that were further afield such as Waikeke Island.
The job was easy and the other members of the hostel who I worked with were fun company. In my month there we had a lot of turnover of staff so I ended up being one of the longest standing members of the cleaning team. By the end of the month, I was teaching the newbies how to do our tasks!
The hostel catered for those who only stayed a few days as well as those who stayed on for a lot longer. A sustainability project used the hostel to base their internees and therefore these guys were great company for my long stay. All the long staying guests became a little family who went on nights out together and just generally made my time at the hostel so memorable. I also enjoyed meeting the short termers from all over the world and we had many a good night leaning about new cultures and ways of life.
A memorable moment was Thanksgiving. With quite a few Americans staying at the hostel, my friend Bre and others planned a large hostel Thanksgiving. We each chose a dish to make for the evening, I chose to go for green bean casserole which I had had when I spent Thanksgiving in San Francisco in 2015.
Everyone dressed up and turned out for our event and the food was amazing. It was a great example of how our family had grown in such a short time and how we had all become so close to make sure those who weren’t with their families for Thanksgiving weren’t homesick.
After a few weeks of working for the hostel, I was asked to also work the front desk from time to time so that the couple who ran the hostel could have a day off! I gladly accepted as I needed the money and did not mind a few hours work in my favourite hostel! I manned the reception, oversaw the cleaning team, and dealt with the overall running of the hostel for a few days. It required quite a bit of work and I respected the managers of the hostel even more when they returned as they really put so much of their time into the hostel being the success it was.
After four weeks of searching for jobs I was offered a role at STA Travel as a Travel Expert. Excited that I had managed to secure work for the year in Auckland I had to reassess my plans for the year and reflect if I wanted to stay in the city for such a long time. Ultimately, I decided the opportunity to work in this role was too good to miss and I could sacrifice my campervan dreams.
As I started my two-week orientation to start my new job, I started to pack up my life at Oaklands Lodge and prepare to move to my new home. I had found a room to rent in a town house in the East of Auckland close to my new store and was sad to leave Mount Eden. The area had a quaint high street, lovely suburbs and the highlight was Mount Eden itself which was the perfect setting for a run or walk with stunning views over the rest of Auckland.
My time in the hostel was unexpected, I never imagined working or even living in one hostel for over a month, but I grew to love the constant movement of people and company. It felt odd to have so much space when I moved to my own place and I missed the influx of interesting people and others to have a movie marathon with. My friend Bre ended up staying in this hostel and its sister one for over six months and I would head over to hers for my dose of travellers and backpacker interactions.
Although it may not sound appealing to share a room with strangers and having to make sure your food is always labelled, I loved the company and variety that came with living in a hostel and I would say it’s a great place to start your move to any country. Not only will you meet like minded people to travel the area or country with, but you will also have a unique experience to treasure or look back on fondly forever.
In 2019, almost a year after my first trip to Fiji, I was offered the opportunity to go again. After winning an incentive at work, I was offered discounted rates for a holiday to Fiji and was happy to accept. I chose to explore more of the Yasawa Islands since I had fallen so in love with them in the past. I spent five nights in Fiji this time, taking along a friend I had made in New Zealand, Nickie. We stayed at a different resort each night and I was lucky enough to see three more of the varied islands of the Yasawas.
After a wonderful stay at Barefoot Kuata resort in the middle of the Yasawas, we headed south to our final stop. This was the infamous Beachcomber Resort, known for its party scene and unique location on a remote atoll.
This is the resort I was least looking forward to as I was unsure if I would enjoy the change in pace from relaxation to partying. It was certainly a different experience! We landed on our final island and were greeted by a stunning large white beach. I was shown to my room which was a small dorm room but right next to the sea. It was simpler than our previous rooms and less attention was paid to the details.
Nickie and I had arranged to meet up a little later for dinner and I had time for a short walk around the island before our allotted time. The island is flat and very small with the resort taking up the entirety of the island. I walked around it in a few minutes but was able to see the variety of accommodation on offer and observed with interest the variety of clientele as well. There were groups of young adults walking around preparing for a party as well as families and older couples enjoying the view from their villa porches.
Our dinner that night was slightly different to what we had experienced in our other resorts. The dining area was large with a series of benches lined up. The food was buffet style and served on plastic plates. We were able to order drinks at the resort bar where they did a variety of strong cocktails in fun glasses. The dining area was clearly made to accommodate for a large social scene, but this wasn’t the case with who was on the island in the low season. I imagine on New Years this would a be the spot for an amazing party but with few people on the island wishing to party hard the dining set up felt a little childish and cheap.
That evening we drank some more and danced a little although the dance floor was mostly taken up by the young adults I had seen earlier.
After a good night sleep, we didn’t have a day on the island. I was quite glad of this as it seemed the main activities were expensive water activities or drinking games. Instead we boarded the ferry again to join a boat cruise called Sea spray Adventure. This departed from another island nearby and took only half an hour or so to get to.
The boat fit around 30 people or so and as soon as we left the jetty, we were offered champagne. At 10am! I felt like I was really on holiday then! The boat crew were friendly and played music for us as we set off for the islands around us. We had time to chat to a few others on the boat as we made our way to our first port of call which was Castaway Island.
This was made famous by the movie Castaway and is uninhabited. We were offered the chance to snorkel off the island but the waves were quite fierce on this day which made it hard to get in deep enough to see any coral or fish without sand being tossed around in the water. We instead opted to explore the island and found many nods to the movie around the beach. It really felt like a quintessential movie island to be stranded on and we had fun exploring as much as we could; the dense jungle got in the way of exploring much more.
After spending the morning here, we got back on the boat where we were greeted with an amazing spread for lunch. More alcohol was offered and at this point we were having a really good time! After lunch we sailed across a bay to the nearest village. We reached dry land once again and were taken through the local village to experience their way of life.
This small remote community had a school, sports field, church, and other essential amenities. It was so interesting to say hello to the children of this small village and interact even slightly with their daily routine. We were taken to the towns hall where we met the chief of the village. Here we performed a cava ceremony, my first on this trip to Fiji. I happily took part in this traditional ceremony where the chief welcomes newcomers to the island by offering a cup of the national drink.
After this we were offered the chance to support the local community by buying gifts and other souvenirs from them. I bought a new anklet here which sadly did not last long as I went skiing a few weeks later and had to be cut off!
We made our way back to the boats and had to cross seaweed to get to the boat which was stuck far out due to low tide. This was a fun round off to the day! Back on the boat we made the long way back to the jetty and simply relaxed with a drink as the sailing was easy. Safely back on the jetty we boarded the large ferry to make our way back to the mainland of Fiji.
This was such a memorable day and a lovely activity to round off our short trip to Fiji. Although Beachcombers was not to my liking, for those wanting a party atmosphere, come here in high season as I am sure it is amazing. I really enjoyed the vibe of the other two resorts we stayed at however, as they embraced the local culture and climate more organically.
Fiji is such a special country filled with amazing people and lots of things to do and see. The Yasawa islands are a must for anyone seeking that perfect island getaway and I guarantee you will fall in love with the lifestyle and people with one visit.