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.