In 2018, after a year travelling and working in Australia, I decided to pack up my life into my trusty backpack once again and try my luck in a new country.
Fresh off the plane from Tonga, I arrived into Auckland in the early hours of the morning. Due to my early arrival, I decided to stay in a hotel that night and despite the comfy bed struggled to sleep wondering what my fate would be in this strange new city.
The next day, after an overpriced and underwhelming room service breakfast, I headed on over to Oakland Lodge, a hostel in the popular little suburb of Mount Eden. Although I was booked in originally only for a week, I ended up staying for over a month. During my search for a permanent job in Auckland, I helped clean the hostel in exchange for free board. I also helped on reception a handful of times. Over this month I met and made some amazing friends from all over the world, discovered the joys of living in a hostel and made the place my home.
Although it was unexpected, I have really fond memories of my time staying at Oaklands and will be forever grateful that it gave me such an amazing foundation to my time in New Zealand.
I spent my time off from working at the hostel applying for jobs and attending interviews. I had my sights set on a travel agent or tourism sector role and applied for many of the popular chains in the city. I had a few call-backs from various travel firms and even did a few test shifts but finally got an email one day offering me an interview to work for STA Travel. This wasn’t a company I thought I’d hear back from, but as a well-known brand name from back home I was excited to try for the role.
Fast forward a couple of weeks and I had secured a job as a Travel Expert in the country's biggest store at Sylvia Park shopping mall. With this, I also found a townhouse around 20 minutes away from work and the city and close to the water and a beach. I really felt like I’d hit the jackpot and started my new life in Auckland.
The next few months were an odd transitional time for me as I felt a detachment from my previous backpacking lifestyle as I fell into the expat category. I often went back to Oakland or it’s sister hostel to see friends and be around a group of nomadic and spontaneous travellers again. My life in Auckland became more routine, I joined a gym, met friends for dinner or brunch and went to work. This took me some time to get used to but after I met more people in the community and got closer to my work colleagues it all fitted into place.
I really loved my job and the people I got to meet through the work. My customers were all fantastic and it was so fun to help people push themselves to try new things or simply to get from A to B. My colleagues were also all amazing and made every moment in the office fun and entertaining. Through STA I was able to get a great start in the travel industry, meet some amazing people and visit some beautiful places. It is truly a shame that due to the current pandemic the company had to close its doors but hopefully in the future, a company with the same values and beliefs will take its place.
My job helped me to visit Fiji for the second time, take a trip down to Wellington with Kiwi Experience, visit the Bay of Islands with Stray and ski Queenstown with Oz Snow. I also was able to plan a unique trip back to the UK with the expertise I gained from the job. Thanks STA for everything, I’ll always bleed blue.
I loved living in Auckland and my suburb of Point England. It was quiet but had a beach and fantastic walk and bike paths around the estuary. On days off I could catch a bus to the famous Mission Beach or head in the city to experience the bar and nightlife. I also joined local meetup groups and was able to head to areas a little further out of the city for hikes and exploring days. Meetup groups were a great way to meet new people in the city who share your interests.
My housemates were all fantastic and luckily, we all got on well. We had a relaxed sort of companionship and watched a few TV shows together and on occasion went out as well. We all had different work schedules which meant I didn’t always see them a lot, but I was glad we all got on, I really did luck out with my housing situation.
My day to day life in Auckland was quite mundane. I spent a lot of time at work, often working overtime because I loved it but because I also wanted to prove myself. To counteract the pressure of work, I spent a lot of time in the gym which was a short walk from the office. I trained at an all-female gym and although the thought of that seemed foreign to me at the beginning, I grew to love it and found it very odd to go back to an all-sex gym once again! I loved the staff and decided to take the jump of having a PT in the second half of my time in Auckland. I saw a lot of progress and my gym journey was one of the things I was most proud of during my time in New Zealand. It is also something I really miss and want to get back into in the future when our gyms fully re-open.
Of course, I made sure to make the most of my time in New Zealand and tried to get out and explore the country as much as possible! My first trip out of the city was to the Bay of islands in December. After much debate about how I should spend my Christmas, I decided to book a three-day tour which coincided with Christmas day. This trip out of the city was just what I needed and through it I met a great friend, Nickie, who experienced several events in Auckland with me. Christmas Day was an odd one as we drove back into the city under a backdrop of rain and grey skies. Our Christmas dinner that night was pasta in a hostel kitchen and champagne in a hot tub, but it was mainly nice to be with others for the day.
My next trip was in January to the Coromandel. This trip was taken with a friend I had met on my travels in Tonga. We spent three days in cosy accommodation on the peninsula and me, Natalie and her sister enjoyed a mini break full of hiking, swimming and driving around the beautiful Coromandel.
In February, Holly came to visit from Australia, and we drove to Rotorua, Taupo and Tongariro Crossing on a four-day adventure. Spending more time with my best friend was what we both needed, and we added some more silly stories to our list.
In March, my friend Steph who I met in Oakwood’s came back to the North Island and we drove up to the Bay of Islands. This was my second time and the weather was much better, meaning we had a chance to get a tan and see dolphins.
April was the month my parents came to stay, and we flew down to the South Island to have a nine-day adventure together. This was such a fun trip and I was touched that they made the trip across the world to spend time with me and explore New Zealand.
In June, I made the journey back across the Tasman to see the Austin’s and the farm. I had been badly missing stability and family over my first few months and really missed the family who had welcomed me with open arms many months before. I spent four days on the farm and was amazed at how big all of the kids had gotten, each of them older and able to do more. We had a family cookout on one of the afternoons and with my favourite dog, Sophie’s head on my lap, I was happy to have made the journey but content in the fact that I had to leave again.
In July I was lucky enough to head to Fiji, this time with Nickie. Due to an incentive at work I had earnt free flights to Nadi so took them up on the offer. We spent five days there once again exploring the Yasawa Islands and soaking up some sun and amazing views.
I quickly traded in the bikini for ski gear as a few weeks later in August I flew down to Queenstown. I went solo to experience three different ski resorts in the area and really loved this independent trip to tick off something I had really wanted to do with my time in New Zealand.
In September I made my final trip in New Zealand down to Wellington. I took the Northern Explorer train down to the capital and the Kiwi Experience bus back up with an overnight stop in Taupo. I was glad to get down to the capital to explore as well as have a final run of the North Island on the way back up. This was a lovely final round up of my time in the country.
After a full year in New Zealand, I packed up my things once again, left my job and jumped on a plane heading back to the UK. It was a bittersweet ending as I felt I was really getting in my stride in my job and my life in Auckland. However, the climate didn’t seem to agree with me over there and along with previous issues with my sinuses, I wasn’t able to smell, taste or breathe at all through my nose over the year. This uncomfortable condition made the decision for me that the best place for me was to go back home and have surgery. I was sad that it was for health reasons that I couldn’t stay longer but overall, I really grew during my time in New Zealand.
The first few weeks in New Zealand were unexpected but fun and kept the backpacking lifestyle alive. The next few months were hard as I adjusted to a new routine and lifestyle but by April I was in my stride and enjoying what Auckland had to offer. I became more confident in myself and my ability to travel alone and spend time alone as well as being proud of the friendships I made along the way.
Although my year here didn’t go as I first planned or expected, I learnt a lot and gained a lot from it, and because of this New Zealand will always hold a special place in my heart.
For anyone thinking of working abroad in Australia or New Zealand when the time comes to be able to do so again, I have posts which go into more depth of different aspects of living and working abroad.