New Zealand

The End of Asia – I’m Heading to New Zealand!

January 12, 2017

I’m not gonna lie. I’m both excited as hell and a little bit sad to make this next move. Because I love Asia. It’s been good to me. (Aside from the dengue, food poisoning, face sweats, and jellyfish stings, obvi.) But I’ve spent a long time traveling here – like 8 months total – and it’s time to move on…

New Zealand Working Holiday Visa - Trailing Rachel

For the past two weeks, I’ve had a great studio apartment in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The city is a “digital nomad” hub so it’s a bit of a cliche destination for expats, but damn if that’s not for a reason!

You could literally eat really, really well there for $5 a day. Rent isn’t bad either. And there’s tons to do. The city is full of cafes and the countryside is beautiful. And right now the weather is great. Plus, there are affordable big Chang beers everywhere you turn, and uh, again, the food! I’m not joking when I say I was considering staying a month in that little apartment located next to a small street food kingdom.

But alas, the time has come to try out a different area of the world…

New Zealand Working Holiday Visa - Trailing Rachel

I’m going to New Zealand!

Yeah, a little something new for me. I’ve never been and never even really thought about going until these past few months – see my “No job, no home” post for the logic behind this one, folks. And yes, Marko is going too. We fly from Kuala Lumpur to Auckland tonight (thank god for cheap flights on AirAsia). From there, we’ll get our bearings, adjust to the shock of Western prices and hostel life in dorms again, and maybe BUY A CAR?!

Ah, what?! I know. Big things.

New Zealand Working Holiday Visa - Trailing Rachel

Marko’s reaction to me not being able to drive on the left side of the road… or drive a manual car

I’ve got my Working Holiday Visa which allows me to stay in the country for up to a year and work while I’m there. Because let’s be honest, I’ll probably need some funds in a little while, and with non-Southeast Asian prices, it’ll be sooner rather than later. (Side note: this visa was FREE! I was prepared to pay the usual 175 euros that the official immigration website had listed, but they told me I was exempt as a US citizen applying from outside of New Zealand. Sooo something to think about, guys…)

While I’m there, I’ll also be trying to ramp up this freelance writing work I’ve been doing! Maybe I’m cautiously optimistic, but I actually think I can make it work – I made a solid bit of money last month without putting in many hours, and I won’t lie – working from anywhere in the world that has wifi is absolutely incredible. And so liberating.

New Zealand Working Holiday Visa - Trailing Rachel

what they would say if I didn’t have my visa… I’m grasping at straws for photos here you guys

New Zealand Working Holiday Visa - Trailing Rachel

But eventually, I’m hoping to actually use my visa and find a low-stress job (possibly hospitality or vineyard-related) so I can meet cool people and earn some cash. I have friends who’ve done this in NZ and absolutely loved it.

And yes, while I’m nervous about the costs of New Zealand, I’m pumped about being in the land of hobbits, just kidding I’m not a LOTR fan at all friendly, English-speaking locals. And since I’m such a big trekker now (HA!), I’m ready to head out and explore their ridiculously beautiful outdoors. Oh man, the nature! But seriously, we’re gonna try to do a lot of camping and hiking while we check out the country and decide where to “settle” and get jobs.

Buying a vehicle and traveling the North and South Islands seems to be the ultimate backpacker experience in New Zealand, and it feels like the most desirable for us if we wanna have freedom. (They do have buses too!) Ideally, the kind soul of a person who sells us their car will include all their stuff – like a tent, camping chairs, stove, cooking stuff, etc. (You can tell I’m really most excited about the stuff, right?! I don’t know shit about buying a car…)

New Zealand Working Holiday Visa - Trailing Rachel

So this is quite a change for me.

And if all that driving and camping nonsense isn’t different enough from my usual travel style, we’re about to get into something else that I’ve really been hoping to do on the road:


New Zealand Working Holiday Visa - Trailing Rachel

will be doing a little more than this soon…

So this is kinda the dream. Actual free accommodation. In a nice place.

We’ve already got two house-sits lined up on the North Island, so we’ll have a home and pets (!!) for a few weeks and get to cook our own meals (!!!!!!). I cannot stress enough how happy I am about hanging with cute animals and making my own food. Possibly at the same time. In Chiang Mai, we could get three dishes of Thai food for the price of a small jar of cumin, so cooking really wasn’t an option. Now we’ll be able to make dinner and take dog walks to check out the lakes in Rotorua every night!

I mean, that’s just one of our first housesitting stops, I don’t even know how to pronounce it…

New Zealand Working Holiday Visa - Trailing Rachel

because hanging out with stray dogs on the beach doesn’t count

So I’m pumped! I’m excited about checking out the cities and deciding where I wanna “live.” But I’m also excited about roaming around the country for a while first. And having a car! And camping! All of it!

New Zealand Working Holiday Visa - Trailing Rachel

few less beach pics, few more of these

If anyone has any tips – about New Zealand travel, how to do it cheaply, the best sights, favorite cities, freelancing, driving on the left, whatever – get at me! Your recommendations for New Zealand wine included…

As always, I hope you’ll keep following along even when I don’t know exactly where I’m going.

Now Tell Me Everything You Know about New Zealand!

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  • Reply Kristie Brennan January 12, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    Hey Rachel,
    I just saw Barbara Kinsey shared this recent blog post! I had no idea you were still traveling but think it’s awesome! My sister and I traveled from Greece to Scotland and everywhere in between over a three month period long ago before we were married and we will never regret it! My husband’s mom is from Saigon so I need to sign up for your blog because that is on our list of places to visit in the future! I need to see where else we need to go! Looks like you’re having a blast- good for you! Have fun and be safe!

    • Reply Rachel January 16, 2017 at 9:01 pm

      Hey Kristie! I think that quitting my job to travel has been the best decision I’ve ever made – but now I have no idea when I’ll come back for good! Vietnam has been one of my favorite places and Saigon is SUCH a cool city – I wish I’d taken more photos there! Such good food, crazy traffic, and it’s HOT! Super affordable too. Let me know if you have any questions! Thanks for reading!

  • Reply Katie January 12, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    If you stay in the north island, there will be PLENTY of beach pics – so many beautiful beaches. I have a crap load of suggestions for NZ, it is my home country after all. Lots of stuff on my blog. Look on Trademe for buying a car – it’s like Gumtree or Craigslist. Let me know if you have any NZ questions, I’d be happy to answer them 🙂

    • Reply Rachel January 16, 2017 at 9:03 pm

      Oooh yea thanks Katie – I’ll definitely check out your blog for tips! We got a car already – super cheap from another backpacker who’s been traveling and has to leave the country. We’re heading to do a couple of housesits in Rotorua and then gonna start bouncing around. I am SO into the idea of more beaches and hotter weather so I definitely wanna head north before I have to get a job (even though most people who’ve just arrived in Auckland are heading south).

  • Reply Emilie January 12, 2017 at 2:55 pm

    You need to talk to my friend Morgan Mueller! She lived in a van in NZ for a year. I can put you in touch if you’d like!

    • Reply Rachel January 16, 2017 at 9:04 pm

      Yes, for sure! Thanks Emilie! Always down to hear other folks’ favorite spots and campgrounds. Got a sweet station wagon that we can sleep in…

  • Reply Ann Carter January 14, 2017 at 9:10 am

    Talked with Bucky Oliver– local business person and world wide seller of jets– has an office in Australia. He said he would be happy to email them and give you the contact numbers if you are interested in going there or even working temporarily.

    • Reply Rachel January 16, 2017 at 9:05 pm

      Thanks Grandma! I may be heading there after New Zealand if I need to make more money! Australia is expensive to live in but the wages are high, so I’d definitely be working if I went.

  • Reply Meg January 14, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    kaiteriteri for kayaking, kaikoura for swimming with dolphins, queenstown for drinking, making friends, hiking and cycling around the lake, taupo for sailing and skydiving, catherdral cove for relaxing, and finally, one of my favourite places: Bay of Islands for sandboarding, fish and chips, 90 mile beach and kayaking again! There really is a lot more to do in all of those places besides what I mentioned, but for me, they were the highlights! You are going to have the best time!!

  • Reply Meg January 14, 2017 at 2:16 pm

    ooh and don’t forget Milford sound!!x

    • Reply Rachel January 16, 2017 at 9:06 pm

      Thanks so much for the breakdown, Meg – that is actually my favorite way to receive tips. Now I can just star them on my Google Maps and give them a little label that says what I’m supposed to do in each place…

  • Reply Margaret Clover January 24, 2017 at 6:30 am

    Hello Rachel

    New Zealand is an exciting place to visit, with numerous activities you can enjoy. Though New Zealand is a small country, it is full of surprises. You will be impressed by the natural, unspoiled countryside, which has a relatively small population. Some of the most spectacular scenery in the world is found there. New Zealand has sparkling lakes, deep fjords, beautiful beaches, forests, rolling pasturelands and many mountains with icy peaks as well as thermal activity.

    Wishing you all the best in your future endeavors.
    Margaret Clover recently posted…Health and beauty benefits of raspberriesMy Profile

    • Reply Rachel January 31, 2017 at 9:34 pm

      Thanks Margaret – I’ve been pretty impressed with all the dramatic landscapes so far!

  • Reply Emily Carron January 29, 2017 at 2:13 am

    Hey, Rachel! My boyfriend and I are fellow North Carolinians and are currently in New Zealand. We’ve been keeping up with your posts when we have wifi, of course. We are enjoying life here with the Kiwi’s and hope you do too! So far there are two things I recommend; first Hahei because the beaches are on point, second you must do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Its exhausting but so worth it!

    Cheers, Emily

    • Reply Rachel January 31, 2017 at 9:33 pm

      Awesome Emily! Haha, I don’t meet many people from the South around here, but the locals are so friendly. I just visited Hahei and agree, SO beautiful! Will keep in mind Tongariro – I’ve got so long to check everything out that it’s nice to go at a slow pace. Thanks for the tip!

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