It was a humbling 2 years, 7 months and 24 days of learning, growing and exploring the beauty of New Zealand. Nothing could have prepared me for how this country would feel like home, and how the people I would meet here would be so much like family nor could anything have prepared me for the heat, the cold or the weight of my belongings on my back.
I arrived in Auckland, it was busy, the streets were bustling with backpackers and I could hear the faint chatter of so many languages spilling from the hostels. We stood there at the hostel check in with fire and excitement in our eyes.
Whilst in Auckland I set up a bank account with KiwiBank (Definately recommend). KiwiBank was perfect, you can find them in every single town, even the small towns because they are connected to the post office, very useful.
Top tip: try to get your self an IRD number while your setting up your bank account, you’ll need one of these if you’re planning on working in New Zealand.
After spending time in The Northland exploring the beaches and kayaking under the sun we reached Taupo and started working for accommodation in a hostel. A few weeks later I had moved into an apartment with some friends I’d met, and got my hands on a job working in a cafe/boat rental shop and with some money saved, I bought a car to travel south.
After crossing the cook strait and driving around the South Island I stepped foot in Queenstown, determined that this place couldn’t suck me in like I’ve been warned that it can, determined that I wasn’t going to get “caught up in the bubble”.
Before I knew it, years had gone by since I had seen my family.
There was nothing that could have prepared me for these people, the people who I would fall in love with, the people who I would spend every day laughing with. Nothing could have prepared me for the amazing places I had the opportunity to work. So there I was, sponsored, comfortable and with no future plans other than my life in Queenstown.
Since leaving, I’ve frequently been asked how and why I spent so long in such a transient place. And whilst I don’t have one solid answer all I can do is provide (in my opinion) the wonderful and the not so wonderful things about Queenstown.
This ever growing town provides a pretty decent amount of jobs, and we’re not just talking about the standard bar/ hotels jobs you find in most backpacker towns. We’re talking exciting jobs up on the ski slopes, landscape gardening in the warmer months and if your lucky, getting work at one of Queenstowns cool attractions. During my time in Queenstown I was fortunate enough to learn a whole new set of skills in jobs I had little to no experience in whatsoever.
The first one being at AJ Hackett Bungy. Here I was the cleaner/grounds keeper, the perfect low stress, fun, sociable job to kick start my time in this cool little town.
After a few months of finding my feet, confidence and most importantly a place to live I began trying to find something more suited to my hobbies, with much persistence I managed to find myself working on the TSS Earnslaw Steam Ship as a photographer.
It seemed everyday that I spent on the lake taking photos of happy tourists I became more and more in love with this town, I began to see the hidden inner workings of my first backpacker town and met some of the locals who quickly became the people I call my friends.
After 9 months of working aboard that beautiful steam ship followed by a month long trip to the Philippines, my New Zealand working holiday visa began to run out. I began searching for sponsorship (a job with an employer who would be willing to sign piles of paperwork just to keep me in the country past my working holiday visa).
With a few stressful weeks of no luck and no funds to leave the country I was lucky enough to become a bartender at the Below Zero Ice Bar.
Working at the Ice Bar was more fun, cold and challenging than I could have imagined. If you truely want to learn about yourself, to test and push yourself, stand in -12 Degrees Celsius for an hour at a time and see how you do.
During the winters of my time in Queenstown I was lucky enough to sing and play on the ski mountain – coronet peak. The money was great and without it, I wouldn’t have been able to leave New Zealand when I did.
If you’ve travelled you’ll know that travel ‘time’ is not at all like the normal time you experience when your at home. You’ll meet people while your travelling and build up the same relationship in a month that you would build in 2 years at home. I mean of course I have my few best friends at home (you know who you are), but since leaving the UK back in November 2014 I’ve made more friends than I ever thought I could. During my last few months in Queenstown especially I’ve made some pretty important connections. One of which I am sat right next to right now in a library in Western Australia.
The reason you can build such intense relationships while travelling is because the people you meet.. you literally spend every second of every day together. You probably live with them too!
Whilst I was in Queenstown I met Jake.. we met because we lived in the same room. And now one year later and having spend every second of every single day and night together.. it’s like we’ve known each other for years.
I love Queenstown, it’s my second home, but that’s why I can be brutally honest. And that’s why I’m going to provide some friendly warnings if you wish to embark on your very own Queenstown adventure.
This brings me to the biggest problem for many of the backpackers who end up spending some time in Queenstown is alcohol. It’s almost like queenstown has its own little culture which requires you to go out every night and drink. So my advice would be avoid the nightlife 5 days out of 7.
Firsty please don’t arrive in this town thinking your going to be a lot better off financially after having spent a few years/ months here. In two years I’ve seen rent prices sky rocket and wages stay exactly the same: minimum.
The only possible way I could afford a flight out of this beautiful country was to work full time as well as working my ass off at the hostel for a free bed.
Working for accommodation- Believe it or not… I loved it. I met people who are now like brothers and sisters to me, who looked out for me and who I looked up to.
There are going to be terrible places to work for accommodation, I’m not saying the work was easy or fun, I’m definitely not saying we were treated with respect by the management. I’m just saying my personal experience was a beautiful thing, because of the wonderful human beings I had the pleasure to live and work with.
Leaving this beautiful town broke my heart. I had grown such an intimate relationship with the comforting blue sky, the snow capped mountains and the clear icy lake. I had made lifelong friendships with coworkers, shop owners, and locals. But maybe it’s true when they say that all good things must come to an end.