Armed with a one-way ticket to Auckland and a 12-month work/holiday visa, I left the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport last Tuesday at 7am.
The plan began over six months ago as I drove with my friend, Caitlin, to her hometown of Hayward, WI, to watch the annual ski race called the Birkebeiner. I had spent the better part of my senior year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison trying to convince anyone who would listen to come with me to New Zealand after graduation, but all I got in response was vague interest and zero commitment. By the time I pitched it to Caitlin during that five hour car ride, I expected very little, but she surprised me by saying, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’
However, senior year was busy, to say the least, and months passed with very little plans coming together. After graduation, Caitlin headed off to be a camp counselor for the Boys and Girls Club in Colorado and I began working with Conservation Corps, so we suddenly had even less communication. We didn’t even buy plane tickets until the end of June, and it wasn’t until August that the rest of our plan began to solidify. It still did not feel real until we were sitting at our gate in Minneapolis that mild September morning on our way to Honolulu, Hawaii. We were on the plane and heading west before I even had time to be nervous.
We are slowly still organizing our trip as we go. Right now, our plan is to see as much of the two islands as possible in three months. We have a membership to an organization called WorkAway through which we can coordinate with hosts around New Zealand to work a few hours a day in exchange for free room and board. That way we should be able to see most of the country without spending $20 a night (or more) on hostels. It sounds like a good deal, but we shall see soon enough. So far we have set up hosts in Devonport (a wealthy suburb of Auckland), Wellington (capital city of New Zealand) and Marlborough Sounds (the northern tip of the South Island). The work involves a lot of gardening, cleaning, B&B work and general housekeeping. We estimate that by staying with host families, our current funds will last until December — in time for Caitlin to get back and prepare for her stint with the Peace Corps, which begins in June.
Beyond that, however, we are truly making everything up as we go. This is probably the most spontaneous thing I have ever done, and I can’t wait to see what happens!