Would you like a short summary about my working holiday, dear blog reader? Well, it was really great, despite of the hard parts. Would you like a bit longer summary about my working holiday, dear blog reader? Okay. That’s fine, I have one of that as well.
To look back at my last 1+ year, let’s just rush through it chronologically. I divided that time into a few chapters that separate from each other quite significantly. Tried to be short yet relatively informative.
1. Chillawhile (2016.12.02 – 2017.02.17)
It was a strong start. Arriving to a safe place for long term after wandering around Asia for 5 months. I had zero experience as a hostel receptionist, when I started, I didn’t even know what’s the difference between “twin bed” and “double bed”, constantly mixed them up in the first weeks. But as they say, it’s not rocket science, I got the routine after a while. I had free accommodation, some little salary to cover my food, a piano next to the reception and some woofers around me who were usually ready for some activities. New Zealand meant just a few streets in Oamaru to me for almost 3 months and I felt great working there every day. I thought that later I’d find another receptionist job in a new city and keep living like that. No wonder that after I heard about the possibility of extending the visa, my next project was to find a horticultural job for 3 months and get it done asap.
2. Discoveries (2017.02.18 – 2017.03.31)
I started my job in Oamaru together with Katja and we worked quite alright together. She was also new in the country and she was also going to extend her visa. The idea of leaving Oamaru together was not obvious but still felt quite natural after being colleagues for so long. She was on a higher level in terms of hospitality, she studied and also practiced it back in Germany. Using all that wisdom, she arranged for both of us how to get to Alexandra (by bicycle through the Central Otago Rail Trail) and where to arrive to get a job immediately (Marjs Place). We started to work in a packhouse and I was counting down the weeks that are left to the visa extension. I was still in a daydreamy state: I thought that after 3 months I can save up 6000 dollars (500 per week – which is realistic by the way) that would allow me a trip to Asia in the summer and then I could go back to New Zealand and keep enjoying life by finding another Chillawhile-like receptionist job with my newly extended visa. Would have been ideal indeed – never happened, of course. Finally we left the packhouse after two weeks, worked on a few vineyards for another two and then we had enough of the horticultural jobs so we left Alexandra and biked through the Alps2Ocean Bike Trail. The Alps2Ocean was one of the highlights of my New Zealand times. It’s a 300 km long trail going from Mount Cook to Oamaru. So we arrived back to Oamaru and checked out Chillawhile again. Thinking that we just finished a great adventure around Central Otago and were ready for the next one.
3. Horticulture (2017.04.01 – 2017.06.13)
We decided to go to Nelson where the apple season was supposed to be on the peak. Which was true but it also meant that the companies already hired the employees and didn’t need extra work force. After a few days we found a private apple farm. We had to go there by a local bus until halfway and then bike the last 10km, climb up the latters, pick only the apples with the correct size and color and collect them in a bin. Then bike back, every day. The owner was a jerk and paid us below minimal wage. Katja’s bike has been stolen in Nelson. The weather was rainy almost every day even if the so called “sunny Nelson” is supposed to be the driest city in the country. The hostel was great though, Palace Backpackers, check it out if you’re there. Anyway, we decided to go to another area with peak season. And ended up on the North Island, in the town of Napier. Finding a job wasn’t easy here either but whatever, we did it at the end. We were working in an apple packhouse for 6 weeks in night shift, from 5pm to 2am and to decrease our expenses, we cleaned a hostel from 10am until noon for free accommodation. These weeks were extremely exhausting but I’d already booked my flight to Taiwan and I was way behind my original financial plans so I had to go on. Despite of going on, I had to leave New Zealand knowing that I will have to keep doing this kind of job for a few more weeks. There were too many gaps between my jobs to have the 3 months of horticulture done. The times in Nelson and in Napier were absolutely disappointing. It felt very frustrating to see my plans melting away and I have quite bad memories about these cities. Which is a shame because these are both beautiful, Nelson has the best weather in the whole country with a nice beach and Napier is the “art deco capital” with buildings, music and cars from the 30s providing a nice old-timey atmosphere.
4. Trip to Taiwan (2017.06.14 – 2017.07.24)
Looking back from now, making a trip to Asia was a brave decision. I had to fuel up with money in advance so that I can pay everything while I’m abroad and still have enough money after arriving back. I succeeded the first part but pretty much failed with the other one which led to a long struggle afterwards. Well, who knew when I was daydreaming in Oamaru that making money in New Zealand is not as trivial as it seems. But other than that, I had a good time by flying to Taipei, then to Hong Kong, then to Chengdu, then spontaneously to Bangkok, then back to Taipei, then back to Auckland. I found my little fun in each of these places. I just wish it costed less.
3. Horticulture (2017.07.25 – 2017.08.23)
Isn’t it a bit annoying, dear blog reader, that after the 4. point there is a 3. again? Did you see it coming? Nobody prepared you for such a confusion, right? Where is the 5.? Are we going backwards or what?? Now you can imagine how annoying it was to me to buy a ticket back to Auckland and put myself back in the horticultural swamp again. Not just mentally but also literally. By the end of July winter was all around the country, the only place where it was worth to look for such a job was on the Northland, which was warm enough to have rain only, instead of snow. I chose the hostel that had a Hungarian receptionist in the town of Kerikeri and finally he found me the most ridiculous horticultural job I had in New Zealand: pulling out mini pine trees from the ground and collecting them in boxes, 100 in each. The weather was wet which resulted a big amount of mud, our direct bosses were young local village boys who enjoyed each others company but backpackers like us just meant unnecessary problems for them. I needed only two weeks for my extension but they were two very long ones. To get away, we booked a relocation car and started to head to South from Cape Reinga, visiting some nice places on the way (Raglan, Taupo, Rotorua) and taking the ferry back to the South Island. The best part was the lucky phone call while we were by the Nelson Lakes from a motel manager that made sure that we will end up in Hanmer Springs soon. At the end of this section things started to look promising again. Still, there were lots of unanswered questions about the future during these days that made us both quite sorrow.
5. Hanmstering (2017.08.24 – 2017.11.28)
If Oamaru is heaven and the packhouses are hell, then the life in Hanmer Springs counts as purgatory. I already gave up all my childish dreams about this country, I just wanted to make some money which I didn’t really have after Asia and hoped that things will get slowly better somehow. Hanmer Springs is a small and isolated village on the South Island which makes it a reasonable choice for backpackers to save money. I started by cleaning a motel, then I was dishwashing and waitering in an Indian restaurant, then I became a morning cleaner in an Irish pub. But as I said, the village was small and isolated. Which can make a place really boring. The next supermarket was in a small town about 80 km away. The bus came twice a day and it wasn’t too cheap. Buying a car seemed to be a smart decision, to drive here and there on the dayoffs. It was a blue Toyota Corolla. His original name was Smurf but I renamed it to Hupi which is almost the same but in Hungarian. Except for the car, nothing new happened. I was either working or sleeping, living from day to day, for three long months.
6. Gate closing panic (2017.11.29 – 2018.02.14)
After Hanmer I realised that the end is suddenly very close and made my plans for the last few weeks according to that fact. It started by discovering the South. My 5 months long journey from Japan to New Zealand was wonderful but it did have a negative effect on my working holiday: I arrived with most of the money that I collected for more than a year being spent. As a result, wherever I was in New Zealand, I kept having the pressure that I need to find a job to get that money back. The “December Adventures” was one of the very few exceptions. I had some money after Hanmer Springs and I knew that I can keep collecting after. Plus I thought that if I don’t enjoy the stuff that New Zealand provides now than there are chances that I never will. Everything was set to have some expenses. We took the car, drove around and made some memories: an overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound, a Nevis Bungy, 3 days hiking on the super pretty Stewart Island, mountain biking on the Cardrona and who knows what else. This is how a working holiday looks like in the fairy tale books and the youtube videos.
There was 1,5 months left after that trip and my pressure for the money reappeared. Luckily everyone was looking for employees before Christmas so we could choose where we want to go: it was Lake Hawea, a pretty town close to Wanaka. I worked there as a kitchen hand and I was okay with it but when I saw one day that they reduced my working hours for the upcoming week from 40 to 20 saying that the peak season is over, I quit immediately. After some stressful struggling we decided to go back to Alexandra where the story started one year ago and spent the last few weeks by… yeah, correct, horticultural jobs! This time we knew where to go, we had really good experiences with one of the vineyards last time. It’s owned by an old couple from the Netherlands, they have an own pond for the sunny days and we could use our mp3 players so I had something in my ears. Katja worked there for a week, then left New Zealand. I worked there for two more, then left New Zealand too. Will I meet Katja again? Yes. How much, how long, blablabla? I don’t know.
Okay, I wanted to write some overall universal last paragraph here but if you read the parts above, then you already get the idea of my time in New Zealand. It’s a very pretty and ridiculously expensive country. Go there with some money in your pocket. Start with somewhere long term to get know the basics. Buy a car, otherwise you might get stuck. Think twice about the extension, horticulture is maybe not for you. Smile a lot. Eat healthy. Keep fit.
Just so you can make sure that you didn’t miss any post from New Zealand, which would be terrible, here is a link of each:
Working Holiday Visa, New Zealand (2016.12.17)
What’s in Oamaru? (2016.12.28)
One Month in Alexandra (2017.03.23)
Alps2Ocean Cycle Trail (2017.05.07)
Rolling Through the Last Months (2017.06.17)
A Little Trip to Asia (2017.07.24)
NZ Working Holiday, cont. (2017.10.17)
An Adventurous December (2017.12.23)
Right now it’s short after 4am. I’m sitting in my transfer station, at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Treating myself with a place in the Air Asia Red Lounge. For my birthday. I’m becoming 30 today. Thank you, thank you. That’s one of my reasons to leave New Zealand: my times there shall belong to my twenties and nothing else. My other reason is that tomorrow is the Chinese New Year. Which is a great opportunity to go back to the lovely Taiwan. In the next 3 weeks I’ll be back in the Taiwan Youth Hostel, giving piano concerts for free accommodation. Then after a short visit at home I’m going back to Leipzig to finally finish my graduate studies by getting those freaking 5 credit points that are missing from the 120. If everything goes as planned, I will start my next trip in July. Australia opened the working holiday for Hungarians while I was in New Zealand. When I read that (it was in Napier – one of the happiest moments there), I was sure that this is my next thing to do. I’m going to report my way there on this blog, in the original weekly style. Then after arriving, I will probably stop writing so much, just like I did with New Zealand.
As for now, thank you for your lovely attention, dear blog reader. You can go away.
!UPDATE! A video of one of my concerts in Taipei: