Surprise, I live in New Zealand now.
It’s not really a surprise for anyone who follows along on Instagram or Twitter, or for anyone who’s read any of my posts for… mm, I dunno, the last 6 months? Because I’ve been banging on about this for bloody ages now, but at the end of August I finally took that god awful long journey (it really is quite a monster) from little old Wales, UK to not-so-little but still not-quite-big New Zealand. And voila, here I am!
All in all the trip involved an 11-hour flight, an 11.5-hour wait, a 10-hour flight, an 8-hour wait, a little baby 3.5-hour flight and finally an almost 1-hour wait at Auckland Airport for my friend who took about 7 wrong turns on the way despite it being a journey he’s made a gazillion times already. So it’s safe to say that I was absolutely cream crackered by the time I was finally allowed to check in at my hostel a whole 10 hours after landing. I wish I could say I then slept for 40 hours straight, but hashtag jetlag.
Living, not travelling
It’s been a month now (well, a little over a month because I meant to publish this last week but forgot) and as much as I’d love to say it’s been a whirlwind of excitement, zooming from one incredible place to the next, hiking on glaciers and hurling myself out of airplanes, in reality it’s been a little more low-key than that. The reason I keep using the term “live in New Zealand” instead of “am backpacking in New Zealand” despite being here on a Working Holiday Visa without any sort of permanence is because that’s exactly what I’m trying to do. I want to live here, travel slowly, and explore the country in depth beyond the highlights recommended by Lonely Planet. I’m not going to be living out of a campervan (yet), trying to cram as much of this beautiful country into 6 short weeks which was, once upon a time, my original plan.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with cramming a lot of a country in a short space of time if that’s all you have. Heck, I once somehow squeezed eight European countries into less than 3 weeks so I’m very much throwing rocks from my glass house right now! But as I do have the privilege and luxury of an extended amount of time in New Zealand, I fully intend on making the most of it, albeit slowly and with a lot less “zoom” than my previous travels have entailed.
Exploring New Zealand in the first month
My current work schedule means I work for 4 days and have the next 4 completely off, so this past month has involved a lot of short day trips and slightly longer weekend trips from my “home base” just outside of Hamilton, Waikato, to the surrounding areas. I’ve seen a lot of waterfalls, some bloody gorgeous coastlines, more cows than people (including an absolutely gigantic cow that puts all the other cows to shame!), absolutely magnificent road-trip views and, believe it or not, the Loch Ness monster chilling on holiday in the Coromandel Peninsula.
I do fully intend on eventually writing up posts about almost every single corner of New Zealand I’ve visited, and plan on visiting, so I’m not going to go into too much detail here. My little jaunts so far have included an epic road trip along the Coromandel Peninsula, including a visit to the world-famous and absolutely beautiful Cathedral Cove, a short trip to nearby Bridal Veils Falls and a little further afield to the breath-taking Marokopa Falls, as well as day trips to nearby towns of Raglan and Morrinsville.
During my last trip to New Zealand in April, I managed to cover a lot of the “must-dos” in the North Island (Hobbiton, Waitomo Caves, Whakarewarewa Living Maori Village…) so this time it’s very much a case of filling in the blanks and joining up the dots. It’s safe to say that by the time I’m done, the North Island and I will be very well acquainted.
Future travel plans
Before travelling out here, I had all these grand plans of covering all of New Zealand and then branching out and visiting some of the South Pacific Islands as well. My logic was that it’s very expensive and some may say unattainable to visit the likes of Fiji, Samoa and French Polynesia from the UK, but New Zealand is right next door and the flights are super affordable! So make the most of it while I’m here, ya know?
What I didn’t factor in is that after a giant leap across the world my bank account is looking very, very poor. We’re talking dire levels of poor! And despite still working full-time while over here, it doesn’t seem to be getting any better (it’s also not getting any worse, which I suppose is the silver lining here!), so I’ve reigned in my big South Pacific dreams a little bit. Don’t get me wrong, the dream is absolutely still there! But smaller, more affordable and, dare I say, realistic!
The current plan is to stick around the North Island until Christmas, do some local, affordable exploration on my days off and hopefully save a bit of dollar. Then after Christmas is where the fun starts! I’m thinking a few weeks road-tripping through the South Island and at some point more adventurous trips to Fiji and the Cook Islands (the rest of the Pacific can wait, but I NEED to visit those bad boys!).
In the more immediate future, it’s my birthday this coming Friday so I’ve roped a friend into taking me on a birthday road trip to Hawke’s Bay, somewhere I haven’t yet been. We were originally planning on going to Lake Taupo, but something seems to be happening there this weekend so all accommodation has doubled in price and I ain’t about that life. So Hawke’s Bay, it is! We will be stopping at Taupo on the way back, though, which is exciting because I do love me a lake.
What’s next for Wales to Wherever?
Enough of the travel talk, let’s talk about this here blog for a minute.
Any diehard followers out there (there are, like, two of you?) may have noticed that things have been a bit quiet over the past few months. We’re not just talking the website, but also social media. My Facebook page has become a stagnant page of nothingness, Twitter is used for aimlessly scrolling only, and I’ve been occasionally posting on Instagram, but more out of a feeling of obligation than because I wanted to.
There’s been a combination of contributing factors – at the start I was just too busy. I was putting in hella overtime at work, and preferred to spend my days off with friends and family as my New Zealand move was becoming increasingly more imminent. Then I just had no energy, no motivation to write. Then I had the motiviation but no laptop. Then I had the motivation and the laptop but had somehow become overwhelmed with this sense of not being good enough, not deserving to have a blog and an audience. I do plan on writing a bit more indepth about that in the near future, but basically I was seeing all of these incredible bloggers and social influencers all over my Instagram and Twitter and Facebook who were doing amazing things, and whose following seemed to be increasing tenfold overnight, and I was just stuck there. Whenever I thought about writing, or publishing anything, I’d feel this strange lump in my throat and a slight tightness in my chest. So I just didn’t write. Or, I did write, but didn’t publish anything. And the longer I avoided hitting publish, the harder it became.
Which brings us to now, when I’ve decided to temporarily stop thinking about the numbers. Of course, I do eventually want this site to be successful. And by successful (which is subjective and open to interpretation) I mean I want it to be read, and enjoyed, by people, and at some point it’d be great if it brought in enough money to pay for its own upkeep. But I don’t want the pursuit of that to overshadow why I started blogging, and started writing in the first place which is, of course, because I like it. Because I enjoy the community and the sharing of tips with strangers, and that weird feeling of excitement when you think that there’s somebody out there reading your words, and you don’t even know what they look like!
So what’s next for Wales to Wherever? I’m going to write, I’m going to share, and I’m going to enjoy it. Without worrying about the numbers for a while.