We all came here for the same reason. We all came to New Zealand to look for the answers. The answers for the most important and at the same time the most neglected question in our lives. We shall feel lucky to have this question in the first place. Not everyone has a chance to choose. And still, it might be a pain to answer it aloud. What do you want to do in your life?
After three weeks of traveling Around the North Island I came back to my magic caravan in Tauranga. I was about to start working in the kiwifruit packhouse. And that was a good thing, because I came back broke. I spent most of my money on fixing or buying cars. Even a hard job like that sounded good to me. Yet I had no idea how the packhouse work is gonna change the course of my journey. It eventually became the most rewarding obligation I’ve encountered since I left my hometown months ago.
From April to June I lived in a factory environment with its exact break times, monotonous job of stacking boxes full of famous New Zealand’s kiwifruit onto pallets and coming and leaving the work at dark. It doesn’t sound all romantic but I was happy. A delightful part of all that were the people. I got to meet many fellow backpackers from all parts of the world who came for the packing season for the same reason as I did – it was a perfect opportunity to make some money while thinking about the next steps.
Lesson #1: Get a stupid job. It might change… everything.
Throughout long shifts and short breaks we easily found the way to get in touch by talking, joking and supporting each other. After all, we would go crazy doing the same tedious job from morning to evening without any human connection. Soon I observed something very similar among us as most of our conversations happened to slide into what’s your future plan subject of matter. The similarity lies in not knowing. We all came to New Zealand to look for the answers.
In my case, since my plane took off and disappeared from the reach of Europe, there were two things, two possible future plans stuck in my head. Either I will come back after one year, which my visa lasts for, to start the life at home or I will find an alternative. What do I want to do? had become a loud echo coming out from the back of my head. I don’t think it would be that loud if I wasn’t traveling. I would probably mishear it, I would maybe slowly kill this inner voice in the agony of my ordinary days.
While stacking boxes of kiwifruit the questioning echo came across two competing responses. The first response, accompanied by rationality, responsibility and simplicity, was telling me that there is no other rational, responsible and simple way than to come back to Czech Republic and start pursuing whatever I ask from life. There is a little issue though. I don’t want to ask for anything from life. Thinking that we always ask for more than we already have, get trapped and hardly get out. At the same time the life isn’t a charity to give you stuff for free, there is always some price to pay. The second response, more powerful but full of insecurity, difficulty and curiosity came up answering fuck that, I want to keep doing what I’m doing and what I came here for at the first place – to travel more.
But truly, it was the people in the packhouse who encouraged this insecure response in me. I felt super excited from new connections, from new perspectives, from new lessons. A great part in this process played my new friends from South America as well as my high engagement in Spanish language lessons (thank you Matias). I met many people from Argentina and after a short time talking and exchanging cultural differences I wondered how it could be to wander the countless streets of buzzing Buenos Aires. I met people from Peru and wondered how it could be to look at Machu Picchu in the morning mist. I met people from Chile and thought of Patagonia’s mountains and lakes… But then I met people from South Korea and I was experiencing the same. The continent didn’t really matter. The desire to go places I haven’t been and to see the world with my own eyes was overwhelming. The idea of coming back was now smaller than ever and I wondered how could I questioned the answer which I already knew before.
The alternative is my future plan. With this determination in my mind I realized how damn much money I need to support this curious life choice. I picked up some shifts in the restaurant where I used to work during the summer. Sometimes I ended up working 15 hours a day, changing from a dirty hoodie to a black waiter shirt in my little Toyota on an empty carpark and going to serve people in a fancy restaurant after 12 hours of manual work where the pleasure was an instant coffee on your short break. It was worth it. That’s why it was the most rewarding obligation. I made up my mind, turned the echo down close to silence and walked away with a lot of savings. I don’t have to mention that on our days off we managed to get drunk as hell to have some fun, too.
Lesson #2: When people say they are from Korea don’t ask if South or North . Apparently this joke ain’t funny.
Most of the time I was coming back to my caravan which was about 30 minutes drive from the packhouse. If it sounds too far I decided to move to another place, that one was 40 minutes away. With upcoming winter temperatures the caravan got colder to have a good time in it so I accepted the offer from my best Kiwi friend Lulu to stay for cheap in her house (thanks for that). With her and her two little daughters, Lauryn and Evelyn. It was a fun time and quite an experience to share the same roof with some small people around. I’m the youngest in my family and yet I haven’t got a chance to be an uncle, a babysitter or eventually a dad. Good job. I stayed with them nearly two months. When the packhouse season was over I was ready to begin another chapter of my New Zealand adventure.
At the beginning of July I moved to the coffee capital Wellington to pursue my barista experience. Before that I said goodbyes to kiwifruit, my new friendships and to my car. I sold it in hope I won’t need this box on wheels anymore. Why? It doesn’t fit into my backpack… I got out of the bus in front of Wellington’s railway station and took a deep and cold breath. It’s a winter and I’m looking for a shelter. For the first time I decided to stay in a hostel as a long-term backpacker. There are homes and then there are hostels. Places where less comfort you get more comfortable you become. A refuge for lonely travelers to share the same vibe. I found the refuge in Rosemere Backpackers.
After two weeks of doing nothing I looked for a job as a barista. But like in all kinds of professes to get a job as someone you need to be someone. And the coffee is a serious business here, not everyone is willing to train any restless backpackers. Fortunately I found such a place after another two weeks of asking from door to door, put my last hopes into the heartbreaking cover letter and waited. The response was positive so I suddenly found myself standing behind the barricades of the coffee world.
Now it’s the middle of October and I’ve been working at Mojo Coffee at Wellington International Airport something over two months as a barista. Sounds cool I know. But it’s a tough business requiring fast hands and legs for all the skill, minimum of three coffees a day for focus, a good deodorant for sweat and common sense to swag it out. All while smiling at customers who aren’t always your best mates. But damn, I got what I wanted and I have to appreciated it. I learned about beans and espresso extraction and mainly how to make a real cup of coffee.
Lesson #3: Stacking boxes on pallets is cool but making coffee is cooler.
The only thing that made me upset was moving out from Rosemere after five weeks. I met some great lonely backpackers there who aren’t lonely anymore (thank you for the vibes Anne-Sophie, Anita and Sebastian). The airport was simply too far for an everyday transport. So I found a cheap little room in a cute neighborhood called Melrose where I’m now sitting and finishing this article that took me months to put together and finally write it. The future plan is set. I’ve extended my Working Holiday visa for three extra months until February to spend one more Christmas in the summer. And the South Island is desperately calling for an adventure. Then even if I could I can’t tell more. Every direction is possible. Asia, Europe or South America. It will all happen in this order or another. I answered my question, I found my alternative.