That’s it. The New Zealand adventure is over. From initial 365 days I stretched it out up to 512, legally, with no regrets. Now it’s the time to sum up my Working Holiday experience and ask what New Zealand gave me and what took away…
I felt like that after Gillespie Pass hike and its wisdom (read more), there was not much left in my traveling South Island itinerary. From there it was basically a countdown of remaining 26 days as a tourist. Mentally, I reached the point of a satisfied wanderlust and physically, I was tired of driving a car. There I decided to give up the ride all the way up north of the island and my only intention was to get slowly to Christchurch where my friend Filip was soon arriving.
Before that I hanged around the most appealing New Zealand’s town Wanaka for a couple of days. Everything there is happening around the lake, busy streets with cozy coffee shops, family beach BBQs, huge backpackers community and of course the tree. Yes, the famous tree growing from Lake Wanaka is one of the most ridiculous and at the same time the most fascinating tourist and photographic attraction I’ve seen in this country (see short timelapse). I don’t want to sound like Lonely Planet guide but this little town is really worth a visit. I kind of regret that I didn’t do a working season here. The day I left I accomplished the long wished 4am sunrise hike up to 1578 meters high Roy’s Peak. It was truly gorgeous to watch how the morning wakes up the sun above the lake and mountains.
The last must-do appeared to be an overnight stay by Mount Cook. Despite very touristy, on a clear day the New Zealand’s highest mountain is astonishing from any point of view – drive by Lake Pukaki, along easy Hooker Valley walk or from steeper Mueller Hut route. On that route I met a group of Czech people which I already knew from the day before as we chatted on the top of Roy’s Peak. So when we got into talking again I found myself surprisingly not that much bothered by the decision to spend the next day and night together by Lake Tekapo.
Especially this extended encounter with Czechs made me realize that I do miss home. That one day, when the time comes, I do want to live in my home country. After all, what’s the point of living out of benefits of the more developed country when we feel homesick, or at least we often find ourselves the most comfortable in the company of people sharing the same nationality and approach to cultural manner of things, whatever that means. In fact, I see it everywhere around here. Starting with Czech-Slovak clubs teaching kids the native language in Sunday schools. Or enormous Asian communities eating basically only in all sorts of Asian cuisine places and restaurants, from sushi to noodles, after figuring out that the Western cuisine doesn’t suit them, obviously. Or gathering Latin people, meaning South Americans, at any occasion possible, from parties to… parties. On the other hand I have to understand that at the end of the day what matters is the money, more precisely the desire to earn money to support the idea of better life based on earning more. However, the side effect is clearly lacking of culture which will be for me always contradictory. Conclusion? I like Czech imperfect culture and people enough to make a living there in the future. I hope so.
Lately, almost with tears in my eyes, I had been watching the money from my wallet quickly disappearing. Even though I’ve tried to save up while traveling, in other words I’ve tried not to piss it all away at once, I just hate the idea of spending the money, which cost me so much sweat to earn, in a speed that highly exceeds the speed I actually earned it by. We’ve all been here I suppose. Anyway, the traveling in New Zealand is damn expensive at any budget. In this context, by the countdown of days remaining I primarily meant the time until my bank account dries out. I had sent most of my savings back to my home bank account. Smart move. That brings me to a very important part of my Working Holiday summary – finance. I did a bit of math regarding the money I made. And spent. Over last 16 months, which I fully worked 12 out of that, I made something over 40000 NZD, over 700000 CZK, 26000 EUR or 28000 USD respectively. I know, wow. However, those who have been in New Zealand will get it that even the basic life such as backpacker’s one can be costy. Add all the traveling around, all the gear and car-owing expenses. Not talking about beer and coffee, despite very inadequate and irrational, they are in my case two very fatty expense items. Then it makes me feel a little bit better that I was worth it to the local economy. It’s all about good karma and giving something back right… After all minuses I managed to send 7000 NZD back. This makes me feel sad and happy at the same time. It could have been much more. Although it could have been much less, too. Well, too late to analyze. So, when you will be wondering in following months upon my precisely filtered Instagram real-time traveling pictures where the hell did I get the money for all this shit, the answer lies in 12 months of listening and satisfying others – motel managers, restaurant customers, kiwifruit packing machines, coffee addicts and cherry trees. Serving them and taking care of them, waking up early and going to bed late. Now it’s the time to actually harvest the fruits and travel for real. Conclusion? New Zealand has been the source of finance for me, though with great side effects of gaining experiences, meeting new best friends and exploring the nature of the land as well as of my mind.
I got to Christchurch a whole week before Filip’s arrival. While I was thinking how to kill my time too tired of driving somewhere else, I received a text from my friend Jane. We met on the grandiose Stewart Island’s hike (read more) two weeks ago. With plenty of spare time and eager to get out hiking we agreed that we will, Jane will, drive us to Nelson Lakes National Park 350 km north of Christchurch the next day. And so we did. Upon arrival to small St. Arnaud we embarked on five-day Travers-Sabine Circuit, beautifully carved walk between the mountain ranges of the national park. The list of highlights included the world’s clearest lake distinctively called Blue Lake, misty climb up to Angelus Hut and Travers Saddle itself (all in the gallery below the article).
For the first time I had a hiking companion for more than couple hours and I did enjoy it, knowing that I would be otherwise stuck somewhere in Christchurch’s library. From all sorts of light and deep walking conversations with Jane, proud Aucklander but true Kiwi as well, I realized what I’ve learned from local people and culture over the past year or so. Here I need to point out one respectful feature of Kiwi people and that is fairness. I certainly say I’ve never crossed the path with someone who would be unfair to me or wanted to cheat me or perhaps rip me off (never used a taxi here). Either it was throughout my employments or traveling around. Either I came across good people or bad people. I hope the virtue of being fair will accompany my future behavior to others as well, at any time given.
As the weather wasn’t bad as expected we finished the hike one day earlier so I could hitchhike back to Christchurch just using one lucky ride. There I finally met my big Slovak friend Filip whom I talked to the last time during my touring in Europe (read more). I helped him to settle down as he got a contract job as an accountant in Christchurch. In exchange I could stay in his motel room for free. What a deal. But I also offered to pay litres of fancy coffee we consumed while exploring the city’s streets. It was a good time including a day hike to Avalanche Peak in Arthur’s Pass National Park and visiting Castle Hill rocks (recommended). But the countdown was speeding up (or down). Filip became the new owner of my/his car (sorry for messed up tyre) and I booked a flight to North Island towards my departure from Auckland.
The last week in New Zealand I followed the same path as I came down south – from Wellington to Tauranga and Auckland. I wanted to meet the people who made my experience greater. In this context, thank you Anne-Sophie for being a always-ready-to-talk best friend (sorry for the late goodbye), thank you Lulu for my second home and thank you Jane for the ride from Wellington and for the best possible hospitality for my last night and day in New Zealand.
Yes, don’t worry, this article will be over soon. I just wanted to mention the biggest lesson I’ve learned while being here. Well, I got older so I believe my age is partly accountable for this lesson, too. It is about priorities. I always thought they are overrated, especially when I read some Forbes article or other form of an inspirational bomb. But they are not overrated. They are simple. You know the drill: set up the priority and then act and make your decisions based on this priority. Easy. The discussion why it doesn’t actually work like that I will leave to late pub conversations, our future irrational realizations or Charles Darwin’s books. Anyway, I think I always had some kind of priorities but never paid enough attention to them. Until now. And I figured the whole priority idea can be actually as simple as it sounds. A nice example can be traveling. I like to travel. Okay, traveling has become my priority. I know, paradoxically getting older made me focus on traveling instead of on family life or something. So immature. For traveling I need money. Okay, I work my ass off, apply for work visa extension (the reason for such a long stay, read more) and then sweat it out. For traveling I need also time. Okay, this one is easy: time equals money. And there you go, now just wait for those Instagram pictures…
I’m in little town called Pai on the north of Thailand right now, one week after my departure. It’s 34 degrees and I’m about to finish my mango fruit shake (1.2 NZD), coming back to the hostel (4.8 NZD a night). The only problem I deal with today is whether I should eat Pad Thai for dinner (2 NZD) before or after watching the sunset (that one is priceless)…
P.S.: I just read some of the last words and realized I created an inspiring bomb, I mean I hope I did. Take care. Goodbye New Zealand.