I thought it would be a fun idea to occasionally have other travellers write entries for my blog. Not only does this reduce my blog workload (twice a week is tough, okay!), but I also think it’s great to give people the opportunity to read other perspectives on this nomadic New Zealand life.
With that said, I’m pleased to publish the first (and hopefully not the last!) Guest Blog entry, from my friend Fabio, who I lived with in Nelson. Fabio is Italian and has a knack for finding massive crates of cheap bananas, which he turns into strange ice-cream. He also spends a lot of time cutting up food for rabbits and then eating it himself instead.
Fabio very kindly agreed to write me a guest blog entry about his time in New Zealand. I’m particularly grateful for all the time and thought he put into it, and it’s really worth reading. Thanks Fabio!
MY EXPERIENCE IN NEW ZEALAND
My adventure in New Zealand began on January of the past year. It wasn’t an organized trip, sometimes it was like an adventure, sometimes it was like an escape. In my mind I had only one clear purpose: to stay away from home at least one year relying only on my self. I did it and I am very glad of that, but of course it wasn’t always simple and many times it was a hard time, however I lived even amazing days and I will preserve forever unforgettable memories in my heart.
When I usually think about my first days in New Zealand I have in mind thoughts and impressions of a lost young guy just landed so far away from home, without any ideas about what to do in a such as big city as Auckland is, so different from the place I was used to living! A confused situation made more difficult by miserable English speaking skills and even by a kind of tough accent that so lovely kiwi people have when they speak!
Anyway in such a problematic situation I realized I needed to start from the “bottom”, I can call it “adapting to the situation” so I became a WWOOFer. It wasn’t a random meeting because I heard about it before I left Italy and at that time I thought it was the most suitable solution so I joined the organization. I wasn’t too worried regarding what you could find in it, I’ve always been a kind of country boy so I was pretty keen to live this experience. Now after all I can say that it was a good experience, but it happened that I got involved in a proper farmer job instead of a volunteering job, I found places where they didn’t know the meaning of the verb to clean and other ones where they were pretty stingy with the food, but once I understood how the system was working I could adjust the aim and so then I was able to find beautiful places, marvelous people to live with and awesome community to stop thinking about my problems and to enjoy the company, this one made by friends from all over the world and from New Zealand too of course.
I had the possibility to touch the proper spirit of the kiwi countryside, one of the most charming aspects of this nation that attracts lots of people in search of a quiet and peaceful place to rest, if it is possible because a farmer has always something to do! As with every happy time unfortunately there is an end and soon the backyard became boring, especially when there is a never-stopping wind as I found and it is raining a lot as it was that summer, so the idea to continue this experience even in winter was never born in my mind. Not to forget that in some places my hosts were hosting only me so it happened that I was lonely a lot. In the meanwhile my English got better and my mind changed too so I felt ready to explore and due to the imminent beginning of the Autumn I decided to fly to Australia.
When I always remember my trip to Sydney I can still feel the energy of the city. Maybe it was that I switched directly from a farm in the middle of nowhere to one of the most lively cities in the world, but I was like inebriated by such a vibrant city, full of life, lights, shops, people, freedom and drunks! Sydney remains as my favorite in the unfinished battle against Melbourne even if I think it was stunning too. I can’t tell a lot about the Australians’ lifestyle because the two months I spent traveling around I was mainly a tourist. I did a bit of wwoofing and I could touch the warm welcoming of the Australian countryside where I had the honor to be invited to a banjo musicians’ party that was magnificent, but most of the time I was in a car driving with other Europeans.
It is incredible how much we don’t know about the world! In my mind Australia was like a big desert full of dangerous animals and beautiful beaches around. Previously I didn’t do research on it and even when I asked around they said to me the usual stuffs. Well we were all wrong because after Melbourne I discovered how breathtaking this land is! I couldn’t believe I had been so blind to take a flight to travel!
So I began to explore the proper Australia by car, that is cheaper too, and here we are at the beginning of my adventure, the time where I traveled for miles and miles, sharing cars with heaps of people, some awful, some crazy, some awesome, all smoking weed while in the background the landscape was changing and changing, different animals appeared around, heaps of fire were made and uncountable times we built and unbuilt our tent. I felt like Ulysses, on a never-ending journey trying to reach a place that is always far from you. It was a good time, not comfortable at all, staying all days sitting in a car and all nights sleeping on the soil in a tent, but unforgettable because we were like a small itinerant community, everyone with a job, sharing company, food, car, experience, feelings, views. At the end I reached Darwin city, in the north, driving across a desert and then along the whole west coast, but sadly I had to leave soon after because to travel is so expensive! And from a lovely and hot summer I came back at the beginning of a windy and wet Auckland’s winter.
I hadn’t the time to be sad once here. I was without money so I needed urgently a job. My English now was good enough so I could try to find one. I decided to join another organization similar to the Wwofing and thanks to it I found a hostel where I could work in exchange for accommodation. To say that the place was awful is not enough, but in that situation it was fine. Now I can say that I had a good experience, however the beginning was tough because I was living in a big hostel, full of Japanese it was very hard to communicate with, sleeping in a ten-bed dorm without any privacy and a wardrobe too! And the party people all night long as a cherry on top of a disgusting cake. Hostel life can be that!
After a while I changed again and I began to appreciate it, I understood how to move in and I found good “housemates” with whom I shared laughs, weird guests, the ritual late night meal and the hunting of the food thieves! I made good friendships here as well as at the restaurant where I found a job. Despite the initial worries about it I found a job as a waiter pretty soon and after less then one week back in NZ I was working in a Mexican restaurant. One thing was for sure Mexican here: Tequila! In this place, a very trendy and cool venue on Ponsonby road, they had a big big problem with alcohol and staff parties, added to the stress that you have when you work in a restaurant. I can’t say I didn’t like it, I was pretty happy to work here, they didn’t exploit me, it was all legal and safe, it was fun and I found good friends I am still in contact with.
During my stay in Auckland I worked almost all the time, in the morning in the hostel, the rest of the day in the restaurant. I didn’t do a lot, I previously visited the city, I was saving money and as a country boy I wasn’t used to the city lifestyle, at the opposite of my way to live. A thing that never suits me and I couldn’t adapt to is this bad custom of the English-speaking people that are going around drinking and drinking
without stopping, in a way I’ve never believed possible, eating not much and sometimes cooking in a very horrific way and Jonathan can confirm it ;). (EDITOR’S NOTE: I don’t know *what* you’re talking about, Fabio. :D) Anyway everyone is free to do whatever he wants so let’s finish here the discussion!
After five months I left Auckland to start the discovery of NZ. I bought a car and I found three other guys to travel with. One of them was a photographer and thanks to him I could do plenty of activities and stay in nice and warm accommodation for free, but unfortunately between me and them there was like a wall, totally different personality and so I felt lonely among people, which is worse than to stay alone in the middle of no where. Pretty sad, in fact, shortly after I decided to leave them.
I was lucky because, albeit with these feelings, NZ was so amazing and stunning that it sometimes made me forget the reality. Australia is big and ancient, NZ is smaller but so rich and so different in every corner, especially in the South Island! The nature is still so alive, pure, uncontaminated and clean, something that in Europe we have forgotten. It is a land of spectacular fiords, sounds, snowy peaks, sweet wavy and grassy hills crossed by rivers, blue skies, volcanos, geysers, lakes. You can find animals difficult to find anywhere else, it was the location of the Lord of the Rings and if you are a sports lover it is like a paradise!
After I visited Wellington, the capital and the one I consider the most lively and interesting cities of the country, I began the exploration of the southern island and even if I was alone I enjoyed it so much. I am still conserving thousands of photos, I was like addicted to the camera, you must take photos of such beauty! Maybe I was too enthusiastic, but after I have been everywhere up and down mountains, hills, sealed and unsealed roads my car died and my money was gone. I took the bus and after stopping at cool spots along the way I reached Nelson where I planned to finish my trip. To find a job was impossible with no car and with my visa expiring soon, however I found a good hostel where I could work as I did in Auckland.
I spent here a month waiting for a friend to start another trip of the South Island. I had a very good time even if I was strict with money. The hostel was a kind of little clean house with few guests and a nice owner, I could feel at home or even better. I wasn’t working a lot, the rest of the day completely free, my “housemates” very nice (EDITOR’S NOTE: Yay!) and the city was the sunniest of NZ, a typical sleepy relaxed kiwi city. During my staying here I talked a lot with my friends, we shared each other our cultures, we laughed together, we went around together, we watched movies, we spent a whole day on a puzzle and we had an awesome Christmas day with a proper kiwi barbecue, a pot luck, presents and hot sun, that was a bit weird. It was one of the best parts of the year for sure!
When my friend came I left sadly this place and the quiet life I knew here, maybe the real kiwi treasure. I began again a road trip, I finished visiting the places I wanted to and every day I built and unbuilt the tent as I got used to, realizing while I was looking at a calendar in a gift shop about how much there was still to see in God-land! After two days I reached Auckland, I left NZ and I came back home, exactly after one year as I wanted.
To give some advice is a bit tricky because every trip, every experience, every situation and every person is so different to each other on different times. The only stuff I can say to help someone is to leave having at least clear in mind an idea about what to do in the first period, trying to understand what you expect from your journey in order to select what should be useful to you and what is better to avoid, without wasting time. It is not necessary to have big goals or to plan all the detail of your staying, it is enough to have something small and short-term that can allow you to take the best of every situation you are living! Of the big plans I always made, not one I did. A journey at the end is like a condensed life, totally unpredictable,
the best training we could wish to learn to live!
Hoping that someone can have help or inspiration reading my story
my best wishes