What do you prefer.. Living the vanlife or work & travel in New Zealand?
I’ve been in New Zealand with a Working Holiday Visa for almost six months now. I started in the Northland (on the North Island, above Auckland) with some Wwoofing (working on organic farms). I also did some travelling in a van with my friend Barb.
1,5 month later, I flew to Christchurch. I bought my own van, rebuild it, did some roadtrips. Some alone, some with friends. I did some couchsurfing and some Wwoofing again.
While both ways of travelling are a great experience.. I might have a slight preference for one or the other.
Traveling in your own van (in New Zealand)
Doing a roadtrip, living in your own tiny home, is amazing. For me it feels like absolute freedom. You can go wherever you want, stay as long as you like. You can follow the weather, follow the great people you meet. You can spend money or spend almost nothing, depending on the distance you want to drive and the food you buy (sometimes you’re lucky and you get food from the local people, like from fisherman).
New Zealand is ideal for travelling in a van. The distances between places are never too big, there are a lot of other travellers (mostly Germans……), there are apps to find the best places to stay (I found WikiCamps is the most valuable app). And there are soo many public toilets. Sometimes you can even have a free (cold) shower. Or you just bring your portable shower, like me :).
New Zealand, a natural playground
New Zealand is a big outdoor playground. You find great mountainbike tracks an hikes everywhere. Just bring some good hiking shoes, outdoor clothing (wear layers, because you can experience 4 seasons in 1 day in NZ). You drive a bit, hike a lot, cook some dinner, go to sleep, and repeat it the next day. You can spend years exploring this amazing country in your van. I love it!
Working & Travelling
Though I love travelling in my van and want to keep doing that for the rest of my life, I wouldn’t want to miss the working/Wwoofing part. When you travel, you meet other travellers. When you work/Wwoof, you meet the local people. You not only meet them. You become part of their family for a week or longer.
Wwoofing is working for 4 hours a day, 6 days a week (sometimes less or more) in exchange for accommodation and food. Wwoofing is an amazing experience! Some of the hosts see you as nothing more than cheap labour, but in my experience, they are the exception. Most of the times, I feel very welcome, and the hosts are genuinely interested in a cultural exchange. At Christchurch Lavender Gardens, I even found my New Zealand mommy ;-).
Wwoofing.. Meeting the local people of New Zealand
New Zealand residents (Kiwi’s and Maori’s) are sooo friendly. They say hi on the street and the bus drivers talk to you. You almost never see that in The Netherlands. Kiwi’s are very helpful, for example, when we got stuck with our car, a local farmer pulled us out with his tractor (I won’t talk about the details:)).
Meeting the local people is such a valuable part of my experience here. The Lonely Planet gives you very good information about where to go and what to see. But there’s no book that can compete with the stuff that local people tell you. They’ve been living in the area for years. They know where to go, what to visit, where you can get discounts, where to shop, where to find the beautiful hidden places. They can tell you about their way of life, the way they think.
In that way, you really get to know the country.
When you work for 4 hours a day, you have the whole afternoon and evening to explore the area. The most beautiful things I saw here, I saw it with a local. When Jason took us on his quad to the sand dunes at Cape Reinga, when Tanja & Nikola took us to that beautiful beach, when John showed me the best places in and around Christchurch, when Lisa took us kayaking in Doubtful Sound (okay that’s cheating, we payed for that;)), and I can make a long list with amazing ‘local experiences’.
Wwoofing is not only a cheap way of travelling. It’s an awesome experience.
So what do I prefer? Living the vanlife, or doing Wwoofing?
At the moment, I’ve been living the vanlife for 1,5 week, after I was working at Christchurch Lavender Gardens. In a couple of hours, me and Barbara start volunteering at a Buddhist Centre. At the moment we feel sooo sad to ‘leave or freedom behind’. We have to work again.. Get up early in the morning, be there, talk to people. We have obligations again. That sucks… But I’m pretty sure that we will feel sad when we leave that place and go roadtripping again. Because that’s how it goes. you do something, it’s amazing. You have to leave/stop/go somewhere else and you feel sad. But the new thing is amazing again.
There’s no way I can chose between travelling and working&travelling. The combination makes it an unforgettable experience. I’m curious.. what would you choose?