Once in a Lifetime

September 13th was the day I packed my bags and began a 34-hour journey (a couple of layovers greatly extended the duration of the trip…) to the far-away land of New Zealand to live and work for up to a year. It’s a once in a lifetime trip. However, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea – I’ll definitely do more trips of a similar nature to this one. The catch is that the New Zealand government will literally only grant you one working holiday visa in your lifetime (if you’re American). Now that I’ve accepted my visa and stepped foot into this incredible country, my one shot has begun.

I’m thinking about laying out a step-by-step guideline for others who want to do the same. I’m a huge proponent of the gap year and of international travel in general and I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and take a once in a lifetime trip of your own. 

So now that I’m here, what am I going to do? 

It’s a good question, and I’ve only got half an answer…

The truth is that I don’t have a concrete agenda. I’ve got things I know I want to do, and things I know I want to see (I’ll list them at the bottom), but I have no specific plan or order detailing how I’ll accomplish them. I mean, I had only booked my first two nights prior to arriving here. Sometimes the best plan is no plan.

Conquer Fear Once in a Lifetime
I left home for a year with just these 2 bags packed full of my junk.

It’s worked out beautifully thus far, with just one real misstep. The best example of this has been my trip to Waiheke Island for my birthday. I had booked 4 nights, which I soon extended into 6, which eventually became 9

I couldn’t help it! That place is something special.

The sub-tropical paradise that is Waiheke is one of the most stunning and inspiring locations I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. I found it to be similar to the British Virgin Islands, which I have visited twice. I truly can’t talk up this location enough. When you inevitably visit (as you should), you will be captivated by the magical aura of the island just as I was.

The only other place I’ve been of note since arriving here has been the volcanic island Rangitoto, which was good for an invigorating morning hike.

Along the way, I’ve created amazing memories and made a few friends. I’ve sorted my working holiday paperwork and bank account, and I will be ready to work any day now after receiving my IRD number via email. What will I do for work? 3 guesses as to what my answer will be…

Truthfully, I’d like to do something that I can’t do back home.

I’ll know it when it presents itself.

Conquer Fear Once in a Lifetime
Waiheke Views: The beautiful volcano Rangitoto is that hilly mass in the distance top right.

One thing that I know for sure is that I’m definitely not ready to settle down into one spot just yet. I’d like to fit another 4-5 weeks of travel in before my job search. There is so much more to see. By this point, I’ve met many, many people that have been in New Zealand quite a while, and they’ve all got their different favorite spots and can’t-miss destinations.

They’ve experienced the country in various ways – hitchhiking across, meeting someone with a vehicle and camping across, or staying in a self-contained van… There is no one true way to experience the country. Personally, at the moment I’m halfway through a car search. I’m going to pull the trigger on a car in the next couple of days and take off. I’m trying to spend less than $2,000 NZD. I’ll let you know how I make out… 

Conquer Fear once in a lifetime
Waiheke Views: The Pacific is an artist, carving these beauties over thousands of years.

Now for that list of destinations and experiences (in no particular order) that are on my “Once in a Lifetime” New Zealand list:

  1. Coromandel (Hot Water Beach + Whitianga)
  2. General Queenstown Area (Milford Sound, Wanaka, Te Anau)
  3. Northland (Cape Reinga, Bay of Islands) Edit: Feb 12, 2018 – Linked
  4. Piha and Muriwai Beach
  5. Surf in Raglan
  6. Visit Rotorua + Taupo
  7. Abel Tasman National Park
  8. Visit Hobbiton (and do a feast!)
  9. Guided Glacier Walk
  10. Whale Watch in Kaikoura

I think that’s enough to keep me occupied for now…

In the meantime, perhaps you can put together your own “Once in a Lifetime” trip. For this summer? For a sabbatical? Maybe even retirement. Doesn’t matter, I think you should get something down on paper… and you don’t really have to subscribe to the “no plan” plan like I do.

Until next time!

Originally Posted October 2, 2017

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