1. Maori CultureOne of the reasons why NZ was my main pick is because of the Maoris. Learning about different cultures has always been an interest to me. Within my first week, I paid a visit to the Auckland War Memorial Museum. They have an extensive section on Maori Culture and history. I had no qualms about spending hours there reading through every (or most) artefact. One interesting discovery I made was, thousands of years ago the Maori ancestors originated from a vaguely large area in Asia, specifically citing Indonesia and Southeast Asia. Which now makes you think, with the Tan brown skin, dark brown eyes and black hair, you should’ve seen it coming! They too have intricated woodcarving handicrafts and artefacts. We might all be related someway somehow, interesting eh?
2. Kiwi peopleOne thing I’ll never get used to the hospitality they offer. I managed to do a few homestays throughout my journey in NZ and it was as good as having my own family away from home.
3. SceneriesIt’s no secret NZ has breathtakingly beautiful landscape. The kind that will make you whisper “wow Masyallah” in amazement. Some of their more popular scenic spots are; Mount Cook and Milford Sound. No doubt that these are major tourist attractions, try heading here during the off-peak season. It’s going to be all the more worth it.
4. FoodOne thing that I’ve been missing is being able to cook with incredibly crisp produce. I’m no chef but having such fresh vegetables, fruits, poultry and seafood made the inner Gordon Ramsay in me squeal in excitement. It was in NZ that I learnt how to appreciate quality food and made me develop an interest in cooking. Each dish felt like an experiment, adjusting a recipe to my liking and substituting an ingredient with whatever’s available. Most of the time my dishes were a tad too spicy for the average kiwi, I can never get enough chilli!
5. Road TripsProbably one of the main highlights in NZ, going on road trips (or roadies)! Heading to NZ alone without a license was a bad decision. Renting a car/ camper van is much more convenient rather than having to depend on public/ inter-city buses. It gives you much more flexibility and freedom if you have your own vehicle. I relied heavily on the people I met along the way for road trips. It’s always a gamble if you do it this way, trust your instincts and stay safe!
6. Outdoor AdventureNZ is the land of the outdoors. You wouldn’t have to be an adrenaline rushing addict to appreciate the activities picturesque NZ has to offer.
7. PopulationLiving in a densely populated country, I greatly appreciate cities that aren’t teeming with people! The entire population in NZ is just over 4.6 million and they have a land area as huge as Britain. As compared to Singapore, a population of over 5.5 million, and our entire country’s land area is as big as a lake in NZ! *look into Lake Taupo. Now that really puts things into perspective doesn’t it? If you’re like me and aren’t a fan of cramming yourself into ridiculously crowded places, enjoy having space to yourself, NZ is the place for you!
8. SafetyI consider myself lucky choosing NZ as my first destination for solo travel. Throughout my journey I am really thankful for not experiencing any harsh treatment. Being exposed to the media, showcasing how pretty much the rest of the world portrays and treats Muslims in a negative light did made my heart uneasy. My family and friends gave me countless advices on what should be done in case I happen to encounter it. But Alhamdulillah throughout the entire trip there was nothing but positivity. Some travellers approach me out of curiosity, especially after hanging out with them for a bit. But most were really respectful. The best part of all, having unexpected people giving you Salam in the most unpredictable situations.
9. IndependenceThis must be one of the best-selling points about going on a working holiday. Growing up in an Asian household, it isn’t common for youths/ young adults to move out and try facing this world on their own. Paying rent, preparing your own meals, doing your own laundry and everything in between. Having this experience under my belt made me realise that I can survive on my own, I am as independent as that person in my head.
10. Self-DiscoveryBeing an extrovert, talking to new people comes easily and it doesn’t feel uncomfortable either to travel with them the day after. Being in NZ made me feel more at ease when it comes to communicating with new people.
Prior to my trip I had limited experiences being exposed to Europeans (or white people in general). Me, like my many other friends, looked at Europeans in awe and are most of the time intimidated to carry on a conversation let alone travel with them. Coming to NZ made me understand that yes on the surface we are vastly different but it’s the inside that counts. Time and time again, I’ve been reminded that it’s what’s within that matters. People can come from every corner of the globe and look contrastingly different than you but if you share similar values and have the same core beliefs, of mutual respect and understanding each other’s differences, it’s easy to get along.