It’s been almost a year since my glory days in New Zealand. I’ve always had sweet somethings to say about my experience being fully independent while in NZ. Being a daughter and growing up in an average Asian-Muslim family, travelling alone has always seemed like an impossible feat. It took me about a year to ease my parents (or mostly mum) into this huge decision. It wasn’t easy but my perseverance paid off!
While on my half a year stint in NZ, I learned many valuable lessons that definitely allowed me to change and widen my perspective. These are just some of the reasons why everyone should visit NZ!
1. Maori Culture
One 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?
Credit: Maori Worldwide on Facebook
Credit: Auckland Museum on Facebook
2. Kiwi people
One 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.
Thankful to have stayed with this family. I stationed myself in a small town in the Bay of islands for a couple of months. It didn’t take long before I got introduced to the entire town thanks to my amazing host family! There was once where I booked myself for a morning domestic flight. It was a horrible morning, I was already running late and have just missed the free shuttle (Budget travelling remember). Without thinking much, I opted for the next thing I’m all too familiar with, cabs. While waiting frantically, a family that I meet a few days prior, saw me lugging my huge backpack by the road. They insisted on dropping me off at the airport rather than me wasting cash on a ridiculously expensive fare! That was one of the Masyallah moments that made me really fond of kiwis.
A walk by the beach with Vicky and family.
Henna for Charlotte.
It’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.
The view of Mt Cook on a good day.
For those who are more interested in the off the beaten track route, head to Wanaka. It’s just as beautiful and many tourists drive past this gem to head straight to Queenstown. Being only 2 hours away from Queenstown, it’s the place to head to if you’re interested in trying snowboarding/ skiing.
Credit: Jason Pratt on Flickr
One 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!
Kitchen, my favourite part of each hostel.
Look at the price of chilli!
5. Road Trips
Probably 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!
Credits: Pete KJ on Flickr
Going on road trips with new friends were refreshing, being able to learn about the vastly different lifestyles broadens your perspective. Literally experiencing the road less travelled, pays off. There are loads of camper van sites which allows you to park overnight, without having to pay for anything.
6. Outdoor Adventure
NZ 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.
There are countless hikes (commonly known as tramping) offered in NZ; ranging from multi-day mountainous tramps to short 30 minute tramps. If you’re willing to splurge a little bit more for any once in a lifetime activity, try bungee jumping or sky diving! It’s best done in Queenstown or Wanaka, being surrounded by snowcapped mountains, there’s no better place to try and defy gravity 🤪. For animal lovers, like me!!, try heading to Kaikoura/ Bay of islands for some whale/ dolphins/ seal watching! It was a very rewarding feeling, making me feel really emotional seeing these creatures in their home. As compared to seeing them in enclosed tanks and areas, this is where they truly belong. There is bound to be something for everyone.
Credit: Dolphin Encounter Kaikoura on Facebook
Living 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!
Imagine have a backyard overlooking an entire lake. 😍
I 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.
A few Malaysian/Indonesian students I met along the way. Tried making snow angels! 😂 On another note, I have this tendency to be absent minded and leave my things strewn around everywhere. It’s unintentional of course but, I’m just thankful that my belongings are still exactly where I left them.
This 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.
Another way I made money, having my own henna booth in their weekly farmer’s market!
Coming from a large family, it was refreshing being alone. Standing on my own two feet and be fully responsible for my own actions was something I thoroughly appreciate.
Being 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.
Two Korean girls I met, in attempt of watching the sunrise in the freezing weather!
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.
11. Changed perspective
Undertaking this venture made me realise that there’s really so much more to the world. It’s cliché but it’s true, there’s so much more than meets the eye. We’ve all been used to living and growing up in a specific lifestyle, which were brought down from our parents and those before them. My mentality on so many things changed and I’ve learnt to become more acceptive and receptive of the differences around me.
We never really managed to get exposure to how other lifestyles are. Even with all that’s portrayed in the media, just reading/watching through the screens on your devices isn’t enough. It’s like you’re in whole new world when you’re right there and then living and breathing through it all.
I’ve been encouraging all those around me, to try and begin this venture of self-discovery. If everything persists; time, finances and your loved ones. I began my journey 100% eager and thirsty for the adventure that awaits, not knowing that I will be able to learn so much more about myself and what I’m capable of. There are countless working holidays available around the globe, it doesn’t matter where you go but how you go through it. At the end of the day, it isn’t about the destination that matters but rather the journey in between. ✨