My time in Indonesia in 2019 is done. Finished. Kaput. Over. Now I'm in Australia, having begun my Working Holiday Visa. I've started a new job, and am excited about what Australia will bring. I already did a retrospective article on my time in Indonesia, but let's put the icing on the cake. Here is a breakdown of what I spent over those crazy, amazing eight weeks.
Food - $347.32
To anyone who has been following my travels, this should be of zero surprise to you. I love to try new cuisines, and Indonesian is quite a developed one. During my trip, I ate every single meal out, spending between $1-3 per meal. My daily average cost for food (about $6 per day) is far cheaper than it has been in most other countries. This is a testament to how inexpensive and filling food is in Indonesia.
Accommodation - $302.02
I'm pretty sure I never spent more than $9 for a night of accommodation during my whole stay in Indonesia. Hostels are plentiful in the more touristy areas and can be had for as cheap as $2-3 per night (often including free breakfast). Private hotel rooms can easily be had under $10 in most cities.
Transport - $219.83
Although Indonesia has possibly the WORST public transit of any place I've been to, it's not too expensive. Because good public options aren't always available, however, it isn't as cheap as in a country like India. Bemos, taxis, buses, and boats are just a few ways of getting around.
Activities - $210.52
The main chunk of this spending comes from the 4-day 3 night Komodo National Park boat trip I took (costing around $165), and man, was it worth it! It is quite easy to spend a lot on activities in Indonesia, so watch out for your budget!
Miscellaneous - $135.47
This includes everything else: toiletries, laundry, clothes, currency conversion, etc.
Average daily cost of $21.32. Pretty good, considering that Komodo trip, huh? Indonesia is the kind of country you can easily travel on for $15-20 per day. Many tourists spend a fair bit more (especially in touristy places like Bali), which you'll want if there is anything specifically fancy you plan on doing. But if you want, you can bum it here and have an incredible time!
My two months trip in Indonesia is winding to a close. What an adventure it has been!
I had the pleasure of visiting a small chunk of this monstrously sized country, all in the eastern part AKA the Lesser Sunda Islands. During my trip to Indonesia, I went to 13 different islands. From most to least populous, they are:
Bali (4.3 million)
Lombok (3.3 million)
Flores (1.9 million)
Sumbawa (1.4 million)
Gili Air (1800)
Gili Trawangan (1500)
Gili Meno (500)
Gili Bola (n/a)
For scale, the population of these islands constitutes less than 11 million, or about 4% of the total population of Indonesia. When you look at the proportion of islands, the number gets even slimmer. According to the CIA World Factbook, there are 17,508 islands in Indonesia. The 13 I visited make up just .07% of the islands in the country.
The point is, Indonesia isn’t really a country you can just “visit” to get a good sense of it. It is a mammoth and unwieldy place, and basically a mini-continent in its own right.
Indonesia is incredibly diverse in terms of religion and culture. Although the vast majority of the country adheres to Islam (no doubt Java’s 141 million population makes up for a massive chunk of that), there are large amounts of people practicing other religions. In fact, within the span of just a few weeks, I stayed on an island that was majority Hindu, some that were majority Muslim, and some that were majority Catholic. The country also sports over 300 ethnic groups and native languages.
I want to go into detail about various aspects of the adventure. For funsies, we’ll go from least to most pleasant.
The worst part of the trip was DEFINITELY transportation. Man, Indonesia really has some of the most atrocious public transit of anywhere I’ve been. Buses can be hard to come by outside of big cities, and most land transport is by way of shared minibuses (called “bemos”) and cars. Finding an adequate ride often takes a lot of searching, and the transport never ever leaves on time. Mostly, they will drive around for a long time filling up the vehicle until it’s at maximum capacity. And by maximum capacity, I mean being uncomfortably crammed into a seat that is way too small for most adult humans. Boats are usually a bit more comfortable (at least they are not usually THAT crowded), but it should be noted that their safety record in Indonesia is far from stellar.
Another major problem here is cleanliness and pollution. There is garbage strewn everywhere and it’s not a lovely sight. It’s a damn shame because so much of the landscape here would look way better without heaps of trash thrown about. It’s also very common for locals to burn their trash, so watch out for the daily plumes of smoke all over the place. It is clearly very toxic stuff to be breathing in and is a major contributor to air pollution in Indonesia.
The food that I ate was pretty good. I’d give Indonesian cuisine a B- rating overall (obviously subject to change if I ever explore more of the country). Don’t get me wrong, it’s usually cheap and tasty. However, the cuisine definitely does not have that WOW factor of the greatest cuisines (Indian, Thai, Malay, etc). The dishes of white rice and sides of protein/vegetables can get a bit boring. I wish Indonesian food had a bit more diversity in terms of their carb choices (though some regions do prioritize cassava), and utilized spices in a more complex fashion. Some of my favorite dishes include Soto Ayam (a type of chicken soup), Nasi Campur (a staple of rice with several side dishes, slightly different at each restaurant), and Rendang (a beef curry).
Many people visit Indonesia for beautiful beaches and sea life, and it’s no wonder why. I saw, swam in, and snorkeled in some incredible beaches during my two-month stay. Unfortunately, some of the prettiest beaches (I’m talking the tranquil Koka Beach in Flores) have issues with plastic on the sands and in the water. However, others are well-maintained. You will certainly not be lacking for ocean options when you visit Indonesia.
Maybe the pinnacle of my trip was a 4 day, 3-night boat cruise through Komodo National Park (and several other small islands). On both Rinca and Komodo island, we were able to see the fearsome dragons up close, as well as the prey animals (deer, boars, buffalo, monkeys) they survive on. All in all, this trip was one of the best $165 I’ve ever spent in my life, and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Indonesia. I am currently waiting on several rolls of film to be developed, so I hope to be able to eventually share some incredible photographs from this journey!
I’m going to do a separate article on money and costs during my stay in Indonesia (spoiler alert: it’s a very inexpensive place to travel). Stay tuned!
Warning: this is going to be the angriest and most politically charged post I’ve ever done, so if you don’t want to listen, feel free to get fucked.
I recently had a conversation with a fellow at a guesthouse I was staying at. In addition to being a tour guide in Indonesia, he has spent some time working in Malaysia. Due to visa difficulties, he had to get there illegally, by a small boat. Over the course of several months, he worked on a palm fruit farm, doing extremely difficult manual labor. For the most part, he stayed away from major cities, for fear of being caught and arrested/deported.
The reason he did this is that wages in Malaysia are significantly higher than they are in Indonesia. The average wage in West Nusa Tenggara is less than $200 per month, while in Malaysia, he was able to earn upwards of $500 per month.
In three and a half weeks I will be beginning a working holiday visa in Australia. Wages are quite high there; it is not uncommon to earn $700 USD per week, even from relatively unskilled labor. Sure, the costs of living are quite high. But it is pretty par for the course for backpackers to leave Australia with many thousands of dollars tucked under their belt.
For the vast majority of people in the world, getting a working visa for a country like Australia would be a dream, if not an impossibility. For starters, many cannot afford to pay for international flights which cost hundreds of dollars. Even if they CAN buy a plane ticket, they are probably still screwed. Australia, for instance, requires evidence of a bank statement proving funds of several thousands of dollars. For an American like me, saving up that kind of money takes some serious budgeting and hard work. But for an average person living in a developing country, it is simply not feasible.
I’m not bringing up this issue to demonize people (such as myself) who are born into wealthy countries, or to make you feel guilty for people who are born into poor countries. None of us can control where we come from. However, I think it is important to highlight how systems of power that are in place serve to benefit the well-off and ignore those most in need of opportunities. I’m sure nations such as Australia have reasons for restricting workers from certain countries, such as “Well, they are more likely to overstay visas, etc, etc.” But at the end of the day, plain and simple, they are making themselves out of reach to many who could benefit from career opportunities there.
There has also been a disturbing trend recently (although I’m quite certain this is not a new issue) of people demonizing immigrants, specifically those who came illegally to their country. Racist and classist political discourse likes to frame them as “invaders” and “criminals.”
Well, you know what? That is one of the most dehumanizing and ignorant attitudes someone can have. It comes from a place of privilege, and a poor understanding of why people choose to immigrate to different countries. They have little ability to empathize with the plights of others, and scarcely consider what they would do in such a situation.
So yeah, first things first, being an ethical tourist starts with being an ethical human being in the first place. Understand that not all people are born with the same opportunities, and try to be empathetic to the fact that not everyone can take a pleasant one-year working holiday in a high-wage country. Not everyone can afford to travel around the world for months at a time, without worrying about how they will feed their families.
Now, what about when one is abroad? What should you or I try to do to respect the tourist industry of a foreign country?
First of all, make sure to keep things as local as possible. I recently linked to a Vice article, which talked about how much of Bali’s tourism industry dollars are going into the hands of foreign investors. Try to make sure that when you book a tour to go somewhere, you are putting money into the hands of local people. This is not always possible but is usually quite easy to do so. Waiting until you get to a country to hire a guide or book a tour is a good way to start. Many international companies offer online bookings, but you don’t always know who this money is going to. Many local economies rely on tourists eating food, booking accommodation, etc, etc.
Secondly, and this one is a bit more philosophical, make sure to engage with the culture. Eat the local food, talk to people (whenever you can get past the language barrier), and soak in the sights. There is very little any one person can do to change the economic situation of a country. What we do have control over, however, is how we treat each other as human beings. Just as you would want to welcome an immigrant into your own country, understand that the majority of people abroad are happy when you visit and want to engage with you with open arms. Obviously, use your Spidey-senses. Not every person has good intentions, but this doesn’t mean that the majority of people don’t have them.
If you have the opportunity to travel or don’t have the opportunity to travel, it is essential to recognize the situations of our fellow people. Understand that not everyone has the same opportunities, and try to engage with people different from yourself whenever possible. You will, of course, realize that most of us want similar things out of life!
For several days now, I've been stuck in Mataram, the capital city of the Indonesian province of West Nusa Tenggara. Located on the island of Lombok, Mataram has a population of over 400,000. It is a local center for industry and education, and sees very few tourists compared to other areas of Lombok. I'm here awaiting my visa extension, which has taken about four days to process.
At first, the prospect of waiting around a city for nearly a week was depressing. There are relatively few things to see around Mataram, and I felt my time could be better spent checking out some beautiful beaches or stunning volcanic scenery. I must reveal, however, that these past several days have been just what I needed. Let's take a look at why this is, and what my experience in Indonesia has been like thus far. To do this, we will rewind back three weeks, to October 18, 2019.
I flew into the island of Bali, not knowing what to expect. Conventional wisdom said it would be crowded with tourists, clamoring for spots on many of the beaches. My plan was to spend just a week or two in Bali, then make my way east to some of the other islands. Between my stays in Kuta, Ubud, and Padangbai, most of my fears were confirmed.
Droves of sightseers had taken over Bali, mostly short-term holidaymakers from Asia, Australia, and Europe. Amidst the local culture and regional poverty had sprung up numerous five-star resorts, Western restaurants, and tourist offices at every corner. I've never been to Cancun, but I'd imagine Kuta attracts a very similar crowd as that Mexican city. Ubud, another highly popular Bali destination (much of that due to its inclusion in the book/movie Eat, Pray, Love) has way more tourists than local people. For a city famous for its culture, Ubud sure has a hell of a lot of shops and restaurants catering to other cultures from around the world.
A common argument I have heard is "Well, the mass tourism is a good thing, because it helps the economy." There is a well-reasoned response to that:
Although tourism makes up 80% of Bali's economy, something like 85% of that money is in the hands of non-Balinese investors. In fact, believe it or not, there is now even a Trump hotel in Bali. Vice News did a great article explaining how many local people have been hurt by rising costs due to tourism, and the massive amounts of water being consumed by resorts and hotels (leading to shortages). Yes, I'm sure many residents have profited and are doing great due to the tourism sector; however, it is not all peaches and cream.
So yeah, Bali was a bit disappointing, but that's not to say there was nothing to love. Much of the local culture and cuisine is still there, though one needs to wander away from the tourist strip in order to experience it. One thing that really struck me in a positive way was the architecture (Balinese buildings are gorgeous and have a very distinct look to them). I've also heard that certain areas in the north of the island are still relatively free of tourists; perhaps I shall have to return and check some of those places out.
After recovering from a nasty bout of Bali Belly, it was time to leave the island and head to Lombok. No sooner had I reached my destination then I took a ferry to check out some of the nearby Gili Islands, an archipelago located off the northwest coast of Lombok. It consists of Gili Trawangan (by far the most touristed and "party vibe" of the three), Gili Air, and Gili Meno. Of the Gili Islands, I visited Trawangan (commonly referred to as just "Gili T") and Meno.
The Gilis were wonderful for snorkeling, and with no motorized vehicles to be found on the islands, were quite relaxing. Trawangan had far too much partying (not my cup of tea), but Meno was tranquil and quiet. Gili Meno is thus far one of the highlights of my Indonesia trip: not too many tourists, beautiful beaches and water, and a laid back local vibe. On my first day there, I sustained the worst sunburn of my life, which I have been nursing most of my time here in Mataram.
Which brings us back to Lombok's capital city. This is truly the first time in Indonesia where I'm without fellow tourists. I've spent the last few days trying regional cuisine, watching movies, working out at the nearby gym, and soaking in the atmosphere of the city. I have even made an Indonesian friend! While Mataram isn't an especially beautiful or interesting city, it feels for once that I am truly in Indonesia. Sure, meeting other tourists is an integral part of traveling to any country. However, sometimes it is nice to take a break and get to know an area the way local people do.
I feel refreshed and ready to continue my journey through Indonesia. Bring it on!
New Zealand has a landscape totally unique to itself, and lots to offer to the enthusiastic backpacker. The scenery, especially in the South Island, cannot be beaten. If you are a fan of hiking, camping, trekking, or outdoor activities in general, and want to do it easily and safely, this country is for you.
Out of the 18 (and counting) countries I've been to, New Zealand is by far the easiest one to travel in. The infrastructure is good, crime is low, buses run on time, and every tourist town has a dedicated information center. It is extremely simple to book activities and arrange accommodation, whether you are camping, staying at hostels, or going a more luxurious route.
For what you get in ease of travel, you pay for in cost. Being a Western country, New Zealand isn't exactly a cheap tourist destination. However, I was able to keep costs reasonably low, by cooking most of my meals and staying in backpacker dorms. Additionally, I didn't pay too much for activities, because one of my favorite activities, hiking, is totally free! If you love taking short, beautiful hikes, the country will be a paradise for you.
Before getting into a cost breakdown, a couple of things should be noted. First is that New Zealand is undoubtedly a car country. While I found it easy to get to most of the places I wanted via buses, there are countless sites that cannot be seen without the use of a personal vehicle. Every once in awhile, I managed to hitch rides with car-owning friends that I met at hostels. However, the rest of the time, if something wasn't within walking distance of the town, I was shit out of luck. If you are coming here for an extended period of time, definitely consider buying or renting a car (though once again, I had an amazing time even without one)!
The other thing I should mention is that I traveled the off-season. The high season is December through March, and while the weather will likely be much better, prices for various things (hostels, etc) will be higher. I specifically chose September/October to travel in because it would be less crowded, prices would be lower, and the temperature outside wouldn't be completely awful. Maybe it's just that I got lucky with the weather, but I do not regret at all traveling during the off-season. I was able to spend less and deal with smaller crowds.
In total, I spent 39 days backpacking through New Zealand. I went as far south as Te Anau/Milford Sound and as far north as Auckland. Here is a breakdown of what I spent during those five and a half weeks (all costs will be described in USA dollars, NOT New Zealand dollars).
Food - $607.17
I spent the largest share of money on eating, and there is a simple explanation as to why; I ate out one meal per day. Many backpackers cook all their meals, but not having a car to store things in, I couldn't be fussed to prepare all of them. So I bought groceries most of the time but spent a fair amount eating out. Without having done this, I could easily have shaved hundreds off the cost. Oh well.
Accommodation - $519.49
There's not much that can be helped about this one, and for most people, this will constitute the lion's share of spending. I always stayed in hostel dorms, averaging about $14 per night. Not terrible, considering New Zealand is a Western country!
Transport - $368.31
I learned my lesson very early on, that booking bus tickets one by one would be too expensive. So I bought a "flexipass" from Intercity (NZ's main bus company). By booking a certain number of road hours, I was able to pay less per kilometer than if I'd paid individually for tickets. One thing to keep in mind: the more you buy upfront the cheaper it is. I could have saved even more had I bought a larger block upfront.
Activities - $177.89
This is a tricky one, as activities tend to be very expensive in New Zealand. A tour of Milford Sound set me back $80 and entry into Hobbiton was $54. A lot of people do things such as skydiving and bungee jumping, and these can cost hundreds. Thankfully, my free hiking "habit" led to this category costing not so much.
Miscellaneous - $74.89
Includes mobile data, laundry (quite expensive), toiletries, and other random expenses.
Average daily cost of $44.81. Despite freaking out a bit initially about how expensive New Zealand was going to be, I came out slightly under budget. I spent less than $45 per day, and I'd say that's excellent for a country like this. For a more comfortable time, you might want to budget a minimum of $50 per day, though this depends on what sorts of things you are planning on doing.
As I took the ferry from Picton, I realized this was it. This would be my last chance to see all the people I had met and places I had gone to in the ten months I spent in Wellington. Sure, I could always come back some other year, and keep in contact with various individuals. But it wouldn't be the same: the right people in the right places. Although I spent only three days in Wellington as an actual backpacker, I made sure to see as many old faces as I could. It had only been three weeks away on the South Island. But it already felt like a lifetime.
There were so many things I had missed during my time in Wellington, but I wouldn't have time to see them all. So I spent one day visiting the Weta Cave, tourist hub of the eponymous VFX and prop company (responsible for helping produce Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy). Another day, I went to my favorite restaurant, Great India. I had their $12 lunch special for the last time, and savored every last bite. I stayed at the hostel which had been my home for nearly a year, and hung out with the few long-termers that remained.
After Wellington, I went to Napier, a cool Art Deco styled city in Hawke's Bay. Then came Taupo, home to New Zealand's largest lake. There, I hiked to some waterfalls and later spent an afternoon checking out a thermal walkway full of steaming craters. A few days later, I headed to Rotorua, a city whose geothermal activity comes with a distinct sulfuric smell. I spent a good chunk of a day there hiking through a beautiful Redwood forest (planted at the beginning of the 20th century, not indigenous to New Zealand). At the peak of the trail was a beautiful view of Rotorua and its glorious steaming geysers and hot springs.
Hobbiton was the one touristy thing I felt compelled to do, so I booked a hostel in nearby Matamata and bit the bullet. Indeed, most of the things I was afraid of going in (heaps of tourists and endless fan lip service) were true. However, I still felt that I got some inspiration from visiting the movie set. As an aspiring movie director, it simply blew my mind that a set like this could be built. Hobbiton is essentially a small village built into farm hills, and the attention to detail is astounding. It feels like a real, lived-in place, and gave me a new appreciation for this kind of intricate set design.
The list of places I didn't get to see in the North Island is too large, so I won't even attempt to write them out. However, I will say the biggest thing I was unable to fit into my itinerary was the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (a long walk that passes over active volcanic terrain). The weather was way too cold to do the hike solo, and I would have had to pay $200 NZD to do it with a guide and alpine gear. Oh well, better luck next time!
The past few days have been spent lazing about in Auckland, trying lots of local eateries and relaxing. Tomorrow, I will be flying to Bali, Indonesia, in what promises to be a very different adventure from the one I have just concluded. I hope to follow up soon with a breakdown of my costs in New Zealand, so you, fellow traveler, can start planning your trip to this beautiful country!
The vast majority of New Zealand is made up of the North Island and the South Island. Today I'll be talking about my experience in the South Island, the larger of the two.
I had made peace beforehand that, no matter how hard I tried, I wouldn't be able to see everything within a three week time frame. So I booked my flight to Queenstown, bought a bus pass (essential for bus travel through New Zealand), booked a hostel, and set off. In the past 20 days, I made my way from Queenstown to Picton. Along the way, I also visited Arrowtown, Te Anau (and Milford Sound), Wanaka, Franz Josef, Hokitika, and Nelson. It was glorious.
After ten months stuck working in Wellington, and having the country hyped up for ever for me, I had a feeling that maybe, just maybe, I would be underwhelmed with New Zealand. Sure, it would be beautiful. But I've been to plenty of beautiful countries, and everyone seems to think the one they are currently in to be the prettiest. Within 24 hours of beginning my trip, however, I realized how truly misguided my concerns were.
New Zealand really is one of those drop-dead gorgeous countries, the kind where simply looking out the window of a bus can take your breath away. From the first hike I did in Queenstown (where at the peak I was treated to a stunning mountain view of the city), I realized this was going to be a memorable experience.
It was the first bus ride I took, however, where things kicked in full force. We were headed to the South Island's southernmost region, Southland. It was probably the most picturesque drive I've ever been on, with mountains, rolling green hills, and flocks upon flocks of sheep. The experience didn't end there, however. The very next day I took a cruise to Milford Sound, a fjord with countless waterfalls, cliffs, and wildlife. I was very lucky to have great weather during those days; even though I was traveling off-season, I got to see blue skies and crystal clear views.
The South Island is a hiker's paradise. I don't think a week went by without me going on at least two hikes. Some highlights: visiting Franz Josef glacier (which sadly, due to climate change has receded quite a bit in recent years), tracking glowworms at night in a forest, and visiting the famous Pancake Rocks during a bus stop through Punakaiki. There were also scenic lakes in Wanaka and Te Anau, as well as a teal-colored gorge near Hokitika.
There were also some added benefits of traveling off-season. New Zealand tourism can get very busy starting around December time, but I never had trouble booking a bus or finding a bed in a hostel. Prices were a bit lower at this time of year (September), and the dorms were rarely crowded or noisy. A couple of the hostels even served free homemade soup at night! This gave the few of us travelers an opportunity to hang out and be social. Nothing brings people together like free food.
In the next couple weeks I'll be exploring a bit of the smaller, more densely populated North Island. This is the island that has active volcanoes, so that should be fun!
The "working" part of my working holiday visa in New Zealand is over; cue the "holiday." After ten months of living and working in Wellington, I finally met my savings goals, quit my job, and headed back on the road. I'll be spending five weeks traveling through this gorgeous, stunningly beautiful country. I've begun near the bottom half of the South Island, and will be slowly moving northward.
This past year has been pretty emotionally draining, to be frank. It's the longest I've ever been away from the United States, and was spent pretty much the entire time in a backpacker hostel. Because I was working a full-time job during the week, and working reception at the hostel on weekends, I didn't really get a chance to go out and do much. It was just work work work work work.
On paper, I guess I accomplished most of what I set out to do. I produced and directed my very first movie, got a full-time job in Wellington (at a camera shop), and saved enough money to do some traveling as well. Because I was also working for accommodation at the hostel, I ended up saving around three-quarters of everything I earned. Here's a general idea of what I was able to save during my working holiday visa in New Zealand:
My 35-hour per week job at the camera shop paid $18.50 NZD per hour (that's a little under $12 USD). Including holiday pay, which was an extra 8% in each paycheck, my take home after taxes was about $585 each week. On average, I was able to save about $420 from each paycheck. That's about $1680 per month in savings (a bit over $1000 USD per month).
Now keep in mind, I didn't pay anything in rent. I don't drink much, and I didn't have free weekends to go out and spend a lot of money. I did still go out to eat several times per week, however, and went to the movies whenever I felt like it. Because my job was a ten-minute walk from the hostel, I didn't have to pay anything for transportation. I most certainly didn't own a car, because that would have been an extra hassle, and more of a financial burden.
A large chunk of the savings went toward making my film, then the rest went into savings for travel, with a bit put off to the side for my retirement account. I probably don't save anywhere near as much as I should for retirement, but I do put in some effort.
So here's the question: was it worth it?
That's a really tough question to answer. On one hand, I got to live in a different city, work some really chilled out jobs, and meet a lot of interesting people. There was also the short film project, which seriously helped me learn more about what it takes to produce and direct a movie. It also gave me the opportunity to work with local talented artists, and gave me some new perspectives on things.
On the other hand, I don't feel as if I progressed quite as much as I would have liked. After all, working in a city for a year is working in a city for a year. Whether it is in New Jersey, California, or New Zealand, a job is a job. When I have full-time work, I tend to put off doing fun things, until I quit that job, and then go into full swing enjoyment mode when I leave. It's probably not the healthiest mindset, and that is something I'll have to re-examine in myself.
As far as cities go, Wellington is a really charming one. The weather can be all over the place, which is definitely my least favorite thing about it. However, infrastructure is good, the city center is compact, and there is a huge number of restaurants, buses, and things to do.
Living at a backpacker's hostel for ten months has left me with mixed feelings. I probably wouldn't have been able to meet my savings goals without it, and I met lots of wonderful and cool people. However, the lack of privacy can be frustrating, as is the inconsistency of who is staying there. At least when you sign a lease for an apartment, you know who you'll be living with for the next year! At hostels, people come and go like the wind. One week you'll be chumming it up, the next, it is time to say goodbye.
Now I'm back on the road, to finally travel through the country I had patiently ignored. After the five weeks in New Zealand, I'll be flying to Indonesia. I'm really hoping to take the opportunity to see a lot of amazing places, and work on some creative projects I'd been putting off. It can be depressingly easy to lose track of what you want to accomplish in life. It's been hitting very close to home just how quickly procrastination can make time go by.
Although I am unsure of what the future holds, I know that it is far better to figure it out while enjoying the benefits of travel. One can feel lost in life behind the desk of a dead-end job, or one can feel lost in life while hiking through a beautiful mountain range. The truth is, we don't really know where we belong until we feel it. I choose to take another step forward.
Thank you to all who have continued to read this blog. I hope to have more content in the near future!
Until next time,
Hi everyone! I know this isn't strictly related to traveling, but I'd like to share with you a project that I worked on this year, while living in Wellington, New Zealand. It is my first short film, called "Saturday and Sunday Afternoon."
I plan on traveling through New Zealand starting in September, and there will be more blog posts to come. For now, though, here is something to keep you busy!
For those of you who are unaware, I have been on a working holiday visa in New Zealand for the past five and a half months. Nearly the whole time has been spent in the country's capital city, Wellington. I've been working and saving up money, while planning upcoming ideas for the future.
You might be wondering, what is this working holiday visa?
New Zealand offers a special visa to citizens of more than 40 countries, allowing them to travel and work within the country for a period of one year. There are a couple of catches. You must be within the ages of 18-30 (though the age limit is now 35 for citizens of a few countries), and have enough money to be able to support yourself, and for a return plane ticket. Citizens of the UK and Canada are able to apply for a 23 month version of the visa. Some countries, such as the United States have unlimited application spots. However, many countries have quotas in place, allowing only a limited number of applicants (for instance, only 1000 Chinese citizens can get the visa each year). The visa also allows one to study abroad, though the length of time is usually restricted to six months.
How have I been supporting myself?
After a week and a half of asking around, I managed to land a job working for accommodation at a hostel. Every morning at 10 o'clock, I would change the sheets of people who had checked out, and vacuum the floors. While the job didn't pay, it helped stem the flow of spending that was eating up my savings. Eventually, I was upgraded to running the reception area on weekend evenings. It's a cushy, easy position that has allowed me to pay zero in rent for the past several months!
The search for a proper paid job took longer than expected. I kept handing out resumes to businesses I was interested in, but to no avail. After quitting a particularly terrible job after just two days (run by racist twats who claimed they refuse to hire black people), my adrenaline kicked into high gear. I reached out to a local camera shop, and SUCCESS! They were looking for new employees. Roughly two months after I arrived in New Zealand, I began working full time at Wellington Photographic Supplies. The job enabled me to save up the money necessary to direct my first short film (something I had been planning to do for quite some time), and save some extra for future travel endeavors.
What's life like living at a hostel?
To be completely honest, working and living at a hostel has taught me that I really don't enjoy living long-term in hostels. The party atmosphere just doesn't connect with me, and the lack of privacy (along with having to share kitchen space with dozens of other people) can be frustrating. However, it has allowed me to save far more money than I would have had I rented a flat. Sometimes, you need to decide what is more important: your life goals, or your comfort. I'm seriously considering doing a working holiday in Australia next, and will not want to stay so long at a backpacker's accommodation. However, for this year, it has only catapulted me closer toward getting done what I've been wanting to do.
And what about New Zealand? It must be a gorgeous country, no?
While Wellington is a lovely city, with beautiful shores and aesthetic hills, it may surprise you to learn that I have yet to explore any of New Zealand and its beautiful nature. I do have an itinerary and a trip planned for the near(ish) future, so stay tuned! There is something about working seven days a week that re-sparks one's desire to get back on the road.
My name is Yonah Paley. I quit my job in the United States to travel. I also write movies and do photography. As I backpack across the world, I share stories, philosophy, and travel tips.