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.
Peter Weir's 1998 film "The Truman Show" is rightfully considered a class act in filmmaking and storytelling. It chronicles the plight of Truman Burbank, an optimistic but naive middle class man, who's life also happens to be a television show. Unbeknownst to Truman, the world around him has been fully constructed. Everything from the sun (an extremely bright spotlight) to the people in his life (paid actors) has been manufactured to bring entertainment to TV audiences, while also keeping our titular character oblivious to his situation.
A huge amount has been written about the film, which explores the notion of free will, the existence of a creator, American consumerism, and the rise of reality TV. What I want to touch upon specifically, though, is Truman Burbank's desire to see the world. As a serial backpacker and advocate of travel, I believe "The Truman Show" to be one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) pro-traveling movies of all time.
From a young age, Truman has dreams of being an explorer. He wants to discover new lands, sail the oceans, and see the world. His elementary school teacher tries to quash his desire by telling him there are no places on Earth left to discover. However, the passion sticks with Truman well into adulthood, even after he has gotten married and bought a house.
A main plot point in the movie revolves around Truman's desire to go to Fiji ("You can't get any further away before you start coming back."). He tries convincing his wife, Meryl, that they can save up some money and go abroad for a long time. She immediately shoots down his ideas as childish, emphasizing life goals such as paying off their mortgage and having children. Nothing Truman says or does can convince her otherwise.
Later, Truman decides to take matters into his own hands by booking a flight to Fiji. The travel agent's office contains a comically large poster of an airplane being struck by lightning, with a slogan reading "It Can Happen to You!" Even the subliminal messaging around him tells him not to follow his dream.
The satire of "The Truman Show" serves to point out what sorts of barriers and messages we use to keep order within a consumerist society. Truman has a great job, a beautiful house, a loving wife, and a seemingly perfect neighborhood. Yet there is something deep inside struggling to come out. He has always had passions and goals, but life found a way to get in the way. I think many people can relate to such frustrations: of moving toward socially expected goals, while neglecting who they really are and what they really want.
In the film, travel serves as the poignant wake up call to Truman. As he maniacally attempt to drive himself and Meryl to Atlantic City, she asks him why he wants to go there. He responds: "Because I never have! That's why people go places, isn't it?" Although his endeavor to break free is thwarted several minutes later, the attempt sparks a sea change in Truman's behaviors and attitudes. Now that he has attempted to break out of his bubble, he can sense the possibility within grasp.
Travel can be scary yet liberating, because it forces us outside the world we have carefully constructed. Too often, people push off their dreams due to fear and uncertainty about what will happen. Yes, there are cases where one has too many responsibilities to attempt such a thing, but the case of Truman Burbank is not one of them. There is a massive conspiracy at hand trying to stop him, but that is not enough to hold him back. I can promise that the same conspiracy is not working against you.
If you have that desire and the ability to pursue it, go travel the world!
Be like Truman.
My name is Yonah Paley. I quit my job in the United States to travel. I also write music and do photography. As I backpack across the world, I share stories, philosophy, and travel tips.