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,
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.