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How I Traveled for 2 Months in New Zealand on Less than $500

How I Traveled for 2 Months in New Zealand on Less than $500

I always thought you had to have tons of money to travel. Not true! With the tips I learned out of necessity, I traveled in New Zealand on about $250 a month. And I could have spent less if I had known these tips from the beginning!

My best tool for traveling? The Internet! I’ll show you all the sites you’ll need.

Follow these tips and explore one of the most beautiful, friendly, diverse countries on Earth!  (You can use many of these tips while traveling in other countries, too!)

Get informed.

The most expensive part of this venture will be your airline ticket. When I say I spent less than $500 in two months, I’m NOT including airfare. Even still, if I paid about $1600 and used all the techniques I’m sharing here, I could have spent a year traveling in New Zealand for less than $4600!

New Zealand is unique in many ways (there are no naturally occurring mammals!), but two particular aspects make traveling especially inexpensive if you’re well-informed.  First, the government has made major investments into boosting the tourism-driven economy. People come from all over the world, and New Zealanders want you to come.

Secondly, as a country colonized by England, many of the citizens have relatives far away. It is common for New Zealanders in their early twenties to go live in other countries for a while to gain work and education experience and to connect with distant relatives.

Get a job.

New Zealand has worked with other governments to make this process very smooth, an arrangement called a “Working Holiday Visa.”  This is a reciprocal arrangement, so that citizens of either country can apply for this visa for a limited time, and it allows the visa holder to have full employment privileges. In other words, you may be able to work in New Zealand for up to a year. One major caveat: you must be under 35 to secure a Working Holiday Visa.

Now, even if you don’t get a visa or you are over 35, there is no need to worry. I’ve listed plenty of other strategies to save you money and make your time in New Zealand “Sweet as, bro!”

I used BUNAC and highly recommend them:

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    Because of the robust tourist economy in New Zealand, it is incredibly easy to find work quickly. I landed in Auckland, and in two weeks I had a job paying $15NZ (~$12.29 USD at the time of publication) an hour and a room in a house with two young, fun New Zealanders.

    Because work is so easy to find, you can work for a few months to save up money, travel for a time, and find a new job somewhere else. Or you could get a job in your career field and travel on the weekends.

    I used these two websites, which are like Craigslist combined with eBay. I also found bikes, camping equipment, and tons of other stuff.

    Trade Me

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      Auckland Gumtree

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        Pack light.

        When I left for New Zealand, I had no idea what I was going to do or what to expect.  The luggage I packed weighed the maximum limit of 70 lbs.  Rather than being an advantage, this eventually became a burden because I had to store or keep up with all of that stuff.

        New Zealand is a country of islands, and each island has its own personality and flair.  You will want to see as much as you can, and lugging around a bunch of junk isn’t worth it.

        When I was happiest, a had a large backpack and a small computer bag.  Oh, and a ukulele.  Buying clothes is expensive, but there are thrift shops everywhere.  Macklemore’s paradise!

        I will say this: if you wear makeup, bring what you will need.  Makeup in New Zealand is ridiculously expensive.  $27NZ (~$22 USD at the time of publication) for a tube of mascara was the cheapest I could find.

        Hitchhike like an expert.

        While I lived in Auckland, I took public transportation, which was easy to navigate using the Internet. Each region has similar sites which are easy to find through simple searches.  This one is AT Public Transport:

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          I bought a bike for $50NZ (~$40.97 USD at time of publication) that came with a helmet.  It was a piece of junk, but it worked while I needed it.

          Gumtree also has a ride share board that is well-maintained and easy to use.

          The idea of hitchhiking seemed crazy to me.  I’m a 5’1″ woman who grew up in America and was taught to never, ever to hitch a ride.  But it eventually became second nature to me, and I frequently did it by myself.  Hitching is legal in New Zealand, and I found it to be enjoyable because I met many local people who were just lovely and extremely generous.

          Get more tips at HitchWiki

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            Arrange work-trades.

            A work-trade is when you put in about a half day of work in exchange for a place to stay for the night and three meals that day.  No money is exchanged.  By far, some of the best experiences I had in New Zealand came through work-trades.  It allowed me to be in beautiful places, meet interesting people, learn new things, and spend next to nothing!

            This is the key strategy for traveling for a long time with very little money.  I met people who had been doing it for years, going all around the world on next to nothing.  I met a couple from the Bronx who were doing it for 6 months as their honeymoon!

            WWOOFing is the most organized system I’ve found for work-trades.  It stands for Willing Workers On Organic Farms, and “farm” has a very loose definition in New Zealand.  So does “work” and even “organic.”  You may find a family with a large garden and a llama farm who would like you to come babysit and tutor their children in the evening.  Or a meditation center that wants you to prepare lunch and dinner.  I worked on an orchard pruning trees from 8 to noon, then had the rest of the day to bike into town and play.  Learn more at WWOOF:

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              You can also find some work-trades on the two sites I listed above, TradeMe and Gumtree.

              Do some couch surfing.

              Couchsurfing gives me faith in humanity!  The whole idea is to use the Internet to connect one person who has room in their home for a traveler who is looking for a place to stay.  And it’s all FREE!  The cardinal rule of the Couchsurfing community is that no money can exchange hands. You have to be willing to be social and flexible.  And ideally, when you return home, you return the favor and host other travelers on your couch.  Check it out at CouchSurfing:

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                Work at festivals.

                New Zealanders love a good festival.  Why pay to go when you can go for free?  If you “work” a festival, many of them will give you full admission and feed you in exchange for a half day of work. You can meet wonderful people and have a great time for little cash.

                I spent New Year’s Eve on a beach in the Coromandel Peninsula drinking wine with other festival “workers” and then danced until dawn to live music on the main stage.

                Here are just a few I found with a quick search:

                NZ Festival

                Food and Wine Festivals

                Music Festivals NZ

                Splore 2014

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                Don’t be hostile to the hostel.

                In the US, we stay in hotels and motels, but New Zealand is filled with hostels.

                A hostel is designed with the budget in mind.  People share sleeping space, often getting a bunk in a dormitory room which can be single gender or co-ed.  You share bathrooms.  Plus, hostels have a large cooking space, with all the equipment, pots and pans, and a dining area.   This makes it so you can cook for yourself and save money going to restaurants.

                Many hostels are run by long-term guests who cover the front desk or do housekeeping work in exchange for their lodging.  This is another tip for saving money.  I worked in a hostel that provided lodging and fed the workers.  It was just outside of a ski resort, so many of the workers would then go skiing in the afternoon.

                Hostels can be family-run businesses, and some I found were so warm and welcoming.  I feel in love at Albatross Backpackers in Kaikora!

                Find more hostels at Backpacker Hostels in New Zealand, Hostel World, and BBH New Zealand Backpacker

                Learn my mantra.

                Traveling on the cheap is a whole other ballgame than a luxurious vacation.  While it requires a lot more work and compromise, you get back much more.  It’s part personal development course, part cultural exchange, part adventure.  Yes, you will need to do some planning, but once you get there and things start happening, all the planning may go right out the window.  I had to learn a new mantra, and I suggest you start saying it now, “I’ll figure it out.”

                New Zealand is magical, and things just seemed to fall into place in ways I could never have planned for.  You will figure things out or they’ll figure themselves out.  Either way, you’ll have the time of your life.  I did!

                Say “Cheers!”

                New Zealanders love this phrase.  It has a million meanings, from “Thank you” to “Get away from me now.”  (Yes, I know Aussies use it, too.)  I wasn’t expecting to find an entirely different version of the English language, but I did.  New Zealanders are beautiful people, honoring the cultures of the Maori natives and the Pakeha (people of European descent).  Ask them for help, and they will gladly oblige.  And don’t forget to say, “Cheers!”

                Please share your stories and travel tips in the comments section.  Or let me know if you have questions, and I’ll see what I can do for you.  Travel more, live more!

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                Last Updated on June 15, 2018

                What Really Works: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Effectively

                What Really Works: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Effectively

                Eight out of ten adults experience lower back pain once in their lifetime. I am one of those people and I’m definitely not looking forward to my participation award. I know how it feels like to step out of bed and barely being able to put on your socks. Having lower back pain sucks. But 9 out of 10 patients that suffer from lower back pain don’t even know the primary cause of it.

                Video Summary

                Back Pain? Blame Our Evolution

                Once upon a time in our fairly recent past, our ancestors felt the urgency to stand up and leave our quadruped neighbors behind. Habitual bipedalism, fancy word for regularly walking on two legs, came with a lot of advantages. With two rear limbs instead of four, we were able to more efficiently use our hands and create tools with them.

                Sadly, life on two legs also brought along its disadvantages. Our spine had four supporting pillars previously, but now it only got two. The back is therefore naturally one of the weak links of our human anatomy. Our spine needs constant support from its supporting muscles to minimize the load on the spine. With no muscle support (tested on dead bodies) the back can only bear loads up to 5 pounds without collapsing [reference Panjabi 1989]. With well-developed torso muscles, the spine can take loads up to 2000 pounds. That’s a 400-fold increase.

                Most people that come to me with a history of a herniated disc (that’s when the discs between the vertebral bodies are fully collapsed, really severe incident), tell me the ‘story of the pencil’. The injury with the following severe pain usually gets triggered by picking up a small, everyday object. Such as a pencil. Not as you may think by trying to lift 100 pounds – no, but by a simple thing – such as a pencil.

                This tells us that damage in your back adds up over time, it’s a so called cumulative trauma disorder. Meaning back pain is a result of your daily habits.

                Sitting Is the New Smoking

                Whenever I sit for too long, my back hurts. In fact, 54% of Americans who experience lower back pain spend the majority of their workday sitting. But isn’t sitting something that should reduce the stress of your back? No, just the opposite.

                The joints between the bones of the spine are not directly linked to the blood supply. These joints instead get nourished through a process called diffusion. Diffusion works because molecules (such as oxygen, important for cells) are constantly moving and try to get as much space for themselves as they can. A key element for diffusion therefore is a pressure difference. In the image below the left room contains more moving molecules than the right, that’s why the molecules from the left are moving to the right. This way nutrition gets transformed into the joints, whereas toxins are transported out of the joints.

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                Sitting puts a lot of pressure on your spinal chord. The diffusion process therefore can’t function as efficiently. Nutrition and toxins can’t be properly transported, the joints get damaged.

                  Sit Properly

                  If sitting can play such a huge part in the creation of your lower back pain, how do you sit properly then?

                  Is it better to sit with a straight back or should you rather lay back in your chair? Can I cross my legs when I’m sitting or should I have a symmetrical position with my feet? These are questions that I hear on a daily basis. The answer might shock you – according to recent science – all of them are right. The best sitting position is an ever-changing one. An ever-changing position minimizes the pressure on certain points of your spine and spreads it on the whole part.

                    Credit: StayWow

                    Stand Up More

                    Even better than a sitting position is a stand up position. Standing dramatically reduces the pressure on your spine. If you’re forced to work on a desk the whole day though, you have two options.

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                    Take breaks every hour of about 2-3 minutes.

                    Set an alarm on your phone that goes off every hour! In that time you stand up and reach to the ceiling, on your toe tips with fully extended arms. You’re inhaling during the whole process. You do this activity for 20 seconds. Afterwards you’re walking through the office for the next 2 minutes. You might grab a healthy snack or some water in that time. The exercise relieves the pressure on your spine, while the walking makes sure that the joints on your spine are properly used.

                    Or get a standing desk.

                    One of the best companies on the market for Standing Desks, according to my research, is Autonomous. Autonomous offers a rather cheap Standing Desk, with the ability to change the height. Which means you can start the day standing and switch to sitting if you’re tired.

                    Exercise for Lower Back Pain

                    Sitting is an immobile position. Your joints are made for movement and therefore need movement to function properly. If humans are moving, all moving parts: e.g. the joints, bones and muscles get strengthened. If you’re in a rested position for too long, your tissues start to deteriorate. You have to get the right amount of activity in.

                    But not too much activity. There’s a chance that going to the gym may even increase your risk of lower back pain. I know plenty of friends with chiseled bodies that suffer from pain in the spine regularly. Huge muscles do not prevent you from back pain. In your training you should focus on building up the muscles that are stabilizing your back and relieve pressure. Squats with 400 pounds don’t do the trick.

                    The more weight you carry around, the more weight your spinal chord has to bear on a regular basis. That’s one of the reasons why huge, muscular guys can suffer from back pain too. One of the most important goals of your exercise regimen should therefore be weight loss.

                    Here are some important tips for you to consider when starting an exercise regimen:

                    Make sure you implement cardiovascular training in your workout routine.

                    This will not only help you lose weight, it will also make sure that your arteries, which flow to the tissue next to your spinal discs, are free of placque and can therefore transport nutrients properly.

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                    Important: If you have rather strong back pain, maybe even an herniated disc, don’t start running on a threadmill. Running is an high-impact exercise. Which means there are continuous, reocurring high pressure points on your spine. Your endurance training should therefore either be fast-paced walking or a training on the elliptical trainer for the beginning, because both have little to no stressful impact on your backbone.

                    Focus on developing your whole core if you want to minimize your pain.

                    There are some people that do hundreds of sit ups a day. While sit ups are a good exercise for your abdomen, it also puts pressure on your spine due to the bending movement. A sixpack workout routine is one-sided. Your abs may become overdeveloped in comparison to your back muscles. You’ve created an imbalance. A great way to train your abdominal muscles and back muscles simultaneously, is holding the plank position.

                    Stretch only if you have tight muscles.

                    I remember stretching every morning after I woke up. I took 10 minutes out of my day to just work on my flexibility and prevent injuries. Little did I know that I was actually promoting an injury, by doing so.

                    Contrary to common belief, stretching is only partially beneficial to treating lower back pain. Stretching makes sense if tight muscles (such as the hamstrings) are forcing you to constantly bend your back. Stretching to treat pain doesn’t make sense if you’re already on a good level of flexibility. Hyper-mobility may even enforce back pain.

                    If you found out that you had tight muscles that you need to stretch, try to stretch them at least three times a week. Don’t stretch your muscles right after you wake up in the morning. This is because your spinal discs soak themselves up in fluid over the nighttime. Every bending and excessive loads on your spine is much worse in that soaked-up state. Postpone your stretching regime to two-to three hours after you’ve woken up.

                    Where to Start

                    The key to improving your habits is awareness. Try to get aware of your back while you’re sitting down, laying down or lifting an object next time. This awareness of your body is called proprioception. For example, you have to be aware whether your back is bended or straight in this very second. Trust me, it is harder than you might think. You may need to ask a friend for the first few tries. But the change that this awareness can make in your back pain is absolutely fascinating. This consciousness of your body is one of the most important things in your recovery or prevention.

                    Here are a few behavioural tactics that you need to be considering:

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                    If you’re leaning forward more than 30 degrees with your upper body, support your spine with your arms.

                    Ever tried to show a colleague of yours a complex issue and found yourself awkwardly leaning forward on their desk, pointing with your fingers to his paper? If that ever happens again, make sure you’re using the not-pointing arm to support yourself on the desk.

                    Keep a straight back.

                    Be it while exercising, stretching or standing. If you’re bending your back you’re putting stress on small areas of your spinal chord. A straight back redistributes the force to a bigger area. You’re minimizing the pressure. Remember this whenever you’re at the gym and reracking your weights, focus on having a neutral spine.

                    Put symmetrical loads on your spine.

                    I used to play the trumpet when I was a child. The instrument is pretty heavy. The trumpet gets transported in a big, metallic suitcase – with no wheels. Being the nature of suitcases, you only carry it with one arm, on one side of your body. This forced me to constantly lean on the other side with my upper body, while transporting the instrument from A to B. Not really the healthiest activity for your spine as you can imagine.

                    If you have to carry heavy objects, carry them with both arms. Put the object in the middle of your body and keep it as close to your mass of gravity as you can. If this is not possible, try to carry the same amount on the left side than you do on the right side. This puts the stress vertically on a fully extended spine. The load is much better bearable for your spine.

                    Stay Away From the Back Pain League

                    Our world is getting more sedentary. We will continue to develop faster transportation, more comfortable houses and easier lives. While our technological progress definitely has its amazing benefits, it sadly has its downsides too. The danger for back pain will continue to rise on our ever-increasing motionless planet. It’s time to raise awareness.

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