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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 July 8, 2020

                18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

                18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

                The act of writing in a journal often seems daunting or unnecessary to many people. Even authors who work on novels might shun the idea of daily diaries. What purpose does jotting down words on a regular basis do if not contributing to the next novel, play or song? I know from experience many benefits of journaling that I wish to share.

                1. Understand Yourself Better

                Though many people and even writers avoid keeping journals, I vow to do it more often. Not only do I desire to take up daily journaling but also I plan to do it with pen to paper.

                Some of the benefits I’ve found from my more active days include finding myself in the sense of understanding what matters to me and what I want out of life. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to find a spouse who is my best friend and advocate in raising children. I attribute this and much more to what I learned about myself in keeping journals for years.

                2. Keep Track of Small Changes

                I’ll admit that I never got very far with my guitar lessons, but in writing in a journal, I have seen the ability to track small changes like those that come when you practice anything.

                Those learning a musical instrument often fail to see the small improvements that come with regular practice. Writing won’t help you switch chords any faster, but it will help you to develop a better sense for language and grammar just by doing it.

                3. Become Aware of What Matters

                As you continue to write in a journal, following a stream-of-consciousness feel, you can look back on the topics that you chose to write about. Those issues and emotions that poured out of you will provide insight on to what matters most to you.

                You may not even realize that you’re job is depressing you or that you want to spend more time with your kids until you look over your thoughts that you weren’t really thinking about.

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                4. Boost Creativity

                The idea that the brain and its neural activity across hemispheres encourages learning also shows up in increased creativity. Just like with learning an instrument, your increased activity will inspire your thoughts to connect and reconnect in different ways.

                When I wrote in a journal, I often wrote poetry as well as just my thoughts as they came out. I started to hear poems more in my mind; so much so that I took to scrawling lines on napkins and finding metaphors in mundane activities.

                You really are what you do, so writing helps grow more than being a writer. Writing boosts the way you communicate and structure language, which really is a creative process.

                5. Represents Your Emotions in a Safe Environment

                A journal is as private as it gets. You can lock it in a safe or tuck it under a pillow and no one will accidentally share it on social media or have an opportunity to “leave a comment.”

                Write about your sorrow as much as your happiness and frustration and know that you don’t have to keep your emotions inside your body. You can put them on paper.

                6. Process Life Experiences

                When you take the time to look back over what you’ve written, be it a week or a year later, you will have the distance you need to more objectively interpret your raw feelings.

                Everything from losing a job to losing a loved one can emerge in a new light for a fresh perspective. Figuring out how the benefits of journaling affect your perspective on life will create connection and increase creativity.

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                7. Stress Relief

                In combining the exercise inherent in fine motor coordination that comes from the act of writing with the emotional release of self expression, those who maintain a journal relieve stress.

                Try it out. Go home and write about your day. Write about the traffic. Write about the coffee order the barista got wrong but you didn’t have time to change. See how you can physically purge some of that pent-up stress by putting it on paper.

                8. Provide Direction

                Though journaling is often conducted as an activity without much direction, it often provides direction.

                One of the biggest benefits of journaling is that your chaotic thoughts merge to show a direction in which to head. Asking the right questions is the only way to achieve the best solutions, so look to your journal to find your way toward your next goal.

                9. Solve Problems

                Just as in practicing math problems, we all get better at finding hidden solutions through the act of processing.

                Think of your next goal as X and solve your life problems by reading your journals as word problems. The benefit of journaling here is that you write, explore and process to recognize and then solve problems.

                When life is too in-your-face, you have to step back to see reality. Living in the moment allows us to write in the moment and use that expression to solve problems.

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                10. Find Relief From Fighting

                Solving your problems only comes after time to process, recognize and strategize. Just as in the benefit of journaling where relief comes from the act of writing, relief from fighting comes when you decide to “sit this one out” and communicate one-way.

                Fighting is only productive when the fighters care to communicate and find common ground. When the emotions are as high as the stress levels, writing will function as the best time out.

                11. Find Meaning in Life

                Journaling will show you why you are living, whether you are wallowing in things you wish to change or striving to make the changes. Your life will begin to take on new meaning and your own words will reveal the actions that got you where you are so that you can assess and pave a new path for your future.

                12. Allow Yourself to Focus

                Taking even a small amount of time out of every day will provide you with not only peace of mind but also increased focus. Taking a break to meditate in writing and journaling will sharpen your mental faculties.

                13. Sharpen Your Spirituality

                When we write, we allow all the energy and experiences to flow through us, which often provides further insight into our own spirituality. Even if your parents didn’t raise you to follow a specific religion, your thoughts will start to show you what you believe about the universe and your place in it.

                14. Let the Past Go

                I’ve mentioned a few examples where going back over your writing offers advice and direction, but the simply truth is that writing down our feelings can be the best way to let them go. We can choose to literally throw these pages away when they’re filled with negativity and hate.

                15. Allow Freedom

                Journaling is the perfect way to not only express yourself but to also experience the freedom of being who you are. Your books can stay private or you can publish them. Your freedom stems from your sense of self and your perception of your thoughts.

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                16. Enhance Your Career

                Again, the private act of pen-to-paper processing provides the benefits of journaling mentioned above, but you can also enhance your career when you take similar ideas and categorize, edit and publish them in an online blog.

                Your thoughts will often be personal and express emotions, but another benefit of journaling is uncovering fresh ideas about your work.

                17. Literally Explore Your Dreams

                All the benefits I’ve mentioned explore ideas, thoughts and emotions, which is also what our dreams and nightmares do. Through writing down your dreams from the previous night, you can enhance your creativity as well as connect some of the metaphorical dots from the rest of your journal.

                18. Catalog Your Life for Others

                No one wants to think about dying, but we all die. Leaving a journal will act as a way to reconnect with family and friends left behind. The ideas you wish to keep personal while you process the life you’re living will serve to rekindle and inspire those who loved you through the process.

                We consider our partners our life witnesses, but writing provides a tangible mark on the world.

                Now that you’ve learned all the benefits of journaling, it’s time to start writing a journal:

                Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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