STW Roundup: Month 13 (and my goals for 2016)

February has been an exciting month for James and I!

This is the first month since October last year that we’ve (mostly) been in the same place. We spent the first week of February in Auckland while we sold our car. It was a great week catching up with friends and revisiting our favourite food jaunts (see photo below.)

For the best tofu teriyaki donburi of your life head to Yoshizawa, on Victoria Street East in Auckland.

We handed over the keys to two young German boys. It was sad to say goodbye to our Honda – we made her our own; we bought all of the camping equipment and ripped out the back two seats to make more room for storage. But we’re glad we sold her to other backpackers who will have an incredible adventure exploring NZ – just as we did.

We then took the overnight bus from Auckland down to Wellington, where we stayed in an Airbnb for a week while we focused on our two main priorities: finding somewhere to live and finding a job. I wrote a whole post on how we did it here.

Watching the sunrise from the Manabus window.

On finding somewhere to live…

Many travellers end up living in hostels long-term while they are working, either because they think it’s the cheapest option, or because it’s just easier than finding something else. Staying in a hostel wasn’t an option for James and I; we like to have our own space, especially while we’re working. We looked on Trade Me and on the Flatmates Wanted Wellington Facebook group for either a studio flat or a house-share and actually came to view our place the day we arrived in Welly!

We live in a lovely house in Kelburn with four kiwis (the people kind, not the bird!) Kelburn is a fairly quiet, hilly suburb which is far enough away to be out of the hustle and bustle of the city, but still close enough to walk to work. It has the cutest little village centre, with a bakery, op shop, Four Square and tavern, and we’re only about a fifteen minute walk from the top of the cable car, one of Wellington’s must-do’s.

Our bedroom is huge and gets the morning sun. It was unfurnished besides the built-in wardrobe, but our flatmates have been kind enough to lend us a double bed and a chest of drawers. We’re slowly making it our own; we got a bedside table from the Salvation Army for $20, a mirror in the never-ending sale at Briscoes, and a lamp from the Warehouse. Plus, our weekly rent is less than the cheapest private hostel room in Wellington I could find online.

The view from our bedroom

On finding a job…

Just as we did when we arrived in Auckland back in May last year, James and I contacted a number of recruitment agencies based in Wellington. The great thing about being employed through a recruitment agency is that it’s free. You don’t pay them to find you a job; rather, companies pay them to source employees to fill their vacancies. We found the process was slower here than it was in Auckland last May, but that’s probably because we were looking for work during the laziest time of the year: summer! We also spent a lot of time applying to positions on seek.co.nz and trademe.co.nz/jobs.

The recruitment agencies we registered with are Hudson, Kinetic, Alpha, Madison and Hays. James quickly found a casual manual labour position through Hays, but continued to look for another job since the hours were so long and the pay was minimum wage ($14.75 per hour). Now, James is employed at ANZ through Madison Recruitment and I’m employed directly by Wellington City Council but I was sourced through Madison.

James in his hi-vis jacket and hard hat
I was offered a fixed-term position until December

December seems so long away… It’s a whole ten months away! I was put forward for a role at Wellington City Council which is contracted until December. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t think I would be successful in the interview process since I have little similar experience, and am flying back to the UK for two weeks in June. But, I was offered the job!

But our visas are only valid until May

As British citizens, James and I are really fortunate to be able to apply for an extension on our Working Holiday Visas. Brits and Canadians are able to extend their stay for a further 11 months. James and I had been undecided about what to do when our visas expire come May 2016 – should we extend our stay? Should we leave NZ and travel elsewhere? Would we have saved enough money to be able to travel again, or should we do a Working Holiday elsewhere? Would we have to go back to the UK and work there?

Whilst we are privileged to have the option to stay in NZ for another 11 months, applying for your second year visa is not cheap. The visa itself only costs around $160, but you are also required to have a number of medical tests and a chest x-ray to prove you are in good health. Our appointments are next week and will set us back over $500NZD each. Let’s hope the tests come back clear!

We’re applying to extend our visas

We were umm-ing and ahh-ing for a while over whether we should extend our visa; it’s a lot of money to spend and we weren’t sure we wanted to stay in New Zealand much longer. When we arrived back in NZ in May last year, we weren’t even sure we would still be here at Christmas! But, if we don’t extend our visas now, we won’t be able to again – it’s a once in a lifetime chance really, since we’ll only ever be able to visit NZ on a tourist visa in future… Plus, since we are given the choice simply because we are British, I feel it would be impolite to refuse the opportunity. When I was offered the job at the Council, we both knew we were going to extend our visas and stay in NZ longer.

 

This month has been about realising what my goals are for the next few years

February has been kind of like the start of the year for me because I’ve been able to put down my ‘New Years Resolutions’ on paper and really think about what I want to achieve by the end of 2016, and in turn after we leave NZ.

I want to travel and see loads of new countries

We’ve been in NZ for 10 months as of next week, and, while I adore this country, I’m constantly thinking about where to go next. Unfortunately I’m neither rich nor have a trust fund from Mummy and Daddy, so I can’t just go gallivanting around the world. I need to save some money again, and accepting the position at the Council was therefore the logical choice. I’m not going to be able to see loads of new countries this year, and I’m okay with that, because I’m working towards this goal: next year will be a huge year of travel for James and I, since we should be able to save a fair amount while we’re in Wellington. Currently we’re thinking South America, South East Asia (again) and then another Working Holiday (Canada or Australia) or teaching in Asia. The world is our oyster and I love it.

Related: How to save money on a Working Holiday Visa in Auckland, NZ


I want to put more time and effort into my blog

I love writing this blog; it’s a collection of personal memories as well as (I hope) a useful travel resource for others. But it’s not mine. It’s hosted by WordPress, and I only have my iPad here with me to work on. After I go back to the UK in June for two weeks, I’ll be bringing my laptop back out with me so I can dedicate more time and resource to Spin the Windrose.

If I have to work, I don’t want ‘just a job’

I know that I need to save money to be able to travel again, so I need to work. My CV is varied enough to suit a number of roles, and when I’m saving money I always think to myself that I shouldn’t mind doing anything, because saving money is my number one priority. That said, I’m starting to realise that if I’m going to spend 40 hours a week working, I don’t want to dread going to work every morning. I don’t want to be in a job where I’m living for the weekend. Arriving in Wellington, I wanted to find a position where I will be challenged, learn new skills and be using my brain (basically, I vowed not to work in a call centre again; I just can’t hack it). My role at the Council is exciting and challenging; I’m an Executive Assistant and Team Administrator, which means lots of diary management and organisation. I’m just over two weeks into the role and am really enjoying it.

Highlights of the month

Our two obvious highlights this month have been finding a job and finding somewhere to live.

We were lucky enough to both have secured a role within a few weeks of starting our job search (thank heavens – money was getting a bit tight!) Our tactics? Apply for everything, and keep badgering recruitment agencies until you’re offered something you’re happy with! As for moving into our place, it was strange at first to be able to unpack our rucksacks and hang our clothes in the wardrobe! I’ll be the first to admit that whilst I love travelling, I much prefer slow travel to seeing a different city every couple of days. I really like being settled in one place for a while. It feels so good to get to know a city, to be able to call somewhere home rather than just another city ticked off a list, and it’s so much better for my wellbeing; if I travel too quickly I get tired and burnt out.

Dusk outside our house
Exploring Wellington

James and I knew without even having visited Wellington that we wanted to live in the capital; everyone we spoke to described it as cool, a bit indie, with a great café culture and a thriving music scene. I mean, its slogan is the ‘coolest little capital’ – of course we were going to love it!

Seeing the Chinese New Year in

I have a feeling that I won’t get bored of this city any time soon; there always seems to be something going on, and there are enough bars and restaurants here we could probably go to a different place every night until the day we leave! It helps that the weather has been absolutely beautiful for most of February, so we’ve enjoyed strolling around town and going for a swim in the sea. I’ve just about orientated myself with the CBD, but there are still so many little side streets I haven’t ventured down. Plus, the surrounding suburbs in Welly make it a really pleasant city; the main city centre is flat and the suburbs are up in the hills – just look at where we live!

Drinks in The Library, a quirky bar on Courtenay Place in Wellington, to celebrate the end of my first week at work!

Friday nights see Cuba Street come to life with a food market hosting cuisine from around the world – with a decent number of vegetarian choices, too! On Sunday mornings the harbour side is taken over with loads of stalls where you can get your fruit & veggies for much cheaper than at the supermarket (we have to take a rucksack each because we end up buying so much!) We took a picnic and went to the open-air cinema showing of the excellent children’s film, Brave, for the Edinburgh Tattoo, and we hiked up Mount Victoria to watch the sun set over the city. We watched the concession sweep through the city in celebration of the Chinese New Year, and went to the annual Newtown Festival on Sunday. And we haven’t even been to most of the top tourist sights yet!

The view from Mount Victoria at dusk
Visiting The Pinnacles

An hour and a half’s drive from Wellington brings you to Putangirua Scenic Reserve, located in the Southern Wairarapa. It boasts a few walks in varied lengths and there’s a lovely DOC campsite located at the start of the walking track which costs just $6pp per night. The 1hr 30 return walk to the Putangirua Pinnacles is an absolute must-do for anyone passing through, perhaps if you’re en route to Wellington or Cape Pallister.

Putangirua Pinnacles

The gradual climb takes you to a lookout point of the Pinnacles – some of the best “earth pillar” formations in NZ. They basically look like enormous towers of gravel and stone – and that’s exactly what they are: over many, many years, the Putangirua Stream as well as the wind and rain have eroded the earth to reveal these ancient, resistant sediments seemingly cemented into the gravel (if you lean on them they will crumble though, so probably best not to do that.)

This should give you an idea of the size of them!

Not only are the Pinnacles an incredible landscape feature, they also feature in the Lord of the Rings! Perhaps you’ll recall the scene from the Return of the King, where Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli ride through the Paths of the Dead… Creepy!

And our lowlights

A bad AirBnb

I love the concept of AirBnb – people can rent out their spare rooms, sofas, or entire homes to travellers, often for prices that rival hostels or hotels with similar or less facilities. We’ve had some great experiences with AirBnb; my favourite so far is when we stayed in a beautiful, open-plan home complete with unlimited wifi, a professional coffee machine, an ensuite bathroom and the cutest cat – where we slept in a bedroom fit for a princess for only $50 a night!

Fit for a princess!

However, our AirBnB in Wellington wasn’t what we had hoped it would be. The description on AirBnb didn’t outline that the ‘bedroom’ was actually the landing; our bed was at the top of the stairs, and there was only a curtain separating our ‘bedroom’ from the host’s, meaning we had no privacy. James and I are pretty relaxed, but I was a little annoyed I had booked this place for a full week in advance – and it cost more than a private room in a hostel. The worst part though, was that the host made us feel very unwelcome the whole week we were there. I felt like we were constantly in the way. Plus he kept turning the wifi off without telling us, which was really frustrating when we were job-hunting. All in all, it wasn’t a bad place to stay but it wasn’t particularly pleasant! Lesson learnt: don’t stay somewhere that doesn’t have many reviews.

The not-so-bad view from the AirBnb

If you want $15NZD off your first trip with Airbnb, sign up through this link – you’ll be referred by me, meaning I’ll get a credit to my account (help a fellow traveller out!)

*Note: I didn’t go through the cancellation process for this AirBnb as we didn’t want to keep moving around and, in the grand scheme of things, it really wasn’t that bad.

Getting ill… Very ill…

I haven’t been poorly for a long while; in fact, besides having a cold for a couple of days in May last year (which soon disappeared with the help of some ibuprofen and paracetamol) I haven’t been properly poorly since I was bedridden with tonsillitis in my first year of university.

I’m currently writing this from my sickbed. Last Sunday I got some sand in my ear at the beach, which I am convinced has given me a sinus infection/cold. By Tuesday my earache had become a sore throat, and I only went into work for a couple of hours on Thursday morning before I had to go home; I could barely talk, my glands were so swollen and my throat like sandpaper. I took Friday off too, after a sleepless night and no sign of improvement.

This brings me to a point about New Zealand that I dislike. Probably the only thing I dislike about NZ which I’m sure you’ll think I’m ignorant for (well, I’m not ignorant, I’m British). I called a GP and was told it would cost $100 for a 15 minute consultation. I would then be required to pay for a prescription (around $25-35) if necessary, as well as pay for any prescribed medication. This isn’t something I can claim on my travel insurance as its not emergency treatment. Being ill overseas has made me realise just how lucky I am, as a British National, to have access to the NHS: to free doctors’ visits and to affordable medication.

I didn’t book the consultation at the GP; instead I stocked up on paracetamol, ibuprofen and the most disgusting anti-inflammatory throat spray, and I spent two days in bed resting. I also did something a little naughty. About 18 months ago (in the UK) my dentist prescribed me some amoxicillin “just in case” my tooth hurt while I was on a family holiday. My tooth was fine, and I saved the amoxicillin in case I needed it in future (i.e. now). It’s helping!

Other bits and bobs

In other news, I had a hair cut. And not a ‘just a trim’ haircut. AND I didn’t even cut it myself this time. I actually went into a salon and told them to cut it all off. Well not all off. I had 4 and a half inches chopped. And the hair stylist was more nervous than I was!

Before & after!

You may remember, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, that last year I went No ‘Poo. I gave up commercial shampoo and conditioner in favour of natural alternatives. My reasons for doing this were to a) rid myself of harmful toxins, b) not have to wash my hair so often, and c) save money. I used baking soda mixed with water to wash my hair, and apple cider vinegar mixed with water to condition it. And I wrecked my hair. No amount of natural remedies (honey, coconut oil) could repair my horribly dry split ends. Plus, James was getting a bit annoyed with me putting food he wanted to eat on my head. So, I swapped to paraben-free shampoo (which is pricey but I now only wash my hair every 3-4 days, so a bottle lasts a while). I trimmed my locks a few times over the past few months, but when we got to Wellington I just wanted to start afresh, so had it all chopped! Note: for anyone wanting to try No ‘Poo, I wholeheartedly support you and will try it again myself at some point, but I urge you to research into it a LOT and to listen to your hair. Don’t wreck it!

As for James, he’s decided to keep his beard. He’s invested in a trimmer to keeping neat & tidy for work… It was looking a bit trampy while we were camping! I’m getting used to it; it’s very itchy but it does make him look older. Though, he also decided to buy a skateboard because Wellington (with her hills) is the ideal place to skate, so I’m not sure if maturity is his priority at the moment! He’s also gone vegetarian – yay!

That’s about all I have to update you on this month! How has your February been?

Thanks for reading & happy travels!

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1 Comment

  1. I totally get the just any job conundrum – part of you wants to just get anything, but it makes such a difference doing something you actually care about. I’m still on the hunt, but congratulations to you!
    As for making more time to blog, I can sympathise – life just keeps getting in the way. But if it makes you happy, make time for it! (I’m such a hypocrite)

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