Getting a Working Holiday visa is becoming more and more popular as people start to realize that travelling is awesome and don’t want to stop. But seeing this incredible world is pricey and unless you’re a super hot Instagram superstar (seriously, why are there so many?!), it takes a lot to save enough cash to fund your travels.
If like me you just can’t wait to travel, doing a Working Holiday is the perfect option for becoming Dora the Explorer ASAP. So I’ve decided to start a series of interviews with fellow travellers who have done a Working Holiday anywhere in the world to help fuel your wanderlust and encourage you to do a Working Holiday, because it really is one of the best ways to broaden your mind and your experiences of the world.
The most popular countries we travellers are choosing to live and work in are the UK, Canada – this is where I started in 2015 – Australia and New Zealand, but there are so many more options for living and working abroad. This series will cover all these countries and more, including China and even Russia!
Introducing…Courtney from St Louis, Missouri, USA
First of all, why did you choose to do a Working Holiday?
While living in a hostel in Seattle, a good friend of mine told me about her plans to work in New Zealand. I’d never heard of this visa before, but I was immediately intrigued. I couldn’t afford to travel the world without working, so this seemed like the best way to travel while still earning money to pay for it.
Exactly! It’s such a great opportunity isn’t it!? Was it difficult to get the visa?
Americans don’t have as many options as some other countries do; for the most part we can only get a WHV for New Zealand or Australia. I chose New Zealand simply because it interested me more, although I originally planned to do both.
I went through the visa application and entire working holiday process on my own. I’m definitely the independent type, so I rarely use third parties to help me plan things. I applied for my working holiday visa and arrived to work in New Zealand just 2 months later. It was all very quick for me, and I found the process to be very simple.
Within the first couple of days in New Zealand, I opened a bank account, filled out a form to get my IRD number (identification number for tax purposes), and started looking for work. A lot of people use services to help plan their working holidays, which is fine if that makes you more comfortable. However, it is possible to do it all independently!
How did you prepare?
When I first learned about the visa to work in New Zealand, I wasn’t completely sure I wanted to go–I
wasn’t completely sure I would be able to go. But I did want to see if I was capable of saving up enough money in a short time-frame. So I spent the next 6 months working seasonal jobs around the U.S. to save up money. I decided I would need at least USD$5,000 to consider the working holiday visa a realistic possibility. Once the 6 months were up, I realized I had more than I needed! I decided that was reason enough to go.
I didn’t give myself a lot of time to plan and prepare once my visa was approved. I bought a 40 liter backpack, packed only what I needed, and sorted out last minute details. I didn’t have much of a plan. I figured I’d just get on the plane and let things go from there!
So what job did you end up doing in NZ? And how did you get it?
During my first week in New Zealand, I applied to a couple of jobs just to see what was out there. I used a site called Backpacker Board to look through job listings. It’s a great resource for jobs if you’re on a WHV. You’ll find a lot of hospitality, restaurant, retail, cleaning, hostel, and agriculture jobs (typical backpacker jobs). I ended up taking a job as a housekeeper for a holiday park on the North Island. I worked there for about 2 months, and then I left for the off season to go travel around the country. After that I was able to return to the same job for another 4 months.
What was your highlight of your Working Holiday?
It’s hard to pick a highlight; I was there for about 11 months and so much happened in such a short period of time. I actually really enjoyed my time working, because I was able to bond with my co workers and make friends with fellow backpackers while I was there. It was really cool that people from all over the world came to the same tiny spot to work in New Zealand. It was a great opportunity to learn about different cultures.
How much travelling did you do whilst on your WHV?
I got to travel all over the North and South Islands while I was there. Of the 11 months that I was in New Zealand, I spent about 7 months working, and the other 4 months travelling full time. If you manage your time and money well, you can definitely see a lot of New Zealand during your WHV.
Any downsides to a WHV?
There were times when I missed home and wondered if it was worth staying in New Zealand, but I think that’s pretty normal when you’re away for so long.
So what have you learnt?
To be honest, the main thing I learned from my time in New Zealand is how important it is to have a community and be near people you care about. It also made me appreciate home a lot more. Some people travel the world for a really long time and don’t return home for years. I used to think that’s the kind of life I wanted. Now I know I much prefer to have a home base and see my family more often.
Any advice for fellow travellers looking to work in New Zealand?
My main advice is this: don’t stress out and don’t overplan your trip. New Zealand is a very laid-back, easy-going kind of place. People are friendly and hospitable. If you engage with the locals and other travellers you meet, you’ll be surprised by how many opportunities come your way. Things might not go as planned, but in New Zealand there is usually someone around who will catch you when you fall.
What about a travel tip?
Wear sunscreen/sun cream! This might seem like a silly tip, but it is important. The sun is very strong in New Zealand and every needs to protect their skin. Also, sandflies will drive you absolutely insane if you’re not prepared. Cover your skin in areas where they run rampant and bring some bug spray. One more thing: I suggest buying a car while you’re there if you can afford it! It will make exploring the country much easier (and more fun)!
And lastly, tell us 3 of your favorite places or things to do in NZ…
My favorite places are Wellington, the Coromandel Peninsula, and Karamea. Wellington is one of my favorite cities; it’s filled with awesome museums, really good food and coffee, and it’s just an absolutely beautiful place. My job was on the Coromandel Peninsula, so I spent most of my time there. It definitely started to feel like home. It’s a quiet little place with pretty beaches and super laid-back people. Karamea is a tiny town over on the west coast of the South Island. Most tourists seem to miss this spot because it’s a bit out of the way. But it’s worth the detour for the hiking opportunities and the chance to visit the Oparara Basin.
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