Exactly a year ago today I got on a plane from Melbourne to Auckland. I’d done a semester studying at Monash University, was half way through my three month Summer break and had decided to go around New Zealand for a month by myself. Before I’d flown out for my year exchange I’d never considered going to New Zealand, but after hearing nothing but good things (and having an unfortunate situation change my plans for January and February) I had a “just do it” moment and booked my tickets to go only two weeks in advance. This was the best decision I could have made. I had the best month of my life in the most beautiful country, and these are some of the many reasons why.
The Kiwi Experience
This is the name of the company that I booked on with aimed at 18-30 year olds travelling solo. They offer a range of bus passes for you to buy with various stops across the north and south island. When you book these passes they have a recommended number of nights in each stop (where for the recommended number of nights you are guaranteed accommodation), but I’d recommend allowing yourself some extra days as there will be certain places that you’ll want to explore more. They offer discount on activities, and you simply book activities and hostels by signing a sheet which is passed around on the coach. I would highly recommend going with Kiwi Experience as it means before you go all you need to worry about is flights, the pass and the first night’s accommodation. It also means that while you’re travelling you get to chill out and enjoy yourself more as there’s no stressing about booking accommodation or transport.
This is by far the best part of it. Whilst travelling I met people from all corners of the world from different walks of life. On my first day I went on a walk to find a waterfall with 11 others – the walk took 3 hours, we had blisters, we were dehydrated and hungry. But after this, we stuck together for next 3 weeks. It was nice to have people to do things with everyday, whether it be sit on the coach with or pre drink goon with. We cooked dinner as a group each night – a great way to save money! We spent about $1.50 dollars each per night and had decent meals like mac’n’cheese, burittos or stir fry. But even if you don’t find your group on day one, it’s so easy to make friends. Pull up a chair at a table full of people, sit by someone new on the coach, sign up for an activity. Most people will be on their own and looking to meet new people.
Where to begin with what you see in New Zealand? Both islands are beautiful and each stop offers a completely different landscape with different things to do. Personal highlights for me were: visiting Hobbiton, completing my first ever hike (the Tongarra Crossing) and horse riding by the Franz Josef glacier. Having said that everywhere you go – even if you’re not doing an activity – the views take your breathe away. Even sitting on the coach staring out the window you are going through some of the most beautiful landscapes. I would say no matter how hungover you are, don’t stay in the hostel. Go out and go on a walk, go to the beach – see what’s around the place you’re staying at, you’ll be surprised. I would also recommend doing extra nights in Rotorua, Abel Tasmen and Wanaka (trust me).
The Open Mind
The beauty of travelling solo is that you get to do what you want, when you want. When I left I had no real plan of the activities that I wanted to do, so I had an open mind when I looked at the ideas and felt no obligation to do things “because I said I would”. It’s good to be spontaneous on these things! The best part is however you end up doing the most random things with the friends you make. When we reached Wanaka, one of our friends Michel had an Auntie who lived there so we were able to camp in her (huge) back garden – which had the most incredible view of the lake and the stars. Thinking rationally, of course it’s not great camping with people you’ve only known a couple of weeks. But being open minded and having no real plan, I was able to have this incredible experience amongst many others. I had no expectations so everyday was exciting and I never felt underwhelmed at any point.
Arguably the most important part. There is the option to drink and party every night on this tour. I can’t lie, the Kiwi Experience can turn into a bit of a booze cruise. But that’s part of the fun! So many funny things happened on so many of nights which would have us in fits of laughter the next day reminiscing. Although alcohol is expensive in New Zealand, it’s not worth missing out on the partying as this is where you will make most of your friends. Plus there are ways to cut costs – buying boxed wine and drinking before going out is what I did. The clubs aren’t Berghain or Fabric, but the nights are what you make them! Make sure you’re ready to get creative for costume in Lake Mahinapua and to go out every night in Queenstown. On that note, when you get to Queenstown be sure to check out Cowboys!
If you’re studying in Australasia and are wondering what to do for your Summer break, book on with the Kiwi Experience! Yes, New Zealand is an expensive country. And yes, it is daunting travelling by yourself. But without sounding like a cliche, you can’t put a price on good memories. And if you really are strapped for cash there are ways to save money while you’re travelling – eating in, pre drink in your hostel room (shh), see the sights by walking instead of paying for kayaking. There’s no need to worry about being on your own – everyone is in the same boat and will be looking to make new friends. I hope you have the best time on your own Kiwi Experience, please get in touch if you gave any queries (firstname.lastname@example.org). Kia Ora!
P.S. A heads up… jandals means flip flops