My journey to live, work and travel in New Zealand for more than just two weeks has been many years in the making.
My interest probably started at secondary school because one of my best friends was from the South Island of New Zealand. Occasional descriptions of places and people piqued my curiosity.
My desire to visit and see the country for myself can be blamed on The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I remember sitting in the cinema watching The Fellowship of the Ring for the first time and being terrified by the Black Riders and wanting to visit Rivendell and the Shire. I absolutely fell in love with the variety of locations shown. The scene of the Lighting of the Beacons in The Return of the King combined with Howard Shore’s score had me convinced I had to visit New Zealand. The idea that I could walk hillside tracks, cross misty mountains, see the rolling hills of the Shire and the desolation of Mordor was so exciting.
In 2011/2012 my dream came true. On a small scale. I and a friend of mine came to visit for a two week, last-minute, barely-planned trip over the New Year holidays. We departed Japan on Boxing Day, landed in Auckland, spent one night in a B&B in the outskirts of the city, climbed a volcano and I decided then and there that two weeks was not going to be enough. We had managed to narrow our trip down to the highlights of some adventure sports in Queenstown, culture in Rotorua and some film location geekiness in Hobbiton. (Yes, Hobbiton had just opened to visitors and I had to sign a form saying that I wouldn’t put anything about it on the internet until after the ‘two’ films were released.)
Since that trip I found some other books, films, blogs and videos to inspire me to make a longer-term move to New Zealand a reality. The following links are my favourites:
- The Canadian couple who run the blog Stoked for Saturday did so many incredible outdoor activities and among them, the Great Walks. Their videos are masterpieces and this highlight video showcases the range of environments in which you can immerse yourself during your time in New Zealand. Have a look at some of their amazing videos.
- The American travel blogger who runs Young Adventuress is currently living the life down in Wanaka and writes some of the best down-to-earth, brutally honest and lively posts about New Zealand as well as other destinations. I found her blog through a link on Stoked for Saturday. The first post I read was about Kiwi English and as an ESL teacher at the time, I found it fascinating and hilarious. I highly recommend you check out her more recent blog posts too.
- The Hobbit Trilogy is one of those cinematic love-hate things. At the time they came out, I loved them. I still do. But I can also see why many fans of the book absolutely do not. Now, storytelling aside, I don’t know anyone who would disagree with the statement: the landscapes and locations used are incredible. My friend, A, knowing me so well presented me with the ‘Hobbit Trilogy Location Guidebook’ for my 28th Birthday along with a leaf-shaped brooch modelled on those from the Lord of the Rings films. This book is a perfect blend of location maps, descriptions and photographs. The author offers practical hints of how best to get to the locations, GPS co-ordinates, information about the geology or local culture and provides a potential itinerary for those on a tighter schedule.
The following three guidebooks were useful and inspirational, are ideally suited to those looking for the shorter-term travel and honestly really helped figure out the start of my trip.
- Lonely Planet Discover New Zealand is my favourite of the books, it offers pictures and highlights as well as pertinent details.
- Lonely Planet Hiking and Tramping in New Zealand is great for those who plan to take in some of the overnight hikes. Sadly, if you are more interested in day-hikes, this book doesn’t really help and the many i-Sites or Department of Conservation offices are a much better place for information.
- DK New Zealand is a photo-heavy and physically heavy tome which is best read pre-departure and left at home if you are packing light. Most hostels with a book-exchange have a copy of this one and it is lovely to sit and read in a bit more details when time allows.
- Haka Tours was a tour operator I found through Young Adventuress. Haka Tours was my chosen form of introduction to New Zealand in 2017 and my travels on their 24-day tour are worthy of entirely separate entries. Have a look at the video interview which convinced me they were worth the money:
Now that I am in New Zealand, I’m finding different kinds of inspiration all around me: people, posters, adverts, the land and the culture to name but a few. I am so excited to share my adventures and continuing sources of inspiration with you.