Sarah from Paper, Ink and Passports is originally from Kansas City but has been travelling since 2007 everywhere from Scotland to Mexico to the Arctic. She is currently in New Zealand on a Working Holiday Visa.
New Zealand is one of my favourite countries. I absolutely love it here. I used to live in Scotland and they’re very similar… at least to me. I feel right at home here!
How did you end up in New Zealand?
To cut a long story short, I left a relationship in 2012 to travel on an expedition cruise ship as a steward and then as a bartender. In 2015, I was feeling burnt out and was probably *this close* to getting fired, so I did what any self-respecting traveller would do: I quit. I went back home to Kansas City, lived at my parents house for four months and then hopped a cheap flight to Wellington. I’m writing – also known as barely making money while I hop, skip, and jump across the islands – but I’m also meeting crazy cool people, sleeping on sail boats, and hiking out to waterfalls and volcanoes.
It also probably helped my decision that I turned 30 in 2015 and was at this terrible mid-life crisis crossroads where I thought “oh god, what am I DOING with my life!?” All of my friends are having their second and third children and I’m single with no prospects. I am working on a business plan and it made sense for me to go and work on that in a place that I love whilst doing the things I love to do.
How easy is the working holiday visa application process for New Zealand?
The NZ immigration site is a little tricky to navigate but I saw no reason to pay a company to fill out a form that took me about six minutes. I also did not have to go through any of the chest x-rays/health checks so that made my application crazy easy. They don’t make it easy for you to find the application on the NZ website though and then the log-in process seemed like it took more time to navigate than it did to apply and get the visa!
Are you working at the moment?
I’m freelance writing through a US-based company but I’m continually looking for other work. I tried in Wellington. I had two trial shifts for waitressing gigs but both jobs were given to someone else. I had a big problem with that actually since, in my past experiences, trial shifts are offered only if they’re actually going to hire you… not to just get some extra staff in for a night. I also got no compensation for any of the trials – no food or money – but worked up to four hours at one of them. Afterwards I heard that I should have been paid but how do you go about telling the restaurant that? It’s been frustrating.
That does seem unfair! How’s the writing going?
Writing and travelling is easy for me… except in cars and on buses. I like to write in the mornings and evenings which gives me the day to explore but some days I work straight through. It helps me to find a cafe or something that I can chill out at and work. I was lucky with that in Wellington. I had a great little cafe with awesome guys that let me camp out for hours. I haven’t found that anywhere else.
Do you have plans for when your visa is up?
I haven’t tried to extend my visa yet but I’m going to.
I would love, love, love to stay here in NZ. I am considering trying to get residency or a partner visa (I need a partner first though!) I would also like to see about an open-ended work visa but I think I need a job for that first. I have ten months though to figure it all out. I’ve given up on concrete plans so I’ll take it as it comes.
However I want to avoid what happened to me after my student visa in Scotland expired and that was that I just failed to apply for the post-graduate work visa, which I could have done, and didn’t. So that’s not gonna happen again!
Any tips for potential WHV travellers?
Oh goodness. Let’s see. I think my first bit of advice would be to budget. Make sure you have the money to go… you may even need to prove that at immigration (although I didn’t) but either way you don’t want to be stuck dead broke and unable to find work. Luckily I’m not but I have seen a lot of backpackers that are and, as a result aren’t able to actually do anything when they get here.
The second piece of advice would be to embrace it all. Take in the scenes/scenery and if you find that someplace isn’t inspiring you then LEAVE. I’ve come across a ton of people who are like, “I’m in Queenstown and I’m bored” and my response to that is, “Are you fucking kidding me!?” You’re in New Zealand, a country that very few people on this planet will ever get to, and you’re bored? Get on a plane; domestic flights are cheap. Pick a new city, go on a hike, take a walk around town and stop a random person and ask them what you should do but don’t say that you’re bored… it makes you sound afraid of new things.
Make your year (or two) an adventure. Say yes to something that initially sounds crazy, don’t be afraid to meet new people, stay in hostels and in camp-sites, learn to cook, learn to do your laundry, make a friend whose first language isn’t your own and teach each other new things. There is SO MUCH out here in the world and I hope that the younger generations are the ones who will begin to untangle the knots and smooth out the creases in it that we’ve made over time. We can’t let fear and boredom set in when we are travelling.
Thanks to Sarah for being the honorary New Zealand working holiday visa participant in a series that has turned out to be so heavily Australia-focused. It’s interesting to hear the perspective of someone who’s done this elsewhere.
Be sure to check out Sarah’s blog Paper, Ink and Passports to check out what she’s been up to in New Zealand and on her previous travels. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Snapchat (maptattoogirl)
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