Who are you?
We are an American married couple that fell in love with travel during our college years. Josh runs an outdoors blog called YonderStoke and Melissa documents our adventures with weekly vlogs on our Youtube channel, TheJoshandMelissa.Where, when and why did you move abroad?
Ever since we got married we have made traveling a priority and worked hard to save as much each month as possible. Even if we could only get away for a quick weekend trip, we found this was what made us happiest. However, every time we went on a longer trip we found ourselves struggling to get on the plane home. So, after doing some research and spending hours looking at pictures on instagram, we decided to spend a year in New Zealand.
We found out about the “Working Holiday Visa” that is offered in New Zealand and thought it sounded like a perfect fit! Not only could we stay in the country and travel for a whole year, we could also get work to help cover some of our expenses. In January of 2016 we applied and were overjoyed a week later when we got the e-mail that our visa had been approved! Honestly, we had already bought our tickets because we were just so excited to explore the beautiful country of New Zealand even if we could only stay a short while.
On August 10th 2016 we got on a plane at LAX and flew across the world to start our year-long adventure in Middle Earth.
What challenges did you face during the move?
Our first challenge was trying to fit our whole lives into 4 seemingly small suitcases. This would have been much easier if weight wasn’t an issue, but camera equipment, Josh’s skateboard, wetsuits and rain boots can add up quickly! We ended up with four suitcases each weighing EXACTLY 50 pounds.
Our second challenge was trying to find a car within the first few days on arriving in New Zealand. We had an idea of the kind of van we wanted: High roof, long wheelbase, nice camp kitchen already inside, a bed, and a shower. As soon as we started actually looking at vans this dream quickly faded away as the reality of our budget set in. We realized it was much more important to get a mechanically sound vehicle than a fancy one. We ended up finding a great van for a fair price that we were able to spruce up using our DIY skills.
There have also been little things such as setting up our new phone plan, looking for work, and the hardest for Josh – finding hot sauce that doesn’t cost a fortune.
Are there many other expats in your area?
We are house- sitting our way around New Zealand this year and we have started off our time in a fairly small town about an hour outside of Wellington. We have loved our time here but because there are few tourist attractions in the area we have found most people have lived in this area their whole lives. However, we have been lucky and found a few expats from Austria and Scotland that we have been able to share a meal with.
What do you like about life where you are?
Our favorite thing so far has been the friendliness and hospitality of the Kiwi people. We had read about this while preparing for our move but seeing it in action is something that can take a moment to get used to. In California, if someone you have only just met invites you to their home for lunch, it is creepy and weird. In New Zealand, if you AREN’T invited for lunch, it’s weird. This has been a total change in mindset for us and has made us feel very welcome in this country.
We also love driving! In the span of a three hour drive you get to see so many different landscapes. From huge snowy mountains and big beautiful lakes to the greenest hills you have ever seen, driving in New Zealand makes it hard to focus on the road.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
Food and certain products are SO expensive! If the item has to be imported, it will cost you. Because we came to the country in the winter, most produce is basically impossible to find. If you can find it, it will cost your whole month’s grocery budget! Also, we miss Mexican food.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
1. The best thing about New Zealanders is their laid-back view on life. The most annoying thing about New Zealanders is their laid-back view on life. For example, in America, if you are having car issues you expect a quick response from your mechanic and then a quick fix so you can get on with your life. In New Zealand, you can expect to be without a car for a few weeks as the mechanic takes their time and waits for parts. This is not necessarily a bad thing but can definitely take some getting used to.
2. Lack of options. In the USA we are used to mega stores with 50 different types of cheese to chose from. In New Zealand you will find 4. This does make shopping faster because you have less to look at, but it also means saying goodbye to your favorite brands and going with what they have.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
1. Just go! The timing will never be perfect but if you truly want to travel and experience life in another country you just have to go.
2. Don’t set unrealistic expectations. New Zealand is an amazing country but you are still MOVING. There will be things that come up that you didn’t plan for and you will need to learn to be flexible. Enjoy every moment and don’t get caught up in the little things.
What are your plans for the future?
Josh is currently applying to Grad School to get his Ph.D. in Finance. Because of this our future plans are still up in the air. We will be in New Zealand until mid 2017 and then we will be buying a plane ticket wherever Josh ends up going to school. This could be England, New York, Los Angeles or who knows where else. For now, we are excited about the rest of our year exploring as much of New Zealand as possible.