It’s hard to believe I’ve been living in New Zealand for almost a year. I knew very little about the country and everything it has to offer when I decided to apply for a working holiday visa here.
But I knew someone who would.
I was introduced to Matthew Kyhnn, better known as Backpacking Matt on Twitter while on my working holiday in Australia almost two years ago. After getting to know him and his website, I always thought of him as the “New Zealand guy”, even though he’s originally from Iowa. So when I started planning my own visit to New Zealand, of course I went to Backpacking Matt to prepare.
It only makes sense he take his passion for and knowledge of New Zealand from his personal travel site to one dedicated to backpackers interested in traveling the country he’s become so fond of, with his new venture GoBackpackingNewZealand.com (GBNZ). In a recent interview, he told me about GBNZ, what it will bring to the NZ backpacker community and how readers can win their own New Zealand road trip.
What brought you to New Zealand originally?
I came to New Zealand in 2009 as it was the logical next step in my working holiday focused travels. After graduating from the University of Iowa in 2007, I set off on what was supposed to be a 12 month backpacking trip working and traveling around Europe. Five years later, I’m still going.
I’d like to say I came to New Zealand for the stunning landscapes, the no-worries outlook on life and the outdoor-focused lifestyle I’ve fallen in love with, but that would be a lie. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t know much about New Zealand other than the fact I could pretty easily get a 12 month working holiday visa. Needless to say, I’ve been pretty impressed with what I found!
What made you stay for so long?
A combination of things, I suppose. My 9-5 job sees me running a web start-up called NZByBike.com. I work with a sweet group of guys who love travel, riding their bikes and Queenstown. It’s a great work environment – there are loads of innovative web businesses that work out of our office and I’ve been lucky enough to be sponsored and this has enabled me to stay in New Zealand for almost three years.
Secondly, I quite simply love New Zealand’s South Island – and specifically, Queenstown. I constantly say it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world and each day I believe it more and more. The quality of life here is fantastic – if I’m not working, I’m out riding my bike, hiking, climbing and exploring the stunning playground that is New Zealand’s South Island.
How did GoBackpackingNewZealand.com (GBNZ) come about?
As I’ve lived in New Zealand for the past three years, there is a huge depth of content about New Zealand on my travel blog. I’ve always tried to write posts that are aimed at that potential traveller to New Zealand who was looking for practical advice for their trip here. It’s because of this that I get thousands of visitors from Google each month from long-tailed New Zealand search traffic. Many of these visitors email me looking for advice on what to see, how long to stay, what to do and more.
The logical next step was to develop a specific travel guide for New Zealand. I’ve had this idea for years and it’s terribly exciting to see it finally slowly coming to life.
What do you hope the site will bring to backpackers in New Zealand?
My original plan was to develop a site filled with destination-specific advice for New Zealand. This will be the backbone of GoBackpackingNewZealand.com. A wealth of regional content will give the potential visitor an understanding of New Zealand – where our regions are, what is on offer, what to expect and where to go. You need more than this in planning a trip here – and it’s for this reason that travel blogs are so popular: they offer practical advice from actually travelers in a specific country.
Our regional content will be complimented by advice designed to put you at ease when planning your adventure backpacking in New Zealand – when to come, what to pack, suggested itineraries, ways to get around and more.
This static content will be supplemented by an ongoing travel blog from travelers currently exploring New Zealand. Their stories, photos, tips and advice will keep a fresh face on the site offering current stories and inspiration for someone planning a trip here.
I see you guys are creating something on the site called “PlaniT NZ”, can you talk a bit about that and how it will benefit backpackers?
PlaniT NZ will be a user-based system that you can use both prior to coming to New Zealand and after you arrive. After creating a profile for yourself, you’ll be able to use a forum to ask questions and share advice with current or ex-travelers in New Zealand. For those solo-travelers looking for a travel mate, you can post travel plans to find parters to share your adventure backpacking in New Zealand with. Forget hitchhiking, with our ride-share set up you can post an open seat in your car or post that you’re looking for a ride, say from Wellington to Auckland. Lastly, you’ll ultimately be able to use PlaniT NZ to find jobs and things for sale from fellow backpackers. We’re pretty excited with this aspect of the site.
Why do you think New Zealand is a good destination for backpackers?
Where to start?! New Zealand is the ideal backpacking destination for loads of reasons. After my most recent trip to Argentina, the first one that comes to mind is NZ’s small size. In a country the size of the state of Colorado, you have everything from beaches, to rolling plains, to snow-capped mountains, deserts and rain forests. You can see all these starkly different landscapes in a very short period of time.
New Zealand can be extremely budget friendly, too. Whilst you can easily blow your budget by jumping out of planes, off bridges or into canyons, you can just as easily have a hugely fulfilling trip here by simply road-tripping around the country and taking in the incredible range of scenery or getting out amongst it on a bike or one of our many tramping trails.
Lastly, New Zealanders are a pretty chilled out bunch. The no-worries outlook on life is apparent everywhere you go. It’s encompasses many aspects of life here and is wonderfully contagious. Similar to me, countless people have come to New Zealand planning on staying a very short while and remain years later.
When will the site launch?
That’s always the million dollar question. We’re aiming for a July 2nd launch date – and assuming the stars all align, we’ll make it! Prior to then, we’re running a pretty sweet sweepstakes on our Facebook page that will see the winner walk away with a nearly all-inclusive New Zealand Road Trip. We’re giving away:
• 7 day JUCY campervan rental
• One night in JUCY Hotel Auckland
• JUCY Cruize Milford for two
• 12,000 skydive from Skydive Lake Wanaka
• Round trip tickets for two thanks to grabaseat
Become a fan of Go Backpacking New Zealand on Facebook to enter to win an NZ road trip and keep updated on the site’s launch.
All photos provided by Matthew Kyhnn.