Tag archive for "visa"

Celebrating one year in New Zealand

Blog, Destinations, Dispatches from Down Under, Moving Abroad, New Zealand, New Zealand

Celebrating one year in New Zealand

13 Comments 09 July 2012

A year ago today, Ric and I arrived in New Zealand, which means tomorrow will mark a new achievement in my travels-spending more than one full year in a foreign country.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been here for so long and that I’m still hanging around here for a few more months, but it just feels right.

Whenever I meet locals from the country I’m traveling, one of the first questions they ask is, “Do you ever get home sick?”. Almost always, my answer is “Yes”. But there is something different about New Zealand. I don’t know if it’s that I’ve been here for so long or the fact that I’ve spent my entire time here with a partner, but for some reason, I feel at home in New Zealand.

Which is quite weird considering this country gave me the coldest welcoming of all the countries I’ve visited in the past two and a half years.

Prior to arriving in New Zealand last July, I was traveling on my own rendition of The Endless Summer. It started in Sydney in January of 2010, which is where I first started my current journey. It continued in the farms of Victoria for a few months and after that I worked my way up the east coast, pretty much following the heat. When Winter hit Australia, I found warmth in the tropics of Far North Queensland. And when it became a bit too hot there, I headed back to Melbourne for another Aussie Summer.

Next was SE Asia where it’s always warm and finally the good ol’ US of A in the Summer of 2011, which is one of the hottest Summers I’ve ever felt at home. But my summer was cut short when, as I mentioned above, I headed to NZ in July of last year, first stop-Queenstown.

The snow must have just been waiting for Ric and I too. Prior to our arrival, Queenstown was having a bit of a “drought”. The heavy ski destination was missing it’s number one ingredient to a good season. But the night we arrived, it came in full blast.

Nothing like waking up to snow in Queenstown. This shot was taken from our hotel room the day after we arrived in New Zealand. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

I remember waking up at 4 a.m., jet-lagged, and Ric saying, “This is the first time I’ve had to put on all my clothes to go out for a fag in a year and a half.”

We weren’t in Australia anymore. 

But we wouldn’t stay in Queenstown for long, rumor of lack of jobs and friends’ calling up north led us to Blenheim. It’s not the most happening town, but we were in good company. We spent about a month there, then headed to Wellington, where we would make our first home in the country. We had a rough few nights in the country’s capital city to start, but came to love it and stuck around for about five months, the longest Ric or I have spent anywhere since we started traveling.

It was nice to have a home of sorts, but being the constant travelers we are, we had to hit the road eventually. In January we embarked on a six week trip around both islands. After that, I really understood why the people who have traveled NZ, go on about it so much.

Flat out, this is the most beautiful country I’ve ever visited. From kayaking Abel Tasman to hiking Franz Josef Glacier, camping out in Haast to living it up in Queenstown, it’s just a spectacular place to visit.

Ric and I spent two weeks traveling the South Island with my Dad, two weeks catching up with friends around the country and two more weeks with Ric’s family in Mount Maunganui, then it was time to build another home. And I think we’ve built our best one yet.

We’ve been living in the Mount for five months now and plan to spend another two here. During that time we’ve lived with some great housemates, Ric found an amazing job at a cafe and I…well I’ve worked with one of the country’s biggest icons: kiwifruit. It’s not always been an easy industry to work in, in fact working in agriculture is quite tedious, but the work has allowed me to stay here for more than a year.

US citizens are granted a three month extension on their work holiday visas after completing three months of agricultural work in New Zealand.

I started my work in March and was granted my extension, actually on the spot, in late June. I can’t describe just how relieved I felt that day. Traveling for as long as I have, it’s not all a holiday. Money is a constant worry as is trying to stay with a partner from a different country. In fact, one of the things that drew Ric and I to New Zealand is the fact that we were both eligible for working holiday visas here. So being granted those extra few months here, just put everything in order for me.

While we don’t plan to stick around here for too much longer, Thailand in September-Yesss!!!, we would like to return. How, you ask? Stay tuned. My mission has always been to stay on the road for as long as possible and I’ve got a few more tricks up my sleeve to help me do that.

But today, I’m going to celebrate a year in New Zealand, two and half years traveling and almost two years with my favorite travel partner and best friend.

Home is wherever I’m with you-bad’un.

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From Backpacking Matt to Go Backpacking New Zealand: an interview with Matthew Kyhnn

Destinations, Interviews, New Zealand, Other

From Backpacking Matt to Go Backpacking New Zealand: an interview with Matthew Kyhnn

3 Comments 25 June 2012

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.

Photo courtesy of BackpackingMatt.com.

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.

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Why I’m staying in the Philippines

Destinations, Philippines, Tips & Facts

Why I’m staying in the Philippines

7 Comments 08 February 2011

The opening photo should say it all.

During my one hour flight from Manila to Cebu City, I flipped through my Lonely Planet’s Southeast Asia on a Shoestring.

Where to next?

My original plan was to only stay in the Philippines for the three weeks citizens of most countries receive upon entry. I had already booked my flight to Bangkok by advice from Lonely Planet, as I was not sure whether I would be allowed in the country without proof of onward travel.

(Immigration never asked me to see a ticket proving I would leave in time, so most people may not need this.)

But I wasn’t ready to go to Thailand.

Maybe Singapore?

Too small.

Maybe Hong Kong?

Too cold.

I looked into Sumatra in Indonesia, various places in Malaysia and some spots in Cambodia.

I became discouraged reading the “Dangers and Annoyances” section for each country.

(Highly recommend travelers look at this section once, remember it, but keep it out of their mind.)

I looked through photos in the book and the picture of the main place I wanted to be for the next month or so was of Boracay in the Philippines. So I thought I’d give the country another look. Based on my first week in Donsol and other places in the country, I decided to stay.

On a boat pulling into Sun Splash Floating Bar for sunset and happy hour. Quite inviting, besides the guy in the front. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

On a boat pulling into Sun Splash Floating Bar for sunset and happy hour. Quite inviting, besides the guy in the front. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Some may think this is a bad call because there are so many other great countries and cultures to discover in Southeast Asia, there are places a lot cheaper than the Philippines in the rest of the area and the country is relatively small.

A few years ago, I would have agreed with those people. During my first backpacking experience, which was in Europe, I was content with spending as little as a day in some countries. I had the energy to keep going from city to city, country to country without a long break.

Maybe it’s that I’m getting older or maybe I’m just a different kind of traveler now, but I’m no longer interested in just scratching the surface. It’s not really about the sights or things to do, though I still do get off on that. Now it’s about actually getting to know the country and meeting the people in it.

So I extended my visa by 30 days in Cebu City. The process is quite easy, but can require a long wait. Those interested in an extension should visit the nearest Immigration Office. There are offices located in most major cities in the Philippines as well as some tiny resort islands. (Once your on one of these islands you’ll want an extension, trust me.)

I visited the Immigration Office in Cebu City located on the corner of Burgos St. and Mandaue Ave.(Location is according to Lonely Planet. I did not look at the street signs.) It was a Friday so people there were waiting for hours. But it’s an ideal place to meet other travelers and learn of other places. The extension costs P3,030 and requires a valid passport. The office does a background check on applicants, but if you’re passport clears then it’s most likely you’ll receive an extension.

Relaxing on Sun Splash Floating Bar off Malapascua Island with a Caipirina in front of me waiting for the sun to set, I’m positive extending my visa was the right decision.

Sitting on the floating bar off Malapascua Island writing this post. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Sitting on the floating bar off Malapascua Island writing this post. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

How to move to Australia: five steps

Australia, Australia, Destinations, Moving Abroad

How to move to Australia: five steps

29 Comments 02 February 2010

A lot of the comments I receive about moving to Australia are, “I wish I could do that.” My response is, “YOU CAN!” Anyone can with a bit of time and hard work.

I know a lot of people my age worry about student loans on top of regular expenses, but if you are on a monthly plan you can still pay loaners abroad, you just have to work a bit harder to earn more before departing.

Regardless of what your circumstance, it’s possible. Everyone has to do something different to prepare, but the essentials are universal.

1.) Start saving: I recommend this step first, because it will take the longest and if the rest of the steps fail the worst that can happen is you’ll have extra money to spend on something else. The Australian government requires people applying for a work-holiday visa to prove they have $5,000. This is what they say, but I did not have to do anything to prove this.

Still, I wanted to have more than that amount so I didn’t have to worry as much about money and I could take some time to travel. You need to decide the amount that is right for you and what you are comfortable with, but I estimate you’ll spend at minimum $50 per day while living in hostels and looking for work. That is the bare minimum (hostel, food and basics), on top of that you need to consider transportation (taxis, public and long-distance), tourist attractions and nightlife. So I would recommend saving at least $7,000.

Saving is not easy nor quick. It took me six months and I know people who have saved money over two years for trips. You have to find a routine in which you can still live a happy life at home, but with less things. Some people move in with their parents, others get a second job and somew even sell their possessions. Stephanie Yoder wrote a great post on her blog Twenty-Something Travel that gives tips and commentary about saving cash.

2.)Apply for a visa: It’s easy to psyche yourself out of this step, but you shouldn’t. I researched 462-visas about once a week during my last two years in college. I read blog posts about people being rejected or claiming the country had a limit and it had been reached.

I had completely convinced myself that I would never move or work in Australia. Then, one night for kicks I applied at 10 p.m. I got an email at midnight that same night saying I had been approved. It costs $230 and you have to fill out a lengthy questionnaire. But if you are healthy, not convicted of any felonies and between the ages of 18-30, I am confident you will be approved.

While on visas, the country also requires you have travelers’ health insurance to receive a visa. I didn’t have to prove this either, but I recommend it. I recommend health insurance regardless, but you are at higher risk of getting sick or injured when traveling. Sick, because you are in contact with so many people, hostel living is not always the cleanest and a lot of major air-borne diseases are spread on airplanes. Injured, because you are more likely to do extreme things when traveling, such as sky diving or even hiking than you would in your everyday life. A large hospital bill can ruin your trip. Why even risk it? Ask your health care provider at home about travelers’ insurance or look at sites such as STA for more information.

3.) Book a flight: Some people have told me you can find cheap flights closer to the date or through stand-by. I have never found this to be the case with international travel. All the flights I have ever been on abroad have been packed and seem to raise in price the closer to departure date.

So much is invested in a trip this large and it’s easy to put off. Just pick a date and buy a ticket so you have something to plan around. I booked mine five months ahead of time and my flight from Chicago cost about $1,000. You may be able to find something cheaper earlier, but sometimes earlier than that can actually be more expensive or not even available.

A flights from pretty much anywhere to Australia is hell. I traveled for a total of 25 hours, 21 of which were actually in the air. You will most likely have at least one layover, if not more. You also lose a day coming from the states. Stopping in Hawaii or flying first class  are wonderful options, but unlikely for most people in their twenties.

The date you chose depends mainly on how fast you can save up money, but other things to consider are whether you want to be home for the holidays or a special occasion, what type of weather you want to travel in (the seasons in most parts of Australia are the opposite of the Northern hemisphere, but check the weather for where you want to go), how much notice your work requires, when your housing contract is up and how much long it will take you to prepare (packing, saying good bye, storing your things, etc.).

4.) Tax File Number (TFN) and bank account: A visa is just the first step to working down under. Businesses also require you have a TFN and a bank account. Both are easy, but you should get them out of the way early so you don’t have to worry about it when you finally get a job offer.

Ask someone at your hostel about where to fill out your tax form. You can also do it at a post office or online. It’s free and you can do it in most major cities.

The bank account works just the same as in the states and there are plenty of banks in Sydney, even Citibank and HSBC. Banks usually require you deposit between $10 and $100 initially in your account.

5.) Find a job: The last and sometimes most difficult step. I recommend traveling around a bit before settling down in one city. You can always come back if you want.

The tricks to finding work are universal. Dress presentable no matter what the job, be polite and network. You can find work on Gumtree (the UK version of Craigslist, which is popular in Australia) on job boards in hostels or internet cafes, in newspapers and just by looking around for hiring signs.

A lot of people look for jobs in the service industry, whether it be waiting or working at a hostel. Some jobs require a certification, such as bartending, so research that. Bartending requires you complete an Responsible Service of Alchohol  (RSA)course, which cost around $80 and can be taken at a local university or places posted on hostel walls.

Working at a hostel is not right for everyone, but it’s actually a great deal. I’ve seen a lot of hostels that pay $200 a week and allow workers to live in the hostel for free and sometimes even supply food. The hours can be strange, but that’s $200 solely for leisure. Plus you meet new people everyday and sometimes get to go on trips.

If a few days in a 10-person dorm with community showers is enough for you, then look for an apartment. There are flyers for roommates posted all over the cities. You also might meet someone during your travels that you want to rent a place with. Gumtree is a great source for this as well.

You can only work at the same job for six months with a work holiday visa, then you’ll have to find another one. A lot of people are doing the same thing as you so it can be competitive, but there is a reason Australia allows so many foreigners to do this, so don’t get discouraged. You’ll find something eventually.

Graffiti at Bondi Beach by Bobbi Lee Hitchon.


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