I have begun work at my first job in New Zealand! I’m currently working on a dairy farm in the incredibly beautiful Waikite Valley, found between Rotorua and Taupō. The work is unpaid, yet food and accommodation are provided in exchange for four hours of work each day. I’m doing land maintenance on the 377 hectare farm (which, in case you were curious, is a MASSIVE piece of land, about 930 acres). The majority of my time is spent walking across the land pulling up ragwort, a toxic plant that sprouts up in the fields and can become pretty unmanageable if left unattended. Though unpaid, it feels incredible to actually be a productive human being again. Don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome to be able to travel and not have any particular responsibilities, but I have found that too much vacation is actually pretty awful.
What I appreciate more than the simple act of work though, is the family that I have had the privilege to get to know. The young couple that I’m working for is unbelievably welcoming. They have really done a fantastic job of making Nate and I feel truly at home here. We have our own little separate house (nothing “flash” but luxurious to those who have been living in a van), and three meals a day. The couple has two young children (ages 6 and 8) who are constantly asking questions and want to spend every moment they can with us. The entire family (two parents, two children, two dogs, a cat, a sheep, and 1100 cows) has fully embraced us two insane foreigners wholeheartedly.
I have found that having only spent a few days in this valley, I’ve already come to appreciate it as more than just a place to work. The community here is incredible. Being able to have simple and real connections is one of the main things I was looking forward to when I came to this country. Yes, I was excited for the scenery and the touristy things that can be done, but the everyday connections is what I was looking forward to. To have a personal interaction with someone, an interaction that is so very human, is one of the greatest joys I have had in New Zealand thus far. The opportunity to live with a family and trade a bit of work for a conversation over a meal is far more valuable to me than any sort of paid job.
Despite the fact that this job is incredible, I do recognize that eventually I’ll have to start making some money to survive. This job at the dairy farm only lasts for another week and a half (it’s already flying by), then it’s down to Hawke’s Bay to try to get a paid job picking fruit on an orchard. Before Nate and I head down further south though, we have decided it is high time we gave our van a much needed face lift. The paint is a bit worn (and is actually multiple shades of yellow), the interior can do with a bit of customization, and some extra personality can be added to make it truly our own. The two of us have begun the process of sanding down the rougher sections of paint on the car and should be repainting soon! The Banana Van, as it’s formally known, soon won’t just be a hippie van, it’ll be our hippie van (don’t worry, pictures will come eventually).
I think that after the completely crazy first few weeks that I have had here (refer to previous posts for details), I at last feel more settled. However, as we enter into February, I have felt the changes that a new month brings now more than ever before. Each new month brings an entirely new rush of feelings for me that I haven’t quite felt before. As this is not my first time having moved away from my hometown, it’s not a total shock to me. It is however the first time I’ve moved away without the option of simply jumping on a plane to go home for a weekend or a holiday. I have found that this makes all the difference in the way I consider time here.
Each month is one month closer to having to leave New Zealand. It’s one month closer to getting to go home. One month closer to seeing family. One month closer to seeing old friends, but leaving new ones. One month closer to “starting life” in the traditional American sense.
I never thought that the simple changing of a page on the calendar would inspire such thoughts in me, but I guess that’s one of the things you learn while traveling for an extended period of time.
My time is flying by here, and I still feel like I have so much left to experience here. I don’t know what adventures await me in the coming months, but I’m determined to meet them with a smile on my face, friends at my side, and a bright yellow van to carry me there.
Today, I’m working for my food and a place to sleep on a dairy farm pulling weeds.
Next month, who knows? But I’m ok with that.