Robin and Elodie in the Abel Tasman National Park.

Robin & Elodie, a Full-Year in New Zealand.

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Their trip in New Zealand.

  • 1Journey to the Antipodes.
  • 2Becoming Experts of the Minivan.
  • 3Finding Jobs Across the Country.
  • 4Learning to Go Beyond Your limits.
  • 5Cooking or Succumbing to Fast Food.
  • 6Thousands of Memories Later...

1Journey to the Antipodes.

Year after year, Tongariro Crossing's popularity is growing, and the hiking trail is crowded in summer, but the huge landscapes remain spectacular.

Élodie and Robin at the summit of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

The moment when one manifests to his family the desire to travel to the other side of the world gives birth to very different reactions. But for the families of Elodie and Robin, it was not a problem.

Guillaume : How did your families reacted when you announced them that you wanted to spend a whole year in New Zealand?
Robin : They were expecting it! We both come from families who love to travel. My parents leave at least once a year with their backpack in Dora the Explorer's mode for a month. I have already traveled in a lot of countries and Elodie's family is half French and half Mauritian. She grew up in different countries and since her return to France she had only one idea in mind: to go on an adventure! All our loved ones have encouraged us in this process. Some even envy us! It was the perfect moment, after our studies and before settling.
Guillaume : The ideal scenario... but how did you choose a good insurance to be covered abroad?
Élodie : In the end, the steps are simple, but one must know them ... We first sought to take advantage of our own Private Medical Health Insurance , but they asked us too many guarantees! After some research on the net and travelers' forums, we found our travel insurance in two clicks. We simply chose the one with the reimbursement / price ratio that seemed the most interesting. We opted for good private liability and good coverage in case of accident. Because being bitten by a sheep can quickly happen in New Zealand ...

2Becoming Experts of the Minivan.

Sleeping in a mini-van is not a problem if the bedding is decent. But you still have to find a location to park your vehicle without being exposed to 200 dollars fine.

The minivan is the preferred mode of transport for backpackers.

If one does not become mechanics expert overnight, it is better to study the question a minimum before the departure. One need to be able to diagnose the origin and the seriousness of an engine failure thanks to basic details.

Guillaume : According to your own experience, what are the essential criteria for choosing a van?
Robin : To have a minimum mechanics knowledge. There are no excuses for that, as it takes just a few minutes on the Internet to learn. The worn out timing belt and the engine block to be changed are the two main failures to be feared. Check the date of the cylinder head gasket change and / or plan to do so (do not hesitate to make a call to a garage to ask for an estimate of the vehicle you are interested in)..
Guillaume : Not to mention the traditional cylinder head gasket that everyone has heard about without knowing very well what it is ...
Robin : For the cylinder head gasket, there are some signs easy to recognize: the van spits out white smoke all the time and the oil turns to mayonnaise when you rub it. This is just a small part of the vehicle to fix, but difficult to access to the point of requiring a cost almost dissuasive for an old van.
Guillaume : This may seem a little daunting for those who do not know anything about it. Is there any sort of technical control in New Zealand?
Élodie : The van must have a WoF (Warrant of fitness) to be available to the sale, and this technical check has to be done every 6 months. So it is best to get a van with a fresh WoF to be sure to roll some time with a free mind. The check is done on many points (brakes, shock absorbers, lights, tires, etc.). For the rest, one must overlook the details because one does not refuse to buy a used minivan for the color of the carpet. A distinction must be made between essential and superfluous.
Guillaume : These are good advice, but for tight budgets, is it possible to be satisfied with an entry-level vehicle?
Élodie : Do not be stingy! When someone try to purchase a vehicle as cheap as possible, he ends up paying it sooner or later. What do a few hundred dollars represent while you are going to use a vehicle for a whole year? The amount remains negligible ...
Guillaume : Especially if you can find free camp sites to spend the night. About this subject, what is the most unlikely place you spent the night?
Élodie : Probably on the edge of a Highway (local highway). When we were newbies, and although freedom camping is prohibited (in tourist areas), we have made some sprains to the rule. In a spirit “the bigger, the better” and “the more I am in the middle, the less you see me”, we spent a few nights at highway intersections (we were far too exhausted to search for a better place!), in the city center, parked on a sidewalk (not pride of this), and even on empty car parks near the wall of a library equipped with a public Wi-Fi network!

3Finding Jobs Across the Country.

Every year, Queenstown hosts a mountain bike festival. The competition gather the best champions of the discipline on spectacular races. The starting points are generally established at the top of the mountains.

Élodie and Robin helped organize the Queenstown Bike Festival.

Attending a festival is a pleasant experience, but participating in the organization and monitoring the operations with the technical teams is much more interesting. Robin and Élodie helped organize the 2014 Queenstown Bike Festival.

Guillaume : Even if the Kiwis are known to be honest people, there are always exceptions to the rule. So, how to tell the difference between a good and a bad employer?
Élodie : Your employer must require your work visa and RD number for taxes. On your side, do not hesitate to talk frankly about money. There is a minimal wage in New Zealand and whatever happens, you cannot be paid below the minimum hourly wage. If no mention of this is present in the contract ,or if you have the slightest doubt, don't sign!
Guillaume : Did you have some bad experiences during your stay?
Robin : We had a bad experience when we were not aware of the existence of a minimum wage or what the average wage for a job can be. We learned the lesson, and we have had excellent relationships with our employers ever since.
Guillaume : I discovered on your blog that you both participated in the organization of the Queenstown Bike Festival. How did you manage to get a job like this?
Élodie : A little by chance by meeting the founders and organizers thanks to a friend met in a backpacker of Auckland. The best experiences often come from people we meet by chance, and as we both work in events organizations, the rest is quite simple to imagine. It was a very nice experience, a volunteering but the team gave us free pass for fantastic local activities like the Queenstown Shotover Jet, a Milford Sound Cruise, a day of biking ...
Story of the Queenstown Bike Festival on Elodie and Robin's blog.

4Learning to Go Beyond Your limits.

It was a New Zealander who first had the idea to jump into the void by being hung on an elastic. A few decades later, the activity became a popular sport practiced all over the country.

Bungee jumping was invented in New Zealand.

Here is finally the answer to the question of whether it is more terrifying to practice bungee jumping or skydiving. Elodie had the pleasure (courage) to test both activities in New Zealand.

Guillaume : What are the sensations of a bungee or a parachute jump?
Élodie : The two experiences are quite different. Bungee jumping is more daunting than parachute jumping. One of the Queenstown bungee jumping ends up in the river and I plunged up to the knees. Seeing the ground getting closer so fast is quite different from the parachute jump. The bonus when diving in water is that you don't know where you are. It is not every day that one feels in the skin of a sausage suspended at the end of an elastic. It is an experience to try at least once in his life!
Guillaume : Were you not even more afraid of jumping from a plane in flight?
Élodie : The skydiving is really nice too. Do not hesitate to pay to enjoy a jump of a maximum height, the experience takes place so fast! For those who are as dizzy as Robin, it is necessary to know that one is no longer afraid to fall when one has already jumped! The monitor takes care of everything anyway, and apart the brief moment when one jump off the plane, it's not that much frightening...
Guillaume : Even if you want to stay Zen, you can also just stay on the earth and enjoy the dream beaches. Can we really go swimming in New Zealand?
Robin : Yes, and the water is even very good in Northland in summer. Invest in a fine combination if surfing or diving tempt you. That's what we did. Elodie is scared in the water, she imagines at any time that a white shark will eat her toes while there is no danger of that to happen in New Zealand... If Elodie swim, you can swim too!
Watch the video of the parachute jump of Robin and Élodie.

5Cooking or Succumbing to Fast Food.

The reputation of the restaurant Fergburger has long crossed the borders of the country. This burger restaurant is regularly quoted in the rankings of the best fast foods of the planet.

The Fergburger is probably the best burger in the world.

The hikes open the appetite, and when it's time to choose between traditional English cuisine and a delicious hamburger, it is not uncommon to succumb to the charms of fast food. Especially since the Kiwis own one of the best burgers on the planet.

Guillaume : Can Kiwi gastronomy be summed up with a duel between Burger Fuel and Fergburger?
Élodie : The duel between Burger Fuel (a popular local fast-food chain) and the Fergburger (not to be missed on Queenstown) does not have to be, because the Fergburger wins hands down! It is perhaps a bit exaggerated to assimilate Kiwi gastronomy to burgers, but in general food is not the strong point of the Anglo-Saxon countries, at least if one is accustomed to French cuisine. If you are looking for the place where you could get the most cholesterol, New Zealand defends well. After a year, we were dreaming of green vegetables, Camembert and good bread!
Guillaume : On the other hand, can we find the ingredients to cook like at home?
Robin : Yes. We even find the rustic Camembert in NZ! You have to pay the equivalent of $ 20, of course, but it's a real one. Vegetables are a bit expensive (let's not forget that it is a rather isolated island, and we are used to eating vegetables and fruits without really taking into account the seasons), but having healthy meals is possible.
Guillaume : Twenty dollars for a Camembert ... that will not make the happiness of the mown travelers ...
Élodie : But cooking like a student is easier than ever. When the bank account is empty, one can buy pasta, rice, fish and chips, not forgetting the ultimate solution for the poor traveler: the instant noodles.
Robin and Élodie have tested the famous Queenstown's Fergburger.

6Thousands of Memories Later...

Unless you leave with a considerable cash reserve, you will have to work to finance your trip. Otherwise, you will be restricted in your travels and you will not really enjoy your stay.

The WHV alternates work periods and dream vacations.

You can reassure your friends, the Work Holiday Program will not turn you into an unbearable baba-cool-bio. But subtle transformations can take place in the way of apprehending the world.

Guillaume : Has the Working Holiday Program changed the way you see the world?
Robin : We had already traveled a lot before, so the surprise was necessarily less important. But a long journey where you have to change your habits and meet new people every day will necessarily transform you. Coming from the south of France, we could not help noticing the incredible contrast between the negative atmosphere in France, and the positive one in New Zealand. The Kiwis are rather optimistic, invest in projects, enjoy their retirement and are motivated!
Guillaume : At the end of this successful year with a Working Holiday Visa, do you consider expatriation in New Zealand?
Élodie : It is a country where it is good to live and where everything is easy, far from our French bureaucracy. The Kiwi lifestyle would suit us, that's for sure. The people are friendly and respectful, the nature superb. But the family still remains an important point of attachment. And then we have not traveled enough for the moment. We plan to visit Canada next year, and we'll consider the idea more seriously afterwards!
Guillaume : It was my last question. Thank you both for this beautiful interview. Of course, we only overviewed the subject! I invite all those who are planning a stay in New Zealand to check your excellent blog. Thank you again and enjoy your last months with the Kiwis!

© Photos copyright Robin & Élodie | Oudye Wood (Back)Packers.


Robin and Élodie during their Working Holiday Visa.

Interview of Robin & Elodie

Funky travel in NZ.

Improvising and adapting is the key word of this one-year trip on the roads of Aotearoa with a Working Holiday Visa. Find our itinerary and share your experiences (search for small jobs, improvised hikes) on the two main islands of the country.

  • One year with a WHV
  • By mini-van
  • By bike
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Places visited during the travel in NZ

This map gives you an idea of the itinerary.

Guillaume picture in the mountains

Interview by William.

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The recommendations from Robin & Elodie in New Zealand.

Guillaume picture in the mountains

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