Interview with Mary, a Work New Zealand Participant

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Our in-country team caught up with Mary, a US Citizen living the dream in New Zealand. She recounts some of her favorite things about her year abroad so far.

Favorite place in NZ: Oamaru

Why? I even surprise myself when I say Oamaru, but it’s a charming town full of kind and generous people. I spent more than two months managing a hostel (Chillawhile Backpackers and Art Gallery) which defined my experience in New Zealand. I was happiest here, and met the best types of travellers – those who are not afraid to get off the beaten track, who want to spent time meeting others, exploring and walking. The town itself is quaint with lots to do. A renowned distillery, a new brewery, farmers market, community classes, Moeraki Boulders are close by and there are penguins that walk the streets at night.

Best job you did: Underwater Gold Mining.

Why? This was a job I found online. With the vague description, I had to inquire further. In the end, I spent a month living in the bush and mountains outside of Queenstown with a lovely man named Ian. He shared his extensive knowledge and point of view with me and gave me the once-in-a-lifetime experiences of flying in a helicopter, picking wild raspberries at dusk, finding (truly gleaming) gold in a rushing river, hunting and orientation under the starry sky. I learned more about myself in that month than I ever had before and ever will again.

What is your favorite memory from your stay in New Zealand? I came to New Zealand with my three best friends. While we all ended up following our own passions while we were there, we did spend Christmas and New Year’s together. What could be better than warm holidays spent with the people you care most about? These were days I won’t ever be able to forget.

The best thing about traveling in New Zealand is… unparalleled freedom. I came to New Zealand to find myself, and to uncover another piece of the world before imagining myself as a settled career-woman. What I found was a passion for ending the day in a new place with new people, sharing stories and perspectives unfamiliar to what I knew. Waking up with no true destination in mind, except for a general direction. Taking tips from Kiwis and travelers alike, not being able to properly pronounce the names of the towns we stopped in. Driving off the road on a whim to hunt down a geothermal hot pool in a brook. How lucky we were to do any of this!

My top travel tip for New Zealand is: Short of being truly reckless, don’t say no to the opportunities that fall into your lap.

Any New Zealand ‘must do’ activities? Hang gliding near Abel Tasman – you get towed up by a plane to over 2500 ft. Do this if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a bird.

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