On the path of a meaningful life

Texts, photographs and videos by Claire B.

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15 February 2017

Travelers experiences in New Zealand

Discussion with Dana, Pablo and Pauline about their travel and their vision of the country.
Lake Wakatipu, South Island, New Zealand © Dana and Pablo
INTERVIEW

When traveling we sometimes meet other travelers with whom we sympathize quickly. I met Pauline at the very beginning of my trip to New Zealand, in Rotorua on the North Island. We spent a few days together and I was immediately pleased with her well-defined but sympathetic character and her desires similar to mine. By chance we found ourselves barely a week later on the forecourt of the New Plymouth i-site. Then several months later in Te Anau. Life seems to draw us to each other. I had been working at Kepler Restaurant in Te Anau in Fiordland for a month when Dana and Pablo arrived. A ray of joy and a smile in a slightly gloomy atmosphere. We immediately sympathized and it was a pleasure to work and exchange for three months with them. No matter the situation, they are always in a good mood! Here is their vision of New Zealand for the three of them.

Hello Pauline, Dana and Pablo! Can you introduce yourself ?

Pauline: Pauline, Pam for friends. I’m an 18 and a half year old Frenchie (well almost), and of course I love to travel, but also pastry, music, cats and beer. I have a rather lonely character, and, as my father says, I am a “wild cream”. That is to say that I am fairly easy going, I am smiling and I like to please (the “cream”), but I also hold very strongly to my independence, my freedom and I do not need anyone to take care of me (and I wrongly think it’s the same for others, hence the “wild”).

Dana and Pablo: Hello! We are Dana and Pablo, together for twelve years. We are Argentines and we love to travel. We met while traveling and haven’t stopped since. We met in Patagonia and we also lived in Buenos Aires. The last place we lived before arriving in New Zealand was in Mar del Plata, a beautiful town close to the sea. Pablo is a chef and Dana is a professor of literature. But we have no problem doing other jobs, because that’s how we keep learning new things. Currently, we are working together in a restaurant in Te Anau, Pablo as chef and Dana as waitress.

How long have you been traveling? And how ?

Pauline: I left in early April 2016 for ten days in Tokyo, a week in Brisbane, eleven months in New Zealand, a week in Sydney and a few days in Singapore. A year-long trip therefore, which will end at the end of March. I travel alone, I find it very difficult to be with several people, I am a savage remember! However, this trip still helped me quite a bit through socialization (which was unexpected). I bought a car a few months after arriving in New Zealand, because the bus was a pain, and I wanted to prove to myself that I was capable of it. And it was a really good idea.

Dana and Pablo: We arrived in New Zealand last August (2016) and we lived in Lower Hutt, near Wellington, for two months. Then we decided to change places and we arrived in Te Anau in November. Currently (February 2017) this is our last month of work in Te Anau. After that we will return to Wellie in April because Dana received funding to do her doctorate here. We are traveling by car. We bought our Lorney, that’s her name, from Wellie. It was relatively cheap and we fitted it out to have a mattress in the back. This is our mobile home and we do “car camping” quite often.

What is New Zealand for you? What do you like in this country?

Pauline: What I really like here is the kindness and the optimism of the people. At the supermarket you are asked how you are doing, with a smile, and they pack your groceries properly. When you work well, they tell you, they congratulate you. Here parents very rarely scold children, they let them have their own experiences and encourage them. In the street when you smile at a stranger, he smiles back and gives you a “Hi! ” It’s not much, but for me it makes all the difference. And then, I know that it is considered a defect for the French but too bad, I love English! I have visited the two islands of the country from one end to the other. I just didn’t hike Tongariro and the northeast part of the South Island because there was a big earthquake. I’m currently on my sixth wwoofing (volunteering). Lots of great encounters, discoveries on the various works of the farm but also the hotel industry, exchange of recipes, and excellent memories (or sometimes execrable!) Engraved in my neurons.

Dana and Pablo: At the beginning, before leaving the plane which brought us to Wellington several months before, New Zealand was an isolated country, very very far from our country, two small islands in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean. At that time, NZ was the All Blacks, sheep and incredible landscapes. Now things have changed a lot, since we were fortunate enough to travel to this beautiful country and fell in love with its mountains, lakes and forests. The people here are incredibly kind, so relaxed and open-minded that at first we found it hard to believe. It was just that we had a hard time believing that people could be so nice without even knowing you. It took us a bit of time to realize that this is just the way they are, at least for the most part, and we have found that being around nice people changes you and also makes you nicer. We also noticed that NZ is really designed for backpackers. There are clean public toilets every 50km on the road, good quality campsites in each small town, the roads are very well marked and in excellent conditions. Some cities even have public showers!

Do you have a travel philosophy?

Pauline: Uh I have no philosophy … Before making this trip I realized that I did not know what I liked, what I wanted, that I did not have so many dreams. After ten months here, I have found many answers, I am brimming with future projects, I feel better physically and in my head, and I care much less about the future.

Dana and Pablo: We don’t really know what a travel philosophy could be. What we are sure of is that we are trying to learn and have new experiences in every place we go and we consider that traveling allows us to constantly put ourselves in these kinds of situations. We prefer cheap budgets, not only because, of course, that is what we can afford but also because it allows us to gain independence and puts us in situations that would not have happened if we had stayed in a five star hotel. We are respectful and curious about nature and people and our basic philosophy is to experiment to learn, to open up to new things, new languages, new people and new landscapes. This is, in our opinion, one of the things that makes you grow while keeping a childish curiosity and learning every day.

Your best memories or difficulties?

Pauline: I have very good memories of my wwoofing at the calving season. I bottle-fed hundreds of calves, watched them grow up, they loved sucking my fingers and licking my head … a great experience! During this trip, I also met a person who made me see life from a different angle and since then everything seems easier and beautiful. It was definitely a key moment in my journey. I also swam with dolphins spontaneously in a cove of the Coromandels. It was definitely a great surprise. But I could also talk about the friends I found here (including you my little Claire!), My parachute jump at Taupo, the extraordinary Christmas in midsummer, the three weeks spent crisscrossing the South Island with my Daddy … My biggest difficulty was probably my first month in NZ. The day I arrived, I went directly to a wwoofing in the North of Auckland and it was not exactly my ideal life. I had a lot of trouble adjusting to the conditions I encountered there, and I was physically and mentally exhausted (especially when the mice devoured my only bar of chocolate!). But I wanted to stay a full month, as promised, and I got there.

Dana and Pablo: The arrival on the first day was fantastic. One of our best friends lives in Wellington and he came to pick us up with Dana’s sister, who is also in NZ on a Working Holiday visa (we will see her soon by the way !!). Walking for the first time on the streets was amazing! And then meet new friends here, all very nice, with interesting stories to tell and all coming from very different backgrounds. And then buy our first car (our very first car) and start planning our trip to Te Anau. And the trip itself was fantastic. We were so happy! Picton, Nelson, Abel Tasman, Takaka, Canaan Downs, Westport, Owen River, Punakaki Rocks, Hokitika Gorge, Arthurs Pass, Castle Hill, Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki and Mount Cook, Twizel, Cromwell, Queenstown, Glenorchy, Kinloch , Manapouri and finally Milford Sound! Difficulties? First, get used to dinner time here! Our first month, we insisted on looking for a place to dine around 10 p.m. – it’s the usual dinner time in Argentina. Everything was closed, and if we found an open place it was about to close, so we felt guilty and didn’t want to enter! The first days here were pretty hungry !! Hahahaha. Second, a bad story with our first and only roommate in Petone… she was crazy !! In the end, this is what brought us here on the South Island, so we can thank her.

Is the future worrying or not?

Pauline: Well, honestly, the future worries me less than before. Oddly enough, it is rather the people around me who are thinking about … I am going back to France at the end of March after a year spent mainly in NZ. I have several projects in mind and want to continue travelling. But when I will be back, first, I will eat a good raclette with bread and good wine and celebrate my return with my friends and family. The rest will be done by itself. One thing is certain, I will not return to work as before my trip.

Dana and Pablo: It’s not scary but full of challenges. New life in Wellington, continuing her doctoral studies for Dana, looking for a new job for Pablo, finding a house we love and can afford, making it ours for a period of time, feeling at home, in a new place, as we have done so far. Challenges because we have never lived in a foreign country for a long time before and it sounds like a long term project. Also excited about all the new experiences that await us!

A recipe that illustrates New Zealand for you?

Pauline: The pavlova! It’s a big meringue covered with whipped cream and fruit, and it’s super good. Despite its Russian sounding name, it is a typical New Zealand dessert. I learned to do it when I was wwoofing on a dairy farm, with my host Tamara who taught me all of her tricks to succeed. But New Zealand it’s also canned spaghetti eaten on buttered toast, chamallow fish, and “fush’nchups”!

Dana and Pablo: We think about the local pies. There are “pies” everywhere here, and each city has its own local “pie”! Also, we work next to the Te Anau “pie” store, so it’s really connected to our experience of this place. Fish and chips wrapped in newspaper, of course, are a must in New Zealand, as well as – believe it or not – Indian and Asian restaurants, which were new to us and which, here, seem to be the favorite of Kiwis!

Thank you very much to all three of you!

Follow the adventures of Pauline on BackPackPam and those of Dana and Pablo on Babilonio Rucula.

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