I have a job. This means I'm now free to indulge in activities I would have felt guilty about wasting my time on previously, like writing things on the internet no one will read. So today I'm going to write a little summary of my recent trip around New Zealand with Sam.

Firstly, some statistics:
  • The trip lasted exactly 4 months, beginning on December 6th, 2013 and ending on April 6th, 2014.
  • We spent 10 weeks on the North Island, and 7 weeks on the South Island.
  • We travelled about 5,500 kilometres.
  • Most of our accommodation was free. We spent 58 nights staying with helpx hosts, 14 with couchsurfing hosts, and 10 nights at friends' houses. We spent 38 nights in paid hostels, hotels and campsites.
  • We stayed with 9 different helpx hosts and 7 different couchsurfing hosts.
  • Most of our transport was free. We hitchhiked on 18 occasions and got lifts off people we met on 8 occasions. We paid for buses and ferries on 14 occasions.
  • We hitched in 37 different vehicles, an average of 2 vehicles per trip. The highest number of vehicles was between Rangiputa and Auckland (6 vehicles).
  • The whole trip cost me about NZ$5000, which is about $40/day (£20/day).
Any excuse for some pie charts:

Here are five things I learnt:

1. A lot can happen in four months

Every time I look back at photos from the trip, I'm reminded of just how much we did. In four months, we skydived, bungee jumped, parasailed, kayaked, caved, sailed, flew a plane, attended concerts, camped, saw penguins, swam in rivers, lakes and oceans, hiked up hills, mountains, volcanoes and sand dunes. We worked on wetlands, farms, vineyards, motels and orchards. We sold ice cream, picked pears, harvested honey, fed alpacas, painted houses, built furniture, babysat, collected eggs, and cleaned toilets. I killed someone's pet. It was easily the busiest, most varied four months of my life.

2. Short term planning works

We had just a couple of night's accommodation booked when we left Christchurch and only a vague idea about where we wanted to go. Neither of us had ever used helpx or couchsurfing before. This uncertainty made me anxious at first, but as the trip progressed and things began to fall into place, I started to embrace it. Finding work was tricky at times but we found enough to maintain a nice pattern of working one week and travelling the next. We never planned more than two weeks ahead and it just worked.

3. Hitchhiking is the worst

Hitchhiking is the least reliable method of transport in the world, just behind ant-back riding. It completely failed us on three separate occasions (Christchurch, Kaikoura, Motueka) and threatened to do so many more times. This was most painful towards the end of the trip when we were at peak exhaustion and just wanted to get from A to B, where ideally A was a different place from B. The bus starts to sound a lot more appealing after four hours spent watching traffic ignore you.

4. Hitchhiking is the best

Hitchhiking puts you in so many fantastic situations you just don't get on public transport, like sliding around in the back of a moving pickup truck, or sharing a car with a beekeeper and hundreds of his bees. We were picked up by students, electricians, German tourists, dairy farmers, art dealers, a woodwork teacher, a self-confessed drink driver, retirees, missionaries, a school bus driver (in his school bus), the uncle of someone I used to work with, a minibus full of skydivers, a professional spear fisherman, and a woman with a swastika tattoo on the back of her neck. The only thing these great people had in common was their ownership of a vehicle and their willingness to share it with two strangers for a while.

5. New Zealand is the best country in the world

I've made plenty of exaggerated claims about New Zealand in the past so I don't really need to justify this one. But New Zealand is amazing, you should go.