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This week’s guest post for the ‘Day-to-Day’ series comes from Charli who spent time living, working, and house sitting around New Zealand’s South Island. (Her photos are going to make you want to go outside…) For the last three years I’ve travelled perpetually. Choosing to travel at a slow pace I incorporate house sitting assignments into my itinerary to subsidise my expenditure and enable me to get to know the locations I visit.
As such I’ve sampled expat life in 6 different countries since leaving the UK. Seven months on assignment in Costa Rica, one month in the USA, three months in British Colombia and then 12 in Australia. I’ve looked after 16 different properties and been a resident in a wide range of locations. 2013 offered me one of my most exciting years of travel so far. Flying into Auckland just before Christmas 2012, I’ve spent the last 12 months travelling and living in New Zealand. While Oceania was never somewhere I had envisaged spending a huge amount of time, I’ve found myself intoxicated by the diverse landscapes, azure waters, arid deserts and glacial mountain ranges which litter this part of the world. During the last 12 months I’ve looked after a property in Titirangi, an artsy suburb of Auckland, a lifestyle farm in Tauranga on the North Island’s east coast and an architectural masterpiece doubling as a family home on the remote Coromandel Peninsula. As I type these words I’m sat in the kitchen of a Victorian Lockwood house in Melbourne’s trendy Carlton North. House sitting has offered me the chance to see the western world on a budget, live like a local, experience remote parts of this beautiful region and make some friends I know I’ll remain close to for the rest of my life.
My daily routine evolves with each new assignment I take on. In New Zealand I was fortunate enough to care for some animals with real character and my day to day existence involved catering to their needs while making the most of the surrounding landscapes. On assignment in Tauranga I was tasked with caring for 12 alpacas. While ordinarily this would have been simple enough, simply poo pick and fill water buckets, it was mating season and so I was soon acquainted with the ins and outs of alpaca breeding – no pun intended. Every fortnight my partner Ben and I took to the field with ski poles and attempted to herd the alpacas into a sorting pen, where we would then isolate 3 lucky females who were to be introduced to a visiting male stud the following morning. Think Love Actually for alpacas. However it turned out to be a case of Love…, Actually Not. The male was not with the alpaca answer to Channing Tatum, and after arriving at the property with the breeder he was continually rejected by our ladies and subjected to a barrage of green gloopy spit each time he tried to have his wicked way. While living on the Coromandel Peninsula I spent my days exploring the region’s remote coastal landscape. Diving for scallops and crayfish, combing the rugged beaches and tramping through native bush in search of new vistas and picture postcard views. My time on assignment in Auckland offered the chance to sample city living Kiwi style and to take in the beauty of Northland’s rich marine environments. Scuba diving the Poor Knight’s Islands was a real highlight and made possible by the fact that we had a base close by from which to explore.
By house sitting instead of paying for hotels and hostels I save a huge chunk of my travel fund which I am then able to funnel into experiencing the locations I visit. My adventures in New Zealand have been aided by the fact that my partner and I purchased a 4×4 and caravan in which to travel when in-between assignments. Road tripping is the perfect way to take in location. Much like house sitting it gives you the freedom to plan your own itinerary, reduces your expenditure and serves to offer a much more immersive experience than simply joining an organised tour. Life in the caravan is rather different to living in a home. Although I currently class our caravan as my home it does require an alternative mind set to that which you have when living in a house. Of course the main difference is space; you’re effectively living in a studio apartment on wheels. Your bed becomes the lounge during daylight hours and you soon learn that if you fill the toilet with number 2’s it’s a horrendous job for the person who has to empty the cassette when it reaches capacity! Luxury takes on a whole new meaning too. Whereas before you might crave a massage and a manicure the concept of a comfortable bed and a bubble bath more than suffice. Having said that, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. Waking up to a view of a remote glacial landscape, hearing the sound of Mother Nature in full throng and soaking in your own piece of paradise, that for the moment is just yours to enjoy is just heaven.
Like much of the western world New Zealand is an expensive place to live and travel. If I had to tell you one thing that frustrated me about this beautiful country it would probably be that it is eating away at our savings. Groceries and fuel eat up the majority of our weekly budget and it can be a bit of a nightmare when ordering electrical goods or products online. There seems to be a mark-up on everything we buy, we’ve actually started ordering things online in the US and having them shipped over as it’s proving to be cheaper than buying on store over in New Zealand! Having said that I’ve fallen head over heels for the Kiwi lifestyle. Laidback, chilled out and easy going there’s nothing I would change about life over there. The air is clean and the grass may well be a little greener than anywhere else I’ve lived.
Travel writer and blogger Charli is a digital nomad currently travelling the world with her other half, Ben. Whether backpacking through Central America or road tripping around Australia, they embrace each and every opportunity for adventure. Read more about their insatiable wanderlust on their blog Wanderlusters or follow this adventurous duo over on Google +, Twitter and Instagram.