After working hard (and admittedly playing equally hard) in Australia for a year, I had saved up a comfortable sum by budget traveler standards. I wanted to take an eco-friendly trip, sleep outside, and push myself physically. The answer seemed clear: go to New Zealand. As an outdoor enthusiast, adrenaline junky, and total Lord of the Rings fan, it had been my dream to go there for as long as I could remember. Although I knew it would be expensive, I rationalized to J that it was unlikely that I’d find myself in that neck of the woods again, at least anytime soon- NZ is pretty far away from…everywhere else apart from Oz. “But we’ll free camp. The only real cost will be the bikes and gear, and we’ll just get the cheapest possible”. Oh, to be naive again.
I’ll take the blame here. He did say, probably multiple times, that if I was so keen on a trip, it should be to a cheap country where we’d get the most bank for our buck. “Let’s go to Thailand”, he said. “We’ll be able to do so much more for so much less,” he said. “No,” said the silly redhead.
I’ve already written a post about our catastrophic bike ride across New Zealand, so I won’t moan about it further here. Instead, I’ll share what I missed out on because of my own adamancy about bungee jumping and cycling up-mountain and into the wind. One of my best friends, an awesome English girl that I spent every single day for 8 months in Australia with, decided that she was going to head to Thailand at the same time that I insisted upon New Zealand. She tried to talk us (well, me) into coming with her, as she’d never gone abroad alone before and was a bit nervous. J reassured her that she’d be just fine and have an eye-opening experience and an unforgettable time. H even had the initial finances (before the actual monetary thunderstorm) on her side when comparing the cost of her flight to ours: her Thailand flight (nearly three times the distance, I might add) was the same cost as our short route to New Zealand AND it would allow her to book a significantly cheaper flight to return home. Still, I didn’t budge. In retrospect, I knew I was doing what I wanted, but I definitely lacked the foresight that would have saved me a ton of money (and tears). While we were cursing the weather and cuddled up for warmth in our soaking wet tent, this is what Hayley was doing.
Yep, splashing around with elephants in watering holes, drinking cocktails from buckets, lounging in the omnipresent sunshine, staying at funky hostels, and viewing the country from her newly-purchased mo-ped. In addition to doing all of this in Thailand, she was also able to travel across Cambodia and Vietnam… for five months. All of this for- I’m guessing here, as it will have far too of a self-loathsome effect on me to know the exact figures – a fraction of what I spent over a month, on a bicycle, camping in the rain, in New Zealand.
If you aren’t lacking in funds and budgeting is the least of your worries, than this advice is not for you. Go wherever and do whatever! But for readers on the cusp of a similar situation – backpackers leaving Oz and unsure of where to get the most out of their savings – I implore you: learn from my mistake. Head to Thailand, live like a king or queen for a while, and return to NZ when you don’t have to decide between a dry roof over your head and your next day’s worth of food.