The inspiration to travel struck us sometime in mid 2015. It all began with
extensive research, where we looked into the different countries that offered US citizens working visas.
New Zealand caught our eye and the decision was made. We were going to move there
for a full year. We read books and spent hours each night watching videos on YouTube, gaining inspiration
from those whose footsteps we would follow. Everything was planned and our year was mapped out, and little did
we realize that once we arrived everything would change. Nothing ever goes according
to plan when you travel, but you learn to truly embrace that feeling.

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It began with a van. We scoured post after post, and knew that if it were
to be our home for the next year, it would have to be perfect. At this point, everything was
so foreign to us. Yes it’s a western country, but the lifestyle was so different and we were truly
independent in every big decision we made. How do we choose a camp spot? What type of food
should we keep on hand? Where will we shower? And the biggest question, where do we go first?
Within our first three weeks we had already done a big loop of the South Island, from the East Coast
city of Christchurch, all the way north to Takaka, and back down the West Coast to Jackson Point.
We saw tropical rainforest, snow capped mountains, glaciers, and miles upon miles of
empty coastline as we quickly settled into what people call the “van life”. The one plan we
wanted to stick to was to work the winter season in Queenstown, so we were slowly
working our way there. In doing so we cruised through the small town
of Wanaka and well, we never left.

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We had never felt so at home away from Colorado. Let’s be real, it was hard not to fall in love.
Wanaka is a small mountain town nestled on the cusp of a massive lake. The scenery is beautiful,
and vibe is extremely laid back. Within a few days, we would see friendly faces at the grocery store, and
have our favorite beer poured at the pub without even having to ask. After spending a few weeks there,
we decided to apply for jobs working at Cardrona Alpine Resort and to rent a house out for
the winter season. We had the opportunity to work and live with people from all over the world,
and it’s truly magnificent to see how we are all so similar and can get on so well. We were
introduced to new hobbies and would share stories over local cuisine or a warm campfire.
Before we knew it, the snow was melting and warm weather was back
upon us and we were back on the road.


This time, we really paced ourselves. If we found a spot we sincerely loved,
we would spend at least a week. We hiked and backpacked through the beautiful back country
of the Matukituki valley. We climbed through rainforests to find glaciers at the tops of mountains.
We met penguins, caught sharks, and found Jade on the beach. We even stopped back in Wanaka
for Halloween and partied with the locals in the middle of nowhere in what they call a “Bush Doof”.
The South Island of Aotearoa had become our home and our playground, but eventually we were
ready to adventure North. The day came where we drove our van onto the ferry for a three
hour trip, in which you could see the tips of both islands at once. Upon arrival
we immediately noticed how different two parts of a country could be.


The North Island is filled with vast rolling hills and the most immaculate beaches.
We hiked up the side of Mt. Taranaki, which is a perfectly conical volcano covered in
beech trees and capped with snow. We drove “The Forgotten Highway” as we headed north towards
the big city of Auckland. Over New Years, we found jobs working at a music festival in Mangawhai, which
correlates with the work we do at home but on a completely different scale. We were having the time of our lives,
but the end of our visa was creeping up on us, so it was time to sell the van and head home.
We made lifelong friends throughout our trip who we have reacquainted with all over the world.
The memories from our time in New Zealand will forever be in our hearts,
and we can’t wait to make it happen again in another country.

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Story and Photography by Max Cannalte and Brittany Maymi