After travelling around New Zealand and doing a short stint in Nelson, the only logical place I had not explored (and the only place for Kate and I to gain some decent work) was Wellington.
So we took our car back on the ferry at Picton and headed back to the ends of the north island through the choppy cook straight.
We arrived in Wellington in February 2016, which coincided with students returning to the universities and also some large cricket and rugby events that were also taking place. Needless to say we found zero accomodation in the central city and had to go further afield to find an AirBNB. We even stayed in some truckers motel for one night and I’m pretty sure it was a brothel service accomodation..
AirBnb became a saving grace as we met a real nice couple Anne and Gerard who had a lovely house with the most amazing and comfy bed. They were a really interesting couple who had worked as doctors in their younger years and were now running gold mining operations on the south island.
We spent a while trying to find a decent place to live in Wellington and it was very hard.
I’ve never lived in such a tight-knit city with such a lack of accomodation. If you want to make money in New Zealand renting houses then Wellington is the place to do it.
We finally moved into a large shared house in Khandallah – which is one of the most affluent areas just outside Wellington. The great thing about living in Wellington is the amazing views over the Wellington harbour. Our house was up in the hills and every morning I would rise to the greatest view across the waters and the behavior of the water and wind would change daily, it was so refreshing. The air up here was also really fresh and clean. I would cycle down a mammoth hill each day to get to work and this would always wake me up fresh early.
This was short-lived. The job was cool and much of the time I was working on my own, but it just didn’t provide enough money to live on and I was saving nothing up for future travel. I would ride home everyday and be exhausted. Not getting any web development learnings done in the process.
I had not learned my lesson from Auckland. This is not Australia, food and rent is more expensive, yet the low wage is unsustainable, even when being frugal. Something had to change.
So I went back to the drawing board and drew upon my SEO / digital marketing experience to land a job with one of the most revered companies in New Zealand. I worked for 6 months for the Chowz on a range of different business interests that they owned and ran. It was tough but it taught me a lot about what could be achieved if you really work hard and know how to excel in a competitive environment. What I mean by this is that their family all had key roles within the business and they were all trying very hard to work as hard as the next family member and this pushed them to excel and move forward in business at an astounding rate.
Seeing a family business go from running a modest takeaway to owning some of the most expensive commercial real estate in New Zealand, let alone some of the most profitable businesses was an incredible insight into the world of business. Completing my first 6 months as a freelance contractor allowed me to really hone in on what things really mattered to me with regard to a job / a career / success and what things I just did not give a fuck about.
Much like any of my corporate escapades, I learned (again) that people hamper progress. Poor communication and institutional environmental structure are the main blockers of efficient working and getting shit done.
I was flung to the opposite end of the spectrum with this assignment (when comparing it to my coffee time in Wellington). I was earning a packet and did not care what I spent my money on. But at the same time I had zero time and zero energy from bleeding myself dry trying to take on too much non-targeted work.
but in the long run this did not matter as I had proved to my employer and myself that I was good enough to be a specialist. Good enough to be a freelance contractor.
“From this day forth I shall be known as Freelance Contractor Dan”
Life isn’t all about work.
Let’s talk about Wellington as a city.
If you start your New Zealand adventure in Auckland you will hear nothing but bad things about Wellington. How it’s really windy and how it’s cold and how the weather is bad etc etc. Yes it is windy and yes it can be cold, but for the most part, Wellington is a far superior city than Auckland. It has life it has a soul it has culture. It is a cultural hot pot at the ends of the earth where you can find amazing food and coffee.
The landscape is completely unique. A city built on the sides of steep hills with houses in the most difficult to build places I have ever seen. 30 minutes drive and you are in beautiful NZ countryside. All the coastal areas are each unique between themselves and if you head east you can be the only person on the beach for miles around.
Wellington has the high-rise to countryside contrast I love about a city. It has the modern conveniences that are available and open 24 hours a day. It has life, people are nice and there is a hotpot of culture religion and tolerance between all communities.
Yes it is only small, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in personality.
I loved waking up with views over the harbour. I loved the fresh blast of air you get up on the hills that comes from the Cook Straight. No pollution, just clarity through breath. Waking up early and whizzing down the hill on my bike everyday to get to Wellington. Yes some days it was rainy and cold, but still milder than English winter.
I spent 2 awesome years in the land of the long white cloud (Aotearoa) that I would not change for the world. As with coffee in Australia before, I embraced and learned to love IPA & craft beer in Wellington. I can’t even stand lager now and it’s all I ever used to drink. Funny how travelling opens you up to not only new culture but new things and new takes and old things.
It’s this realignment of learning and appreciation that I really enjoy. It keeps me grounded and grateful for the little things.
Goodbye for now, but I know I’ll be back.
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