Thoughts on Living in a Van And Traveling Around New Zealand + My Upcoming Travel Plans

April 4, 2016
buying a campervan in auckland new zealand

Two days and I’m on a plane out of Auckland. For a little over three months, we have been living out of a van and traveling around the entire country of New Zealand. It’s the longest I’ve lived in a country that was quite similar to my own, which gave me the time to really analyze the differences and how I feel about them.


glowworms in waitomo caves new zealand

And, while I’ve taken extended road trips before, this is the first time that I actually lived out of a vehicle in any country.


traveling around new zealand

Cooking dinner by the beach

New Zealand had been on our list for years and driven by photos of its epic natural settings and wildlife, we couldn’t wait to get here. Now, sitting in perhaps our 30th library of the journey, we have seen everything we wanted to and honestly can’t wait to leave.

Tongariro Crossing hiking in New Zealand

The views were epic

So, as I reflect on all of the seals, flightless birds, towering mountains, kind people and unforgettable experiences, I am tempted to list everything that I both loved and hated about not only living out of a van but traveling around New Zealand itself.


Kayaking at Abel Tasman National Park

Seal time!

Thoughts On Living In A Van

It’s got a bed, black out curtains and a cooker, making it our little home on wheels.

traveling around New Zealand
What I Love

• We have somewhere to stay literally ANYWHERE we go
• When we find free campsites, accommodation costs us $0
• Sometimes it feels like a clubhouse when we manage to download some movies and get a bottle of wine
• It’s super cozy
• It has plenty of space to put all of the treasures we find and buy
• It shields us from the elements way better than a tent
• I get to sit on the left side of it as a passenger
• It’s a manual so Josh drives it everywhere while I just hang out
• We can stop and take naps whenever we want to


Things I Hate About Living in a Van

• We have to clean out the trash and organize it like twice a day
• It costs a lot to fill up the gas tank
• My window doesn’t roll up properly and I refrain from smashing it in anger at least twice a week
• The stupid Homer Simpson mascot that Josh put on the dashboard
• The mysterious crumbs that are always in the bed
• Trying to get changed in the bed
• Having a stereo that doesn’t really work
• Always running out of different music to listen to on our Iphones
• Trying to cook outside when it’s windy (which it always is)


Thoughts on Traveling in New Zealand

Overall, the country is everything we thought it would be and we have been able to do and see everything that we wanted to.

new zealand traveling

New Zealand travels


What I love About New Zealand

• The frequency of people going barefoot in almost any situation
• The wildlife sightings (seals, whales, penguins, birds)
• The epic natural settings
• The super kind locals
• The community infrastructure (Libraries with free WIFI, free campsites, skateboard parks, public toilets, free events, meeting spaces, water sources)
• The accents (they pronounce I and E exactly the same which is super funny when someone says deck)
• How the population is overall really laid back
• The ease of travel for backpackers and tourists
• The Feijoa fruit which is ridiculously delicious
• The frequent use of “No worries” and “All good
• The distinct Maori culture everywhere
• The abundance of sheep
• The old timey towns
• The really burley looking house cats
• The abundance of quality thrift stores ( or Opt. shops as they call it)
• The Kiwi director Taika Waititi and all of his films

Visiting Hobbiton nz

Yupp. We went to Hobbiton

What I Dislike About New Zealand (Sorry! Don’t hate me Kiwi friends!)

• The frequent use of the saying “Sweet As” (sweet as what?!)
• The price of pretty much everything ($3.68 for one avocado?!)
• The slow WIFI
• The cost of WIFI use
• The limited availability of WIFI
Expensive campgrounds that also charge you separately for showers and internet use
• The way that the towns and some cities completely shut down around 5pm
• The sleepiness of towns and cities on Mondays and Sundays (Sometimes we can’t find any restaurants open to eat. Don’t businesses want to make money?)
• Because I have a foreign debit card, I must use it as credit and a ridiculous amount of shops and restaurants won’t take credit.
• The way that cashiers look at me like I’m crazy for asking if they take credit (when they do) or when cashiers look at me with disdain when I’m asking if they take credit (when they don’t. I can never win.)
• The frequently changing weather that has me wearing winter gear in the mornings and evenings and summer dresses in the afternoon.
• The confusing gas stations (Sometimes there is a person to pump it for you, sometimes you do it yourself, sometimes you have to pay using a machine and other times you pay inside with a cashier.)

Wood chopping competition?

Wood chopping competition?

My Upcoming Travel Plans

So, after sitting down and making some plans, booking some tickets and doing some research, we have finally figured out our travel plans from now until we return back to Pennsylvania. This is what we will be up to.


April 5th: Fly out of Auckland on an 8+ hour flight to the Big Island, Hawaii.

April 5th- April 14th: We will rent a car and explore the Big Island. Some places we will visit are:
The Kona Brewery
-Kona coffee plantations
-Kona fruit orchards and farms
-Volcanoes National Park
-Mauna Kea Observatories
-Lots of nature and beaches!


April 14th-April 18th: Take another 8 hour flight to Seattle to visit our good friends Lynn and Noah. We met them while living in Chiang Mai, went on lots of adventures together and will stay with them in their new apartment in the city. We will…
-Eat tons of food
-Drink tons of coffee
-Have lots of epic conversations
-Do some touristy things (Kurt Cobain sites perhaps!)
-Probably plan future adventures ; )


April 18th-June 16th: We will leave Seattle and fly to Denver, Colorado where our friend and Josh’s former roommate will pick us up from the airport. We will drive to Breckenridge, Colorado where Josh used to live, where our former roommate now lives and where our two cats currently reside and stay there for 2 months. While there:
-I will hopefully get a job at a resort in town (fingers crossed)
-We will sleep on the couch, making the living room our temporary home
-Spend time with our friends
-Snuggle our cats until they remember us
-Make new friends
-Do some partying
-Drink a lot of craft beer


June 16th-June 23rd (?): We will fly to Florida to meet up with Josh’s brother, sister in-law, new baby niece and grandmother. We will:
-Snuggle the baby until she loves us
-Catch up with family
-I will meet Josh’s grandmother for the first time
-Maybe do some touristy activities


June 23rd-? We will fly back to Philadelphia and reunite with our families for an undetermined amount of time. While there we will:
-Reconnect with family and friends
Get our lives back together
-Pay off debt
-Plan for future adventures

Anyone going to be in the same place as me? Let’s meet up!

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  • Reply One modern couple April 4, 2016 at 2:01 am

    Amazing!! Would you say living in a van is something you would do again?

    • Reply Livesabroad April 4, 2016 at 2:04 am

      Absolutely! I think I would do it again in a country with a culture for it. I would love to travel that way in Australia or Canada. Are you thinking about taking a trip via camper van?


  • Reply mukesh chauhan April 4, 2016 at 2:28 am

    i agree with your all dislikes …sometimes we feel that all the city is off in the Monday afternoon.

    • Reply Livesabroad April 4, 2016 at 3:41 am

      It’s really difficult sometimes! Did I forget anything? What else did you dislike?


  • Reply Katarina April 4, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    “The confusing gas stations (Sometimes there is a person to pump it for you, sometimes you do it yourself, sometimes you have to pay using a machine and other times you pay inside with a cashier.)” That’s kind of true in the US too though, right? I mean they are all almost self serve around the country but sometimes you can pay at the pump and other times you have to go inside.

    It’s great to know you’re still going to be traveling. I mean, when you first announced that you were “going home” I was wondering how is she going to blog? Will she ditch this blog? Is she going to travel again or is she just done? Glad to know you’re not done.

    The big island sounds great! I’m moving to Oahu in August/September later this year and I’m so excited. Tell me all about it even though you’re going to the big island instead of Oahu I’d still like to hear all about it. I’m nervous and excited at the same time. You can honestly tell me how they feel about white people (like normal human beings or invaders, trust me, I’ve heard both). 😀

    • Reply Livesabroad April 4, 2016 at 11:08 pm

      I agree it’s quite similar in the U.S, but I feel that in the US, if someone pumps it for you, they are usually standing there in a uniform, waiting to help you. But here, I found that I would pull up and get out to start pumping and then someone would wander over a few minutes later or was just wearing street clothes and said that it was their job to pump it. So I never really knew. Yes going home is not the end for me. I plan on blogging a lot longer and I think it will be interesting for other travelers to see what happens when someone goes home for a bit after long term travel. We will see what happens : ) Wow that’s awesome that you’re moving to Hawaii! What will you do there? I will let you know how the Big Island is for sure.

  • Reply Always a Foreigner February 17, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    Did you buy and then resell your van while you were there? Was this part a big hassle or is there enough of a market for it that it was easy? Thinking about road tripping across the United States and can’t decide if we want to outfit an old pickup truck or buy a camper van….but excited for the journey! Great post, loved your honest opinion.

  • Reply Livesabroad February 26, 2017 at 6:56 pm

    Hey! Yeah we bought and then resold the van. It wasn’t a big deal in NZ because there is a huge crowd of travelers doing the same thing. I think that buying a camper van would be more comfortable and you would have a higher chance of getting someone to buy it once you sell it! I actually have some friends who just bought a big camper van, fixed it up and just hit the road to travel around the U.S!

  • Reply Sonya January 16, 2018 at 6:50 pm

    Loved reading this. Our family of 5 (2 teens, 2 adults, 1 child) and hopefully 2 dogs are trying to immigrate from Canada to NZ. We would love to explore and travel by campervan when we arrive…we will need to figure out jobs, and where we want to root. It’s a bit overwhelming how much there is to get done to make this happen…would you say that a family could easily campervan for maybe the first year? Like without it costing a ridiculous amount?

    • Reply Livesabroad January 17, 2018 at 1:26 pm

      Hey Sonya! Your plan sounds incredible! I would have loved to take a family trip like that when I was a teen! To answer your question, I think that campervaning around NZ is really easy. So many people do it that the country is pretty much set up for that kind of thing. I have a couple of articles with resources for taking this kind of journey. You can find them here if you haven’t already.

      There are markets where people sell all kinds of used campervans. And, there are tons of places where you can camp for free or extremely cheaply. My boyfriend and I were both working from our laptops at the time so we would spend most of our days in public libraries using the free WIFI. We also had a little cooking stove that came with the van. So, we didn’t spend too much money on meals.

      I think that it is totally do-able. I have no experience traveling with a group as large as your family. But, I’m sure that you guys can handle it! If you have any more specific questions, please feel free to reach out. You can email me personally at I can try to answer more of your questions!

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