A Plan Is Hatched
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We couldn’t do it. By this point it was only early September, and we simply couldn’t wait until our planned trip in late November. As we discussed our trip, we tried prioritizing activities and attractions. It quickly became apparent that if spending wasn’t carefully monitored, it would be easy to go broke with all the wonderful and exciting things the country had to offer. If we truly intended on moving, it wouldn’t be possible to do everything in the two to three-week trip and still have money left to move. As we attempted to prioritize, Rebecca suggested that instead of a vacation, I go alone and instead focus on finding work and to try to confirm what we thought we knew about life in New Zealand. We wanted to make sure we weren’t “missing” anything, or that there weren’t some red flags that you can’t see when you’re 12,000 km away (Pop quiz: How many miles is that?). The other benefit to being on the ground is that many people had commented that being available in person made a world of difference when it came to getting traction for jobs. With that in mind, a plan was hatched.
Wellington – the capital city of New Zealand, highly regarded in all the videos we looked through. Beautiful, bursting with culture, and most of all – IT jobs in corporate settings that fit my specialty, without as high housing prices as in Auckland. Wellington was where I had centered on my job search, and to this point, we had convinced ourselves that we’d be going there, come hell or high water, we were moving there.
As I began planning the trip, I found the quickest and most economical flight would be around 19 hours 30 minutes of travel time, with the longest leg being about 13 hours 30 minutes, the rest spent transferring from SeaTac and Auckland. This meant one full day of travel and almost certainly one full day to recover from any jetlag. I didn’t want to make my trip too short, as, coupled with a return trip and associated recovery day, that’s easily 4 days “burned”. The clock was ticking, too, since flight prices weren’t getting any cheaper, especially with the US Thanksgiving Holiday landing so near my desired travel time, it meant that there was a very specific window of only about 2 weeks before the flights got too expensive, or the week after Thanksgiving for about a week before flights got absurdly expensive for the Christmas rush. With that in mind, the criteria basically set itself: I’d leave October 25th (The cheapest day to fly out near the end of October), stay through the Thanksgiving holiday, and return on the cheapest flight back.
Thirty-nine days… that’s a lot of dollars in accommodation fees. A hotel for that amount of time was out of the question so I began looking at hostels which are abundant, located everywhere, and cheap. The downside, however, is the dormitory conditions aren’t necessarily conducive to a business traveler who may need to keep pressed clothes, have a phone call or otherwise do some work. I investigated a serviced apartment for the month, but as I saw the total price for the month, I got a feeling of dread and doubt within me, thinking that flying all that way, committing to such a long term stay in one location without seeing any of the rest of the country would be foolish. With that in mind, I headed over to AirBnB, a service I had never used, and began looking. Since the intent was to “live” in New Zealand to understand what it was like as an ordinary person, AirBnB seemed like a great fit. The prices were nearly as low as some hostels, but most offered significantly more privacy with a private room, many had a desk, and some even had private bathrooms. Ultimately, I struck a balance between budget, location, and amenities that would fit my stay.
By this point in my operation, I knew that it was time to let Right! Systems know about my feelings that I’d be moving on, at some unknown point in the future. It wasn’t something that I looked forward to doing: although I feel extremely valued and welcomed and we’ve always done right by each other, at the end of the day, I didn’t know how news of me wanting to leave the company would be received. It was, however, the right move, because I knew it would be difficult to cover such a long stay with PTO even though I had a good amount banked, losing an employee for over a month is not exactly an exciting prospect. Of course, it was the right call and despite obviously not wanting to lose me, they respected the decision and were very accommodating to the request for the time off.
I got back to my AirBnB hunt, and ultimately decided to stay outside of the city in a suburb where it would be likely I would have my family. The intent was to live in New Zealand, not just enjoy the city and culture as tourist. Once I had this in my mind, I knew what I was going to do: A week in Wellington, and rather than meeting my contact from Inde in Wellington as originally planned, I would go to the city of their headquarters, Christchurch, and meet them there. With the plan hatched, I drew up the route and booked AirBnB’s and bus passage between cities (something that, amazingly, is superb throughout New Zealand, both in the cities and between cities. Seriously, to get to Enumclaw from Downtown Puyallup it’s a minimum 1 hour 40 minutes; Puyallup to Olympia – 1 hour 16 minutes. The system just doesn’t exist here). The plan was hatched: Wellington, ferry to the South Island, Picton, Christchurch (1 week stay), Lake Tekapo (hoping to do Stargazing in the UNESCO World Heritage site International Dark Sky Reserve in Mackenzie District), Queenstown (adventure capital of the world, they say). From there, I’d fly to Auckland, where, despite my strong desire to avoid “big city” traffic problems, I felt I must at least see and be available for interviews if it meant “suffering” through a job long enough to be visa eligible and at least relocate. On to Hamilton (I had seen some job postings only but didn’t look into this), down to New Plymouth (where the New Zealand lad I mentioned earlier lived, I wanted to meet him in person!), Palmerston North (again, no research done here but I didn’t want a super long bus ride all in one day bypassing something), Napier/Hawkes Bay, then backtracking to end in Petone on the other side of Wellington harbor.
Back at home, plans were in place and I was ready to go. Reluctantly I had to inform my customer that our long-term engagement would be cut short as I was going to be leaving the country for an extended period, but they were understanding. I ended up booking my flight on airmiles rather than the flight mentioned earlier to save money, which ended up with a total travel time of 39 hours 40 minutes: Seattle -> Dallas/Ft. Worth; 2-hour layover -> Sydney; 12-hour layover -> Wellington. I wasn’t thrilled with the very long travel time, but I knew the 12-hour layover in Sydney starting at 6am until 6pm was something I couldn’t pass up. A fan of architecture and engineering, I’ve known for almost twenty years I wanted to visit Sydney to see the opera house and harbor. A daytime trip in the spring “for free” would do just that. From there, on to Wellington, and a short uber trip to Karori in the hills of Wellington.