A Roaming Kiwi – How Did I End Up Here?

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I’ve often thought about writing an article about how I ended up here in Scotland, and what my motives were for travelling so far and wide.  But travelling (and the job I have to pay for it all) seemed to get in the way.  It actually all started out with a dare! Here’s my story of a roaming Kiwi – how did I end up here?


The Dare


It was 2003, and my step sister had moved to Edinburgh, as had a bunch of her friends, taking advantage of their 2-year working visas that Kiwis are entitled to.  She was having such fun, and I was in a bit of a funk in NZ, so her flippant ‘come to Edinburgh, it’s great – go on, I dare you’ actually worked.  While I had the pleasure of a British passport (thanks to my parents for having me in London), and my sister had a UK-grandparents visa, we saw many NZ friends come and go over the first few years.  It was sad to see friends come and go, but their urgency to travel in their 2 year time limit was inspirational!  Within 6 months of being here I had already explored lots of Scotland, and had trips to Paris, Brussels and Canada.

Brussels Street - A Roaming Kiwi - How Did I End Up Here?

A Brussels street scene


Where it all started


In hindsight though, I think it was my travels of 1999 that had started the travel-fire in me.  It was my ‘traveller’s awakening’ – I learned so much about myself, about budgeting (which I was woefully bad at then), about how to prepare, and importantly, how NOT to do things.  In the summer of 1999, having saved a measly $5,500 NZD (about 3k GBP), I decided I could totally manage England, France and Canada on that cash.  Take away $2,600 for a plane fare (oops, yeah, that was half my budget), I soon realised Canada was off the table.  I had plans to spend time with friends in London, which would help me save cash for a jaunt around Europe, but as you can see, my rudimentary calculations were both naïve and totally inaccurate.


1999 Budget - A Roaming Kiwi - How Did I End Up Here?


The Obligatory Mistakes


My favourite faux-pas is that I had assumed that eating for 5 weeks in Europe was only going to cost me $450 NZD (about £240 in today’s money) – awwww, bless!  Ok, so here are some get-out clauses on that one though:  1. it was 1999 – the internet was new and way less useful than it is now; and 2. I was 19 and had never travelled that far before – I had no idea how far my money would get me in Europe.  Upon arrival in London, I soon discovered that my money wouldn’t really get me anywhere ($1 NZD = £0.30p at that stage).  By the time I reached Paris I was down to my last $500, so became skilled at hoarding the baguettes that the hostel gave us for breakfast, and then buying 1 street-vendor panini to serve as both lunch and dinner.  Occasionally splashing out on Salade de carottes râpées from the wee Vietnamese place next to the hostel.  I was living the dream.


Then came the call from my dad (well, I used my calling card to call him from the phone box down the rue – cellphones weren’t that common back then and definitely not while travelling) – he had spent time in Naples Italy, and had friends down there that needed a nanny to cover while theirs was on holiday.  So, the plan was set, Dad paid for my train fare from Paris to Naples and I had the chance to see more of Europe and make some cash.  Check out my Naples blog post for more info on that adventure.  I had a blast in Naples, but still didn’t learn my lesson about money, and ended up having to get Dad to pay for my flight back to London too.  Doh!


The Lessons


So, the budgeting lesson wasn’t learned until much later in life, but here are some of the things I did garner:

  • Pack light – don’t take an overly huge backpack that gets stuck in the Metro ticket gates in Paris.  Instead, buy a wheelie case, only take the bare essentials, and learn how to roll your clothes!
  • Always prepare for a long journey – pack food and water, and ensure you have entertainment (back then it was a book or ensuring you had batteries for your walkman – now it would mean making sure you had a battery pack / charger for your iPad)
  • Budgeting – research costs and always OVER-estimate the cash you’ll need.  I didn’t, and paid the price of a trip cut short!
  • Plan ahead for the best deals, or have enough cash to afford the luxury of flying by the seat of your pants (as a lone female traveller, winging it by hitch-hiking etc wasn’t an option for me).
  • Wear-in your shoes first.

The Opportunities


So, back to the story.  Edinburgh.  I moved here on a whim, but soon realised how great it was to be a stones throw away from places like Paris.  Our monthly ritual was to scour the Ryanair and Easyjet websites for £5 and £10 fares (excluding taxes).  Over the years the destinations you can get to from Edinburgh have increased ten-fold – I have been to Madrid, Barcelona, Paris (so so many times), Berlin, Amsterdam, Brussels, Rome, Lake Garda, Milan, Poitiers, Malta, Canada, NYC, Lyon, Venice, Nice, Budapest, Copenhagen, Geneva, Montpellier, Gothenburg, Berlin, and the list goes on.


Nice selfie - A Roaming Kiwi - How Did I End Up Here?


The Convenience


Once you realise how cheaply, yet still in relative luxury, you can see the world, it becomes an addiction.  I moved past my backpacking phase as soon as the ‘giant backpack getting stuck in the metro gates’ scenario occurred… and to be honest, I was never going to be a hostel kinda gal (read more about my naïve adventures here).  I like my space and privacy too much.  If I couldn’t afford a hotel room for a trip, I’d cut the food budget to accommodate.  It’s your choice – prioritise what matters to you and find inventive ways to still get the most out of your adventures (I’m a big fan of buying a baguette and some salami from a supermarché for €2, then splashing out on a €2.50 bottle of wine, and having a picnic for lunch!).


I think I probably would’ve moved back to NZ many years ago if it weren’t for the fact that there is so much more to see, and it is exponentially cheaper doing it from this side of the world.  NZ, I love ya, but Paris (my spiritual home, in case you hadn’t guessed), is too far away from you, and I just couldn’t handle the separation!


Kia kaha and keep travellin’, friends.


All photos & content © Hannah Henderson and may not be used without permission (sharing this blog post is fine, though!).



A Roaming Kiwi - How did I end up here?  HH Lifestyle Travel

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  • Wow! Such an inspiring post and a great read, Hannah! It’s so amazing to read about the beginning and the progress. Keep up the great work! 😉

  • Mikkel says:

    Travel is definitely an addiction! 🙂 And I agree – it’s a lot to learn with budgeting money and certainly back when the internet didn’t exist really in 1999! Over budgeting’s a great lesson to pass on to travelers though!

  • Lauren says:

    Very interesting story! I think we all learn from our mistakes – such as packing too much, not budgeting enough, etc. We’ve all been there for sure! All the best for 2018 🙂

  • Indrani says:

    Somewhere, sometime in life the travel bug bites and then there is no looking back. I was smiling away at how your dad ended up paying for your return flight from Naples.
    This 2 year working visa concept is new to me.

    • HHLifestyleTravel says:

      Yes, the 2 year working visa for Kiwis to the UK was very useful for my friends. It’s only available until 30 yrs old I believe 🙁

  • I loved reading about what inspired you to start traveling – you have such a great story! I’m with you on so many things – I’m 15 months into my traveling adventure and I too have learned that hostels just aren’t for me (the thought of making conversation with a bunch of 19 year-olds sounds horrifying) and I’d rather skip a meal out and opt for sandwich fixings and wine as well! Hope you continue living an epic life of adventure!

  • Mizhelle says:

    As someone who’s started traveling on a big scale fairly recently, this post is prettty fun to read. I think every adventure is coupled with a misadventure, and sometimes the latter is what makes the whole journey more fun. And wow, you’ve kept your notes from ‘99!

    • HHLifestyleTravel says:

      I have a bizarre memory for these kind of things, but I also went back and read emails (yes, I still have the same email account!) that I had written to my family at the time, to check details 😉

  • I think that we’re on the same page when you said you’re not that hostel gal anymore, i mean i also have finished this phase of my traveling since i met my partner, our privacy must comes first but of course, it has to be convenient and affordable too. travel is such a huge addiction that no one could get rid of it. i have some friends from nz and they’re very warm people! never been but definitely visiting! travel teaches us so many lesssons, one of the best things as you’ve listed down is budgeting!

  • Jenna says:

    So interesting how you ended up in Edinburgh and I always love learning about what gave people the itch to travel. It’s always a bummer to have to learn the hard way (especially when it comes to money!), but at least we can eventually learn from all the mistakes! Good tips on packing light and preparing for a long journey. I always forget to pack food and water, but it’s so nice to have something good to eat and drink during a long flight or train ride!

  • Paige says:

    What a beautiful and inspiring post. I admire people like you that are so brave to totally change up their lives! I agree that budgeting is a huge part of traveling and it’s a lesson often learned by making mistakes… At least, in my EXPERIENCE. Great read!

  • Megan Jerrard says:

    So funny that your travels started based on a dare! I often like looking back at those pivotal moments in life which shape our life path! Your travels to date sound like a blast, and I’m often actually amazed at how people managed to research things like the cost of travel before the age of the internet! But the lessons you learned are still very applicable to travel now too. Here’s to more amazing travels going forward. Happy new year!!

  • Medha Verma says:

    There is so much you learn from travelling, isn’t it? I can imagine when you were young and started to travel and had no idea how much money you’re going to end up spending on food in europe. i know it must have been tough at that stage but in hindsight, its an experience you’ll never forget and it changed you as a person, you learned so much from it, don’t you think? very inspiring post.

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