For Travel

new zealand

If you’re considering a trip to New Zealand-Aotearoa then it’s worthwhile investing a little time before you go researching the local culture. This isn’t a difficult homework task and you don’t need a PhD – just watch a few NZ movies, listen to some great music and if you like, read a few books. It’s fun to find out what the Kiwis are all about and to make it as easy as possible for you, here we provide some quick links to the cultural landmarks of the country downunder!

 

Movies
NZ movies can be dark and humourous, and many of the best are infused with elements of the Maori culture. For example what did Peter Jackson do before he made Lord of the Rings? One of the best comedy zombie movies ever, Braindead.

NZ actress Anna Paquin started her Hollywood career with this atmospheric art film, the Piano, with Harvey Keitel and Holly Hunter.

A great historic-action film is Utu (meaning ‘revenge’) set during NZ’s colonial civil war in the 1860s.

For bitter-sweet comedy check out Boy.

For just the ‘dark side’ watch Once Were Warriors, exploring tensions between gang culture and family.

Top of the list for pure feel good factor and a great story we recommend Whale Rider, which everyone is guaranteed to love.

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Comedy
Apart from Peter Jackson and his hobbits, nobody’s done more to promote New Zealand to the rest of the world than NZ’s fourth-best folk band, Flight of the Conchords – watch their classy music video Sexy Lady!

For a local hit that could not have been made anywhere else check out the animated comedy Brotown, this excerpt is from an episode about the Kiwi love hate affair with the Australians.

Books
The Booker Prize-winning The Luminaries is very readable and will give you a sense of the gold mining history of the South Island. You could also read Whale Rider (Witi Ihimaera) the excellent short novel the film is based on, or the only other NZ book to win the Booker, The Bone People, a magic realist poetic narrative from the ‘80s.

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Music
There’s really too many great musicians to mention here – for such a small country there’s some great sounds coming from the South Pacific, and it’s not just Lorde. If you love music then you’ll love NZ. Here’s a few local classics and some of my personal favourites:

Fat Freddy’s Drop – funk soul electronic

Katchafire – blissful reggae

Che Fu – smooth hip hop soul

SJD – beautifully crafted pop songs

Fly my Pretties – a collective of NZ musicians performing each other’s songs (this song is the awesome Ria Hall)

Iva Lamkum – up and coming soul sister

Woolshed Sessions – a beautiful one-off folk project

The Haka & Maori culture
The haka is a traditional war dance that is part of the Polynesian cultures of the south Pacific. There’s the haka, which many associate with the sports teams of New Zealand (for example the Samoan and Kiwi rugby league teams face off here; even school kids do a mean haka) and then there’s kapahaka which is music and dance performance:

The Guardian; a photo essay

Winning performers of the 2015 kapahaka national champions:

http://www.maoritelevision.com/

Sport
All you really need to know is that the national sport is rugby and the All Blacks are the best in the world! They are one of the most successful sports teams ever:

The Guardian Business lessons from All Blacks team culture

NZ accent
Finally, you may have trouble understanding NZ English so here’s a couple of clips for you to study.

Beached as bro

Chat show host Graham Norton’s reaction to the New Zealand accent:

Flight of the Conchords’ again – Bret has trouble with his name.

 

 

save money

Have some US Dollars around? Then it might be time to hit the road (or the airport) in 2015! With the US Dollar strengthening compared to many other currencies, destinations such as Euro-backed countries, Japan, Russia, and many others are getting cheaper to visit! Get planning and get traveling!

According to CNBC, “It may be time for U.S. tourists to pack their bags for destinations abroad—and they have the dollar to thank.

On Friday, the U.S. Dollar Index hit its highest level since March 2009. The greenback’s strength against other major currencies has presented opportunities for American travelers to jet off to more exotic places. The dollar’s bull run, especially against European and Asian currencies, has made buying goods and leisure travel more affordable in those countries…”

What this means is that your money will go far. The Euro and the dollar have always been at odds and a real pain in the ass when traveling in Europe and you exchange your money. You get a lot less. However, the cost of living in some cities in Europe are much less than New York or LA so the buying power evens out in those cities. So get out there and see Europe or Asia.

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home accommodation

When traveling you want to maximize your budget. Accommodation and flights are the things that take up most of our finances. So learning to manage your money as well as knowing where you can go so you don’t have to pay for accommodation is a savvy way to travel.

Of course, sometimes you want to treat yourself and stay in a nice hotel but continually doing so would not get you far. I have put together a good list of where to find cheap and free accommodation.

  1. Hospitality club

    This is probably one you have never heard of. This site is like couchsurfing; it brings hosts and guest together for free housing. It is free to join and people are kept safe via passport checks, online feedback etc.

  2. Couchsurfing.org

    This is one of the best ways to travel. You meet cool, awesome people, stay for free and build life long friendships. I love couchsurfing and some of the best people I have met on the road I met while couchsuring. It is a site full of like minded individuals who love to travel and share their home with others.

  3. Work away

    Workaway is another great site for work and accommodation exchange. It aims to promote diversity, cultural understanding and easy access to housing for travelers.

  4. Tip: “Many hostels will let you get a room for free in exchange for a few hours of work”.

  5. Servas

    This one has been around for over 50 years and it’s recognized worldwide. It is a non profit non denomination good will and cultural exchange program for travelers. You can volunteer or just travel. Once you join, you are sent information of their network so you can be able to reach the right people and stay for free.

  6. Stay4free

    Although the housing is free, the site charges a small fee for access to the housing. Nonetheless, the fee is negligent compared to what you will pay for a hotel.

  7. Hostel World

    Probably the most affordable website for budget accommodation anywhere in the world. Hostels are very similar to couchsurfing but you pay for them. They are inexpensive and also full of great people who love to party, meet and greet and sometimes become travel buddies who go on a trip with you.

  8. Global freeloaders

    Let’s not forget global freeloaders. The name says it all but in good faith.

    “GlobalFreeloaders is an online community, bringing people together to offer you free accommodation all over the world. Save money and make new friends whilst seeing the world from a local’s perspective!”

  9. Another Tip: “Camp grounds are great to sleep at too if you have a nice tent”.

  10. House Cares

    This is another good one for those wanting to take care of someone else’s house in exchange for staying there for free and having a chance to explore another country. There is a free membership option on their site and a paid membership option with more features.

  11. Airbnb

    Airbnb is another great site for full home or room rental. It is like renting a hotel but it’s all yours. I have had great experiences using this site. I prefer hostels and couch surfing but when you want to treat yourself or just staying for a few nights, this is a good option.

  12. Helpx

    HelpX is provided primarily as a cultural exchange for working holiday makers who would like the opportunity during their travels abroad, to stay with local people and gain practical experience. In the typical arrangement, the helper works an average of 4 hours per day and receives free accommodation and meals for their efforts.

  13. Homeexchange

    Yearly membership for home exchange. Has a large community and great locations. This is more for older travelers who are less adventurous and just want to rent a place.

Other ways to stay for free are:
Stay with friends
Keep contact with people you meet because sometimes they may travel to your place and you to theirs
Sleep in airport and train stations (carry a warm blanket)

Do you know of any other ways to get free or affordable accommodation?

Books

guide to Beijing

This guide helps you navigate your way through one of the best cities in China; Beijing. It's now available on amazon.com. Get it...