So the most frequent question I'm getting at the moment is: "what do you do that means you can afford to do all this travelling?"
Well, the answer is this: by day I'm a project manager with a specialty in economics, the environment and international relations, which basically means that I organise teams of people into doing really awesome and important things. (If you know someone in NZ who's looking, by the way, I'm still available!)
By night, though, I'm a travel geek who's been travelling since he was eight weeks old, and I know my way around the international airline system. Plus, I absolutely love to explore bits of the world that I've not visited before.
Which led me to New Zealand, where I am right now. I visited here for three weeks in January-February 2010, and I had such a fantastic time that I looked into the various ways that I could come back here for a longer explore. Turns out that, since I'm still under thirty (just!), I was eligible for the Working Holiday Program. I chose the two-year visa, which gives me a 23-month stay in NZ from the day I entered, of which I can work for 12 months. If I want to stay longer, I need to go through the normal work permit and/or residency process.
While the 12-month visa doesn't need a medical (you apply and that's it), the 23-month visa does, which cost me a couple of hundred pounds for X-rays (to show no TB), a set of bloods and a rather perfunctory medical examination. Once you have the medical all sorted, you send it off to the nearest Embassy/High Commission and apply for the visa itself. All in all, it took about four weeks. So then I started saving my pennies like whoa.
I then looked into flights, which is always an issue when flying one-way -- tickets tend to be more than half as much as a return. Through my knowledge of how to get to NZ and the reputations of various airlines as inexpensive, plus my British Airways Executive Club mileage account, I found a great route:
For non-geeks, that's:
London to San Francisco
Los Angeles to Nadi, in Fiji
Nadi to Auckland
The London to SF leg cost me GBP 250 in taxes alone, plus 50,000 BA miles to fly Club World (BA's business class), the drive from San Francisco to LA cost me about GBP 150 for car and fuel, and the LA to Auckland flight in total cost me USD 600 on Air Pacific (the national airline of Fiji) in economy. Not bad for literally the whole way round the world: 12,559 miles.
Of course, I realised that if I rang up the Air Pacific office in Fiji (I used Skype, so it was pennies) to book, I could get a free stopover in Fiji. So, rather than spending 11 hours on a plane overnight to Nadi, a few hours in an airport, then another 3 to Auckland, I chilled out in Fiji for four days. Good times.
I also made arrangements to spend ten days in SF with friends, since I hadn't been there since I was nine and, well, it's rather a nice place. So I did that, booked a very reasonable rate at the Radisson in Fiji (which pushed my hotel points account with Radisson over 100,000 points, which equals 18,000 miles if I transfer it to an airline programme), and flew off!
So, to recap:
London to SF in business:
A week in SF and a drive down the gorgeous Highway 1 to LA:
A flight to Fiji:
Five days and four nights in Fiji:
...and a flight to Auckland!
And that's what I did! On my list of things to blog about is how to get to NZ cheaply...consider this a taster.