A short illustrated story of my eight months road trip across New Zealand in 2020.

New Zealand
The Call of the Wild


New Zealand is a country I have been dreaming of traveling for a very long time, even if it was just in a tiny part of my head somewhere, I can easily say that the idea of flying all the way to the other side of the planet has excited me for years. I think that envy comes mostly from all the spectacular sceneries I've seen about it, and also about the fact that it is far, very far. Far from my home, far from my comfort zone and far from everything I know. For me that was an adventure, so it's finally in the early days of December 2019, right after my 25th birthday that I decide to fly into the unknown.


After three flights and one cancelled that has forced me to spend the night in another city, I finally land in Christchurch, where I booked a little flat outside of town for a few days, to get used to the jet lag and take things slow before I hit the road.

The thing that freaked me out the most before leaving was the van, my van, the one I wanted to buy and travel in, but what van ? I had no idea... So before I left I started looking for my home, the one that would take me everywhere and with who I would do everything. Luckily I found a guy selling just what I needed, and we had an appointment in town for the sale three days after my arrival. I remember how excited and freaked out I was before meeting him. It was after all the first car I was going to buy in my life, and I had no clue what I was doing, but I did it anyways.

Here I was, driving in the streets of Christchurch's suburbs with my van, on a sunny day, with some old punk rock playing on the radio, trying to drive on the right side of the road without killing anyone and learning how to shift the gears properly at the same time. With my surfboard and wetsuit that I had just bought in the back, I was the happiest man on earth, the journey could begin.

On the left, Mount Cook National Park, South Island. On the right, a very rough map of my total 15000 kilometers traveled.
On the left, Mount Cook National Park, South Island. On the right, a very rough map of my total 15000 kilometers traveled.


My first stop in New Zealand was Marahau, a tiny paradise on the north of the South Island where I had found a place to work in exchange for food and accommodation for a few weeks, letting me time to plan my road trip and to get used to the « kiwi » way of things.

Jean-François had a wonderful piece of land overlooking the Abel Tasman National Park. He rented two of the three houses he owned on his property on Airbnb and that's how he made a living. At first I was supposed to help clean the rooms after the guests had left, but JF quickly understood that I was not the best guy to be doing that kind of stuff, so he quickly put me to work outside in the permaculture garden, fixing things around the house, being creative and working on a little video project, where I was definitely much more at ease and happy. It was truly paradise. There were always two or three other backpackers like me helping around in the house, and all of us very quickly became good friends.

Working in the sun in the morning, cooking food together for lunch and then going swimming on paradise beaches in the afternoon. Playing cards or watching movies in the evening. On Thursday nights we would head to the local bar to have a few beers and listen to the local live band playing.

On weekends we would all head out to the hippie village nearby called Takaka, or go a little further on road trips with the other backpackers. I remember being shocked by the flashy green color of the flora. It seemed fake, almost like photoshopped. Every plant, flower and parcel of grass was just so much greener than back home.

On the left, me mowing JF's lawn the old school way. On the right, JF (top), Malou (left), Florent (right) and me (bottom).
On the left, me mowing JF's lawn the old school way. On the right, JF (top), Malou (left), Florent (right) and me (bottom).

Initially I was supposed to stay two weeks at JF's and in the end I stayed a whole month because I just couldn't leave this magical place. I became really good friends with JF and the two other backpackers in the house, Malou and Florent, so the two last weeks we spent together were completely crazy, we were joking about everything and not taking anything seriously. We spent Christmas just the four of us in the house laughing all night, for a guy that was worried about spending Christmas away from his family I have to say I was not disappointed.

Then came new year's eve, where we all decided to go camp on Wharariki beach, a paradise beach a few hours from Marahau. We spent the night on a sand hill overlooking the beach. The moon was so bright we didn't even need light to see each other's faces and could clearly see the beach, sand dunes and sea around us. It was magical. The reflection of the stars in the sea made us feel like being on another planet. We spent the whole night singing to my friend playing guitar, telling each other stories and lying in the sand watching the stars, all being conscious we were living something very special and unique.

Sunset on Wharariki Beach on the night of New Year's Eve.
Sunset on Wharariki Beach on the night of New Year's Eve.
Tata beach, one of my favorite place in New Zealand, just north of the small hippie town of Takaka.
Tata beach, one of my favorite place in New Zealand, just north of the small hippie town of Takaka.


After staying a month at Jean-Francois', it was time for me to move on and finally hit the road with my van: Weka, named after the native New Zealand cheeky little birds that I met everywhere on the South Island. The day I left I had no idea where I was going, so I just looked on a map and decided to head towards the island's west coast. A friend told me it was a little paradise for surfers so I was convinced.

As I left Marahau I met a Polish girl named Anna, who was hitchhiking the country with a tent on her back. We decided to travel together for a few days to see if the vibe was going to match, we had similar plans so it was perfect. She was awesome, always making conversation in the van, dancing to any music I would put and making fun of everything, we quickly became really good friends and decided to stick together.

A few days after we started our journey we met a German dude name Seni, who presented himself to me by saying in french «tu veux fumer un pet avec moi ?» with a thick german accent. He was a hippie guy who had built his van on his own, played the guitar and was fond of beer, I loved him from the start. He was also heading towards the west coast so he decided to stick with us.

Our first stop was Westport, a little surf town at the beginning of the coast where we decided to stay for a few days. We found the perfect campsite, at the end of a dirt road directly on the beach where we would be just by ourselves. We spent our days chilling at the beach after a surf session, skating in town, taking my van to visit the area and cook delicious meals thanks to Seni's chef skills, it was awesome. At night we would head back to the camp and drink beers until all our stocks where down, telling each other stories, reminding us how lucky we were and how good life was.

On a windy night we decided to start a fire on the beach to keep us warm, it felt so good that it quickly became the main thing we would do once the sun was down. We were being very creative on food we could cook in the fire. Our nights were endless around that big pile of burning wood that would keep us warm until we were too lazy to keep it going and had to drag ourselves in our vans to sleep.

One night we met Tom and Sharon, a German guy and an Israeli girl who had just began traveling New Zealand together. Tom was as organized as a German guy can be and also a really funny guy. Sharon was really chilled and it felt good to have another girl in the team. The five of us bonded really quickly and we decided that there was no way we were not gonna travel together, so we did.

It's really weird how quickly you bond with people while traveling with them. I loved it. In a few days we would feel like we knew each other forever. For me it would have taken months to feel that comfortable around friends, but while traveling there was something different. We lived day and night together and shared already so many awesome memories. It was just the beginning.

On the left, our usual bonfire night on the beach. On the right, (from left to right) Sharon, Anna, me, Seni and Tom.
On the left, our usual bonfire night on the beach. On the right, (from left to right) Sharon, Anna, me, Seni and Tom.

Life was perfect, I was traveling with my four best friends on the other side of the planet. Everyday was unreal, I would see the most beautiful sceneries I had ever seen in my life. Day after day we would be more and more amazed by the nature we saw. Whenever we came across another wonderful view, Anna would look at us and say with her very pronounced Polish accent « Oh my god guys it amaaaaaazing ! » She was right and it would always make the rest of us laugh a lot. Some parts of the South Island were so wild, and that's what we loved. Lost places with no one, the feeling of being alone and sharing these memories with friends was priceless.

A little further down the west coast we settled for a few days in a gorgeous campsite right a the beach with an incredible view on the snowy mountains of New Zealand. That's where we met Nina, a French girl who had been in the country for quite a while, working in the capital, Wellington, as a bartender. She was now traveling the South Island like us. She quickly got along with the group and decided to stick with us.

We were now a group of six traveling together, slowly heading down the coast of New Zealand, stopping in every crazy place there was to see thanks to our guide Tom who was here to keep the group together and make decisions. Doing hard ass hikes with magical sceneries at the top, climbing up and swimming in clear blue waterfalls, chilling at campsites, surfing on beautiful beaches and being the only ones in the ocean, that was fucking life. At the end of each day, Tom and I would always smile at each other like two retards and say « What a day ! » Three simple words, but it would make us realize how epic the days we were living were.

Weka on one of the many endless gravel roads, I had to tape my trunk and windows if I didn't want to sleep in a pile of dust.
Weka on one of the many endless gravel roads, I had to tape my trunk and windows if I didn't want to sleep in a pile of dust.

I think one of the most beautiful drives we did was on our way to the small town of Wanaka. From the west coast we were now heading inland. Wanaka was situated right next to an enormous lake and the road heading there was just astonishing. I remember being with Anna in my van and not even knowing where to look, our jaws dropped during the whole drive. The road was in between two huge lakes, surrounded by rocky mountains and green hills as far as our eyes could see. It was golden hour as the sun was slowly setting down behind the mountains and that made the drive even more magical, it was literally insane and our eyes couldn't believe it.

Wanaka was a really nice little town, not crowded at all and the view of the lake right in the city made it a really nice place to chill. Our group was having so much fun be we were missing something : a huge party. It was always nice to have a few beers at the campsite but now that we knew each other so well we just wanted to go crazy, jump everywhere and enjoy good music together. So we found what they call in New Zealand a bush doof, which is basically a big party in the middle of nowhere with a huge sound system and usually electronic music playing. We had a blast, it was so cool to finally party with all these awesome friends.

The next day we decided to go lay our lazy hungover asses at the lake's beach in Wanaka. That's where we met Kris, a really nice American dude from California who was into surfing and hiking. He knew Tom from some other random place in New Zealand and he decided to stick with us for a bit. Sadly it was also time for Seni to leave our awesome group to go make a little bit of money by working on a cherry farm. Goodbyes were horrible, it was always heartbreaking for me. Letting a friend with who you had lived such crazy adventures leave and not knowing if you were ever going to see each other again was painful.

It was really cool to have Kris with us, since he was also into surfing any occasion was good for us to just take our boards and paddle out into the ocean to try and catch some waves. Even if the waves were not really what we expected, we had an awesome time just chatting and looking at the ocean until our hands or feet were too cold and we had to head back. I loved those surfing sessions, it really emptied my mind and made me look back on everything I was living, making me realize how awesome it was.

The rewarding view after a day of hiking between lake Wanaka and lake Hawea.
The rewarding view after a day of hiking between lake Wanaka and lake Hawea.

Every single night spent on the South Island I would be amazed by the beauty of the sky above us. I had never seen a sky so beautiful in my entire life, that enormous deep black hole was filled with stars of different sizes and intensities. The milky way was so bright you could see it clearly cutting the sky in half. Every time we kept staring up there for just a few minutes we would see shooting stars from every directions, it was magically crazy.

Our group travelled for a little while together but it soon became time for Sharon and Anna to leave us. Anna was heading back to Poland and Sharon was continuing her road trip towards Asia. It really saddened me to see them both go. Anna was the first person I had started this road trip with. The both of us were kind of the start of all this awesome group of people we now had. I would miss her happy vibes.

Hiking very early in the morning in total fog and not knowing if the view was going to clear up at the top, luckily it did.
Hiking very early in the morning in total fog and not knowing if the view was going to clear up at the top, luckily it did.


After Sharon and Anna had left, we decided to head south to a beautiful little beach called Monkey Island to spend the night there. We were now only four and it felt weird in a way, the group wasn't the same. Our way of traveling was different now. Our plan was simple, head all the way down to the southern point of New Zealand and then make our way back up north through the east coast of the country. We had seen so much crazy sceneries since the beginning of our trip that time now seemed to be going slower, it was less intense and felt also good to just be the four of us.

The first big city we got to on the way was Dunedin, luckily we got there on a weekend so we decided to have a big night out after all that time in the bush. Tom found us a shitty drum & bass gig where we went and drank the most disgusting and expensive cocktails we ever had in our lives. The music was shit, the cocktails were shit, but the four of us still had a blast. When we were together nothing could really stop us from having fun.

I'm not going to lie, we also had a few unpleasant surprises along the way. Nina's van didn't want to start for quite a while and needed a jump start from another car to get going every time. Our little trick only worked for a few days and at some point she eventually had to bring it to a mechanic, where it stayed for a couple of days before we could hit the road again. Rain also got pretty common in the south, leaving us stranded in our vans sometimes for the whole day. But no matter what happened to us, we always made the most out of the situation and the good mood was always there to brighten the day in the end.

Our next stop was the well known snowy mountain of New Zealand : Mount Cook. Such a beauty, the drive there was also one of the most beautiful I had done. With that huge impressive mountain right in front of us getting bigger and bigger, surrounded by a chain of white mountains and the gigantic Lake Pukaki that seemed almost fake because of its bright blue lagoon color. We had a blast driving through this unreal nature.

We were almost at the end of our road trip when Seni decided to join us again for a few days, his trip to New Zealand was about to end as he was going to head back to Germany and decided to spend his last days in New Zealand with us. We headed inland for once, to a beautiful mountain spot called Arthur's Pass. It was really rough and wild, with amazing mountain sceneries. That's also where we did the hardest hike we had ever done in our lives. We were literally climbing up a mountain, sometimes using our hands to get ourselves up because the terrain was so steep. Four hours going up like that for an elevation of nine hundred meters, it was crazy, but also beautiful. The whole crew made it all the way up and we were really proud of ourselves. The view up there was breathtaking, snowy and rocky mountains all around us with no sign of a single human settlement anywhere.

Kris and I on top of Arthur’s Pass, observing a kea, New Zealand’s alpine parrot. A very social and cheeky bird.
Kris and I on top of Arthur’s Pass, observing a kea, New Zealand’s alpine parrot. A very social and cheeky bird.

On the way back from Arthur's Pass we decided to go explore a cave with Seni. We spent one hour walking with our flashlights with water up to our hips, sometimes climbing up small waterfalls and making our way through that underground stream. The shapes the rock around us were carved because of years and years of erosion were incredible. Once we were out I got a call from Nina that was stuck in the middle of nowhere because her van had broke down (yes, again) so we joined her and had to wait for a tow truck to get her van to a mechanic. Luckily the guy knew what he was doing and the next day the van was ready to roll again.

On the left, Seni, Nina and I waiting for a tow truck in the middle of nowhere. On the right, a seal napping on a comfy rock.
On the left, Seni, Nina and I waiting for a tow truck in the middle of nowhere. On the right, a seal napping on a comfy rock.

Back to civilization we headed to Christchurch, it was weird for me to come back to that city, back to where my journey first began. I felt so different than when I first stepped here. In two months so many things had changed for me. I was no longer a stranger who was lost and had no idea what he was doing. New Zealand now felt completely like home and comparing how I was when I first arrived in that town at the beginning of my trip and how I was feeling about it now made me realize how the impact of all the things I lived during those two months had benefited me. I was not the same, and it felt good.

We stayed at a cute little camp outside of town where I randomly ran into my old friend Florent, that I had last seen in Marahau right before I started my journey on the South Island. Everyone here says this country is so small you get to meet your friends again at some point. It felt so good to see his friendly face after so long, we had a lot of catching up to do about our road trip on the South Island and stayed together for a few days just chilling in the area.

When we left Christchurch it was time for us to say goodbye to Florent and Kris, they had other plans and we were slowly heading north with Nina, Tom and Seni towards a small coastal town called Kaikoura. Saying bye to Florent was pretty easy, he was French so I knew we could easily see each other again back in France during summer or whatever. For Kris on the other hand California was a little bit further and I knew I wasn't going to see his face for a long while. We promised each other we would meet again in California or France and drank one last whiskey before saying goodbye.

Kaikoura was a really nice town well known for it's surf and marine life. The town's main street had a few bars, restaurants and gift shops along the seaside. We would just spend our time walking on the beach, having a few drinks, eating really good food or randomly entering shops to see the cool stuff they where selling. It felt good to stick here and not just pass through like we usually did.

Soon after it was time for Nina to get back to work in Wellington, we had promised each other I would come visit her there on my way north, see what the capital was like for a few days. It was sad to see her go after all this time but we knew we were going to see each other again very soon.

I was now alone with Tom and Seni, we decided to go visit an old waterfall track that had been closed because of dangerous rock falls. It was supposed to be a place filled with seals so we decided to go check it out anyways. The track was a little damaged and a few huge boulders were lying along the track but nothing we couldn't climb over. After a few minutes climbing up and down in the jungle we finally found what we were looking for, and it was incredible. Over thirty seal pups were playing in a pool of clear water at the base of the waterfall. We approached them slowly and realized they weren't scared of us at all, they seemed pretty used to having humans coming around. It was magical, the three of us were sitting not even a meter away from all these tiny creatures that were all playing with each other. We sat there for probably more than an hour watching how they behaved together, jumping and swimming in the water. We felt so lucky we could witness all this and that these animals would let us in their environments so kindly.

The next day Tom and I decided to go whale watching, we woke up before the sun was even up, witnessed an amazing sunrise and went aboard a boat away from the coast of New Zealand. That day we got lucky, and I'm really glad Tom pushed me to go with him on that trip because we witnessed an amazing dive from a whale, an animal I had never seen before in my life. It's such a huge creature and yet so majestic. On the way back to the port the boat was escorted by dozens of dolphins jumping around and playing, that was also one hell of a show to see. Kaikoura was definitely the place to see marine wildlife, we had seen so much in the last days.

Seni was leaving for good this time and I was now alone with Tom. It felt weird, the road trip was soon coming to an end. Before splitting up we decided to head to French Pass, a remote and wild paradise all the way at the top of the South Island. It was so far and so lost that we were the only ones on the road, driving through really dense forest on a shitty dirt road for hours to end up on a paradise beach, watching sting rays and seals wondering in the deep blue sea. The place was paradise, we had views on small islands spread all around the sea and the peninsula of the other side of the South Island in the background. It was now time for Tom and I to finally split, the trip with all these friends I had made on the road was coming to an end, I was sad and at the same time already feeling nostalgic about all these amazing memories I shared with them.

Nugget point, south of the South Island.
Nugget point, south of the South Island.


I had one last stop before finally heading to the North Island : Marahau. I spent such a good time there that I told Jean François I had to come back before leaving New Zealand. JF had told me right before I left his place the first time « You'll always have a home in New Zealand now, so feel free to come whenever you want. » And that is exactly what it felt like : home, it felt good to be back.

During my stay there were three other backpackers staying in the house, and the three of them were just beginning their journey on the South Island. It felt weird to be at the exact opposite situation I was the last I came here. When I first arrived there at the beginning of my New Zealand journey I remember asking tons of questions to my friends about New Zealand, not being confident at all and admiring how they were all really chilled about the travels they had done. Now I realized I was exactly in their shoes, I was not the same guy I was a few months ago. I was now feeling really confident with all the adventures I had lived, reassuring my friends about their worries and telling them all the cool places I had visited and giving them a few travel tips. Once again, I realized how this journey had changed me.

The vibe in the house was as cool as last time. I would spend my days chilling in a hammock reading, working on my van or going swimming to the beach with Jean Francois and the other backpackers. In the morning we would all work a little bit and my main task was to film the garden's fruits and vegetables and make a short video edit out of it. We would also cook amazing food together and be particularly greedy on making a big and delicious dessert every time.

After a little more than a week it was time for me to go, I was in a hurry to head to my next destination : Wellington. After three months my journey on the South Island was over, it was time to head on the country's North Island, into the unknown again. It felt weird to be leaving the south, in a way I felt like I knew the place and it felt kind of like home, after driving over seven thousand kilometers all around it with my van. I felt a huge satisfaction because I had visited every place I wanted to visit, drove everywhere I wanted to drive and camped everywhere I wanted to camp, just like the satisfaction of finishing every level of a video game, I was done with it.

The wonderful Wharariki beach.
The wonderful Wharariki beach.


Of all the cities I heard about in New Zealand, Wellington was the one that everybody kept talking to me about. It was the place to be. Since my purpose of visit in this country was more to enjoy it's awesome sceneries than it's cities I never really listened to what my friends had to say about it, but the second I drove out of the ferry with my van I was already in love with the place. Kiwis had a saying « Nothing beats Wellington on a good day. » and it was true.

My time in the city was awesome, everyday Nina would show me a new bar, restaurant, or another cool place to hang out. It felt so good to get to live in the city for a little while. The first few days I remember having the impression that the place was always too crowded with people, feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the noises. I hadn't lived in a city as crowded as this since I left Paris three months ago and I was so used to being surrounded and living in nature on the South Island that everything seemed too big for me here. Back during the road trip the cities we visited were usually one main street with a fish and chips place, a gas station and another fish and chips place, so being in the capital of New Zealand was quite a change.

Nina worked in a bar four days a week so I had quite a lot of time by myself, which I used to go visit the city and walk around. In the end after getting used to it I found Wellington to be a really attractive place, there was always something going on in the streets and the city really felt alive. Nina lived in a big shared house right in the center with really cool flat mates from all different places and ages, a baby, and Sylvester the beloved cat. Everyone was really welcoming with me and I just felt like at home from the start. Food, drinks or walks along the seaside or in the city would usually be the motivations we had to get out of the house, our little routine was really pleasing.

As we both got along really well we decided to continue traveling together after that. Nina wanted to stay and work for a few more weeks to save up some money and then join me to travel the North Island. In the meantime I would travel alone and meet her in a few weeks, that was one hell of a plan. After nearly ten days it was now time for me to leave Wellington to go on a little solo adventure. As I left I felt the excitement of traveling and discovering new things again, and I was glad to have I a little bit of time alone.

Weka’s inside setup, small but cozy, with everything I needed to travel and live comfortably on the road.
Weka’s inside setup, small but cozy, with everything I needed to travel and live comfortably on the road.


As I left Wellington I realized this was actually the first time I was going to be traveling alone since I got to New Zealand. When the thought hit me I felt scared and lost in the immensity of options that were now given to me. It's always different when you travel with someone or a group of people, in a way it's reassuring. It took a little while for me to actually think of that loneliness in a positive way, but then it hit me : I could do whatever I wanted on a paradise island on the other side of the world. That fear suddenly changed to excitement and as I was driving away from Wellington with the sun slowly setting down, the wind hitting my face and my favorite rock playlist bursting in the speakers of my van, I understood there was nowhere else in the world where I wanted to be right now.

I asked myself a simple question : « What do you want to do ? » and I found the answer to be very simple : surf and hike. Another place a lot of of people I had met talked to me about was Raglan, a small surf town up north well known for it's really good surf, there was my goal.

Because I had such a good experience staying at Jean François' house in Marahau I also wanted to go to another kind of place like this, where I could stay and work a little bit in exchange for accommodation and food. I thought it was such a good way of getting to know people and their way of life. Three years ago, when I was first supposed to travel to New Zealand, I broke my arm skateboarding at four in the morning with some friends. I'm not going to tell you why I was skateboarding at four in the morning but you probably guessed that a little bit of alcohol and foolishness was involved in the process.

Back at that time I had contacted a guy who owned a surf school on the North Island of New Zealand and was supposed to come stay at his place and work. Since that never happened because I decided to cancel my trip, I contacted the guy again to ask him if I could come for two weeks. To my great surprise he replied to my message and told me he had a video project for his surf school to do and was ready to welcome me. I was really excited about finally going to that place I had wanted to go for so long, to surf all day and work on a video project, to me that was going to be paradise, I just couldn't wait.

I had a little bit more than a week before I had to go to the surf school all the way up north, so I decided to take my time to drive there and stop to visit some cool places along the way, do a couple of nice hikes in nature and most of all surf. Sometimes my favorite moment of the day would just be driving from point A to point B, it felt so soothing to just be in my van and watch all the beautiful nature surrounding me, I was in my little bubble. I tried as much as possible to camp on isolated spots, far from cities and usually right next to the beach, alone. In the morning I would wake up, open my map or my Lonely Planet and check what was cool to see in the area. I was always really hyped to be able to do anything I wanted, it almost felt weird to have so much freedom.

On the left, view from one of the campsite I stayed at. On the right, snowy Mount Aoraki, better known as mount Cook.
On the left, view from one of the campsite I stayed at. On the right, snowy Mount Aoraki, better known as mount Cook.

After a few days of making myself for breakfast, lunch and diner peanut butter, honey and banana sandwiches (the famous recipe my American friend Kris had showed me at the beginning of our trip, which had now became a habit when I was being too lazy to actually get my stove out and cook food, meaning almost all the time.) I finally decided to get a little bit more creative with food and actually enjoyed cooking myself a few nice meals. Most of the time I would try and cook food inside the van which would end up being all steamy and humid but also heated up the small place and as nights were slowly getting colder I found to process to be pretty enjoyable.

Life was easy, usually a little hike surrounded by nature in the morning, then surfing and a short drive to find a good camping spot getting me closer to Raglan every day. Then came a little chill time just walking on the beach, reading a book or writing this journal and finally cooking before the sun was down and everything became dark. To finish my day I would admire the sunset setting on the ocean and usually watch a movie on my laptop before falling asleep.

When I finally got to Raglan, I found the place to be a little paradise. The city was filled with hippies and surfers, a few cool bars and of course : waves. People were talking, breathing and living surfing everywhere. Every single bar or shop had something to do with the wave riding sport, I had found my paradise. In a way the place reminded me of the hippie village Takaka, that I used to go visit with my friends back in Marahau. Chilled vibes, one main street with cool bars and hippie shops everywhere.

I had settled in Raglan for two days, had a nice camp to stay, already had found my local surf spot and favorite pizza place when things were about to change drastically. My good friend Tom gave me a call saying New Zealand was going to go on lockdown because of the coronavirus. During my trip I remember talking about this virus as a joke, saying here in New Zealand we were safe and it was probably never going to get to us. My family and friends back in France were already on lockdown for over a week and now it was time for New Zealand to do the same. I never really cared about getting news about anything since I got in New Zealand, in a way I was cut from the rest of the world and I loved it, but news had now caught up with me and I had no other choice but to act accordingly.

The insane view of Castlepoint lighthouse, south of the North Island.
The insane view of Castlepoint lighthouse, south of the North Island.

A few hours from now, New Zealand was going to go on total lockdown, meaning no more businesses open and no more travel for at least a month. I was in the middle of nowhere on the North Island and wherever I was going to be on the next day was where I was going to have to stay for the next month at least. As I got the news I remember not even thinking about it and just driving to the beach, putting on my wetsuit, waxing my surfboard and just running in the water to catch some waves. There was not a single person in the water and I think I had one of the best surf sessions I had in a while, the conditions were great.

Back to reality I now had to decide what I was going to do, so I called Nina who told me to come straight to Wellington to spend the lockdown at her place. That sounded great but the only problem was Wellington was now a ten hour drive from where I was and I didn't have a lot of time before traveling was going to be prohibited, so as sun was setting down I decided to hit the road back towards Wellington.

The feeling I had was the weirdest ever, this kind of scenario for me was only seen in sci-fi movies. A dangerous virus putting the whole world on lockdown, what the hell ? As I filled my tank I could see people panicking at the petrol station, filling their cars as fast as they could and driving away. Some backpackers were crying not knowing how they were going to make it home and everyone was just looking at each other in a really weird and tense way. That drive to Wellington was by far the weirdest I had ever done in my life, all these thoughts going through my head about what was going to happen, how things were going to change and how countries were going to handle this pandemic. The drive was insane, the rain was pouring so much I couldn't see anything on the road and the wind was making the van shake like it was nothing.

After driving five hours in the complete chaos and darkness I decided to stop on the side of the road to get some rest, the storm was still raging and I just felt in completely another world. A guy learns about a deadly virus and the world being on lockdown has to drive through a whole country, while a storm is hitting during the night to join a safe place with friends before it's too late and the roads are closed. Hell of a good plot for a sci-fi movie I have to say.

As soon as the sun was up and I had a couple of hours of sleep I got back on the road to finally get back Wellington. It felt so reassuring to be there. I really wouldn't have seen myself camping alone in the wild and wait it out. I felt lucky, it felt good to be back.

Short road trip with Malou on the South Island in Farewell Spit, near Marahau.
Short road trip with Malou on the South Island in Farewell Spit, near Marahau.


Honestly, I didn't expect lockdown to go so well. Nina and I had a blast, we got along so well that time went really fast. My days in the end were pretty busy, I would usually wake up around noon and start the day with a nice little breakfast in bed watching one or two episodes of a series. Once I was up I usually tried working out a little bit to keep in shape and then go for a little walk on Wellington's seaside. In the afternoon I usually watched an old classic movie like Star Wars, The Hobbit or Lord of The Rings.

Right before lockdown I also decided to buy a guitar and use all that free time to learn something new, so I also spent part of my day practicing my new instrument. Nina started cooking a lot, making delicious meals for dinner and all kinds of awesome deserts and homemade snacks we would eat like crazy.

I also got to know a lot better all of Nina's flat mates, especially Sam and Victorine, two French backpackers about our age with who we would spend our mornings enjoying the sun outside the house while drinking our tea and petting the cat. We even participated in a home made movie challenge with all the flat mates of the house. We had forty eight hours to come up with a short three minute movie with a subject that was given to us. I was doing all the filming and editing, I loved it but in the end it was quite stressful coming up with all this in such a short amount of time. We had fun altogether shooting all the scenes and even if we didn't win in the end it was nice to do something in the house altogether.

On the left, French Pass, South Island. On the right, Castle Hill, also South Island, well known for its oddly shaped boulders.
On the left, French Pass, South Island. On the right, Castle Hill, also South Island, well known for its oddly shaped boulders.

In the end lockdown lasted seven weeks, and I still can't believe how fast it went. My little routine was simple but I never really got bored and always enjoyed myself. Nina and I also planned what we were going to do once we could travel again. She was going to continue working for two weeks in Wellington while I was going to travel to the surf school I was supposed to go to initially and work there also for two weeks. After that she would join me up north to Auckland and from there we would begin our road trip together on the North Island. I couldn't wait.

Going shopping was unreal, in the streets everybody had masks and we would have to queue at the supermarket because they would only let a certain number of people inside at the same time. I really felt in another world. People kept their distances, and the streets of Wellington that would usually be packed on Saturday nights were totally empty, with traffic signs going from red to green without any cars driving through them.

During the evening we would usually play cards, watch movies or have a pot luck with the rest of the flat mates. It didn't happen very often but it felt good to be able to socialize a little bit with other people. After all that traveling it also felt good to be stuck in one place and not move from place to place, the feeling of actually feeling at home somewhere felt nice, last time I had that feeling was back at Jean Francois' place in Marahau.

While the situation seemed pretty chaotic in other countries around the world, New Zealand was handling it so well that the numbers of sick people was dropping really fast. The country had a total of twenty two deaths due to the virus, while other countries like France had over twenty eight thousand at that time... it seemed unreal. That little island was an example for all the rest of the world and I felt really lucky to be here during this horrible crisis. I imagined how the situation must have been in France for example during lockdown, people must have been really freaked out to go out with all these deaths. Here in general the atmosphere was much less tense, people were being careful but we didn't really have that big pressure some other countries had I guess.

Once lockdown was over we decided to go on a day trip with Nina, Sam and Victorine to Cape Palliser, a little getaway village on the seaside a few hours drive from Wellington. It felt so good to be able to go out again and hit the road, to get this awesome feeling you're doing something you love and sharing it with other people. The village was full of seals, who didn't seem frightened at all by our presence. They were everywhere, even lying on the side of the road and lifting their heads up when a car drove by to see what was going on. In the afternoon we did a short hike to a beautiful view over the hills and ended up chilling at the beach to watch the sun slowly setting behind the hills over the sea. I don't know why, but I wanted to go for a little swim so I did. The water was freezing, but it felt so good.

At then end of lockdown I felt so comfortable in Wellington that I could have stayed there forever. I was happy to get back on the road but I already knew I was going to miss this city. Another place I had to leave with new friends I had made that I would probably never see again. It's funny how when I first started traveling my friends told me I would get use to making new friends all the time and leaving them to know we would probably never see each other again. I didn't believe it at first but I did get used to it now, and it almost felt normal.

On the left, Cape Palliser lighthouse. On the right, me enjoying what I call a backpacker’s shower in the middle of winter.
On the left, Cape Palliser lighthouse. On the right, me enjoying what I call a backpacker’s shower in the middle of winter.


The end of lockdown meant I could finally get back on the road. Sticking to the initial plan, Nina was staying in Wellington for two more weeks before joining me up north while I was going to work at the surf school. I was happy to be able to travel again but I also got so comfortable in Wellington that I felt like I was totally leaving my comfort zone, heading into the unknown again.

It took me two days to drive all the way up to Te Arai, the paradise little surf town above the big city of Auckland. Che, the owner was there to greet me. He had an incredible place, overlooking green fields all the way to the ocean, the view was breathtaking. He had transformed part of his property into a surf shop and surf school. As his house was only a five minutes drive to the most beautiful beach of the area, it was pretty handy and his surf school had become well known in the area.

The guy was a real business man, he sure as hell knew how to gain money, his place was great. There was always someone coming to the house to buy a surfboard, book a lesson or even buy one of the many tropical plants he was selling. I was staying with him, his really cool cat named Leo often nicknamed « Boysis » (no idea where that came from) and a surf instructor called Ben.

The work was really chilled and Che really trusted me on everything, I did my own hours, was my own boss and could pretty much do whatever I wanted when I wanted. He quickly saw I was a serious guy so trusted me very quickly I think. A new business he was trying to get going while I was here were the brand new eco pods he was renting on the property. It was a few small cabins overlooking the amazing view he had that he was renting on Airbnb.

As he had just started renting them, he needed someone to help him make a promotional video to advertise the pods on his website and online. I worked with another video maker who had a drone to film some footages on the pods and the views and ended up editing the whole thing. The result was amazing. We had drone shots from the wonderful beach down the road, the beautiful views from his house and the brand new pods that looked fantastic. The video was unreal and would make anyone want to book a night in one of these pods straight away. Che was really pleased with the result, it felt good to do a little bit of filming and editing again, it had been a while.

Even tho I was in a paradise place with really nice people I still felt very lonely. Che was a really cool guy but always busy and Ben would kind of always be by himself doing his own thing. We still had a few nice moments together watching a movie, having dinner or drinking a few beers but most of the time each of us would kind of do our own thing. I didn't mind but for me those kind of places were to exchange a maximum with other people and be immersed with them and their way of life. Here you could see that it was more a service I was doing for him and he was doing for me. In a way I don't really think I could call these people my friends at the end of my two weeks stay, which was sad but true. I hoped for another experience like the one I had back in Marahau, where Jean-François was always so committed to the people that were staying at his place with him.

At the same time I was also starting to miss home a lot, I missed my family and friends and even if I was happy to be in New Zealand, I slowly started to have the feeling I wanted to go back home. Don't get me wrong, I was having a good time at Che's and was really happy to finally be there, I just felt wherever I was during that time, even if it was the most beautiful place on earth I would still have felt a little down because I felt home sick.

Early winter morning. Misty sunrise at Che’s place, with the ocean in the background.
Early winter morning. Misty sunrise at Che’s place, with the ocean in the background.

I kept myself busy by trying to go surfing as much as I could with Ben, but in the end of the two weeks I felt disappointed by the level I had. I came to that particular place to get better at surfing and I was not satisfied at all with the way it had turned out. I would still struggle a lot and some surf sessions were a complete disaster, probably more because of the waves than my actual surfing skills, but I was still not satisfied with myself.

I couldn't wait for Nina to finish work and come join me so we could finally start our road trip on the North Island. We had been talking about it for so long now that it almost felt unreal to be happening.


It's on a nice and warm sunny day that I left Te Arai to drive down to Auckland to go pick up Nina at the airport. I hated that city, after all the small towns I had been though, Auckland felt enormous with its four lanes highway packed with cars and its huge road signs everywhere. That crowded city was everything I was trying to escape by coming to New Zealand, and I had no intentions of getting to know it.

After my little hard time missing home back at Che's place, it felt so good to see Nina. Our plan? I had barely made one while waiting for her at the airport. As we didn't have our very organized German friend Tom to plan the whole road trip this time, I had to get a little more into it. I knew Nina and I expected exactly the same things for this trip : sea, sun and beautiful sceneries. As we were slowly getting into winter, nights were getting really cold down south, so we decided to plan most of our road trip up north, where temperatures where much warmer.

It's crazy when you think about it, but because New Zealand was such a long country, by driving north and staying there in the middle of winter on nice sunny days we could even go swimming and be wearing only a simple t-shirt outside. The big difference with the summer was the sun, when during the summer at ten the sun was still out keeping you warm, now by five it was down and you had better be in your van with a nice hot tea and two blankets.

We got so lucky with the weather for the first ten days of our road trip it felt amazing. The nights were cold but as soon as the sun was up it felt like summer again. As we were slowly heading north by following the east coast of the country, doing a few beautiful hikes on the way, we stopped in a small town called Kerikeri, where we booked a little cabin in the middle of nowhere for two days. It was nothing fancy but we thought it would be nice to have a little break in the road trip and have the comfort of a home again for a little while.

On the left, Cathedral Cove, North Island. On the right, a seal pup striking the pose near Kaikoura, South Island.
On the left, Cathedral Cove, North Island. On the right, a seal pup striking the pose near Kaikoura, South Island.

The next step for us was to slowly head up to Cape Reinga, the top of New Zealand, the most northern place in the country. As we were driving north, cars were getting rarer, supermarket and gas stations too. The last hundred kilometers felt like a desert, there were a few houses on the side of the road but the place was very remote, almost nobody lived up here.

After a long day of driving we finally got to Cape Reinga, our jaws dropped. We were surrounded by nothing but wild bush for kilometers and kilometers, and could see all along the coast of the island, surrounded by beautiful sand bays all along with no one around. A short hike brought us to the end of the continent, where I was filled with a feeling of achievement. A few months ago with my friends I had been to the most southern point of the country, and now I was here, at it's opposite point. I had travelled the entire country, sometimes alone, sometimes with and friends and sometimes only with Nina by my side.

The area was beautiful, we camped a few kilometers down the road in one of the bays that filled the area: Tapotupotu Bay. The next day we did a short hike walking along the coast line that leaded to a secluded beach that extended for kilometers, where we had amazing views as we were very high. The place felt unreal, almost untouched by man apart from the track we were walking on. I had missed that feeling of happiness after a day filling your eyes with memories that you'll never forget, even after six months on the road that country could still surprise me with its beauty.

The tip of New Zealand’s North Island, Cape Reinga.
The tip of New Zealand’s North Island, Cape Reinga.

One of the things I liked the most about New Zealand was the number of small islands that the country was surrounded with, it gave the scenery of the sea something exotic and totally wild. The Bay of Islands was the area with the highest number of these small islands, there were over a hundred compacted all around the bay, and it was beautiful.

One thing I had always dreamt about doing in my life was skydiving, yet I weirdly never found the time to do it. As we were looking for stuff do in the area, it hit me : why not skydive ? Here I was, three days later, jumping off a plane from over five kilometers high, in free fall for over a minute and admiring that beautiful region from high up. It sure as hell beat the view I could have gotten if I had jumped anywhere in France. The sensation was insane, even so addictive that I now wanted to do it again.

Our next stop was the peninsula of the Coromandel, a little further south. It was well known for it's wild nature and warm weather all year round. We stopped on so many wonderful beaches, at some point it even became boring because there were too many of them. But one in particular got our attention : hot water beach. People said that because of the thermal activity underground, you could dig yourself a hole in the sand and enjoy a nice warm bath. We just couldn't believe it so we tried, and it was true. We were sitting in a nice warm bath, in the middle of the beach with the waves crashing just a few meters from us. It was unbelievable.

As we continued south we stopped in a geothermal valley, where you could hike around and observe the geothermal activity of the area. I had never seen such a thing, there were rivers and lakes filled with boiling water that would end up making huge clouds of steam in the sky. The color of every thing in the valley seemed fake, stones were bright purple, the water of the lake was pastel blue. Everything just seemed fake, like someone had fun with a stabile and highlighted everything with random flashy colors.

The trip was slowly coming to an end, with still had three weeks to spend in New Zealand but I wanted to be able to take some time to sell the van in Auckland before heading home. That's where I had the most chances of selling it, because every backpacker that came in the country or was working usually stayed in Auckland at first. That's where the biggest airport of the country was and also where it was the easiest to find a job for backpackers.

We decided with Nina to spend one last week in the wild and then head to Auckland, which would leave me two weeks before our flight to sell the van. I have to say I was really worried about how the sale was going to go. The country was still on lockdown so not letting any tourists in, a lot of backpackers also left New Zealand in a hurry because of the virus so selling the van at that moment was definitely not the best. Adding to that it was the middle of winter so the worst season to sell a van. Crossing fingers it would go well, we carried on with the road trip.

Seeing another fellow camper van on the road was something really common in New Zealand, and during those times it became less and less common. Camps where almost empty every time. Most backpackers had left the country at the beginning of the pandemic to head back home, I personally felt like that was the worst decision ever and felt much safer in New Zealand but I can understand you would want to be close to your loved ones in a case like this. It felt special to be able to travel with so few tourists around, almost like we had the country to ourselves.

That last part of the road trip was as unreal as the rest. We hiked in a pitch black cave to admire thousands of glow worms above our heads. Had the luxury of bathing in an outside hot spring in the middle of winter. Camped in green valleys to wake up with hundreds of sheeps feeding outside the van door. Visited the beautiful lake Taupo, drove in the middle of the desert to the famous Mount Tongariro also known as « Mount Doom » of the Lord of The Rings movies. Slept by -3°C in the van to wake up and see everything we had put out to dry the day before completely frozen and we visited the actual hobbit village of « The Shire » made for the Lord of The Rings movie set.

On the left, sunset at Tapotupotu Bay. On the right, Bilbo’s hobbit hole at The Shire.
On the left, sunset at Tapotupotu Bay. On the right, Bilbo’s hobbit hole at The Shire.

On our way back to Auckland we had found a place to stay, a solo mum needed help with her two kids. That was a perfect place to settle before heading home, and after all these adventures we were happy to finally head to a warm house. Amanda welcomed us and was really kind, she was a solo mum with two small kids. She owned a big house in a nice fancy suburb of Auckland and mostly needed a little bit of help around with the kids and to feed her chickens or help around the house. That was not very much to keep us busy so we had a lot of time to ourselves. I just couldn't wait to go home. For me New Zealand was done, from top to bottom. With winter now being fully present, it was summer back home. I missed all the family, friends and warmth of home.

We were supposed to stay two weeks at Amanda's until our flight back home, but because of the pandemic our flight was cancelled, we were automatically transferred to another flight the next week but this one was also cancelled. I had to battle with the flight company so they could get us back on a new flight as soon as possible. We where on a waitlist for a flight and ended up staying four weeks instead of two... without even knowing if we would be allowed on the plane until a week before it's takeoff.

Those weeks were really stressful, not knowing if I was going to make it back home in time for summer. I was trying to sell Weka at the same time which led to a disappointment after another. I had a lot of demand but every time someone set a meeting they just never showed up. At the last minute a cute Aussie couple was finally really interested, they were looking for a small van to drive around in the city for work and be able to sometimes go on road trips on weekends. Weka was perfect for that, not much bigger than a car and easy to park. I was happy I had found someone to sell the van to, but sad to see my first ride go... I had driven over 15000 kilometers with it and it had never let me down once.

Days were getting longer and longer, we where really bored. With not much to do apart from feed chickens and help a little bit around with two annoying kids that were not that nice we just wanted to leave this place for good. The airline finally told us that the third flight was maintained. I'll never forget the taxi drive we took to the airport. Since I was a kid I always felt like life was cut out in different phases, different way you feel the different moments of your life. They come one after another and always feel very different. New Zealand was one of these phases, and it was the end of it. I was looking out the window of the car, telling myself it was the last time I would be living like this for a while. All good things had an end and I was happy that after all of these awesome months of travel and happiness I was heading back home to all these people I had missed.

As the plane was taking off and I could see the country that had been my home for the last eight months getting smaller and smaller through my sublet window, I was sure of one thing : I wanted to discover much more of the world, New Zealand was going to be the first of many.

On the left, Anna and I on our way down from Isthmus Peak, Wanaka, South Island. On the right, the South Island’s west coast.
On the left, Anna and I on our way down from Isthmus Peak, Wanaka, South Island. On the right, the South Island’s west coast.


This trip made me encounter so many different people, with different ideas, backgrounds, cultures, and personalities. It felt like I had taken the best of everyone and it had made me grow up. I was more open to things, more able to understand people.

I now wonder if I'll be able to look at a beautiful scenery the same. New Zealand had showed me so much, I believe the words I wrote in this journal can't even describe how they all are. Probably because I'm not such a good writer but also because there is so much diversity, so much things you just can't imagine are so beautiful until you see them with your own eyes. I had already stared and enjoyed a lot of nice views, but I can be sure to say none like the ones in beautiful Aotearoa.

Those eight months had brought me so much. Looking back at it I just couldn't believe I had finally decided to fly away and not chicken out, give myself a reason not to do it. Because let's face it, it's much easier to give yourself a reason not to. A reason to stay in your comfort zone, in something you already know, to not take risks, not face challenges. For me New Zealand was a big challenge. Not so much the travel, but the first step. The step of actually getting there, booking the ticket and not being able to go back on my decision. I knew once I would be there I would just go with the flow and everything would be fine. But that first part was the hardest for me.

If this trip taught me one thing it's that you should always push yourself forward and try and fulfill your dreams and wishes. You will be scared, you will freak out and you will want to back out. Don't overthink it too much and don't give yourself reasons not to. If that idea is there in your head, never let it be a regret. It might end up being a failure, it might end up being something extraordinary, but if you don't go through with it you'll never know.

A failure will make you progress, an achievement will build your confidence and happiness, but a regret will only do one thing : disappoint you. So go for it.

Thank you to all the beautiful people I met on the road who made this trip so special.
Thank you to all the beautiful people I met on the road who made this trip so special.