We travelled New Zealand for a year.

We spent half of it living between cheap hotels and marvellous housesits. The other half we lived in a van and travelled the country from the boot of a car.

New Zealand’s landscape is simply beautiful and extremely varied. However, our trip was massively coloured by the three housesits, each of which lasted several months, and the animals we had to look after.

Living together with dogs is particularly important to me, and I emphasize important. Imagine we’ve been travelling the world together for years, and it’s just us. New, inevitably superficial friendships don’t develop while travelling. It’s too exhausting for me in the long run, so I retreat into solitude, which in turn makes me fall into a silent sadness and conjures up the world-weariness that surrounds us everywhere. And then the dogs come.

In my experience, there is a massive difference between house sitting with or without dogs. They fill up a lot of what is lost over time through long periods of travelling and constant loneliness. It is so profound that I decided in New Zealand to only accept house sits with dogs. I’m simply happier that way. And so are the dogs. Because most of them don’t see more of the world than their garden fence.

Unfortunately, New Zealand is not a country where there is a general awareness of taking your dogs out into nature on your adventures every day. This of course hurts, especially when you have to leave them again. Nevertheless, we had a good year in a spectacular country. I am delighted I’ve seen it.


Basically, our New Zealand trip can be divided into 4 sections:

  1. Housesit in Timaru
  2. Housesit in Te Puke
  3. Housesit in Silverdale
  4. Road trip from Auckland to Queenstown


The journey begins in Timaru.

We flew from Sydney to Christchurch on the South Island, and then travelled by bus to Timaru, where we had already arranged the house sit a few weeks earlier. For a month, we lived in a beautiful house with an ocean view and looked after the two tiny dogs Lilly and Saffy, while their owners were travelling. Timaru is not a spectacular place by New Zealand standards, but it’s lovely to live in. Quiet, uncluttered, with great parks and quaint beaches. Just right to cure the jet lag and sort ourselves out.

Lilly and Saffy were loved endlessly by their owners. Unfortunately, they were hardly ever taken for a walk. As a result, they were poorly trained and Lilly, the little Maltese, went completely berserk when she saw other dogs on the street. I first bought them a small harness and proper leads (they didn’t have anything), so that I could take them for a proper walk. After about a week, I started recall training, so they could run free and develop a sense of independence. This all worked wonderfully and by the second week, they were walking with us like our own dogs. And even though I know, that they mutated back into pure house dogs after our onward journey, I hope that I have shown them a little piece of doggish freedom in this very bondaged human shaped world.



Te Puke

After a very quiet and relaxed time in Timaru, we set off for the next house sit to Te Puke, which was to last just under 2 months.
The somewhat inconspicuous Te Puke is located on the North Island, close to the much more impressive Tauranga.
We took the plane and were picked up at the airport by the lady of the house. In Te Puke, we were supposed to look after three small dogs and a cat, while the owner was traveling.
Unfortunately, we had our first unpleasant house sit experience, when we arrived at the house. The house was so dirty, that we didn’t want to stay. It was so filthy, that I was afraid of getting sick. Out of respect for the owner, I won’t share any photos of this.
However, the owner assured us, that she would send a cleaning lady, which she did right away. And so, for the sake of the animals, we toiled through the dirt for the first week. It took the rather bewildered housekeeper that long to get the house clean again. Afterwards, we had a wonderful time.
Every day we took the three dogs Tizzy, Tazy and Tommy to the beach in Tauranga. Here and there we had our first hiking experience of New Zealands jungles and smelled the bitter-sweet scent of geysers and sulphur springs for the first time in our lives.
As we had a car at our disposal, we were able to get to know a lot of the surrounding area, which was nice.




After almost 2 months, we left Te Puke with a smile on our faces and a tear in our eyes.

Despite the cleaning lady, we never really felt comfortable in the house. The surroundings, however, were spectacular.

We had arranged our next house sit in Silverdale, just above Auckland, where we took the bus from Tauranga.

Here I fell head over heels in love with the two bitches, Poppy and Bree, who would live with us for the next three months. There were also a few chickens, which laid dozens of eggs every day. To our delight, the house was wonderfully clean and situated on a hill with a beautiful view. We immediately felt at home.

Poppy and Bree were once again bitches, who were not taken for a walk. Once again, I found this extremely sad. Bree spent the whole day lying in the open trunk of the car, in the hope that someone would take her to the beach, which according to the owners, happened about 1–2 times a year. The rest of the time the dogs spent in the garden. Bree in particular, the Labradoodle bitch, seemed severely depressed.

I realized that it was actually due to depression and not to her 14 years of age, by the way she blossomed and turned into a completely new dog, after she went to the nearby beach of Orewa with us, every single day from then on.

When we left Poppy and Bree after three months, tears rolled down my face. We had such a great relationship, and they developed so positively, that I found it so difficult to leave them behind.

A few months after we left, we found out, that Bree had died of old age. I am so grateful, that she was able to taste the freedom and fun she had longed for so long, at least for three months at the end of her life.



The Roadtrip

While housesitting in Silverdale, we started looking for a van, in which we could travel the country and that offered us a place to sleep.

The choice fell on a station wagon, that already had a bed in it. We swapped out the mattress, pillows and camping utensils and finally just set off.

We had already gotten to know some corners of the country while house sitting. As we didn’t have much money for expensive excursions or even more expensive campsites, we just drove along, ate when we were hungry, and slept at the side of the road, when we got tired. Here and there, we drove to beautiful places that were recommended to us and simply spent time there.

This was all great fun on the North Island, with its constant 20–30 degrees. As we reached the South Island, we regularly froze our butts off. At night, it was sometimes so cold, that the windows froze. So we rented a hotel room, when the weather was particularly bad.

All in all, the roadtrip was exhausting, although we didn’t have any time pressure or big excursion plans. It wasn’t always fun to not only cook or sleep outside in very bad, cold weather, but also to sit in the car for endless hours, because it was pouring.

And yet, as much as I sometimes felt afflicted, I am delighted to have had this experience and to have gotten to know so much of New Zealand. What a wonderful country. What wonderful memories! Even if funny sometimes only in retrospect. Thank you! Whoever made this trip possible.