Australia Working Holiday Visa Overview

A working holiday visa (WHV) is a great way to see the world while saving money to see more of the world.  The strength of the Australian dollar and high wages make it possible to travel long after your year is complete.  With Asia right next door, you can travel for two to three times the amount of time you spend working.  If you plan to see the world, it is a great idea to work/travel Australia, save money and continue traveling afterwards.

It’s also a great way to learn skills that you never even anticipated learning.  While in OZ I learned to weld, surf, ride horses, build fences, muster cattle, live at sea, service diesel engines, fix all sorts of things and work farms.  I took the outback approach but you can do anything you wish.  For example:

A friend of mine lived in Sydney.  We visited the Sydney Ballet and he was deeply inspired by the performance.  He earned a rigging certificate (rope work for theaters), became deeply involved in the theater scene and now he is a ballroom dancing coach.  He also learned excellent Batista skills (Australia has excellent coffee shops).

Other friends of mine learned to be bartenders, fishermen, bakers, chefs among others!  This is a great opportunity to find yourself.

While picking apples I was able to make $900 + a week.  They were long hard hours (7:00 – 17:00).  For one weeks wages I was able to live in Bali w/ my girlfriend for an entire month.  In Bali we had a rented scooter, a room overlooking an excellent surf spot (Padang Padang in Bali), surfboard rental, ate out 2-4 times a day and generally did whatever we wanted.

Victorian Ian: Auckland, New Zealand

Victorian Ian Extra Work Auckland, New Zealand: My Victorian Costume
My Victorian Costume

Veronica exercised her talent agent muscles and got me some extra work in downtown Auckland yesterday. I’m a big fan of movies and acting, but I’ve got absolutely no experience in “the industry.” One great thing about being lost in foreign lands is that you have the confidence to do anything.  My acting career launched on the Victorian Era set of “What Really Happened – The Woman’s Vote” in Auckland, New Zealand.

Victorian Ian Extra Work Auckland, New Zealand: My Fellow Actors
My Fellow Actors

I’d say that being a good extra is all about waiting.  We spent almost all day waiting.  On the rare occasion, I’d walk around and do my awesome acting. Most importantly, the whole time we got to look super snazzy!

Victorian Ian Extra Work Auckland, New Zealand: Horse and Buggy (and camera team)
Horse and Buggy (and camera team)
Victorian Ian Extra Work Auckland, New Zealand: Stage Coach
Stage Coach

I like the movie industry.  Maybe I’ll become an actor or a stunt man.  It would have been sweet to have been riding a horse all day.

Victorian Ian Extra Work Auckland, New Zealand: Victorian Street Scene
Victorian Street Scene

Even though this gig was mostly waiting around, I consider it a great adventure.  I met some really interesting people, got to get dressed up and was well fed.  Good times.

Cook Straight Crossing, New Zealand: Interislander vs. Bluebridge

While traveling the North and South Islands of New Zealand you want to take the ferry across the Cook Straight.  When crossing you have two companies to choose from; the Interislander and the Bluebridge. Both services can take you as a passenger with or without your car.  The crossing  is fun and I consider it essential to a New Zealand adventure.  The ferry is a testament Kiwi ingenuity!  It’s also scenic and fun as you spend 3 hours at sea.

Interislander vs. Bluebridge

Q: Which should I take?

A: Interislander, No doubt about it.

Tips for crossing:

  • Prepare to get a little seasick
  • Put the emergency break on in your car
  • Turn you car alarm off
  • Enjoy the outdoor deck, you’ll cross some stunning scenery
  • Food and drink aren’t more expensive than normal New Zealand prices.
  • There isn’t a lot of preparation needed.  The ferry landing is easy to find in Wellington and Picton.  Driving on is easy.

On both services you drive your vehicle onto the boat yourself.  Here’s a video of us boarding in Wellington and disembarking in Picton!

I’ll show some pictures and brief descriptions of the Bluebridge:

The cabin of the Bluebridge is very functional.  You can order food and have it delivered to you while you sit indoors and watch the shores of Wellington and the North end of the South Island pass by.

The Bluebridge ship is smaller and simpler than it’s competition.  For this reason, it is slightly quicker at crossing the straight…. but only a few minutes faster.  It’s not a significantly faster experience.

The bluebridge cabin is comfortable and simple.  If you require a private room, they offer that.  I don’t really know why someone would want a private room on a 3 hour trip though .

There is seating on the blue bridge outdoor deck.  You can also walk around on the outer deck while crossing.

They don’t have sky (New Zealand’s television service) so there is no television while on board.  This wasn’t cool for us because we missed two Rugby World Cup matches while crossing the straight.  They do show movies but there is only one option played on all the screens.  If they play a movie your not interested in, tough luck.

Anyways, the Interislander is without a doubt the one that I recommend.

Here is why:

This boat has heaps of different cabins for whatever your different interests are.

It’s like a playground for kids and adults!  They have so much cool stuff to do!

They have a cafe

Their outdoor deck is great for watching the progress of the crossing.

At the back there is a great glass enclosed observatory if (and when) it gets too cold to be outside.

There is a playground and a cafe for the parents and their kids.  It’s really nice because it is on the bottom deck so all the kids are nice and busy away from the cafe and the pub.  The playground is in the bowls of the ship!  It’s perfect, you can’t even hear the little buggers.

Yeah, they have an awesome pub.  The drinks are about as expensive as any other pub in New Zealand.  There was even a really entertaining live band playing.

There is lots of seating in the pub.

So that’s it folks.  The showdown of the Interislander and the Bluebridge goes to the Interislander.

Do you have any experience crossing the Cook Straight?  Tell me about it with a comment below.


Getting Mugged In Christchurch, New Zealand

Walking through downtown Chrischurch, New Zealand at 6:30 am on a Saturday I heard some guy yell to me asking for $5.  He looked like he had been out clubbing all night, rough and worn slick styled hair, collared shirt, tight stone washed jeans and bloodshot eyes.  I had all my 20 Kgs of bags strapped in front and back of me as well as my guitar complicating the situation even more.

I shook my head and walked on by despite his pleas which sounded aggravated.  Spending time in San Francisco taught me to ignore beggars.  He kept talking and coming after a few moments, I realized he was following me.  As I was walking away I kept hearing his voice.  The next time I turned around he was coming at me swiftly as hebanged his open palms against his forearms like a big ape all the while muttering something about how I had that $5 dollars he needed.

He was a thick little muscular half pacific islander looking fellow.  The kind of body one gets from lifting lots of weights but not running or an aerobic exercise.

Even though we were 2 blocks from city center Christchurch, there was no one else on the streets.  I knew I could survive a scrap with the brute on even ground, but this ground wasn’t even.  I was loaded down in a complex system of weights and straps and my precious spanish guitar would get destroyed if I dropped all my stuff and went about the path of scrap.

So I resolved to stop and turn to this ape and take it like I’d image Ghandi or Mandela would have.  As he approached he had a face intended to intimidate, but I was suprisingly calm.  Adrenelin was pumping but I had a relaxed nature.  He asked me if I had $5.

“I don’t have $5” I said because I honestly thought I was broke at the time.

“Then whats that hanging out the back of your pocket?” he replied.

Whoops.  I forgot about that $20 the guy had given me to play his friends a song in the Deny’s restaurant I had just left.  I paid fro my breakfast, gave the watress the extra $3 in coins and lazily stuffed the $5 in my back pocket.  So I was now, standing in front of some gorilla like half maori mugger, realizing that I had committed one of the most idiotic mistakes a traveler can make.  I was walking through a big city early in the morning with money hanging out the back of my pocket.


He asked me: “You gonna give me that $5 or do I have to beat you up and take all your money?” he paused to think up some other creative threat “Or I could steal your little guitar and sell it for even more.”

Then he made a swift jerking motion like he was about to strike.  A sort of clenched fist, shoulder turning start.  Maybe he was expecting me to cringe…

I was busy thinking the situation over.  Sure, I think I could take this guy, but at what cost?  That $5 dollars isn’t too important and it defiantly is worth paying to avoid a battle with a drunken islander.  But what about the moral implications of paying to avoid physical abuse.  Martin Luther King Jr. would taken a punch to make a moral statement!

Also, I was thinking about how I would fall if he hit me in the face.  I thought about how to escape my bags quickly w/o banging my guitar up.  I thought about wrestling matches with my marine friends and all the scrums during intense rugby matches.

He seemed to be a bit taken back with my aloof reaction to aggression.  Really, the gesture w/o the punch gave me the impression that he wasn’t a mugger but just some poor lost soul who spent all his money at the club and didn’t have bus money to get home.

“What happened to you?  Why do you need $5?” I asked.

“I need $21 dollars to get home.  My friends left me here and I’m just trying to get home.  I need $15 and I have $8.” He explained in a less thug sort of way.  He clumsily dug his coins from his pocket to show me the coins to back up his story.

I recounted my situation:

-First off, I deserve this after walking through the south islands biggest city with money HANGING OUT MY BACK POCKET

-The $5 defiantly isn’t worth a scrap… but a scrap would be adventurous…

-This poor guy really is in dire straights.  Even his math is no good.

“Here you go,” I said as I reached for my back pocket.  Sure enough, I could feel that $5 note hanging off my ass, a dim reminder of a foolish mistake.  I handed it to him and stood looking at him with a “is that all” face on.

“You know what?” he asked as he took the note.  “You just earned yourself $5.”

Strange… my thinking commenced again.  Now I’m holding the $5 and standing there in bewilderment.

Is this some sort of test?  The greedy fist test?  Maybe he wants me to take it so he can tell the New Zealand police I mugged him!  What on earth am I doing in this big city at 6:30 am in the morning, roughing it up with a big ass lock looking rugby murderer over $5?

“Here man, just take this and get home.” I said and handed him the bill again.  He still wanted to know if I’d have given it to him if he hadn’t threatened to beat me up.  I didn’t want to provoke him so I just reiterated that he should take the $ and go home.

“Ahh, thanks man, your a lifesaver,” he said.  “Can you play us a song real quick.”

WTF?  “No dude, I gotta catch a bus: get home and get some rest.”  I turned and walked through the center of Christchurch to get the hell out of town.

Despite the outcome of my first mugging, I was considerably shaken up afterwards.  I had a shakyness in my hands and my overall mood was depressed.  No longer did I smile to people on the street and take interest in all around me.  For the next few hours I went over the event in my head and though about that weird beast.  I imagine he was doing the same.  A strange sort of bond must exist between human conciseness after an encounter like that.  On the other hand,  he might be a real animal and may have forgotten about the situation all together.

Either way, he ruined my day.  Luckily I made the bus (despite not booking it, someone else didn’t show up and they already paid their ticket the bus driver comped me on for a few coins) and was dropped off in an alpine wonderland of summer ski area tranquility.  My hike to the legendary Castle Hill bouldering spot was like a scene out of Lord of the Rings.  I finished reading Motorcycle Diaries and phoned home for the first time in 2010.  Sleep came like a gift that night.


Here is an image of my hitch hiking and bus trips through New Zealand:

Whitianga, New Zealand: Weeklong Stay at the Batch

We’ve spent the last few days in Cooks Beach, New Zealand.  Its surprisingly quiet in this little scenic suburb.  It feels a bit like that movie 28 Days Later; heaps of well maintained homes without a soul around.  I heard it gets crowded around Christmas and New Years, but it sure isn’t crowded now.

To get goodies and internet access we bike from Cooks Beach to Whitianga.  We load our bikes onto the ferry to cross the bay to town.  It’s fun taking a boat to get to town.

On the way back, we stopped at Shakespeare Cliff.  This is a tiny hike out to the point where you can look over the stunning Cathedral Bay.  I found a cool rope swing down on the beach

When the swell picks up we drive across the peninsula to surf at Hot Water Beach.

Hot Water Beach is a sand bar beach break.  It breaks left and right.  The right generally shapes up better than the left.  It seems to me that it works best at low to mid tide.

It’s called Hot Water Beach because during low tide everyone digs into the sand and chills in the warm spa-like water.  It’s a cool touristy beach scene.  If you’re looking for a good place to park your van for the night and sleep near the beach, go to the Surf Beach parking lot.  It’s got a toilet and its far from the road.

Thanks for reading.  Feel free to leave a comment.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacon: Inspirational

Walter Isaacon has produced an excellent portrayal of the life of Steve Jobs.  Three days ago, I knew next to nothing about Jobs.  I now consider him to be a hero (though I wouldn’t want to go to dinner with him.) 🙂

Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson : Inspiration, Passion and MadnessI was inspired to read the book because I love the Apple devices I use. The MacBook, the iPhone, iMovie, and iTunes all have a tremendous effect on my life.  I love them and in fact, much of career has been made possible because the iPhone allows me to be so mobile.  If it weren’t for the MacBook, this website wouldn’t exist.  So Apple (Steve Jobs specifically) has played a vital role in how my life has evolved and where it may go.

I read the 600 page book in 3 days.  This time has been reminiscent of the days I spent reading Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela or For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway. It’s intensely interesting and it keeps your attention all the way through.

This is a story that I suggest to everyone.  If every person on earth read this book, the human condition might improve.

Thanks again for reading! Much love.

Nevada County, California, USA: Gold Country

Every time I go home I love to take a mini-trip out to Nevada County, California.  It’s  called Gold Country and it still feels a little like the wild west.  Nevada County is a great place to get lost.  You can explore the Feather River and the Yuba River.  The Tahoe National Forest is warm dry and beautiful in the summer.  These are probably some of my favorite places on earth.  They feel like home.

Every year millions of tons of snow melts in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  The run-off is focused into powerful rivers which carve radical valleys from the  vast granite mountains.  Hiking into these river valleys is a mesmerizing experience.  They are deep and loud.  I often drink straight out of the rushing water.  It’s super clean and clear.  I’ve spent weeks in various valleys of the Yuba River.  I love it.

One of my best old friends lives out there.  I was lucky enough to meet up with her just after she bought a kick ass 4×4.  She is awesome.  I asked her if she wanted to go thrash through the mountains and test her new toy.  She agreed; she is awesome.  Our only goal was to go down some gnarly hills and test the capacity of her new kick ass 4×4.  That’s all we set out to do.  But we came across some cool stuff just by chance…

We are smiling for this photo because it’s cool to spend time with old friends.  What we are standing in front of isn’t cool.  This is an old hydraulic mining site called “You Bet.”  It’s sobering to drive deep into the mountains and find huge sites of wrecked barren land.  This is a lesson for all of us now; we must do what we can to preserve the earth.  We have lots of great stuff and it’s important to the future generations that we conserve the finite resources of Earth.  -Reduce Reuse Recycle-

After driving deeper and deeper into the forest we came across lots of amazing views.  We came to massive lookouts and awesome rivers.  As we were creeping back over some havoc strewn roads, we came across a peaceful wilderness grave yard.  It was strange to see the chain link fence so far from the reaches of civilization.

The grave stones were all from people that died while taming these crazy gold country.  One memorable grave stone:

“Her lies Pete Simpson

Profession: Logger

Cause of death: Log Fall”

Simple times for simple folks.

Looking over the grave stones of the men and women that lived in Nevada County in the early 20th century is thoroughly intriguing.  I don’t find graveyards to be disturbing in the slightest.  Graveyards are the most down to earth places one can visit.  They help one to think about life as a whole.  You can step out of your day to day life and see the historical relevance of it all.  The old gold mining towns in California are so rich with history.  Booming and busting overnight.  Those people lived lives that inspire me.  Often, I wonder if I would have enjoyed living in those times.  Would I like them more than life here and now?  Their lives involved riding horses through the rugged uncharted mountains with a back pack full of dynamite and a shovel in the search of wealth.  I like the sound of that.  These were true adventurers; mine pale in comparison.

The profound graveyard moment wrapped up and we jumped in our rubber footed, fossil fuel eating robot and commanded it to carry us through the mountains.  We had obligations back in Grass Valley and we intended to make them.  It’s a dusty dry trail up there in the summertime.

The Farm: Whangaruru, New Zealand

I love this place.

Let me introduce: The Farm

The Farm is the product of the youthful minds of Mike and Ellen Bennett.  The house that you see above is their home/hostel/book warehouse/halfway house/retirement home/play house.  At the beginning, there was only the green building on the right.  The building is growing like the Little Shop of Horrors with a life of it’s own by continuing to grow farther and farther to the south east.

Mike and Ellen run this beautiful 1,000 acre dairy farm just outside of Whangaruru, New Zealand. It’s a long drive from the nearest town.  If you plan on visiting them and you don’t have a car, it’s important to contact them through the website before you try to head out there.

Mike and his sons are motorbike crazy.  Their shop is a skeleton yard of motorbike pieces scattered about.  It’s a hectic mad scientist spot. They keep a well protected  motorbike magazine collection of everything available over the past 20 years.

When divinity was designing this land, there must have been a specific effort to make the place perfect for riding dirt bikes.  From the lookout just above the house, there is nothing but steep grassy hills and muddy tracks as far as the eye can see (out to the ocean.)  They have loads of people come to the farm to ride dirt=bikes with them all summer long.  Lots of people go and play on their huge motorbike track.

Ellen on the other hand is an exceptional natural horsewoman. She has a way with horses that I’ve never seen in anyone else.  She can go into a corral with a young “never been saddled before” horse and be sitting on its back with nothing but a blanket within two hours.  I watched her do it.  She is amazing.

Besides the horses and motorbikes, the Bennetts have a slew of activities at their door step.  The river is a short walk away and you can grab a kayak and take a trip down the river all the way to the ocean if you fancy.  There are nice surf beaches within a short drive from the Farm.  If you don’t have any cash you can just go for a hike around the area.  It’s stunning and out of the way so you can expect to find solitude out there.

The Bennetts are really welcoming and I unconditionally recommend the Farm as a destination to anyone going to New Zealand.  It’s only about 2 hours from Auckland.  Have a blast.  Tell them Ian Robinson sent you.

I even got to eat a huge worm!

I got to ride a dirtbike!

V got to ride a horse!

Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii: Finding a job on O’ahu

Working the Movie Site and Ranch Tour at Kualoa Ranch

When Veronica and I flew from Bali, Indonesia to Hawaii, USA we did so with no real plan.  We had no contacts in Hawaii, we had no job prospects and we had nowhere to stay.  I actually booked a hostel in Waikiki the day before we reluctantly departed from of Denpasar International.

Having no plans made for a rough first few weeks on O’ahu because it is really hard to find work there.  I had a short spell as a gardener and busking around Waikiki.  I had some epic surfs near Waianae and up on the North Shore.  Even though I had some epic adventures, life was difficult without a place to stay or a source of income.  Finally, I got a dream job at Kualoa, Ranch.

The job acquisition process at Kualoa has a few steps .  First you must go through an interview at the human resource department.  If they approve you, you are sent to your specific department manager for approval into the department.  Since I was shooting for a horseback gig, I had to display basic horsemanship skills like saddling, putting on a bridal, mounting without aid from anyone else and opening and closing gates without getting off the horse.  I passed these tests and was given the clearance to join the Kualoa team.  I was over the moon!

WWII Bunker at Kualoa Ranch

After being hired, you go through a two days introduction to the Kualoa Brand.  As a history nut I loved it.  You learn about the ownership of the ranch and it’s place on O’ahu.  They also go over a basic overview of Hawaiian words and the old ahu’pu’a’a system.  They also go through a lot of safety and liability stuff.  These are two unpaid days, but they are worth sticking it out.  It’s good to learn these things before you get to work because it creates cohesion across all the departments.

Once those two classroom days have passed, the trainee spends a day touring around the ranch as a secret shopper.  This is awesome.  It’s like you get a whole day at Kualoa Ranch to just enjoy yourself and see what the customers get to enjoy.

We took the jeep tour through the jungle in a Swiss Pinzgauer.

Kualoa Ranch Trucks

The second tour was the “Movie Site Tour” which is absolutely spectacular.  You load onto an old school bus and drive through the Ka’a’awa valley.  This is where Jurassic Park, 50 First Dates, Big Joe Young and a host of other awesome movies were filmed.

Kualoa Ranch Trucks2After the movie site tour Kualoa provides a really tasty Hawaiian lunch of BBQ ribs, pineapple and a salad bar.  Afterwards we went on a quad ride through the forest and up onto the ridgeline headed north.

Finally, for the last part of the day, we went on a short horseback tour the other direction, into the Hakipu’u valley.  Of course I loved this.  Best of all, this was to become my new part time job for the next 5 months.

I am really grateful to Kualoa Ranch for providing a horseback trail guide position.  Kualoa Ranch is magical and it’s so great that they provide a sort of insulation from town to the country.  Big mahalo to the royal Kualoa family (Judd to the Morgan) for keeping it country.  The horseback manager is such a great lady to work for.  She is caring and loves horses as much as anyone could love horses.  Also, to all my co-workers while I was there: sorry I had to leave so abruptly.  I would have stayed if I had the option.

If your headed to O’ahu any time soon, go ride horses at Kualoa Ranch.  This is the safest horse riding for beginners I have ever encountered.  They have a very concrete system worked out with the horses.  The tour crosses through some of the most beautiful land the world has to offer and you might get some treats along the way (strawberry guava, acerola cherries or papaya.)  The guides are all given a solid background of history of the area.  You will find lots of Aloha at Kualoa.  🙂