“Oh my , is there anywhere in the world where it’s summer right now and there’s no chance of Zika?!”
“Erm, maybe New Zealand?”
“But can we….?”
It had been about a week since we decided we couldn’t go to San Pancho and we were no closer to deciding what to do instead.
At first, nothing stood up in comparison to San Pancho; we were too disappointed and down in the dumps about the whole thing and struggled to stop imagining what could have been. But feeling like that is tiresome and we soon started looking forward and tried to hatch an alternate plan.
We got excited about the idea of Thailand, Vietnam and Bali – cheap flights and even cheaper living made them an attractive alternative. But then we started reading reports of Zika in south-east Asia, and Thailand got added to the official list of places with active local Zika transmission. There was no point us leaving Mexico, only to risk being in the exact same situation somewhere else in a few weeks time.
Where to go?
We didn’t know what to do. What we had our hearts set on was a combination of good weather, awesome nature, and somewhere we could relax. We have a lot of work to go back to in England in April and the idea of these few months was to have an adventure and some time to ourselves. We’d worked it out so we only have to work part-time for these few months – we didn’t want to waste that planning by simply going home. In fact, going back to London wasn’t even an option as our house is currently rented out on AirBnB.
We also didn’t want to settle for something we only half-heartedly wanted to do. We looked into going somewhere in Europe, but it’s still winter even in the warmer countries, plus Europe is expensive and that would mean spending a lot of money on something our heart wasn’t in. We wanted to make it count.
It was around then that the idea of New Zealand started to creep in. When looking at the map of places where the Zika mosquitoes live, New Zealand shone green, plus it’s summer in the southern hemisphere. And most importantly, it’s New Zealand – a place we’ve dreamed about travelling together for years.
The very idea of it stirred the excitement and wanderlust we’d been looking for. But there was one major hurdle – New Zealand is expensive. Could we afford it? If we’d had to pay £800 simply to get back to England then the answer would definitely have been no, but once we got that change for free, we had a little more budget to work with. We’d be able to pay for the flights there. But travelling in New Zealand would far exceed the cost of living in San Pancho. We needed to be creative to make it work.
That’s when we remembered Home Exchange – a brilliant website that allows you to list your house and then swap it with other homes around the world. We’d joined last year, but hadn’t had the opportunity to use it yet. We quickly found that there were tons of homes listed in New Zealand, and many of them were looking for a non-simultaneous exchange with London. We wrote to as many as we could find and by the end of the day had already secured a few exchanges. We could do it! By flying via a pretty cheap flight to Sydney and making use of Home Exchange, we could afford to go to New Zealand!
Time to say #yolo!
So, on our last day in Mexico, we booked our flights for NZ, set to leave a few days after we got back to England. We’d stop in Sydney along the way, staying with dear friends we’d wanted to visit for years, and then head to New Zealand for two months. On our way back we’ll stop in Melbourne for ten days, another place that’s been on our wish list for years. It’s a dream trip, pulled together in about 24 hours!
Not going to San Pancho was a major blow, but we know we’ll be back there at some point in the future. And in the meantime, the alternative has worked out perfectly. It’s an extravagance – even with Home Exchange – but sometimes you have to scream #yolo.
Let us know if you have any New Zealand tips. We’ll be here for the next two months, travelling around the north and south islands. And we’ll tell you more about our home exchanges soon – we’re staying in some amazing places! For live updates, follow us on Instagram.