Dream jobs: 10 Kiwis who get to travel the world for work

by Fiona Ralph / 04 January, 2019
Amanda Holland

Amanda Holland of Wellington homeware store Small Acorns turned her buying expertise into a side business and hosted her first tour of India this year.

Wordly work

It’s tough but someone has to do it! We meet 10 Kiwis who turned their passions into global adventures by becoming full-time travellers or incorporating overseas stints into their day jobs. 

If you’ve ever dreamed of leaving your job to travel the world, don’t read this – unless you’re ready to be seriously inspired. While researching this story, we met 10 intrepid Kiwis, all of whom have found ways to live on the road without leaving their day jobs. Despite following very different paths, what they all have in common is a burning passion for their work, as well as the courage to seize the opportunities many of us miss to lead a more adventurous life.

Amanda Holland incorporated her love of travel into the running of her Wellington homeware store Small Acorns. While visiting India twice a year on buying trips, Amanda realised there was a market for people who wanted to see the country through her design-savvy eyes. “I had so many people ask whether they could come on one of my buying trips,” Amanda says. “A few days before Christmas, I posted one image on Instagram advertising a tour, and within a few weeks it sold out.”

This year, in cooperation with a local contact, Amanda launched Adventures with Marigolds, a boutique tour offering an insider’s experience of India. She took 10 travellers on a 12-day trip from New Delhi to Agra and Rajasthan. The plan is to do one bespoke tour per year, but Amanda admits the demand is already so high that she may have to run more.

Read more: The rise of the digital nomad: When the office is anywhere | Will your job last in the work revolution?

victoria rycroft

Vicki Roycroft hosted a group of florists in Italy earlier this year. The group took part in floral workshops, enjoyed long lunches cooked by Vicki’s husband Mark and foraged at Puscina Flowers, a farm in Tuscany .

Vicki Roycroft from Wildflower on Waiheke Island has also expanded her business to include overseas offerings. The florist and teacher took The Wildflower School on tour for the first time this year, offering a week-long workshop in Marche, Italy. Novices and professional florists from around the world learned to create bouquets, installations, garlands and more, while soaking up the romance of the region. The week was such a success that Vicki plans to run a similar workshop in France next year. “By taking our workshops overseas, my passion for flowers, teaching and travel can be combined,” she says. “I didn’t plan for this to happen, but somehow it has all come together and I am loving it.”

For Aucklander Emily Gallagher, travel is a constant. The conscious business coach was struggling to make ends meet when she started her business. Now she’s on six figures while coaching, running workshops and speaking at events around the world. She splits her time between New Zealand and Los Angeles, with stints in spots such as London, Italy, Greece and Mexico. She’s obsessed with business and travel, she says. “Travel allows you to meet so many amazing people. You tend to be more open, and have new experiences nearly every day. I love that about both business and travel, and being able to combine the two is even better.”

emily gallagher

Business coach Emily Gallagher, aka The Conscious Boss, travels almost full-time to run workshops and train clients. Here she is on business in New York.

Travelling for the majority of the year can take its toll, however, so from next year Emily plans to base herself for longer stints in LA.

“I have team members in different time zones, and this past 18 months I was changing cities, countries and time zones every few weeks, which really took a hit on my energy and my productivity. You start to miss things like early nights, routines and your own kitchen!”

michael james wong

Michael James Wong created Boys of Yoga to destigmatise men’s yoga, and has photographed yogis around the world for the project. He also runs the Just Breathe mindfulness events in London.

On the opposite side of the Atlantic is New Zealand-born yogi Michael James Wong, who was raised in LA but is now based in London. He has taken his passion for yoga around the world “from LA to Australia, Singapore to Sweden, and everywhere in between”. The sought-after yoga teacher and speaker has created a global business through initiatives such as Boys of Yoga, which Michael founded to celebrate male yoga practitioners, Just Breathe, a range of meditation events, and the teacher community Sunday School Yoga. He is also currently promoting his book Sit Down, Be Quiet.

“I never set out to travel the world for a job, but over the years it’s become essential to stay connected to friends, family and students” – Michael James Wong

“Travelling and yoga are very similar in ethos,” says Michael. “Both come from a place of connection to ourselves, each other and the world around us. For me, these are not only passions in my life, but part of my purpose as a teacher and community leader.” 

chasing a plate

Husband-and-wife team Thomas and Sheena Southam created Chasing a Plate to share their love of travel and food. Their blog and YouTube channel have taken them around the world, including Thailand, India and Malaysia.

Not everyone has a base – Thomas and Sheena Southam of Chasing a Plate have been without a home for two years now. These Kiwis appear to be living the dream, travelling full-time, snapping and filming themselves eating local delicacies for their YouTube channel, blog and social media accounts. But years of hard work preceded their current adventure.

The couple started their blog as a way to meet fellow foodies when they were living in Melbourne where Sheena worked as a lawyer and Thomas managed an organic grocery store. “The blog was our creative outlet when we worked 9-to-5 jobs, but after years of taking months and months off to travel (we had very sympathetic bosses) we decided enough was enough,” the couple say.

Now they travel full-time, using YouTube to share their eating exploits and finance their travels. “It’s a pretty incredible lifestyle, travelling the world, eating and filming with your best mate!”

Arthur Gillies, Sean Wakely and Freddie Gillies (L-R) at the Holi festival in New Delhi, India, just one of the highlights of a 15-month bike trip from Bali to London, which raised money for Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand.

Arthur Gillies, Sean Wakely and Freddie Gillies (L-R) at the Holi festival in New Delhi, India, just one of the highlights of a 15-month bike trip from Bali to London, which raised money for Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand.

Speaking of best mates, brothers Freddie and Arthur Gillies and their school friend Sean Wakely threw in their day jobs following the passing of Freddie and Arthur’s uncle after a long battle with leukaemia and cancer. Realising there was more to life than the daily grind, the boys embarked on The Big Bike Trip, an overseas adventure with a twist. They spent 15 months biking from Bali to London to raise funds for Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand. The three mates were joined by another friend Timmy Chen for the final leg of their journey.

From ascending the Himalayan foothills to battling giardia in Georgia, the experience was filled with highs and lows. “It’s nearly impossible to pick highlights,” says Freddie. “It was the trip of a lifetime and is littered with wonderful moments. We were so lucky that when one of us was weak, the others were strong. We helped each other through tough times.”

Having recently completed their trip, the boys are now figuring out their next move and how to fund their next travel buzz. They’re riding the Round Taupo Cycle Race in November and will continue to fundraise for Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand until then. They’re also making a coffee table book featuring the best of Sean’s 35,000 photos of the trip.

Freddie says the journey was life-changing, but not without its sacrifices. “The trip was my motivation to work two jobs and 60 hours a week, at times. It was the culmination of eight years of dreaming. I sacrificed a lot of time, money and my first love for the trip.” But he’d do it all again in a heartbeat. “I can’t wait to get back out on the road. It’s not enough to do something big and crazy, then just settle back into what I was doing. That just doesn’t feel right.” 

Want more adventure in your life?

  • Think about how to maximise the skills or passions you have. Could you swap services for board, or contract in a country that needs skilled workers?
  • Look into volunteering opportunities in your field, but be sure you are not putting local workers out of jobs.
  • House swapping or renting your house out can be a fun and more affordable way to see the world.
  • There may be opportunities for travel within your job. Speak to your manager about working remotely or relocating.
  • Start a blog about something you’re passionate about – you never know where in the world it might take you! 
  • “Just do it! We decided that the odd two-week trip to explore and eat our way around a new place wasn’t enough for us anymore, so we turned it into a lifestyle. It hasn’t been without hard work and persistence but if you want something bad enough, you find a way to make it work.”

– Sheena and Thomas Southam

Photography by Thomas and Sheena Southam (Chasing a Plate), Sean Wakely (Big Bike Trip), Amanda Holland (Adventures with Marigolds). Michael James Wong for Boys of Yoga (beach yoga), James North (meditation event), Jake Paul White (Michael James Wong), Emily Gallagher (Conscious Boss), Lato Photography and Lisa Poggi Photography (Wildflower).

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