The International Grafter

Meet international grafter Joe Bobby Wood who’s originally from Newcastle in England. He’s been down under for seven years living, working & experiencing life. In this article, he tells us about his great experiences, why he chose the town he moved to, how he copes with missing home & advice he shares for anyone thinking of moving to New Zealand.

“The worst that can happen in most cases is you don’t like it & then can go home anyway at least knowing you tried”

Why New Zealand?

Lord of the Rings! After university I knew I wanted to go travelling somewhere & from Lord of the Rings, I knew NZ would be beautiful so thought why the hell not! The original plan was to go through NZ, Australia, & Asia in one year. After arriving in New Zealand with my brother, I knew pretty much straight away I wanted to stay longer, especially after I arrived in Queenstown. Kiwis are just really laid back people.

“All you have to do is stop buying stuff you don’t need”

The Queenstown Magnet

In Queenstown specifically, it is the people. That said there aren’t many Kiwis here! It’s a nice small town of only like 30,000 people but there’s loads going on. It has a great community of hospitality workers. I got to know loads of people that worked across town & made some great friends. Then when I left for Australia I tried to find a town like it. I tried Byron Bay and Cairns but although they are backpacker towns, they didn’t feel the same. I had met my girlfriend in Australia & came back with her. She hadn’t been here before & she fell in love with it too!

Working Life

Now I’m a retail store manager of a liquor store. I have previously done a fair few things. Worked in some hostels for accommodation, & in an awful call centre cold calling Aussies selling funeral insurance. I then got a job as a glass collector but left to go up to North Island to pick apples & kiwis when it got into the offseason. After that, I came back & got a duty managers job at a bar. When I moved to Australia,  I did some landscaping in Sydney & moved up to Byron Bay where I got work in a travel shop. They ended up sponsoring me & I became a manager up in Cairns. That didn’t work out, so I came back to New Zealand & managed a couple of bars. Then about nine months ago got my current job. Certainly not as sociable but I’m enjoying it & was still able to go for my residency.

“No matter what awful stuff you go through, things can always get better”

Funny Moments

Yeah some good, some bad. More often than not involving alcohol! I do have one cracker which actually happened to me. It was my leaving night when I first left Queenstown to go to Australia. It was a fairly big night & we were in the last bar, it must have been about 3 am. It’s just a small bar, owned by the same company I worked for, so I was being looked after really well & it was full of my friends. I was sat at the bar with one of the owners & this guy came up to me & said: “You are him aren’t you?” I didn’t have any idea what he was talking about & just said I didn’t know him. Then he walked away & came back with his mate & said the same thing. I asked who he thought I was & he said: “You are Dave Grohl!” (from the band The Foo Fighters). I laughed & looked at the guy I was with who just smiled & nodded. I told him I was Dave Grohl. They both took loads of photos & were delighted. We then carried on drinking. There is a tradition that when you leave town, you need to jump in the lake on your last night out. These lads ended up coming down the lake & jumping in with all of us. Afterward, one of them came up to me & said it had been the best night he had ever had, drinking with Dave Grohl! I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when he showed those photos he had taken that night, to people at home & they were like Nah, that’s definitely not Dave Grohl, he is half his age haha!


In Australia, one of my favourite places was definitely Cairns. It was where I first started diving. I was fortunate enough to be able to dive for free most the time because of my job. I worked out that I got about $4,000 of diving for a few hundred dollars! Me and my girlfriend travelled south-east Asia for a few months before coming back to New Zealand. We both loved Chang Mai and Pai in Northern Thailand. In Chang Mai, we visited this great elephant sanctuary. Lots of places In Thailand take advantage of the animals & they are not treated well at all. in the elephant nature park we visited, the animals were formerly working for logging companies which were terrible but luckily, got to live out their lives in this sanctuary. Instead of the standard riding, you feed them & go in the river to wash them as well as learning about each elephant’s past. It wasn’t compulsory, but they also showed a video about “the crush” how they break their spirit to make them docile. Lots of people were getting pretty upset about the whole thing, but it was amazing to then go back outside & see these elephants happy. It just showed that no matter what awful stuff you go through, things can always get better & there are good people out there that aren’t just out to make money & exploit.

Missing Home

My family is the main thing I miss as well as not seeing my nieces grow up is going to be pretty tough. Thankfully with Snap Chat, Skype & iPhones it’s easy to see photos and videos, but it’s still not the same. I was lucky that my mum & stepdad came here for a month a couple of years ago. In fact, my dad and step mum are coming here in a few weeks. Obviously, the cost of travel from between England and here is expensive. Often I wish that I could just jump in a bud & go home for a weekend, but my family understands why I am here… oh yeah I miss Gregg’s Pasties! I bloody love Greggs!


My girlfriend has been my rock for the last 4 years. With her by my side, I will always be sweet. I did also have my stepbrother Jordan over here for the first couple of years which was awesome for a family fix. There are a handful of my mates over here that are like family too. Some of them I have known pretty much since I arrived. The nature of the town means there are a lot of people that are only here for 6 months to a year so there are lots of goodbyes. Thankfully, a few of us have hung around which has been nice.

Spare Time

In winter, it’s always fun going snowboarding. However, annoyingly this winter I’m not going to be able to afford a season pass because I am going for residency. I really enjoy going on walks & used to a lot but recently have got pretty lazy. My girlfriend still goes on a lot though. The last year or so I have actually been spending way too much time on my PlayStation. I play a lot with some of my mates from school back in England online when it’s late here & early there or vice versa.

“There are a handful of my mates over here that are like family”


Just to do it! The worst that can happen in most cases if you don’t like it & then can go home anyway at least knowing you tried. It’s certainly not for everyone but for the most part you will do things you never thought you would. One of the things that annoy me is when people say “Oh you are so lucky to have been able to do that!” Luck had nothing to do with it. All you have to do is stop buying stuff you don’t need & save your money for a flight, visa & spending money. Then you are good to go.

Looking Ahead

The plan is to get residency. We just need to send our Australia police checks off & then when they come back my girlfriend & I can apply. After that, we will just see how it goes. We won’t be in Queenstown forever. House prices are just too much now & the town is changing a lot. That said we are still enjoying it & won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

Thanks for reading this article. Leave a comment below or share it if you’d like to  Global Stepper

  • Kate strong

    What an amazing read. Well done joe! You’ve came along way from school. Glad your loving life.

  • Alison wright

    Great article Joe. Great insight into what youve been doing.

  • Qabas

    Nice job