The other side of the world. Ilaria’s adventures in Australia, SEA, and New Zealand

After publishing the interview with Ilaria (here the Italian version) about her adventures between Australia, New Zealand and SEA, I’ve received some requests to post an English translated version. So, here we are with the translation!

Tabella dei contenuti

Let’s start from…

In this post I’m going to ask a few questions to Ilaria, who will tell us about her travels and work experiences in Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

This time, however, contrary to what happened with Cristina, I could not meet Ilaria and share an aperitivo in a beach bar. In part because Ilaria is literally on the other side of the world (2 days of flights make for an expensive aperitivo), and partly because, I don’t know if you realized it, but for some months now I have had to reduce my travels a lot.

I compensated by speaking of the travels of others, of the other thousands of people who still enjoy moving their asses around the globe, cultivate their dreams and try to make others understand that the working standard 9-17 with Saturdays and Sundays at home, is… a bit limiting.


Excuse the digression. Let’s go back to the main topic, let’s go back to Ilaria who is doing some beautiful things and will talk about it soon.

His story is fairly standard until he graduated from University. After the academic journey, in fact, she is struck by the “traveler’s fever” and begins to take care of herself by leaving for a very distant but classic destination for Italian people, Australia. He returns and then sets off again to Oceania and Asia, among farms, trekking, temples, and remarkable encounters.

The powerful technologies of the 21st century

I had the chance to chat with Ilaria through the powerful technological means that modernity makes available to us and I really regret that you too cannot hear her speak because she transmits certain energy and positivity that I have rarely encountered in other travelers (with perhaps the exception of Sarah Griffith).

Certainly, each traveler has his own distinctive elements. Mine could be a beard, books, and aversion to selfies (which conveys a hipster/Luddite image more than it really is), those of Francesco Corsi could be an interest in street life and the camera. Ilaria, on the other hand, has great energy, a lot of curiosity, an environmental sensibility that perhaps belongs only to the new generations and … and then something that I find really beautiful, empathy.

Little is said about this feeling but I think empathy is inevitably linked to travel. We all have it, some more than others, but traveling can only make empathy grow together with the humility that comes from understanding our little importance in spite of the Great World. In any case, no more talk and let’s give voice to Ilaria and her travels because there are many things to listen to.


1 – Hi Ilaria, welcome to thelazygeographer! Let’s start with why you find yourself in New Zealand.

There is more than one reason that led me to come to New Zealand for a year. The main one is my insatiable desire to travel, explore and learn. In my entire year in Australia, I met so many people who spoke to me about the beauty of New Zealand’s nature and so, without thinking twice, I added this country to my “bucket list”.

2 – How long have you been traveling and what route did you follow?

I’ve been traveling for two and a half years now. Immediately after graduating from the Faculty of Agriculture in Bologna, I left for Australia, where I alternated travel and work. When my year ended, I returned to Italy to meet family and friends.

After working during the summer season my desire to travel begun to grow, so I bought a plane ticket to Bangkok. With a rather light backpack and zero planning, I started exploring every corner of Southeast Asia. It took me 5 months to visit Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. Before stopping in New Zealand, I decided to take a trip to Tasmania, the Australian island that stole my heart.

Finally, in mid-April 2019 I arrived in Christchurch, in the South Island of New Zealand, where I started my adventure that will last one year.

Ilaria Australia farm 1

3 – I’m always very curious, especially regarding the practical aspects of travel. Do you need a lot of money to do what you do? did you start with savings or did you work while you were traveling?

Both Australia and New Zealand are countries with a high cost of living. It would be rather expensive to travel exclusively. So I decided to apply for a Working Holiday Visa, a one-year visa that allows you to work legally.

The first time I left Italy I had a thousand euro in my bank account. However I found work after about 10 days that I was in Melbourne; from then on I no longer needed access to the Italian account, being 100% independent.

With the exception of Asia, in which I have purely traveled, both in Australia and New Zealand, I alternate several jobs and volunteer for my adventures.

4 – I have a certain “weakness” for some nations. One of these is Canada, and I talked to Irene a few weeks ago. Without doubt another such country is New Zealand. What can you tell us about life in New Zealand? is there any problem or is everything as beautiful as it seems?

Both Australia and New Zealand offer beautiful opportunities but, as a country, they have different problems.

Starting with the pros, it is extremely easy to find work, regardless of previous work experience. Both countries are not densely populated, so there is a high demand for outside help to get the economy going. I, for example, was hired as a pizza maker in Melbourne, although I had never worked in the kitchen before. That job allowed me to work a little everywhere, because, apparently, the whole world loves pizza.

In my year in Australia I went to different farms, where I learned to prune and plant apple trees, to select first and second category fruits, to prepare the vineyard for the spring season, to feed and take care of free-range piglets, and to collect vegetables and sell them to local markets.

Here in New Zealand I worked from the beginning as a pizza maker and I plan to go to a sheep farm, to take care of lambs and learn to shear adult animals.

However, these countries are not a happy paradise for everyone. Both were born of English colonialism, which, by imposing itself as a new dominant power, destroyed the previous culture. The Australian Aborigines and New Zealand Maori are gradually losing traditions and millenary uses. Living in close contact with the two communities (the original one and the newcomer, the white one so to speak), one perceives anger on the one hand and strong indifference on the other. There are issues of social and economic inequality and the rates of alcoholism, domestic violence and suicides reach appalling levels.

Ilaria montagne Laos

The question of integration, or not, of the Aborigines and the Maoris is something that has always interested me. When I was in Canada, I tried to investigate the question of the First Nations peoples, which I believe face similar problems, but the question, in the big cities of southern Canada, is removed and there are almost no traces of Native Americans. Museums are beginning to tell something but I believe that a great deal is still to be done on the issue of violence, on integration and even on the simple recognition of what happened. Especially when the government is liberal, open and compassionate in theory but then does nothing different from the right/conservative. Can you tell us something more about what you saw in Australia and New Zealand

I can tell you that even in Australia, especially in the cities of the south-eastern part, you do not see the Aborigines and the problem does not seem to exist. I then went to visit Uluru and went through Alice Springs. There you see more of them but they have enormous problems of alcoholism and live in a spiral of violence that extends from the family to the groups you see walking down the street.

Their civilization and their way of life have been completely destroyed and I believe that the foundations of their society are so different from ours that they do not really want to integrate. Their model of life in harmony with nature, semi-nomadic, which attributes a soul to all things, the religious/spiritual system, are so different from what the English have brought that they cannot integrate without losing each other completely, without cutting off those roots that make them Aboriginal.

In New Zealand, on the other hand, things may be a little better. Since the second half of the 1980s, there has been a progressive awareness by the Maori of their past and by the government of what had happened during the colonization phase. The Treaty of Waitangi of 1840 had two different versions, one in English where the Maori ceded the sovereignty of their land to the English and one in Maori where they continued to have autonomy and control of the territory. This is the beginning of English colonization. From Waitangi onwards the colonizers thought they could take all the Maori lands they wanted, by virtue of an alleged “superiority”.

Today, especially on the North Island, the Maoris are more integrated and can still cultivate their traditions, yet much remains to be done. For example, in most of the southern island the Maoris cultural heritage is removed, few are seen and most people are not aware that this country was born by forcibly tearing it away from those who lived there for hundreds of years.

I confess that the question interests us a lot, both me and Ilaria. Certainly deserves more attention, so I hope to publish a post on this topic soon. Stay tuned!

5 – I have always thought of Oceania as a very beautiful and fascinating continent but a little too far from the rest of the world, I say to the cultural “periphery” of great movements/ideas and I say this without wanting to offend anyone. Do you think it is a wrong or simplistic view? Surely, from a natural point of view, there are incredible wonders but cultural life?

New Zealand is a tiny country surrounded by the ocean. While on the one hand it offers unique landscape wonders of its kind, on the other it presents problems partly linked to this isolation.

One perceives the fact that it was born from a recent colonialist act that swept away the previous culture. This lack of deep roots, in my opinion, manifests itself in an identity crisis in the new generation, which does not have many things to hold onto and one of the first escape routes is alcohol.

One of the things I miss the most, now that I have been away for a year, is the food and traditions that distinguish us. More than the food itself, I lack the passion with which people relate to it and the magic that is created around a table. There is no single traditional dish in New Zealand. Here are famous the meat pies, also introduced with English colonialism.

In addition, Europe gives us unique architectural beauties in the world. What I always say is that in Italy you can breathe culture wherever you are. As soon as we cross a border, we realize that we are in a different country. Here in New Zealand it seems that the buildings and population centers are all very similar, extremely modern and functional.

Ilaria carbellotti sud est asiatico

6 – To me, that I have New Zealand in the list of places to see, how much time would you advise me to stop and what should I absolutely see?

So far I have mostly worked, and as a result I haven’t had many opportunities to travel and explore. Each person experiences the journey in a different way. I belong to the “backpacker on budget” category and I love this lifestyle.

I try to avoid flights, moving as much as possible by bike, hitchhiking and bus and lodging in hostels, camping or hosted by local people through the Couchsurfing website. This way of traveling is certainly cheaper and in my opinion authentic, but ideal only if you have plenty of time, or months or even a year.

The minimum time recommended by me is a month and the most precious thing is to get in touch with the local culture, as well as explore the beauty of the landscape.

7 – If I am not mistaken you have participated in a project that provides for the reforestation of some areas of New Zealand. Can you tell us some details?

The issue related to climate change is very important to me. This is another reason why I try to be a conscious traveler, who if possible avoids flying, uses used clothes and supports the local economy, buying vegetables and seasonal fruit.

In Christchurch I joined a hiking club that allowed me to explore the beautiful nature around the city. It was through this club that I learned of the Quail Island reforestation project.

For 15 years now, in the month of August, dozens and dozens of volunteers gather to plant thousands of native trees, so as to safeguard the vegetation of this small island highly damaged by deforestation and the introduction of exotic tree species.

New Zealand has the highest rate of threatened species in the world: 81% of birds, 88% of reptiles and 72% of freshwater fish are endangered. Most of these species cannot be found anywhere else in the world, which is why we must try to preserve their ecosystem. It was great to spend a few hours with hands covered in earth, in contact with nature and volunteers of all ages and nationalities.

Ilaria Nuova Zelanda1

8 – You also wrote me that your next step will be to do the Alps2Ocean. What exactly is this and why is this desire?

In November I will start this beautiful bike adventure.

It is a 300 km trail that starts from Lake Tekapo and heads south to the town of Oamaru. Along the trail I will have the chance to see other lakes, forests and beautiful landscapes. I will sleep in campings and sometimes I will set up my tent in the garden of some kind local family.

I started preparing for this experience for several weeks. Every free moment I spent in buying the material in second-hand shops and learning to fix the bike if it breaks in the middle of nowhere.

Ilaria adventure New Zealand

… my travels and my adventures could have become a source of inspiration for those who feel stuck, frightened or unhappy. I was one of those people.


9 – Tell us a little about wwoofing. I’ve never talked about it here on the blog but I think it’s a very interesting thing, especially for those who think of traveling in New Zealand and Australia.

WWOOF is an acronym for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. It’s about working in organic farms in exchange for food and lodging. There are farms associated with WWOOF in all parts of the world; this gives a wonderful opportunity to travel, learn new things and live with the host family or farmer.

My first experience as a wwoofer was in Italy in San Piero in Bagno, at the Fattoria dell’Autosufficienza. There I entered in contact for the first time with permaculture and the true concept of organic and respect for the earth.

I had other wonderful experiences in Australia and in Tasmania in particular, where for two months I worked in a pig farm, learning to take care of animals. As already mentioned, towards December I will go to a sheep farm to look after the lambs and learn to shear.

I recommend everyone to try an experience like wwoofing. Other excellent websites are HelpX and Workaway (the latters not necessarily related to farms and organic agriculture).

10 – I can say that the journey has taught me to be humble and to give the right value (at least I believe) to things. What did you learn while traveling?

The most precious thing I learned while traveling is not to make me frighten by the differences and indeed feel a deep curiosity.

In my 5 months in Asia I came into full contact with the local culture. I tried to learn the language, to share experiences with the locals and to throw myself into every adventure. I always felt welcomed and realized that the world is a huge country, inhabited by people with different customs and traditions but with the same needs, fears, passions and dreams. I shared meals, clothes, emotions, stories and experiences with children, the elderly, monks, street vendors, the disabled and so on and so forth.

Before this trip I knew practically nothing about tragedies like the Vietnam War, the bombings in Laos and the extermination of millions of civilians in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge Regime. I was deeply ashamed of my great ignorance and the indifference with which most tourists visit these places. In these months I have tried as much as possible to document myself, visiting museums, asking questions and visiting places of interest. Now, when I meet a Vietnamese or Cambodian, a Chilean or a Polish, I see this person with different eyes, with eyes that do not judge diversity, but that shine with the desire to share and know.

Furthermore, I gradually realized that my travels and my adventures could have become a source of inspiration for those who feel stuck, frightened or unhappy. I was one of those people.

I grew up repressing the real Ilaria, frightened by the judgment of others and inhibited by social norms. Now I want to show the world that I am a person like everyone else, that lives his life without any regrets.

11 – Finally a classic, 3 must-see places and why.

1) In North Vietnam I did a 5-day scooter loop in the area of Ha Giang, driving through very high mountains, hills covered with rice paddies and I was able to visit the most authentic and least touristy area in all of Vietnam.

2) Wat Pa Tam Wua, is a Buddhist temple in northwest Thailand where I have been twice to meditate. It is a beautiful place, surrounded by mountains and vegetation. The monastery is run by Buddhist volunteers and monks and is funded by visitor donations. Both times I spent 10 days in the monastery, practicing meditation and learning to know myself profoundly.

3) Nong Khiaw, is a tiny village in Laos, reachable after endless hours of buses and ferries. Laos is still littered with bombs, so things to do and excursions are strictly limited to certain areas. There I did one of the hardest hikes ever to reach a breathtaking viewpoint.

Ilaria Carbellotti Nuova Zelanda 2

The interview ends here, unfortunately. In the coming days it will be Ilaria’s birthday and I wanted to put the link to an initiative that she has started on Facebook.

At this address you can read in detail what it is and participate too. Do it, because it’s worth it.

Finally, I wanted to thank Ilaria who had the patience to put up with my questions and my curiosity on one of her days off while she is on the other side of the world. I really hope to be able to host it again here on the blog, perhaps with an article of its own. See you soon!

If you still want to read something I suggest you take a look at this incredibly boring and long post on Oslo.

Or you can have a look at this post about Nicaragua!

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