Dannevirke's Mathew Baxter and his German girlfriend Ann-Sophie Reintjes are experiencing life far removed from the rural dairy farm where Mathew grew up, as they explore Europe and beyond.

"Travelling has been the best thing we have decided to do and through it we have had some of the most memorable experiences and met some very interesting people along the way," Mathew said.

"We plan to be back in New Zealand for three months in February and are hoping to connect with lots of interesting people and places while we're home too."

From a dairy farming family in Te Rehunga, Mathew ran a personal training business in Sydney for five years until 2014.

"I realised it wasn't for me. I needed a career change," he said.

Mathew Baxter left milking the cows in Te Rehunga to others and set out to explore as much of the world as possible. Photo/Supplied
Mathew Baxter left milking the cows in Te Rehunga to others and set out to explore as much of the world as possible. Photo/Supplied

"I decided to travel for a while and hopefully figure out what I wanted to do, so I signed up for a work and travel visa in Canada.


"I found work at a ski resort and this is where Sophie and I met."

The couple decided to join a friend and buy a GMC Safari and take a road trip from the east of Canada and the United States to the west.

"The Safari was converted so we could sleep in the back," Mathew said.

"We even had our car painted in New York's Times Square by a street artist for free.

"This took about two months then we dropped off our friend back in west Canada while we found work in Vancouver, still living in our van.

"We both worked two jobs to maximise our savings so we could continue our travels."

After a month the couple drove down the west coast of the United States, still living in their van Betsy. From Miami they flew to Jamaica and on to the Bahamas.

"Back in Miami we flew to Central America, first to Panama before ending up in Mexico City," Mathew said.

"We backpacked, having left our van back in the USA with the keys in it for the next lucky person.

"To save money we stayed in really cheap hostels and took only chicken buses to get around and walked over the border checkpoints."

After couch surfing in Hawaii, the couple returned to Dannevirke for Christmas and New Year, travelling and staying in backpackers accommodation.

"This was so Sophie could experience New Zealand as a traveller," Mathew said.

"After five months in New Zealand we headed to Australia and then on to Asia."

From Bali to Singapore, Malaysia and on to Thailand, the couple crammed as much as they could into their time there.

"We hiked to hill tribe villages, bathed with elephants (one even stood up while I was washing its back and I had to get off 'Jungle Book-style' and ride down its trunk), were blessed and tattooed with bamboo by a monk and we even did our advanced diver's course on an island in the south," Mathew said.

"After we had explored Thailand we moved on to Cambodia, before flying to Nepal and travelling through to India.

"After India we went to Amsterdam, where we stayed a month and did a bartender's course.

"Then it was on to Germany, where I applied for a work and a travel visa so I could stay in Europe and work in Germany for up to a year.

"Since then we have been travelling through Europe and North Africa."

While in Ghent, Belgium, the couple found themselves capturing on film for their blog a nasty fight between traditional candy-stall operators which has made headlines across the country.

"It's a long way from milking cows in Te Rehunga," Mathew said.

"In Belgium, candy is traditionally sold and made by vendors called cuberdons ["noses" in English]. Near the Groentenmarkt there are two stallholders selling these candies from wagons.

"These two vendors have a known history of fighting, stealing and breaking each other's things.

"The locals call this 'neuzekesoorlog', or 'little nose war'.

"Once we heard about this feud, we wanted to go see if it was real or just for promotion.

"We asked the first cart owner (who claims he didn't know we were filming, even though we had a big camera set up and told him we were), he was telling us about the noses.

"But when asked about the other cart and its close proximity, he went on a big rant aimed at the worker [not the owner] Younes Benzaza.

"The rant was a very direct dislike of the worker's race and this has sparked the rivalry again in Ghent and we were in the middle of it all.

"To help with our finances were are now getting into online media and marketing through our Instagram pages, our blog and YouTube."

• You can follow Mathew and Sophie on their Instagram account, sophodophalus, and on YouTube - WastedLife.