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Monday, August 27, 2012

Road Trip #2: NYC to SFO


Total miles driven after two tours: 11,942

My second tour was with another group of French teenagers. We did the same trip I just did but in reverse. The second time was so much better. My passengers were nice & respectful, & the chaparone was fantastic!

Things went much smoother logistically too. It helped that I had already been to all of the locations, but using the GPS made a world of difference. They should issue each guide a GPS before they head out. It's probably the single most useful tool on tour.

This job has a steep learning curve, but I feel like I'm doing well so far. To be honest, it doesn't feel like this is a job at all - more like a paid vacation. I mean, I get paid to go on a cross country road trip, using someone else's car, gear & money. I think I came out ahead on this one.

Unfortunately, I have no photos of my own to share for trip #2 since my camera crapped out on the last tour. I'll just have to grab some of the passengers' photos from Facebook to post here.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Road Trip #1: San Francisco to New York City


24 days; 6000 miles; 9 French teenagers

... & a whole lot of fun!

A: San Francisco CA
B: Lake Tahoe NV
C: Ely NV
D: Salt Lake City UT
E: Jackson WY
F: Yellowstone National Park
G: Cody WY
H: Devils Tower National Monument
I: Badlands National Park
J: Mitchell SD
K: Minneapolis MN
L: Thunder Bay ON
M: Heron Bay ON
N: Sault St. Marie ON
O: Tobermory ON
P: Niagra Falls ON
Q: Ottawa ON
R: Quebec City QC
S: Montreal QC
T: Catskill NY
U: New York City NY

Scroll down for photos!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

On the ferry


Lake Huron, Ontario

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Monday, July 16, 2012

Mount Rushmore!


My first time in South Dakota

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Bison!


Yellowstone National Park

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Offline for the summer

Looks like I'll be offline for most of the summer. I'll be busy camping & hiking & road tripping. Take a look at my home for the next three months over there on the left <--

See you in the fall!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Off to training camp

Now that I'm all licensed & certified, I'm headed to San Francisco for a two-week tour leader training camp. We'll travel to Yosemite, Death Valley, Zion, Lake Powell, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas & Malibu. Not bad for a business trip, eh?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Fremont Saddle Campout

I spent 14 years of my life with my dogs Otis & Justice. I adopted them when they were four weeks old, & they were with me until they died. They were by my side for some of my life's best moments - & most of my worst. It absolutely broke my heart when I lost them.

It's been several years now since I took their ashes up to Fremont Saddle in the Superstition Mountains. The trail to the saddle is fairly easy & the views are amazing along the way, not to mention the incredible views of Weaver's Needle at the end of the hike.


I'm in Phoenix for a short time before I head off on my next adventure, so over the weekend, I went with a couple of friends out to Fremont Saddle for a visit.

To avoid the hottest part of the day, we decided to do the two-hour hike to the saddle just before sunset. By then the temperature had thankfully gone down below 100 degrees (about 38 degrees Celsius), & the canyon was entirely shaded, so the hike was surprisingly pleasant.

We camped at the saddle, watching shooting stars & bats whiz by over head all night long. In the morning, we packed up & were back at the car by 9:00am. Along the way we saw this:







Friday, June 8, 2012

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Learning to drive: Adventures at the DMV

I'm preparing for a summer job as a tour operator. I'll be driving a 15-passenger van full of European tourists around to the national parks in the western part of the US. We'll be camping & hiking & singing campfire songs all summer long. I'm really excited about spending the summer outdoors.

You can drive a 15-passenger van on a regular driver's license in Arizona, but since there will be paying customers riding along, I need to get a commercial driver's license (CDL) with a passenger endorsement.

The CDL study manual has all kinds of information about driving semi tractor-trailers & Greyhound busses. Even though I won't need to know that stuff for my job as a tour operator, it's still included on the test. Go ahead. Ask me how to control speed on a downhill slope. Or what double clutching is.

When I arrived at the DMV, I saw a very very long line - yuck! But as a CDL customer, I got to jump straight to the front - yay! I passed the written test (which is actually a computerized test now) with a 93%. Now I need to find a 15-passenger van to rent so I can take the actual driving portion of the test.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

208 Things!

I just counted my stuff. I have 208 things.

If that sounds a little strange, let me fill you in. For the past four years, I've been engaged in a personal challenge to reduce my possessions to 100 things - you know, just to see if I can do it.

I began by putting most of my possessions up for sale. I gave some of my favorite things to friends & family, scanned old photos & journals, & the rest got donated to charity. Then I went off to travel the world.

When I arrived at my first stop, I had about 350 things. Not bad for a first try, eh? Each time I go to a new place, I leave another pile of things behind me - peeling the onion, I call it. It feels so good to slough off unnecessary stuff.

Not to say that it's easy to do. It took me a couple of stops to get rid of my collection of brightly colored paper clips, & I'm still holding on to my devil duckies pencil toppers. I suppose they will go eventually, but I'm not ready to give them up just yet. It's all part of the journey.

Over the past few years, I've been learning what I don't really need (a stack of read-write DVDs; a stapler), what I really can't live without (my Kindle; a good headlamp), & what I like having around just because it makes me happy (my magic wand, for example).

I've just recently made another move & thought this would be a good opportunity to check in with my stuff. I counted a total of 208 things. 208.

When I think about that, I realize that I've accomplished quite a lot already. I've not only reduced my possessions to a very small number. I've also greatly squelched my habit of acquiring more stuff - a great achievement. Of course, being a traveler helps with that. Whenever I'm tempted to buy something I don't really need, I just think about having to carry it around with me, & that usually does the trick.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Per diem: Vietnam, China, New Zealand & Australia

VIETNAM

I was in Vietnam for seven months. I lived & worked in a city about an hour from Ho Chi Minh City for five months, & traveled for the rest of the time.

Unfortunately, I don't have accurate numbers for Vietnam, but it's safe to say that it was very very cheap. I didn't worry about the price of anything while I was there - I went on tours, ate out & traveled to my heart's content. I even went to Bangkok for a week without thinking twice about it.

By the time I got to China, I was in the habit of recording my expenses, so I know that I spent an average of US$45 per day there. Based on that, I can guess that I spent about US$25 a day in Vietnam - without even trying to save money. It's so incredibly cheap there.


CHINA

I lived & worked in Shanghai for two years, where I rented a room from a Chinese couple for US$365 per month, which is on the cheap end of the spectrum. I went out about once a week & went shopping for clothing about once a month. I ate out for almost every meal - mostly at Chinese restaurants - but I ate at Western-style restaurants too, about once a week. My highest monthly expense was accommodation, followed by tourist attractions, then food.

Here's the monthly breakdown:

US$407 - Accommodation (including hotels on trips outside Shanghai)
US$296 - Tourist attractions (tours, museums, festivals, flights, etc.)
US$253 - Food (95% eating out)

CHINA PER DIEM: US$45


NEW ZEALAND

I traveled around the North Island for three months. I mostly stayed in free accommodation, either housesitting or Couchsurfing. I did stay at a few hostels along the way, so accommodation still figures in the top three expenses. My highest expense was food - even though I was careful to shop at the grocery store & eat at home. The next biggest expense was tourist attractions. Although I skipped the super expensive activities (skydiving was NZ$400!), I didn't miss out on the true once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Here's how the monthly averages turned out:

US$379 - Food (90% eating in)
US$342 - Tourist attractions
US$232 - Accommodation (mostly free stays, or cheap hostels)


NEW ZEALAND PER DIEM: US$42


AUSTRALIA

I was in Australia for six weeks, staying with friends in Sydney for most of that time. Australia is extremely expensive, so I was really mindful of finding free or cheap things to do while I was there. The last ten days of my stay, I "splurged". I went to four different cities, flying cheap airlines, staying in backpacker hostels & going on affordable tours. I definitely skipped doing things that I would have done normally because of the cost. I didn't go to Ayers Rock (US$1000 round trip flight from Sydney!), & I only spent a few days in each city outside Sydney. I just couldn't afford Australia.

Here are my average monthly expenses:

US$715 - Tourist attractions
US$611 - Food (90% eating in)
US$217 - Accommodation (10 days in backpacker hostels)

AUSTRALIA PER DIEM: US$68

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Baggage allowance: The tables have turned

When I first left the US three years ago, I was a nervous new long-term traveler. I had taken short trips out of the country before, but never had I spent such a long time away from home. I was so worried I wouldn't be able to find my favorite things overseas that I grossly overpacked, causing the scales at airport check-in to scream weigh-limit alarms.

Just a few days ago, at the check-in counter in Sydney, the aisles were lined with people unpacking & repacking, trying to get each piece of luggage under 20 kilos - exactly as I had done at LAX three years ago. It's nice to know I'm not the only one.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

10 Things I did for the first time in Australia

1. Attended a surfing competition
2. Visited a Bahai temple
3. Tasted passionfruit
4. Hung out with wallabies in the park
5. Saw wild cockatoos playing in the rain
6. Heard the laugh of the kookaburra
7. Got entangled with a leech
8. Swam with sea turtles
9. Saw the littlest penguins in the world
10. Frightened a platypus

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Touring Australia

I've just finished traveling around the eastern part of Australia. I went from Sydney to Hobart to Melbourne to Cairns back to Sydney in ten days. No small feat considering the size of the country.


Hobart is a cute little port town with one of the best museums I've ever been to. If you're down that way, be sure to check out MONA. I really want to go back to see the rest of Tasmania as well. There are so many mountains & canyons & rivers & wild spaces to see there. Maybe next time I'll get the chance to see a Tasmanian devil too.

Melbourne was cold & rainy, so the city didn't really get the chance to impress. However, Phillip Island made up for it in spades. We saw koalas up close, & watched as the tiniest penguins in the world came in from the ocean to nest on the shore for the evening. Waddle waddle.

After the chill of Hobart & the rain of Melbourne, Cairns was a pleasant change - sun, beach & palm trees. We spent a full day out on the Great Barrier Reef. It always thrills me to see something in person that I've only ever heard about. It stops being a story & becomes absolutely real. I love that.

The second day in Cairns, we took a tour of the rainforest. This was no ordinary tour. It wasn't the scenery that was so amazing - though at every stop we saw a beautiful waterfall or lake or rainforest path - incredible all on it's own. But the tour company really made the day one to remember.

We spent the whole day singing & laughing & waving at strangers as we drove from place to place. We played road trip games, drew pictures on the windows, splashed around in the water, tried to play the didgeridoo, & went in search of the elusive platypus. It was good clean non-stop high-energy fun for the entire 12-hour trip. If you go to Cairns, don't miss Uncle Brian's Fun Falls & Forest tour. It's a winner!

Now, back in Sydney, I'm getting my stuff in order to fly back to the US. It's been over a year since I've been back, & almost three years since I left to wander the globe.

This trip home will be relatively long. I have a summer job as a tour leader in the national parks, which will go through October. Afterwards, I'll spend the holidays with my family for the first time in four years. I'm really looking forward to that.

I'm not sure what's in store for me next, but I've had such an amazing time traveling over the last three years, & I've learned so much about life, the world & myself. I know there is so much more to discover out there, & I hope to continue my trek around the globe for a long time to come.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A brush with fame

For the past month I've been staying with friends in Sydney. It's been so nice to relax into family life for a while. I teach classes online during the day, & when everyone gets home from work, we all have dinner together. After we eat, we gather on the comfy couch for some TV time & a cuppa (tea).

One of the shows we've been watching is Australia's version of The Voice, a talent competition judged by four famous voices: Keith Urban, Delta Goodrem, Joel Madden & Seal. There's a running joke in my Sydney household about Seal & his yellow nail polish.

I wasn't that familiar with any of the judges before coming to Australia. I knew who Keith Urban & Seal were, but I probably couldn't name any of their songs. The other two were completely new to me. Now, after watching several episodes of The Voice, I find myself recognizing their faces in magazines & on billboards all around Sydney. (Although I still couldn't tell you what they sing!)

So imagine my surprise when at 6:30 on a Tuesday morning I saw Seal exit customs at Sydney International Airport! Strangely enough, if it weren't for The Voice, I would never have recognized him. & if it weren't for a visit from a friend from the US, I never would have seen him. Thanks Michelle!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Australia's national apology


I see graffiti like this littered around Sydney - the word "sorry" painted on street curbs, on the sides of buildings, on bridges & the backs of road signs. I don't know much about this issue - I'm only a visitor here in Australia - but my Australian friends say that the messsage is directed at the aboriginals who were part of the stolen generation.

If you've ever seen the movie Rabbit Proof Fence, you saw aboriginal children forcefully taken from their parents by the government & placed in reform schools, where they were taught European customs & traditions. The Australian governement hoped that these children would then assimilate into white society, & that the aboriginal culture would ultimately be eradicated. It took the Australian government until 2008 - just four years ago - to apologize.

Today, people continue to say "sorry" in their own way.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Volunteering


Yesterday I went out to Lane Cove National Park with the Conservation Volunteers. They have several projects in Australia's national parks - planting trees, maintaining trails or cleaning up protected areas. I spent my day with CVA pulling out invasive species (read: weeds) at the car park (read: parking lot) at Lane Cove.


The weather was perfect - not too hot, not too cold & a little overcast so we didn't burn up while we were working. Our supervisor kept a keen eye out for any yummy caterpillars or crunchy beetles we might unearth.


Since we were volunteering, the trip out to the park was free. There were some interesting people in our group, & we spent the afternoon trading travel stories as we yanked out the weeds.

Conservation Volunteers does longer trips as well - overnight or several days in a park. You have to pay a minimal charge for accommodation and food on the overnight trips, but it's what you would pay if you went to the same spot on your own anyway.

It felt good to get out & do something physical, & at the same time do something good for the national parks. Even though I'm just a visitor here, I was happy to contribute to the preservation of Australia's natural spaces.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Toy libraries

Libraries are such a good idea. They make knowledge available to everyone - for free. Kudos to Ben Franklin for setting up the first library in the US. But why stop at books? Why not expand the idea of lending to other things as well - like toys?

While I've been in New Zealand & Australia these past several months, I've noticed a fair amount of toy libraries around. What a great idea - lending toys.


I was curious so I dug into it a bit further & found that - at least in Australia & New Zealand - toy libraries seem to charge a small membership fee, & toys are borrowed at a daily or weekly rate. But even with the fees, the libraries seem to be a good way for parents to provide low-cost entertainment for their children. Plus they are often the hub of family social networking, giving parents community support to boot.

There are several toy libraries in the US as well. These seem to be closer to my idea of a library, offering free borrowing of toys. Most of them seem to be established for the benefit of families that can't afford to buy their own toys. But I don't see why everyone can't use the libraries. Who needs a house full of toys their kids are tired of when you can get new toys every week at the toy library? It's good for the environment - less waste. It's good for the community - sharing is caring. & it's good for the budget. What more could you want?

Do you have a mound of unwanted toys? Why not find your nearest toy library & donate them?

Friday, April 20, 2012

How to travel on almost nothing: Tours

I've been talking about how to get the most out of your travel dollar so that you can travel for a longer period of time. That's especially valuable for a long-term traveler like me. But even if you're just looking to make the most out of your annual vacation, saving money where you can allows you to spend it where it counts.

I've already discussed ways to save on accommodation & transportation. Today let's talk about cutting the cost of tours.

Tours are one of the ideas I struggle with while traveling. On the one hand, I'm traveling so I can see amazing things, & tours help me do that in a pre-planned, concise, organized manner. On the other hand, tours are freakin' expensive. Thankfully, there are ways around that.

Of course, doing your research is essential when traveling, but that's especially true when it comes to tours. Trip Advisor is a great place to start looking at the options. It lists the top-rated attractions at your destination with first-hand information on local tour companies.

If you find a tour that sounds good, look closer at what it offers you. A lot of times, a tour is just a bus ride to a point of interest, possibly with lunch included. Once you have the tour's itinerary, check the local transportation system. There could be a public bus going to the same destination for a fraction of the cost. The difference in price could pay for a night or two in a hostel.

Admittedly, this only works if you speak the local language, since local bus systems don't expect to have to cater to tourists. They expect the tourists to take the tourist busses.

Speaking of, be wary of hop-on-hop-off busses. They go to all your points of interest of course, but charge you out the nose to get there. Again, check the local transportation system. You could save a bundle just by being able to read a subway map.

For example, in Rotorua, New Zealand, the hop-on-hop-off bus costs $35, with the attractions grouped around three major stops. The local bus will take you to those same three stops for $2.50 each way.

In Sydney, you can take a harbor cruise tourist style for $100, or you can take the commuter ferry for $15 return, with the added benefit of getting a glipse of what life in Sydney is really like. You may even start a conversation with a local & get some insider information on the city.

If you really do want to go on a tour, do an internet search for sites offering last-minute discounts. New Zealand has a site called Book Me, where I got a $120 river rafting trip for $60. In Australia, check out Last Minute or Ouffer for similar deals.

The key to making your travel dollar last longer is creativity. I like to make a game of it - see how long I can go on the least amount of dough.

Monday, April 16, 2012

How to travel on almost nothing: Transportation

I love traveling, & since I'm not a millionaire, I try to focus on getting the cheapest bang for my buck while I'm on the road. My three biggest expenses are accommodation, transportation & tours. I already talked about getting cheap accommodation. Now let's talk about transportation

For flights, I haven't found any website better than Kayak.com. I can search a dozen travel sites, but Kayak always comes up with the cheapest price. Always.

Many people believe that, within a country, domestic train or bus travel is cheaper than flying, & sometimes it is. But often a flight will cost the same as - or even less than - those slow modes of transportation. Case in point: I just checked online for travel between Sydney & Melbourne. Bus: $172, 10 hours. Plane: $52, an hour & a half.

It used to be that driving was one of the cheapest ways to go. No more. If you think the price of gas is high in the US, you should see the prices abroad. Here in Sydney, gas is $1.55 AUD per liter. That's $6.44 USD a gallon! If I wanted to drive from Sydney to Perth, it would cost about $650 USD in gas alone - one way - not to mention the daily cost of a rental car. To fly? $179.

It probably goes without saying that you should fly economy class wherever you go. Splurging on business class is nice if it's your annual two-week vacation, but if you're traveling for an extended period of time, the money you save by flying in the back of the bus could buy you a tour of some ancient ruins or a river rafting trip.

As with anything, weigh your options. Would you rather be pampered on a plane, or spend that money to do something amazing? The most important thing to remember when trying to stretch your dollar is to lower your standards. Don't be fussy about the frills & you'll be able to travel for a lot longer on the same amount of money.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

How to travel on almost nothing: Accommodation

So, I've inspired you to take off to the wild blue yonder, eh? But you don't want to spend a lot of cash on the adventure. No problem. All you need to do is fly under the radar.

My highest expenses fall into three categories: accommodation, transportation & tours - & I'm constantly looking for ways to keep those costs down.

To save on accommodation, the best thing to do is get in touch with other travelers in the area that you want to visit. Couchsurfing & Hospitality Club are great places to start looking. TravBuddy is a similar sight, but it's better for finding activity partners than for finding a place to stay. In China, there's an online community called Tour Boarding that matches hosts to guests willing to teach English to their children in exchange for a few weeks' stay. Talk about your authentic experience!

Once you start digging around in these types of online communities, you may never pay for accommodation again.

If you must pay to stay, get a bed in a hostel instead of paying for a hotel room. Hostels are clean & safe, & they're used to travelers with questions about the local sights. Plus you will meet lots of interesting people. I always get a dorm bed. It can often be $20 less than a private room, & that $20 can be put to much better use.

You can search for hostels in the area on sites like Hostels.com, but never book through these online brokers. Find the actual website of the hostel & book with them directly. You'll save a couple of bucks & the hostel won't have to pay commission.

I recommend getting a YHA or HI membership. Though they are rarely the cheapest places to stay, your membership might get you discounts on tours or transportation, the other two big-ticket items I mentioned earlier.

If you're looking to stay in one place for longer than a couple of days, try housesitting. Mind My House is a good place to start, but there are several sites dedicated to local markets as well. If you don't mind digging in the dirt, try WWOOFing. Also, ask around. You may know someone who knows someone in the place you want to visit, & it's amazing how welcoming people can be.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Top 5 Regrets

In the Guardian, this article talks about a new book written by a hospice care nurse in which she talks about the most common regrets that people have at the end of their lives.

I've read articles like this before. In fact, articles, books & documentaries on this theme are much of the inspiration for my vagabond lifestyle. I'm trying to take full advantage of my opportunities before they pass me by.

Of course I won't be able to experience everything that life has to offer, & I will always have some regrets - I think it's impossible to have a perfect life. But I can at least try to learn from those who have gone before me.

The top five regrets of the dying:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Read the original article here.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Reading the local news


I love reading the local paper in the places I visit. They give a lot of insight into what's important to the community, & since I'm not personally invested in the outcome of the stories, it's a little bit like eavesdropping on the lives of the local residents.

I'm currently in Sydeny, Australia, where surfing & beach lounging are a big part of summer life (Australia is just going into autumn now), which is reflected on almost every page of the local Manly Daily. Not only that, but the slant of the articles shows just how strong Australians can be when faced with a challenge.
Take, for example, this article, in which a surfer rescued herself when no trained lifesaver (American English: lifeguard) came to her aid.

 

Or this one, which describes a routine training session on disentangling a whale from a fishing net.


But I think this one is the most telling of all: "A number of surfers remained in the water" after being warned that a shark had been sighted there.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Last view / First view

Last view of New Zealand


First view of Australia

Sunday, April 1, 2012

New Zealand to Australia


My three months in New Zealand have come to an end. Incredibly, I only found time to see the North Island. Since I'm working while I'm traveling, there just wasn't enough time to also see the South Island, which is supposed to be even more beautiful.

Today I'm on my way to Sydney. I'll only spend about six weeks in Australia - much less time in a much bigger country. I'll only be able to scratch the surface before it's time to leave. I guess I'll just have to make another trip down under one day.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

On permanent vacation


I just spent ten days on the road, traveling around the North Island. After my two-week housesitting gig in Turangi (near Mt. Tongariro on the map), I took a bus down to Wellington. I spent a week there, then traveled to Hawke's Bay (the area around Napier) - wine country - for a few days. From there, I went to Rotorua to meet up with my friend from Hamilton over the weekend. Then we drove back to Hamilton together on Sunday.

On the way, I saw sheep & cows & rolling hills. I saw an opera sung in Maori, & stayed in a rural Scandanavian settlement of 300 people. I tasted award-winning New Zealand wine, & saw a village excavated from a lava flow.

Total expenses for four weeks, including food, transportation, accomodation & entrance fees: $687 NZD (about $561 USD). That's less than I would spend if I had a permanent home. The rent alone would be more than that.

& I was able to find time to do a little work too. I'm starting to get used to traveling around, shifting from place to place. I'm seeing some amazing sights, but since I work online, all I need is an internet connection & a decent block of time, both of which have been easy to come by so far.

It may seem like I'm on permanent vacation, & in a way, I guess I am. But I'm still making money while I'm traveling around. It's not a lot of money - I'm not going to get rich doing this - but it's definitely enough to keep me going. I'm seeing the world - & the experiences are their own wealth.

Part of the secret to making working online work is finding cheap places to stay (Couchsurfing, housesitting), & avoiding all the crazy expensive things that normal vacationers do. I didn't go skydiving in Rotorua since that costs a few hundred dollars, but I did do the luge ride down the mountain, which cost $10 - WHEE! I don't stay in five-star hotels or have lavish dinners, but I do meet some pretty amazing people who are willing to share their spare bedrooms for a couple of nights. & still I feel like I'm experiencing the real New Zealand, even though I'm doing it cheaply.

I think the key to living the life of a vagabond is letting go of the idea that you need a lot of money to do it. You don't. Of course, you won't make a lot of money trasping around the globe either - that could be the most difficult idea to accept. It's a different mind-set, one that I have been trying to embrace ever since I left the US for a life abroad.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Couchsurfing in Wellington


I arrived in Wellington after an uneventful six-hour bus ride. My Couchsurfing hosts picked me up outside the museum. Florian is from Germany & Natalia is from Spain. They are both in Wellington working on their PhDs - Florian is researching the branding of tourism in New Zealand (e.g. the 100% Pure campaign) & Natalia is just beginning her research on the New Zealand film industry.

We walked over to the grocery store to pick up some food for an evening picnic at the water's edge. We drank wine & watched the sun set as we mused over politics, travel & the international community. Florian is particularly interested in China & global sustainability, so we had lots to talk about.

The next morning, we walked over to the farmers market & bought some fruit & baked breads for a nice breakfast in the sun before I left them to take a tour of Parliament.



Thursday, March 15, 2012

Farewell Turangi


It's been nice these past two weeks living in Turangi & taking care of the little farmlet. I'm glad I got to experience what it's like to take care of chickens & the rest of the animals. Now it's time to move on. Wellington, here I come!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Rafting New Zealand

I went rafting today down the Tongariro River, which flows through the volcanic bed of the ancient Taupo volcano. Our trip was a lazy Class 3. The river flowed calmly over low rapids, & was surrounded on either side by high cliffs covered in pine trees. The 4-hour trip usually costs $120 NZD, but I got my trip for half price!

This is not my group, but you get the idea:


Halfway through the trip, we stopped off at a side canyon, waded a few hundred meters in & came to a cascading waterfall. New Zealand really is amazingly beautiful.


The water was about 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit). Brrrr!! Good thing we had wetsuits on! (Not the guy in the picutre. He was a guide, so was manly enough to go without.)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Life on the farmlet

7:30 - Get up & start morning chores

Feed the cats
Feed the dogs
Feed the chickens
Pick up the chicken poop
Pick up the dog poop

8:30 - Relax on the porch with a cup of coffee

9:00 - Turn on the computer & start working

10:30 - Break

Feed the chickens
Pick up the chicken poop
Take the dogs to the park

12:00 - Lunch

Feed the horses some plums from the tree
Forage in the horse paddock for blackberries

3:30 - Afternoon break

Feed the chickens
Pick up the chicken poop

5:30 - Dinner time

Feed the cats
Feed the dogs
Feed the chickens
Pick up the chicken poop

8:30 - Bedtime for the animals

Put the dogs to bed
Feed the chickens
Pick up the chicken poop

10:00 - Bedtime for me

Shower
Crawl into bed with a book

12:00 - Lights out

Monday, March 5, 2012

Housesitting in Turangi

As I've said before, I love housesitting because it feels much more like home than any hotel would - even if it's someone else's home. Many people say they don't like to visit touristy sites when they travel, that they prefer to see how the real people live. Well, this is certainly the way to do it!

I'm currently in Turangi, New Zealand, on the southwest side of Lake Taupo. I'm staying at a small farmlet about a kilometer from the center of town. There's a decent-sized vegetable garden & a few fruit trees around the property. My companions include two dogs, two cats & five chickens, & our neighbors are two beautiful horses.

I'll be spending two weeks here taking care of the animals as I continue to teach English online. There are a lot of hiking trails around here, & there's kayaking on the river. Plus, there is a bit of thermal activity in the area, so I'll have the chance to relax in some hot springs while I'm here.