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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

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.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Hamilton --> Turangi

I'm two-thirds of the way through my stay in New Zealand. After spending two months in the Hamilton area, I'm heading south today to spend a couple of weeks housesitting in Turangi.

I'll be taking care of a house, two dogs, two cats, five chickens and a good sized vegetable garden. Turangi is a hub for hiking and river sports, so I'll have plenty to do while I'm there.