People don’t know what the hell I’m doing these days. My friends think I’m living “The Life.” My family thinks I’m “So Lucky.” And My former co-workers think I’m “on vacation.”
The truth is, all of those perceptions are true but also completely false at the same time.
Like I’ve done while living in Thailand and Bali, I recorded everything I did for a week while living in New Zealand. While every week for me is different, this can give you a general idea of what life is REALLY like while traveling, living and working abroad.
It’s boring, it’s exciting, it’s underwhelming and wonderful. Whatever it is…it’s my life.
• Woke up at the house of my friend’s parents, where we are staying for a few nights. Felt cozy and happy to be somewhere stable that feels like home.
• Lived the glamorous traveler life this morning which involved sitting indoors on my laptop writing articles for freelance clients, having a Skype meeting with a social media client and teaching an online English lesson.
• Got two email proposals from companies who want to work with me. A new start-up I-phone app and a tour company that aligns really well with my brand. This made me feel a little better about sitting inside all morning.
• Josh and I drove out to Brown’s Bay, an area of shops right by the beach and had some Ramen for lunch before coming back to the bed and getting on the laptops again.
• Our hosts made us dinner, shared some wine and told us all about their travels while we ate.
• They took us to their friends’ house who are well versed in NZ travel and we all had some more wine, some more stories and got a ton of tips, maps and pamphlets on where we should go while visiting the country.
• Came back to the house, got into bed, wrote my Friday To Do list and went to sleep.
• Woke up a few times throughout the night to Josh calling in to a work meeting at 3:30 am. Realized that the time difference isn’t always in our favor.
• Spent the morning working on articles at a really slow and unfocused pace. Working from the bed again was starting to get to me.
• Went to a new area for lunch and I couldn’t find any decent vegan food. Had a bit of a meltdown, calmed down and drove around until finding a place that did tofu sushi. It’s funny that I always revert back to Asian food after I thought I was sick of it.
• Took a verbal lesson from Josh on how to drive our manual van. I’m working up the confidence to try it and am determined to figure it out before leaving this country. I don’t like that I don’t have the skills to drive a manual vehicle. It feels limiting.
• Headed back to the house, did a bit more work and then got sucked into a hole of watching entertaining Buzzfeed videos that lasted for a very unproductive 45 minutes.
• Finally did our laundry after realizing that we’ve been in NZ for a good three weeks and have only washed our minimal clothing selection once. I was down to wearing gym clothes (They weren’t dirty because I never wear them.) and everything in our bags kind of smelled.
• Had dinner and wine with our fantastic hosts, talked about more travels and headed out to get some shopping done for things needed for the van.
• I felt really normal for once, just hanging in a house in the suburbs all day and then driving to a strip mall to shop at a regular store.
I guess it felt normal but the reality is that we were driving on the left side of the road, staying at the parents’ house of my friends whom I met while teaching in China, freelance writing from a bed and shopping for items that will help us with a van excursion across a country that is as far away from home as possible.
• Had an epic fail at the store and didn’t buy anything that we really needed except for a ten pack of pens for three bucks which was a total score. Hopefully I will never have to feel the sadness of running out of ink on this journey again.
And, we stayed in the bargain CD section until the place announced that they were closing, trying to find at least one album that we could stand listening to on our road trip this weekend. There is no Auxillary cable on our head unit so it’s back to CD life, a world that has been long forgotten since my college days.
Josh thinks we may be able to burn mix CDs on his computer, old school style and I’m happy because it has now become my job to switch the radio stations instead of writing or sleeping like I usually do on a car journey.
• Got back into the neighborhood and noticed that the Hartnells were over at their neighbors. They invited us over and we had a chat with some more new people.
The last three weeks have been pretty awesome because although we haven’t seen too much of the country yet, we have just been surrounded with locals, meeting friends and family of Amy and Rob (my buds from China.)
We’ve gotten a ton of resources and tips from the people we’ve met and many of them have opened their homes up to us as well. It’s been amazing.
• While heading back to the house, we noticed that the sky was filled with stars and we go to see Orion’s Belt which is upside down here! I didn’t realize that would happen and it was so interesting to see their version of it, turned upside down like a little bucket.
• Got home, continued taking an online course related to blogging and went to bed.
• Woke up by alarm to try and get an early start on the road trip.
• Had Vegemite and toast for breakfast which was exciting because it’s a real Kiwi things to do…apparently.
• Left the Hartnell’s and headed right for the grocery store to pick up stuff to make fried rice for lunch, chili for dinner and some stone fruit for snacks. Added a little bottle of wine to the mix too.
• Headed on the road and finally got the hang of the decent radio stations but then had all of my hard work shattered when they went static in the countryside.
• Stopped in a small town, checked out a thrift store for some CDS, found nothing and continued the trip in silence.
• I saw a sign for Hot Water Brewery so we stopped off, had some beer that was made on site and got to chat with some of Josh’s friends who called him via Skype from Austin, Texas.
• Pulled into Hot Water Beach campgrounds just before a huge tourist bus and felt extremely happy to be touring the country on our own instead of following a group and guide around.
• Cooked fried rice for lunch and tried to tune out the obnoxious conversation of some early 20-somethings camping next to us. Sometimes I miss being in Asia where I couldn’t understand the conversations going on around me. It made it much easier to read and write.
• Grabbed our shovel and walked over to Hot Water Beach. There are natural hot springs under the ground so we dug ourselves out a hole, let it fill up with hot water and sat in our own personal hot tub, looking out over the waves.
Actually, it wasn’t that easy. We spent 20 minutes digging a hole that was too scalding hot to sit in. Burned our feet and hands in the water. Moved to a new spot and started digging only to have the tide wash away our hard work about four different times.
I had to chase after our cooler filled with cameras and my Kindle about 4 times as it was taken out to sea. Eventually, we teamed up with 4 others to build a large hot tub that worked out perfectly in the end.
• Walked back to our campsite, cooked chili in the dark and went to bed, mosquito free this time as Josh put cling wrap over the gaps in the trunk.
• Woke up naturally feeling warm, cozy and free.
• Heated up our leftover chili for breakfast, did the dishes and filled up our drinking water at the tap and hit the road.
• We drove up the road to another popular destination in the Coromandel region, Cathedral Cove.
• After finding parking, we headed off on a 30 minute walk to Cathedral Cove. It had crystal clear water and plenty of shade for reading.
• I wasn’t planning on swimming but I couldn’t resist how amazing the water looked so I went in my bra and underwear. It was worth being a bit soggy for the rest of the day.
• Back at the van, we drove on to the nearest small town. Josh found some cheap fish and chips and I got cranky because I couldn’t find any decently priced vegan food.
• We went to the grocery store, picked up some snacks, food for dinner and a mini French press for coffee.
• The next town we got to didn’t have much going on so we bought some beer and found a campground for the night.
• We backed the van right up to the bay, cooked a Mexican inspired dinner and drank our beers from the inside looking out over the water. I’ve felt genuinely relaxed for the first time in months and feel more focused on the present than usual, despite my depleting bank account.
• I take turns reading my Kindle and the New Zealand Geographic magazine so that I can make progress on my 30 books in 2016 challenge and learn more info about this country that I’m living in now.
• I woke up crying early in the morning from a dream I had about my mom. I laid awake for the next 30 minutes feeling homesick and listening to the rain.
• After waking up from my second set of sleep, we heated up breakfast and Josh made some coffee in his new contraption.
• I feel a little eager to get back to Auckland so I can get connected to the internet again and start doing some work. I need some money to start coming in as soon as possible.
• The rain keeps coming on and off and we leave the campsite, stop in the center to do our dishes and brush our teeth and get on the road.
• We drive towards the next town of Thames and notice that the driver behind us is flashing his lights.
• We pull over and the guy comes to our window to tell us that it looks like the back of our van is swerving all over the place. I felt a little skeptical of him and thought that he was acting a little dramatically but we thanked him anyway and kept going.
• Josh didn’t feel like the car was swerving so we kept going to Thames where we shopped at a few more thrift stores to buy towels and look for CDs (we didn’t find any.)
• Driving out of the town, Josh realized that the guy was right and that the van didn’t seem to be driving straight. After contemplating whether or not we should just drive back to Auckland and get it checked out or go back to Thames, we turned the car around and saw a mechanic.
• It turns out that the axle was missing some essential bolts and a whole bunch of other things were wrong with it that I don’t quite understand.
Josh said that if the axle went (which it would have at any time) our van would have swerved out of control and we probably would have had a pretty serious crash.
Seeing how we have been driving on some pretty windy mountain roads, the situation wouldn’t have been good. Now I’m starting to think that the guy who pulled us over was more of an angel than a drama queen.
• We left the van at the mechanic and walked into town to get some work done on our laptops at a café and three hours later, the car was ready to go. I didn’t mind waiting around and got the internet connection that I was craving.
• For our last stop, we headed to the town of Pareoa just to see a roadside attraction really. It was a big L & P bottle (some lemon soda drink that is really popular in this country) outside of a café which was closing and behind a street sign labeled puke. It wasn’t too eventful but we got some glass bottled L & Ps which made the slight detour worth it.
• After driving back to Auckland, we had dinner at a Chinese BBQ place which tasted just like authentic street food in China. My friends in Auckland introduced me to and I could eat there every day.
• We drove to our new home for the next 2 weeks. It’s an in-law suite off the home of my friend Amy’s grandparents’, friends. They offered to let us stay in their place rent free so that we could stick around Auckland to go to Amy’s wedding.
It is right on the outskirts of the city, has a cat, tons of fruit gardens and a proper kitchen. I couldn’t wait just to have drawers to put my clothes in and a bathroom for my toiletries. I take those things for granite when I’m not living out of a bag.
• Most of the morning was spent trying to figure out the internet in the house. It turns out that the router is quite far from us and the only place to get a good internet connection is in the garden. This is no good for us because we depend on the WIFI for our work but we can’t always have everything so we decide to go to the library.
• The library is just around the corner and it has free WIFI and plenty of spaces to work with outlets. Actually it feels really good to actually get out of the house and go somewhere to work which is exactly what I wanted to get away from. I guess the grass is always greener isn’t it.
• When lunch rolls around, we pack up our stuff and walk around the corner. More Chinese food. I can’t complain, I really miss the stuff since leaving China.
• Back at the library, we basically work until the librarians tell us that they are closing down. I’m bummed to leave because I really like being surrounded by the books, people studying and kids learning through their education programs. It makes me feel more inspired I guess.
• As usual, we head to the grocery store and actually stock up on food for multiple meals. It takes a while and cost about $115 bucks, but we split the cost, actually making it less than three meals and some beer out at the Auckland restaurants.
With free accommodation, a free workplace and the resources to cook all of our own food, I am feeling much better about my financial situation for the moment and hope that I can manage to save a little money before we are living out of the van again.
• Back at the house, we continue to work on our laptops and I eventually stop around 8:00 pm to cook dinner. Salad, gnocchi and bread at a real table…in a real house. It was lovely and I don’t mind cooking because that means that Josh has to eat vegan too. Maybe I will slowly convert him.
• I eventually get to bed after 11:00 but Josh didn’t stop working until 1:30 am. I wish all of the people back home who think we are on “vacation” could see the amount of time we spend working. Actually, I think this is the most we have ever worked in our lives.
• We failed in our attempt to wake up at 6 and start forming some new healthy habits. The sun doesn’t go down until nearly 9 pm here so we have been going to bed later and waking up at about 10 am every day. While we didn’t get up at six, we managed around 7:30.
• I did a half hour of light exercise to try to get back into the groove and Josh made us some (vegan) pancakes and coffee before heading off to the library at 10:00.
• Spent the entire day at the library working. I got a decent amount of work done and we took a nice lunch break to eat the picnic that we brought on the outside benches. It was perfect just to take a break outdoors, eat healthy food that I made and not have to really spend any money all day. We also got to Skype with Josh’s brother and his new baby for a little while too.
• When the library closed, we packed it up and went back to the house. I made fried rice for Thursday’s lunch picnic, did a bit more work and then we met up with friends for some beers in the city.
This whole day made me feel like I had a bit of normalcy back in my life. I also had this weird realization of living multiple lives in Auckland.
My perspective of the city has been constantly different as I spent the first 8 days here staying with my friends, then two days in a bed and breakfast, another 4 days at my friend’s parents’ house, multiple days in the van, about 8 days in a hostel and now living in this in-law suite.
It’s weird how the same place can seem so different in such a short amount of time. But, we’ve been here for a month now and I really like it, it feels kind of like a home and I am going to be really sad to leave it.