The Next Step

take the ride

The next leg of our journey is booked! We leave New Zealand on August 2 and are headed to Indonesia, with a four day layover in Melbourne.

Our NZ Working Holiday visas expire in two months. In visa/gov’t bureaucracy-time, thats not much time at all. We played with several options and seriously considered extending our visas and staying through September to make the most of the ski season here in Wanaka, but the cost and hassle of doing that wasn’t worth the trouble. And the thought of going somewhere new is REALLY EXCITING. So we will leave Wanaka “right at the beginning of the good snow,” as the locals keep telling us.

Our first step is leaving Wanaka in mid July and heading to Melbourne, a city that comes highly recommended by chef friends at Francesca’s and our former room mates. My hope is that Melbourne will feed the little part of me that misses a city. I don’t think it is homesickness; I’m pretty sure it is just city-sickness and that it can be satiated in a few days amidst cheeky grafitti, patterned tights and Edison lightbulbs, funky coffee shops and food trucks.

Before our roomies Robyn and Stephen left Wanaka, they made us a map of Fitzroy and Collingwood, the East Village and Williamsburg, BK of Melbourne. The neighborhood where I’ll live out my yearning for a morning yoga class, long brunch, afternoon aimlessly fondling scarves and trying on earrings before devouring cheap tacos and margaritas for dinner. Just like NYC. Just for a few days. And then we can dive head first into the crazy unkonwn that will follow.

I think our visit to Melbourne will be a bit like a scavenger hunt.

After a week in Melbourne, we fly to Indonesia for some yoga in the jungle, moped excursions, water sports and island exploring. We are going to scope out the best of the best before my best friend, Melissa, comes for a visit at the end of August!

Then in September, we will find some cheap flights on Air Asia and make our way through Kuala Lumpur to India for climbing school at the Himilayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling. And after that, who knows what will happen. We’ll have to wait and see. Until then, we will be working and saving and getting ready to pack up our life here in NZ into a backpack.


A Lovely Day

Autumn in Wanaka is the slow season, which means late starts and more time to hang out at the lake front before work. Laurent from France plays guitar and Eli from Israel is on the home made box drum. No fancy tricks, just a good time on a beautiful afternoon.


The Spectrum of Travel

new friends-9107

Even though we’ve been living in Wanaka since November, we still think of ourselves as travelers. Yes, we’re renting a house (or, “flat”), but we’ve never planned on staying here so it’s got a very temporary vibe. I like to think of this as just another mode of traveling, somewhere between basic backpacking and dropping permanent roots. On this trip, we’ve experienced most of the what I like to call the “spectrum of travel” and recognize that they all have their place.

Simple backpacking seems like the simplest, quickest and cheapest form of travel, but often it’s none of those things. It requires very little up-front investment, but you’re basically committing to paying for accommodations every night or finding a nice tree to sleep under (often illegally). Hostels can get expensive, and I imagine that fines can add up as well. But for short trips it often makes the most sense. If you’ve got the patience for late buses and can live simply it can be thrifty, but it’s usually uncomfortable. Your mileage may vary.

We’ve spent most of our actual travel time in New Zealand living out of a van. Yes, this has the highest initial cost, but it provides a great deal of flexibility and some comforts. We went where we wanted, when we wanted, and could carry a variety of food and cooking equipment. Hopefully we’ll recoup our investment in the van on the other end, but we’ll settle for a (hopefully large) portion of what we spent.

One less obvious form of travel is the way we’ve been living in Wanaka. We’ve rented a house, have steady jobs, and have built a community of friends, all of whom are also here for a short time so it still feels like “traveling.” This has been a wonderful opportunity to refresh our bodies and back accounts. As awesome as being on the road for a few years may sound, its pretty damn tiring and we’ve relished this opportunity to stop and take a breath.

We’ve also had a chance to make some lasting friendships here in Wanaka, which is a subtle and underrated part of this third type of travel. If you’re constantly on the move, you don’t get a chance to really get to know anyone you’re meeting along the way. Plus you suffer from a bit of introduction fatigue. You get sick of having the same conversation over and over again (“Where are you from? What brought you here? Where are you going next?”) and begin to just not bother. Traveling quickly can be like speed dating for friends: no real relationships are formed.

When we got to Wanaka we didn’t realize that we were missing having a community of our own, but it’s been great settling down for a little while and building our energy for the next step in our travels.


Our House

Our house it has a crowd/There’s always something happening/And it’s usually quite loud
-CSNY, Our House

Our house on Warren St. is a 3 bedroom house. Last week there were nine of us here. “How do you come to have so many gypsies crashing at your house?” one of my coworkers asked me the other day. Well, it usually happens while hiking or at a hut and goes something like this:

Friendly stranger making conversation: “Where are you living?”

One of us: “Wanaka”

FS: “Oh man, I want to get there at some point.”

Us: “If you are ever in town, shoot us a text and you can stay at our place.”

And then a day or a week or a month later, someone turns up. With a massive pack. Needing a shower and a couch and so excited to bake in an oven. Sometimes they stay for a few nights, sometimes a week, sometimes two.

It might sound strange, having someone stay at your place that you’ve only met for a few minutes, but there is an unspoken understanding that makes it work. Everyone that has come through keeps the kitchen tidy, chips in for toilet paper and laundry detergent and adds warmth to the house. Sometimes they go to bed early, sometimes they’re up until two am, but never in a way that affects anyone else. It is exciting to come home from work at 12:30am and not know what the vibe is going to be. When Nico and Lena from Germany were here, we played games and Nico sang and played Tenacious D on his guitar. When Comi, a veterinarian from France who is hiking the length of New Zealand, was here, he made crepes and mousse au chocolate while we watched movies. There always stories and conversation to be had, but sometimes quiet is necessary and it is an amazing thing when there are 4 people in a room, all reading by the fire. When everyone needs a little book reading and internetting.


You never know who is going to be in the kitchen when you wake up, who is making scones or their grandma’s onion tart with caraway seeds. I came home the other night to a Chilean couple making Capiroska cocktails and had a really good conversation with a girl who was a school psychologist in Chile. For the first time in a long time, I spoke with someone who understood my teaching experience in the Bronx. Except that hers was in Chile. Amazing, sparkling kids, massive amounts of paperwork, overcrowded classrooms, hungry stomachs and nine year old sass. I didn’t have to explain anything, she knew. It was awesome.

Nicki from Australia makes art to brighten up the house

When we got to Wanaka, we needed a shower and a home base. A place to relax and not think. Robyn and Stephen, the original tenants of 60 Warren St, opened the doors and were super generous. We learned so much from sharing a space with them, be it about cooking, or finding cheap flights on Air Asia, or British TV series that we’ve carried it on and plan on continuing the trend when we have a place in the states.

Sometimes it is nice to have alone time. Sometimes we take a time off from having people stay over. But having people stay, who are independent and respectful and happy, is a fun change of pace. We used Couch Surfing, a website that provides travelers with free places to stay, when we first got to Auckland and had a great time as travelers, and are enjoying the other end as hosts as well.


Who said adults can’t have slumber parties anyway?






Internet Tendency and Dependency

Over at The Verge, Paul Miller recently published a remarkably depressing but fascinating piece on living without the internet for a year. I share a lot of his thoughts, and have had an opportunity to live for the last ten months with limited internet access…until now. We’ve recently broken down and had broadband installed in our shared house in New Zealand, and it’s been an interesting experience.

My life in the US revolved around computers. I worked exclusively on web-related things, communicated with friends and family on the internet, and parked in front of a computer for most of my leisure entertainment time. But we’ve been traveling since last August without a cellphone data plan and I’ve had to adjust to a disconnected lifestyle. These have been my stages of internet dependency withdrawal:

First comes an uncomfortable feeling of missing out. I felt as if news was happening and important emails were piling up, usually to log in a week later to discover that not much had happened and I only had a few non-urgent emails to answer.

Then comes “alone and helpless.” This is when you do nothing but think of questions that would be easily answered by all-knowing Google, but are next to impossible to find out otherwise. Stuff like “who is that actor?” and “what’s 350 degrees fahrenheit in celsius?” This is a very frustrating period.

Acceptance is next. You are resigned to the fact that you won’t be able to turn to the internet for answers and begin to strike out on your own discoveries. I like to think of this as throwing off the shackles of technology and becoming more self-sufficient, but then I remember that we operated for many years just like this and didn’t think it was difficult. It’s a skill that needs re-learning, anyway. Yes, it turns out that movie showtimes are still listed in the newspaper.

Now you start spending more time reading stuff of greater value than blog-drivel (present company excepted, of course) and Reddit comment threads. Well, considering I’ve been waist-deep in a certain fantasy epic currently being dramatized on HBO, I can’t exactly make distinctions between high and low literature at the moment. But at least it’s written in compete sentences.

And right when I’m starting to feel less dependent, the tap is turned back on. It’s nice to have the internet back in our home, because it’s a powerful tool that makes a lot of things (checking the weather!) a lot easier. But it’s also a massive distraction. The time I used to spend brainstorming, writing, and editing for this blog has been shifted toward other pursuits, mostly fantasy baseball. But if I want to research something, I can find it very quickly. As with everything, it’s about balance. Sometimes that means removing yourself from distractions and other times its using the tools that are available. I love the power and democracy of the internet, but wish it was easier to turn off.


What the World Eats

Photographs by Peter Menzel from the book "Hungry Planet"

I originally saw this on Reddit, but tracked down the source to Time Mag and a new book, Hungry Planet: What the World Eats. It’s interesting to see how widely a diet can vary based on geographical circumstances. Some thoughts:

Japan: So. much, packaging.
Italy: tomatoes and bread. Typical, Italy.
Chad: $1.23. Per WEEK. For SIX people. SIX.
America: Pizza, natch.
Mexico: Looks pretty healthy, lots of fruit and veg. WAIT, WHOA that’s a lot of Coca-cola.
Egypt: Cook me dinner, please.
Ecuador: Best smile award.
Mongolia: That’s a large pile of meat.
Great Britain: Reppin’ Cadbury.
Bhutan: Beautiful photo.
Germany: $500!

The thing that strikes me most is that such wildly different diets can produce similarly sized and healthy-looking adults. Also, so many people spend money on expensive bottled beverages and juices. Lots of empty calories and waste products here. What are your thoughts on the differences (and similarities) here?

Photograph by Peter Menzel from the book Hungry Planet: What the World Eats.



Stockpiling for the Winter


It is officially Autumn here. They don’t say Fall. Autumn. And in winter, the cost of electricity doubles. Doubles! When you need it most! We have made a no-heater rule and plan to heat the house using just the wood stove and hot water bottles. So on a bleak day, after a cold night, we went out foraging at “the spot.” 15ks out of town and 7ks down a dirt road, there was rumored to be heaps of driftwood from where a river meets the lake. After borrowing a chainsaw and making two trips to the spot, we have enough wood to make the winter in our breezy, not at all insulated house a super cozy one.

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