Ways to make money from home

If you are interested in working with a stress-free schedule and having the freedom of being your own boss, the best thing about this is learning how to make money from home. There are many ways to transition from a full-time job, put in extra time on the side after working your main job, and if you are a stay-at-home parent to earn income.

From health, tech, and creative industries, good at-home jobs are springing up everywhere, notes Jenna Goudreau of Forbes online.  First of all, you would need to find out what specialty you would be interested in working for and what is worth your time to suffice your goals and desires. Becoming aware of what type of skills you have is a great start in making sure that you get in the right field of work. You do not want to be dissatisfied while working from home as that defeat the purpose of being happy with your own schedule. Take charge now.

Writing your way to freedom

Are you a writer? Well, freelance writing is a great way to go and you can manage as many or as little projects that you want to work on. Picking up extra money via online freelancing is certainly doable, but you have to put in the time and effort to develop a solid platform. Being creative is a big role in the freelance writing world. You have to be able to take a subject and make it come to life, whether it be selling a product or simply writing an essay. Your job is to get the point across no matter what and always follow the simple instruction that comes along with the job. You can also start your own blog about a particular niche that stands out and get people’s attention. In return you get your name established a well-known writer/editor and people get to hear from your own point of view.

Working up a sweat

Having a passion for working out is a healthy way to work from home as well. You ever thought about teaching online training classes? This is a very flexible way to go and you can create your own full-time or part-time schedule as needed. It is very easy to promote yourself on Facebook, via email newsletters, LinkedIn, Google+ and creating a personalize website to advertise your services and any other things that may relate to your classes. Social media is very powerful in this day and time and is highly recommended to expand your business. This is a great way to stay connected to your clients as well as keep up the consistency of your branding. This definitely beats going through traffic and trying to get to a studio to teach a workout class.

Creating a masterpiece

Speaking of studio, would you like to create your own gallery and artwork from home? Try selling pieces right from your living room or dedicate a specific room to have exhibits and artwork displayed. This is a great way for artists to get more in tuned with their creative and artistic side and sell your passion all over the world. There are a number of sites online that can help you establish a low cost website where you can display and sell your art pieces to clients from around the world. There may be a fee involved when your item is purchased so make sure you do your research on the requirements of selling on different sites and webhosts.

Giving them what they want

Running your own online retail store gives you the freedom of reaching thousands of buyers from all over the US or Nationwide. With more consumers shopping online than ever before, it’s a great time to get in on the action. You would still need to promote your products and services so that you keep people informed of what you sell or provide. It really helps if you sell products that people are looking for. You want your customers to come back and purchase again so you would need to keep your online store up-to-date. Make sure that your website has a great layout that brings attention and a shopping cart that is easily accessible to your clients. Remember you want customers to return and even if it is to the point where they browse and do not purchase but return the second time and purchase. This keeps the customer interested and intrigued on your presentation, product, and ability to provide for their needs.

Other great ways to make money may include telecommuting from your own home, tutoring student from your home computer or mobile device, or becoming an online juror. As you can see there are many ways to make money from home but the key is to find your niche, keep you happy, and suffice your income desire. It is important to not overload yourself as well being that you still want the freedom to do other things that may interest you. The different job opportunities help to maintain job security, spending more time with family, and being your own boss. Now that you have had a chance to explore some ways that may benefit you, it is time to take control of your financial future.

ClearlyContacts: Is buying glasses online a false economy or genuine bargain?

Confession: it’s been about four years since I got new glasses.

I got my eyes checked and got a new prescription last year, but figured I’d deal to it post-trip. That time came a couple of months ago, hastened by the breaking of my current pair.

My eyes are a lot more sensitive than they used to be (age? allergies?) and I can’t bear the thought of wearing contacts everyday. Laziness and comfort wins over vanity.

ClearlyContacts.co.nz has a great offer – first pair free – but with my terrible vision, my first pair was still gonna cost about $120 with shipping and high index lenses.

In comparison, getting new frames and lenses from a brick and mortar place would cost at least $400. However, I’d have the peace of mind knowing that those glasses would fit perfectly.

That’s a big difference in cost and a hard saving to pass up, I know. But I can’t overstate how important fit is. I’m one of those people who will be driven crazy if my glasses don’t fit just so and sit just right on my head. Which is easier said than done.

I have a freakishly wide head that rules out the vast majority of frames, which pinch into my temples. I need nosepads because of my pancake flat Chinese face, as I can’t just perch my frames on the bridge of my nose. (I wonder if this is why I have such trouble with snorkelling masks…)

Did I mention I’m also super picky about colour and style? I’ve only found one pair offline that I really like and that also fits well.

Most frames look and feel wrong before I’ve even got them all the way onto my head, so I’m very wary about buying frames off the internet. Even if I find a frame looks good on the virtualthat is a perfect numerical match on all my measurements (did you know those numbers on the inside of the arms of your glasses actually correspond to the length of your lens, bridge and arm? I didn’t!) and thus theoretically a good fit, and looks good in the ‘virtual mirror’ on the site, that’s not necessarily a guarantee that it will work in real life.

Everyone says they’re the real deal; I’m not concerned about quality or legitimacy. The only issue is true fit – something that’s hard to determine online. But since Clearly Contacts has a 365-day refund policy, I figured it was worth giving it a go. After all, it could only go one of three ways:

Outcome 1: Pay $120, find the Clearly Contacts pair fit like a dream, and voila, I’ve saved maybe $300

Outcome 2: Pay $120, find the Clearly Contacts pair don’t quite work for me, return it, and then buy the full priced pair in store. Once I get my refund, I’m no worse off financially.

Outcome 3: Pay $400 or so for the full priced pair in store and rest in peace with the knowledge I have a pair I love that fit perfectly (but wonder if the Clearly Contacts pair might have sufficed)

My first pair from ClearlyContacts just weren’t right. Technically they should have been more than comfortable – maybe even a little wide, on the loose side – but they pinched in. I thought they might wear in like a pair of shoes after a few days, but they didn’t.

Returning them was pretty easy – I just had to repackage them and send the box back, and my money was returned to my Paypal account not long after.

I thought I’d give it one more go before throwing in the towel. The second pair cost me a bit more – I couldn’t find any other frames that qualified for the ‘first pair free’ offer that a) I liked the look of and b) fit my measurements. But what do you know! It fit like a dream; the only downside is that this frame feels a lot flimsier and I’m not sure how long it will last. If it manages at least a couple of years, I’ll be okay with that.

Have you bought glasses online recently?

A Kiwi abroad: 5 things that feel alien

 

All you can eat buffets in different cuisines. I remember getting all bug-eyed in Toronto at the signs – Korean, Japanese, Indian! I’ve only ever seen western style buffets here, and mostly they’re underwhelming. Ditto with a la carte portions – meals in NZ are stingily small, especially in western restaurants – I can’t think of a single time where I had just a main at a pub or other western eatery and walked out properly full. (Brunch excepted – sometimes big breakfasts actually DO live up to their name.)

Cops with guns. I never got used to seeing armed police. It was always my first instinct to move away from them as soon as I saw them. (Obviously, our police force is unarmed.)

Waking up hot. At least you’ll never get up feeling sticky. It’s always cool here in the mornings and even on the hottest summer days I would never presume to leave the house without at least a cardigan in my bag – you never know when the weather could turn.  As a result, it’s hard to describe, but there’s a certain temperature at which it feels strange to wake up because the air is so warm around you.

Adding taxes at the till. Almost as annoying as having to tip.

Not being able to drink the tap water. I must say, we totally failed at avoiding iced drinks in Asia. I’m sure odds are we probably consumed some unpurified ice cubes at some point. We were stringent about sticking to bottle water, of course.

Goodbye publishing: On leaving an industry you love

I think I may have said this before, but I’m often struck by the similarities between working in media and working in academia.

Both fields are going through upheaval. Both fields enjoy less and less security. Both fields are increasingly squeezed. Both fields do a lot of navel gazing. Both fields indulge in a lot of self-deprecative grumbling and moaning – it’s that love/hate thing that often comes with passion industries.

This is stuff that’s been weighing on my mind of late, what with Nieman Lab’s recent coverage of the NYT – especially the comprehensive, exhausting chronicle of a homepage editor’s day and succinct extraction of the key points from the paper’s leaked innovation report.

By the time we graduated, lots of my classmates were already bemoaning the implosion of the print market, and of course, that’s an echo reverberating all through the industry. As Allyson Bird’s viral post pointed out: “There was never such a thing as an eight-hour workday at newspapers, but overtime became the stuff of legend … when it came to watching out for themselves, the watchdogs kept their heads down.”

Not that I necessarily went into this thinking I wanted to work in print. I fell straight into the world of digital, and in hindsight, of course it makes sense. I’d been writing for online magazines throughout high school and started my first website back in about 2000.

The barriers to entry for online media are low. You can start up something yourself or nab a staff job, and in some situations, it’s easy to move up quickly. Traditional print news is fairly hierarchical, but the online environment is infinitely more flexible and, by necessity, welcoming to Gen Yers who get the web. As Emily Banks (ex-Mashable managing editor, now at the WSJ) once told me, getting to where she is now in such a short space of time would be more or less unthinkable at a more traditional place.

But it’s not an easy path by any means.  It’s still bloody hard to make money in online, even as print revenues slide. And feeding the beast that never sleeps is a thankless task. As Andrew Nusca, the Editorialiste, writes: “We humans are just not built for this level of productivity – whatever the quality”. And ex-Venturebeater Bekah Grant actually quantified this on Medium: “I wrote an average of 5 posts a day, churning out nearly 1,740 articles over the course of 20 months. That is, by all objective standards, insane.”

You can’t be on all the time; you can’t be producing 100 percent of the time. You need time to pause, time to think, time to analyse things. I’ve giggled with fellow onliners about what it must be like to be on staff at quarterly, monthly, or heck, even weekly magazines. What luxurious deadlines they have, we chuckle. What could they possibly do on some of those days? But by jove, wouldn’t a day or two every now and then at a less frenetic pace be nice?

We’ve heard plenty about plagiarism over the past few years. Some blame the industry as a whole. There’s less training, support, mentorship. No longer do subs upon chief reporters upon editors question everything, as old-timers recount. Stretched thin, with the layers of backup eroded, we get Elizabeth Flocks and Jonah Lehrers. That’s probably not going to improve.

Is constantly doing more with less sustainable? We’re searching for the silver bullet, media and academia alike. But not everyone is willing to stick around to find out what it is. This passage, I think, will resonate far beyond just the chemistry community: “You can recognize that our choices to leave are rational decisions that demonstrate self-knowledge and self-respect. We have weighed whether we love the work more than we hate the context we do it in. You can accept our analysis and respect our agency, and not try to convince us that you know better or that we should have worked (even) harder.”

I don’t have any answers. And now that I technically no longer work in publishing, I guess I won’t be part of the solution, if one emerges eventually. Instead, I’ll watch from the sidelines, having chosen to walk an easier path, like many before me have and many after me will.

Link love (Powered by sniffles and Coke)

It seems like overnight, people are starting to age around me.

Suddenly, I’m seeing laugh crinkles around the eyes, faint forehead lines, grey hairs.

And I’m feeling it myself. A bad night’s sleep leads to a sore back the next day. I’m a little pudgier in spots. It’s disconcerting, to say the least.

It’s all downhill from here, I guess?

Blast from the past

This time last year we were in … Thailand, hooning it round Koh Lanta in a tuktuk and swimming through caves and such.

This week’s links

I couldn’t agree more with Crystal – money means options, and options make for a happier life

Penelop Trunk ponders what it really means to work fulltime

Ashley warns us against ‘creating cynically’ (story of a journalist’s life, basically)

A debate on the value of a public service career, at The Billfold

I know I’m going to have to learn to navigate internal organisational politics, fast, so Ramit’s scripting advice for someone who goes blank when talking to people piqued my interest

Also, I finally updated my post, Love Where You Live, now that I actually have a global perspective to bring to the table.

Happy weekends!

What cell phone plan should I get? (Probably none.)

By: closari

I am slooooowly getting used to having two phones. It’s a first for me.

At my old job my work phone and personal iPhone were one and the same, with the same number. Work and play overlapped a lot more.

Currently I have a super cheap personal phone that’s only good for calls and painful texting, and a work smartphone. It’s an Android, which I despise, and doesn’t have a great battery life.

The $1200 question is: shell out for a smartphone of my own, or just keep a basic dumb phone and have the work smartphone?

It would very definitely be a want rather than a need. I don’t need Instagram, after all.

If I were to get a nice phone for myself, it’d probably just be an iPhone 4s like my last one (based on price, mainly, although the fact that I can charge older style iPhones on my radio clock dock is a bonus. We also already have an awesome iPhone 4 sized case).

I’ve been looking at what the best deals for iPhone 4s plans are in NZ. Here are my choices (my hastily Photoshopped in numbers to the right represent what I would have to pay for the phone itself upfront; the blue numbers on the left are the monthly plan cost).

2degrees iphone monthly plans

To get a free phone I would have to pay $69 a month which just seems too steep somehow for a regular outlay, even though all the plans actually equal out cost-wise over the full 2 years.

For now I’m going to live with the status quo and see how I cope.

Would you rather pay more upfront and less monthly, or more monthly and less upfront?

Travel Tuesday: 10 questions

travel blogger nzmuse q&A

(Hat tip to Kara for this one! When I saw this on her blog I just knew I had to do this too)

1. Your most treasured passport stamp? I was super bummed to realise that I wouldn’t get passport stamps for all the Schengen countries we visited in Europe! Otherwise Italy would be top of this list. Instead, I will go with the stamp I got when we landed at JFK in New York. I’ll never forget the interminable baggage delay, the chipper customs official, and our first glimpses of the city from the Airtrain. So exciting.

2. Can you recite your passport number from memory if asked? Um, yep. And T’s too, because it’s only one digit different.

3. Preferred method of travel: Plane, train, or automobile? Probably by car, with T driving. Our road trip of the US was so comfortable – planes have nothing on it, nor do even the nicest trains.

4. Top three travel items? Smartphone, Camelbak, comfy shoes. (More on my packing style here!)

5. Hostel or hotel? Not fussed, whatever’s more cost-effective. I like the privacy and amenities of hotels, but we’ve met some cool people at hostels and had experiences we never would’ve had at a hotel.

6. Are you a repeat visitor, or do you prefer to explore new places? Definitely prefer to explore new places. So many to see! That said, if money was no object I’d love to go back to Italy and Greece (and of course I want to revisit New York).

7. Do you read up on your destination, or do you wing it? I like to read up a little so I know what I’m in for and can try to orient myself once we get there. I remember arriving in Hanoi and being dropped off at a travel agency by the bus and having NO idea where we were.

8. Favourite travel website? I don’t really use websites a lot except in the research stage. I do use Booking.com for accommodation and while in the US, Yelp for finding places to eat. But these are the travel apps I swear by.

9. Where would you recommend a friend to visit, and why? I’d have to ask them a ton more questions to narrow down what they want first!

10. You’re leaving tomorrow and money is no option; where are you going? Ooh! Well, in that case … another RTW trip. We’d hit Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Spain, Portugal, Russia, the Pacific Northwest, the Galapagos, and maybe Mexico.

Renting for life: how bad would it be?

After recent conversations with friends who are flathunting (renting) and househunting (buying), I’ve been giving serious thought to a scary and depressing scenario: renting for life in Auckland.

Let me cut you off right here: I don’t want to hear your comments about the pros of renting for life, unless you live in Auckland. I have been a renter since age 17. I know all about the pros, and for me, in the Auckland context, they don’t outweigh the cons, especially because we want to have a family. I am not interested in uninformed opinions from people who don’t have any clue what it’s like to rent, buy, live in Auckland. Okay, onwards…

This post over at The Conversation tackles the state of the property market in Australia, but it could just as well have been written about New Zealand.

“Renters are the losers in the property game. Not only do they struggle with high rents but tenant protection in Australia is among the weakest in the developed world. This is not coincidental: Australia’s 1.8 million and counting property investors support and are supported by tenancy legislation heavily weighted in favour of landlords. This produces a fundamental lack of security in rental housing.”

(I note that the UK is looking at introducing tenancy reforms, recognising that members of ‘Generation Rent’ need more rights. Good for them. We could use some of our own, since “compared with many countries, New Zealand and Australia are some of the most restrictive rental jurisdictions”.)

That piece at the Conversation argues that factors like tax laws and rapid appreciation create “effectively an infinite demand for property in Australia”, which I think is also applicable to us; NZ is right behind Australia in terms of ratio of housing stock to GDP.

A Forbes post recently did the rounds warning of a housing bubble here in NZ, and much as I would like to hope that Jesse Colombo is right (being an aspiring homeowner myself and all), I am more inclined to agree with local writers Brian Fallow and Bernard Hickey’s assessment of the situation. They both lay out some high-level reasons as to why they think a huge crash is unlikely, and while I’m not going to pretend I know anything about the Reserve Bank or exchange rates, here’s my plebeian take: here in Auckland we continue to have a shortage of housing; land is limited; and there are obviously still people with the means to pay current prices – and potentially higher.

The NZ Initiative isn’t afraid to tell it like it is:

“New Zealanders face a shortage of dwellings of just about every description, while paying far more for those we do have New Zealand houses are not only expensive compared to income but their prices too have been rising. New Zealand’s house prices have increased by a staggering amount over the past 30 years, aided by a mixture of policies and social and cultural changes that have forced up the price of building or buying a house.”

Let’s break that down:

“Someone in an inner suburb of Auckland who bought a home for, say, $70,000 in 1975, lived in it for 37 years, and did little but basic maintenance on it might find the house worth $1.5 million plus today. Someone in, say, Torbay on Auckland’s North Shore, who built a ‘standard house’ (land and section) in 1969 for $16,000 and did basic maintenance would find the property worth about $1 million today. The malign effects of the MUL [Metropolitan Urban Limit] that planners produced – believing that constraining the boundaries of urbanisation would work to the advantage of ordinary people, save transport costs, and restrain unnecessary local authority outlays – are absolutely
clear. The MUL has benefitted mostly older people who hath, and hurt younger people who hath not. The MUL favours the old and the rich and it punishes the
younger and the poorer.”

Ain’t that the truth. According to a Salvation Army report:

Housing has become more and more expensive for first-time home buyers and home-ownership rates have fallen. This fall has been aided by tax policies that favour existing property owners, and easily available debt that allows those who already own property to buy up lower-valued houses as rental investments. To some extent, this rental investment has been propped up by Government housing subsidies to low-income households that have now grown to $1.8 billion annually.

We, therefore, have the worst of all worlds when it comes to housing. Housing is too expensive for up to a quarter of all households to afford without Government assistance. Much of the housing is poorly-built and now needs further public subsidies to repair.

Worst case scenario: we are permanently priced out and left with no choice but to rent for life. What would this realistically mean for us?

No dogs in our future. It is damn near impossible to rent with pets – maybe cats, definitely not dogs. That said, based on my observations, I am not surprised that many landlords don’t want to rent to dog owners. Compared to the US where even apartments allow dogs, I found the dog culture over there a pleasant surprise – overall I felt most pet dogs were well trained, well behaved, quiet and clean, moreso than my experience of dogs here. I suppose a lot of that comes from having more of an indoor pet culture rather than an outdoor pet culture, as a result of density.

Spending a fortune on heating and dehumidifying. Aside from the top-priced tier of the market, the quality of housing here is generally quite ridiculous. It’s no good having a mild climate if you don’t actually insulate your buildings – might as well sleep under a bridge. Thanks landlords who don’t care about providing healthy accommodation and updating old houses! Longtime readers will recall my stories of mould in bedrooms, in wardrobes (trying to clean spores off your favourite dress blows), being able to see our breath in front of us while INDOORS and mushrooms growing through carpet.

Poor quality housing has been identified as a public health issue of major concern in New Zealand, with evidence that dampness and “thermal inefficiency” (which I’m pretty sure is a bullshit way of saying FREEZING COLD) are more prominent in rentals. Unsurprisingly, these things are associated with higher rates of respiratory conditions, among other icky problems. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I have gotten sicker more frequently and to worse degrees since I moved out of home. I started having trouble breathing a few winters back. And I know many immigrants who developed asthma for the first time after moving to New Zealand.

Most likely bouncing around and around. Literally almost everyone I can think of who has rented a family sized house for any significant period of time (think your typical 3-bedroom) has been forced out at some point due to the landlord selling. Or, in a few cases, the landlord moving in a family member (in which case the notice period is only 42 days instead of 90 – this seems to happen suspiciously frequently, actually). Cash in those capital gains, quick!

This is mildly annoying at best. At worst, if you’re settled with kids in school, I imagine it’s a freaking nightmare. We don’t exactly have an oversupply of rental housing, let alone quality affordable rental housing, and add in our lack of density and it can be a tough call to find a comparable nearby place in a pinch.

Renting is still cheaper, though the gap seems to be narrowing. I was surprised to plug in some numbers and find out that the mortgage on a $500k house would only be $550 a week; rent for a 3 bedroom house would start at about $400 for a crap place and run up into, oh, the 600s for somewhere nicer. (I’m not even talking central Auckland here, obviously, where a starter house is $1 million.)

While mortgage payments may fluctuate with interest rates, rent always goes up eventually over time. Here, rent can be increased as often every 6 months – granted, it usually isn’t raised that frequently, thankfully. And yes, there are additional expenses that come with being a homeowner, but at least they’re going into an asset. The problem of course is that coming up with a six figure down payment is a hell of a lot easier said than done, even if repayments are manageable. Thus, my fading dream of buying a humble house, insulating it, and living happily after with kids and dog. Who even knows how we’d house ourselves in retirement? The Productivity Commission itself states that people in New Zealand who enter retirement while renting may face financial hardship.

Stuff reader Susan Wells is apparently living my future fear:

We continue to rent a tiny 105sqm, three-bedroom, leaking, crooked, mouldy, old house, that barely fits our family of five.

Do we upsize our rental so we are not falling over each other and pay out to a landlord more of what we could save as deposit, or sit tight for three to four years to save that money to reach our dream of getting a small lottery-sized deposit together?

Commentators report that it is better to be renting now than buy, but what happens when we retire in 23 years at 65, and if still renting, will this be affordable on superannuation income?

Could we afford to pay a landlord rent out of our Super or Kiwisaver until our 90s if we live that long? Will we be constantly on the move when rental properties are sold, and have no solid foundation steady home dwelling in which to welcome grandchildren and our children to?

But even if leaving Auckland were feasible work-wise, I simply wouldn’t want to. T threw out the idea of re-enlisting and moving to an army base – and that’s when I realised what I am NOT willing to sacrifice for cheap housing. I would not want to move to the middle of nowhere away from friends and family and my job. Financially I can see that it might make our lives a lot easier – lower expenses, and I could do some freelancing – but I know I would be miserable in all other aspects.

The Salvation Army recommends creating an affordable housing agency with meaningful and long-term budgets actually to execute its mission, but we all know what happens to these kinds of reports. I don’t think anyone who lives here would disagree with the following:

“Any ambition Auckland has to become the world’s most liveable city will be defeated if the housing future being offered by current trends continues to play out. Access to safe, decent and affordable housing is already the single biggest issue facing hundreds of thousands of Aucklanders. This problem will grow in size if the present wishful approach of Auckland Council and the present wilfully negligent stance of Government continues.”

But any fix is probably not going to come in time for us.

“Auckland’s housing problems are at least a generation in their gestation and most likely will be a generation in their resolution. There are no short-term answers or quick fixes—the problems are too big and the causes too ingrained in our social and economic fabric for that.”

Auckland, I love you, but I’m not feeling the love back. Let’s figure this out, stat.

Link love (Powered by burgers and new faces)

The night before Good Friday a door to door salesperson came knocking. It was raining, nearly dark, and did I mention it was the night before a four-day weekend? Really? Who would think their sales pitch would be well received in this situation?

I am terrible at saying no and ending these kinds of interactions. Usually I try, half-heartedly, to cut them off. But of course, they barrel on, usually until T comes out to rescue me. In this instance, I felt really sorry for the salesperson – he looked a little terrified when T appeared on the scene. And this dude wasn’t terribly sleazy or annoying – just a guy with a turban and a mild accent who no doubt wanted to get home to his loved ones that night, too.

Are door to door sales pitches common where you live? Is it rare in cities where most people live in apartments rather than houses?

Blast from the past

This time last year we were in Malaysia, trying to acclimatise to the heat before starting the rest of our trip. But for now, the focus is on work/career, reflecting on our top travel moments, and of course celebrating our wedding anniversary.

This week’s links

LIFE

Ann Friedman offers an insightful perspective on the trap young stars face with the ‘are you a feminist’ question

Vanessa dishes out some realtalk for high school grads

Channel your inner two-year-old to build the life you want, says Cordelia

Lovely, poignant, accurate: Zen Habits on making marriage work

TRAVEL

Nomad Wallet explains how to make the most of booking flights when you have flexible dates

Your fix of panda photos for the week, via Break the Sky

WORK/CAREER

Tiny Apartment’s 10 rules for avoiding becoming an office drone

A day in the life of a writer by, incidentally, one of my fave advice columnists

Not just applicable to journalists, IMO. My biggest takeaway (which in hindsight, and from my own experience, I am actually inclined to agree with) from this sage piece on leaving a big media company: “Avoid working for a department or company where you are the only person who does what you do, unless you are hired in a senior position and have the authority and budget to staff the department or resource the project as needed.”

Finally, I was hooked from the very start (hilarious and true first paragraph example) of this piece on networking as an introvert. But what most resonated was this: “So, I may never be the most comfortable person in the room, that’s okay with me. What I want is to be able to stop passing up opportunities to meet new people, to build new relationships because I was too afraid.”

My top 10 RTW travel moments of 2013

NZMUSE TOP 10 TRAVEL MOMENTS NZMUSE It’s been exactly one year since we left on our RTW trip. All I can say about that is HOLY CRAP.

Also, time flies.

Lest I forget, I thought I’d chronicle 10 memorable moments from our RTW trip on this anniversary.

nzmuse mexican food

Our first brush with Mexican food

Eating Mexican food was one of the things I was most looking forward to in the States. But with so much amazing cuisine on offer on the East Coast, it just didn’t even register, really, until Chicago. Once we’d had hot dogs and pizza and pierogi there (and White Castle, but let’s not speak of that abomination) accompanying our friend to a local Mexican restaurant – a highly recommended one – was a nobrainer.

Everything was a revelation. Free UNLIMITED corn chips? Insanity. The tortilla soup was so complex and rich in flavours. The plates were huge, packed with the rice, refried beans, salad and wraps that you just can’t find an equivalent of in New Zealand.  

From then on, we ate Mexican at least every other day until we flew out of LA. I desperately, desperately miss it.

Serendipitously spotting the Northern Lights in Iceland

If you look north, you might be able to spot the northern lights, our Couchsurfing host texted us. 

We were just leaving Reykjavik in our rental car, so I took a look on Google Maps and directed us to what looked to be a giant piece of parkland away from the mass of houses and residential roads. (It turned out to be a golf course, I think). Driving out there utterly alone was super eerie, but we achieved the main thing: leaving the light pollution of civilisation and getting out into the real dark of night.

After parking up, we sat back and waited. Chowed down on the snacks we’d stopped to grab on the way. Stared intensely into the blackness ahead of us.

Eventually, T pointed out a faint streak of green through the windscreen that seemed to move ever so slightly. It was one of those things that’s so ethereal, so delicate, you almost can’t see it if you’re focusing intently. Rather, by looking a little sideways and relaxing my gaze, the lights seemed clearer to me. They were very faint, very subtle, very undramatic, undulating in and out of visibility – but they were there.

I honestly wasn’t expecting to see the northern lights at all, given the time of year, and it didn’t cost us a thing extra.

Our first deli subs in New York

After a weird but entertaining first meeting with our Airbnb host in Brooklyn, we headed downstairs and out to Broadway in search of sustenance. Fried chicken was tempting, but we decided to go the deli route. I can’t remember what T ordered, but I know I got a cheese steak sub, and one bite in, my eyes were rolling back in my head with pleasure. After wolfing down our sandwiches, we crossed the road to another deli (they were not in short supply around this area…) and bought two more. Sigh.

Having mouthgasms in Rome

Sorry to be crude, but that really is the only way to describe it.

We walked for ages, trying to get away from the touristy restaurants, constantly stopping to peruse menus, then continuing on our way. Eventually we came across a little square, where locals seemed to be congregating around the fountain, and just off this square was a restaurant positively teeming with Italians and not an obvious foreigner in sight.

Eating at that restaurant was one of the best decisions we ever made. An unholy cheese platter with four kinds of cheese, served with honey. Eggplant parm that melted in my mouth. Bechamel lasagne, so rich but yet so perfectly balanced, we would happily have paid double the price for it if we had to. Oh, Italy, come back to me.

Blazing through Vermont on a bike

Our friends in Vermont were super keen to organise a fun itinerary for us. Alas, we couldn’t tee up a Harley, but we did manage to get some enormous, fast and powerful BMWs (they were, of course, an eyesore, but that’s secondary).

We crossed Lake Champlain onto the Grand Isle just as the sun set and rode way past dark, before heading back to Burlington for kebabs and Ben  & Jerry’s. The next day, we rode for hours and hours, through the mountains, to Montpelier, and back, flying past the neverending crimson forests. Serenity is the best way to describe those hours. I was so relaxed, I was almost nodding off on the back (not the best time to doze, I know).

halong bay sunset nzmuse

Cruising through Halong Bay

Apparently trying to visit Halong Bay by yourself is more often than not a bad idea, so we went with a tour. It was definitely the right choice. We kayaked around, craning our necks to look up at the amazing rock formations. We saw monkeys, chattering, fighting, playing, cuddling. And perhaps my favourite moment of all – we watched the sun set, a bouquet of reds and pinks and oranges over the horizon.

I can’t imagine how crowded it must get in peak season. We went in the low season and there were still boats all over the show; I imagine they must be practically jostled side by side in the peak tourist months.

Swimming through a pitch black cave

It took me a very long time to muster the guts to even jump off the boat. High on my list of things to avoid at all costs are deep water, darkness, and small spaces.  The Emerald Cave in Thailand ticked all those boxes. But somehow I made it through, and the pristine little beach at the end of it all was so worth it. One of the most out-of-this-world experiences in my life.

Finding our American doppelgangers in SoCal

When she heard we were coming to California, S from Tiny Apartment promptly emailed with an invitation to stay with her and a ton of ideas for places to see and eat. And as if that wasn’t enough, when we finally met in person, we quickly found out we were basically living eerily parallel lives on opposite sides of the world. She and her fiance were exact mirrors of me and T in almost every way imaginable – the way we think, behave, our quirks, even the stuff we clash over, the roles we play in our respective relationships. It was like there was no need to ever finish a sentence or a thought because the other would instantly know exactly what you meant.

Wanting to freeze time at Ocean Beach

There are moments toward the end of a long trip when you feel so overwhelmed by all you’ve seen and done, you just want to gather it all up to you and absorb it like a second skin so that those memories will never leave you. When you’re so glad to be alive and feel so lucky to be where you are that you can barely swallow over the lump of gratitude in your throat. When you just don’t want that night to end, and wish you could pause time because the days are falling away like brittle autumn leaves before your eyes. 

I felt this way often, but it was particularly strong that one night in San Diego. We’d spent the day by the beach, but before heading to bed, we hopped in the car and made our way to the nearest body of water, a corner of the coast bordered by dunes, where a fire glowed softly at its base, ringed by a group of teenagers. It was just too picture-perfect – something straight out of a Sarah Dessen book, maybe – the ideal backdrop for a summer romance, the kind of life I’d never had but always wistfully dreamed of as the phlegmatic adolescent I was. But here we were, a mid-20s married couple … scaling the dune, scuffing along through the sand, admiring the waves through sound rather than sight, contemplating all that had been and what was to come, then making our way back to our Dodge and finally to our soulless motel room.

playing with dogs

Rolling around with the farm dogs

There’s something about watching a grown man tenderly interacting with his child, amirite? Well, I felt a similar squeeze around my heart on one of our last days volunteering in Italy.

It was late afternoon, the sun no longer broiling us but languidly heading for the hills. Two of the five dogs kept racing off after each other, fighting over something (a bone, perhaps). T was lying on the grass, playfighting with the others, laughing and rolling around on the ground. It was a scene of pure contentment, simplicity, connection.

The funny thing is, I saw volunteering initially in purely financial terms – a way to extend our trip by saving money. Instead, those experiences yielded some of the most memorable highlights of our whole trip.

From the Black Forest, I’ll never forget our evening plays, our campfire night, dancing to Psy, laughing my head off at students’ jokes, hearing an unfamiliar song and being teased – “Hasn’t this song come out in New Zealand yet?”, being invited to stay with our German students, our sweet little Swiss protege who I cried to farewell, even the annoying old Americans who wore our nerves down at the time.

From Italy, I’ll never forget eating fresh bread every morning, the sweet joy of tomatoes off the vine, the Beatles concert, chasing little kids around trying to supervise their leaf-raking, a night drinking at the local boat club, the countless dinner parties with musicians and artists, the oh-so-awkward topless swim (so much for it being a nude beach; my host and I were the only ones doing it).  

What are some of your favourite travel memories?