the colour of sunsets and wine
blush through their leaves
Tags: travel, usa
the colour of sunsets and wine
blush through their leaves
Tags: travel, usa
Residents of New York City, I envy you.
I’m not going to drop the “Oh, you’re so lucky to live here!” line. I understand that for most of you, it’s not a matter of luck; it’s a matter of hustling and sacrifice and trade-offs.
In another life, New York City would be the place for me. One where a less risk-averse version of myself would make the leap, like one of my high school friends recently did (with success! Unfortunately we couldn’t meet up while we were in town). That might sound strange considering I made the choice to travel for six months, but moving abroad with no job prospects is a heck of a lot scarier in my book.
There are no words that adequately describe this city. I felt so overwhelmingly lucky to be there every minute, from deli-hopping in Brooklyn to sushi in the East Village, to strolling Astoria, Chinatown, and the mad buzz that is Times Square.
I will remember New York in snippets: BBQ. Shake Shack. Food carts. Dumpling festival. Karaoke. The Highline. Central Park, complete with strains of Kings of Leon (playing Global Citizen Festival) and a softball game that nearly devolved into a fight.
Tags: travel, usa
Holla! In less than two weeks I’ll be home, a fact I can’t quite get my head around. I haven’t even begun to recap any of our American adventures!
In lieu, I offer you some choice reading material. You’re welcome.
Here is what it takes to live a truly offline life today (slightly off topic: I’ve been watching The Newsroom and Scandal on delay over this trip, and eerily, saw the government spying episode just as all the NSA stuff was happening, and Genova just as the Syria chemical weapon stuff was happening)
Geek in Heels ponders the concept that all parents screw up their kids in one way or another
I think most women would be lying if they didn’t wish they were a little more ‘beautiful’, so I adored this post on the conflict that comes with being a smart girl rather than a great beauty
Another post that really resonated with me is about outgrowing a passion. Like Rachel, when I was a teen music was such an integral part of my life, and I used to want to be a music writer myself
Penelope Trunk makes a few assertions about Asperger’s in this piece, but I can’t help but think her conclusion applies to most of us: find a life partner, and find a job
The best thing about getting older: curating your life, according to Live It Love It
Date a man who asks your opinion, says NYC Love Addict
In the same vein: date a female personal finance blogger, writes Cait
Nicole and Maggie want to know: do you miss anything from high school?
Landing Standing has a few top tips for booking short stay apartments when travelling
I nearly died laughing reading Asian Pear’s recounting of a few choice conversations with her parents
Ashley talks us through how to do stuff alone
Not everything you do for fun has to be turned into a business, as Leslie points out
What would you think if you met me for the first time? Berrak says odds are you might not like her all that much
As Her Every Cent Counts points out, it’s tricky to navigate the career waters when you don’t know who to turn to for personalised advice
Finally, you need to read this letter – it’s beautiful, and full of hope for the future, and oh so wise
There are many things we love about the USA. Here’s a few off the top of my head:
But there are some … oddities we’ve encountered, some of which are interesting quirks, and some we’re not so fond of.
Tyre pieces all over the highways
It all came together for us when we were driving directly behind a truck somewhere in southern Illinois. One of its back tyres popped and came flying in our direction. Luckily, we were able to change lanes and avoid the debris.
Petrol stations requiring you to enter your zip code
I have a freaking PIN number on my card. That should be enough authorisation. I can’t enter my NZ zip code as they’re only 4 digits, and entering 00000 doesn’t fly either.
Voting for a local traffic court judge
Yeah … this is a totally alien idea for us. It took me a little while to figure out what all the signs around New Orleans were for.
The prevalence of cheque cashing/payday loan outlets
The concept of being ‘unbanked’ is another incredibly alien one. I doubt you could exist in NZ without a bank account. All companies (to my knowledge) pay staff electronically, and usually that goes for freelancers too. The government also pays out benefits electronically.
ETA: Oddly enough, just as I was writing this post, we were watching New Girl – and it was the episode in which Nick, one of the great unbanked, goes to open up a bank account.
I get that there are all sorts of problems that make it difficult/impossible to just list the final, tax-included price for items. But seriously, as a consumer, it’s a massive pain.
A Couchsurfing guest we had once expressed shock that we pay rent weekly (by and large) in NZ (and always electronically). That would never fly in the US, he said. It’s so inefficient. Well, to the untrained Kiwi eye, this tax bizzo is your equivalent inefficiency.
Okay, it’s official: I hate tipping. I’ve always been of the mindset that waitstaff should just be paid a decent wage – but hey, I’m from New Zealand, and it’s a totally different culture. I know I praised the customer service up in my first paragraph, but the problem is when it goes too far. And too often, that’s exactly what happens. Tipping seems to have bred a uniquely overzealous type of server: either chirpily subservient, or the greasy schmooze. Both make me feel uncomfortable in different ways. Either way, it’s downright annoying being ‘checked on’ every five minutes.
Honestly, I’ve never had substandard service while eating out back home, even minus the tipping culture. What I WOULD support is tipping for better customer service over the phone – I would be down for that if it could be facilitated. (You know what I’m talking about – there’s nothing worse than having to call your internet/power/insurance company.)
Everything is crazy sweet
I used to have a heinous sweet tooth. A couple of days here quickly cured me of that. Now, I walk down the snack aisle and feel absolutely nothing as I cast my eye over the shelves. In fact, I feel … revulsion, almost. A month ago, I would have been all “OMG cookies with Reese’s pieces! Must buy three packs!” Now I would be perfectly happy to never consume another peanut butter cup, another sweet cereal, another Oreo. I couldn’t finish any single dessert item from our hotel buffet in Vegas last night, so you KNOW this shiz is serious. (Also, please. Stop sweetening your potato salad and coleslaw! I’m now scared to eat any creamy salads at all.)
Tags: travel, usa
Who needs them anyway?
Seriously, all of my travel research and planning has been done online. I compiled some must-sees and recommendations in Evernote before we departed, and referred back to them when we were in the corresponding country. On the road, the Triposo app has been a lifesaver. I download guides for each city in advance, so I can access them offline. Even offline, you can use the city maps, and it will pick up and track your location (you’ll never get lost). It pulls in information and ratings from sites like Wiki and Yelp, offering ideas for sightseeing, places to eat and stay, and background on each destination, as well as the latest exchange rates, weather, local phrasebook and current time. For big cities, it usually includes a metro map. For free.
The problem with guidebooks is that information can be out of date by the time they go to print. Places close down, move elsewhere, or get pricier and more mediocre through complacency. I’ve learned to always seek out the most recent reviews and details online. Too often, I’ve been disappointed by places touted as the ‘must dos’. Personal recommendations and Yelp have yielded better results, especially for hole-in-the-wall type establishments. I’m not saying that long waiting lines and bulging crowds are always a bad sign, but they’re not always a good one, either.
As it turns out, overplanning stresses me out. When I feel I have an enormous list of sights to see and restaurants to hit, I really can’t enjoy myself. I need to pick just a few priorities, and then leave myself room to wander, snap photos and be a sponge.
I meant to get us both all our shots before leaving. I honestly did. I wasn’t worried about Europe or North America, but I was a bit concerned about south east Asia. Thing is, between wedding madness, moving madness, and winding up work madness, I left it to T to organise this (he has a family doctor and I don’t, which is something I need to sort out at some point). Before I knew it, we were less than two weeks out and at that point, I threw my hands up. We weren’t travelling off the beaten track, and the odds of getting malaria in the main cities were low.
We took a gamble, and made it through without any serious illness. I wouldn’t recommend this for everyone, but I am now on the side of those who reckon it’s up to you to weigh up whether the expense/hassle is worth it, based on where you’re travelling and your general state of health.
Aside from cities like Berlin and Athens, Europe was pricey. I was constantly asking myself, is this a YOLO purchase? Is it a big thing that is going to enrich our memories for years to come? Is it a small comfort that will make the heat and exhaustion today that much more bearable? Is it something forgettable that I would enter into our spending log and struggle to recall an hour later?
We had a few days under budget … and a lot more over. Which is not unexpected by any means, but it’s a little embarrassing to fess up to. We may be backpackers, but we are not hardcore. I would rather hustle harder to make more money than subsist on crackers and bananas (particularly in Italy! Oh, the food!) or miss out on certain experiences. And while trains aren’t always the cheapest way to get around if you’re willing to plan ahead, having the flexibility to hop on and off with our Eurail passes has been fantastic. We can extend stays in places we like and move on when ready. Our Munich host kept suggesting we hitchhike around (and indeed we’ve met a lot of people who have the most amazing hitching stories) during our email exchanges, but once he saw us in person, he changed his tune. I can’t imagine anyone who would ever stop to pick up someone of T’s size.
You know I’m not a hardcore budgeter, so although I was all gung-ho about sticking to a strict daily cash allotment (envelope method, anyone?) that just did not happen. Not my style – never was and never will be.
As always, spending is for both of us in NZ dollars. Our priority was food – you might even say we had almost a mid-range food budget, so much did we spend on filling our bellies – whereas we skimped on accommodation where possible. Flights, insurance etc aren’t included (you can see how much we spent pre-departure here). I’ll be doing a monster budget breakdown at the end of the whole trip and will answer any questions you have then…
While most of June was spent in Vietnam, we also made our move from Asia to Europe, starting with a few lovely but expensive days in the UK.
June 20 – $157.04 (including Heathrow Connect train from Heathrow)
June 21 – $230.28 (including London Eye)
June 22 – $134.16
June 23 – $385.58 (including buying train tickets to Edinburgh)
June 24 – $42.25 (the day we actually took the train, saving on accommodation)
June 25 – $150.38
June 26 – $160.19
June 27 – $130.16
June 28 – $193.28 (including ridiculously expensive bus tickets from Charleroi airport)
June 29 – $233.80 (accommodation was a killer – 80 euros for two in peak season)
June 30 – $217.81 (ditto)
July was a full month in Europe, and even with a free week (thanks to hosts and to volunteering) we still spent a whopping $4675.82. Splurges included a gondola ride in Venice, BMW hire in Munich, canyoning in Switzerland, and of course, a lot of delicious Italian food. Food made up the majority of our spending at 33 percent, followed by accommodation at 30 percent, transport at 17 percent and entertainment at 16 percent.
July 1 – $92.14
July 2 – 109.68
July 3 – $42.15 (free accommodation through Hospitality Club)
July 4 – $43.09 (ditto)
July 5 – $69.12
July 6 – $131.47 (expensive accommodation on the 2nd night)
July 7 – $226.06 (simply because I allocated the purchase of Berlin-Prague bus tickets to this day, but I actually bought them a few days earlier)
July 8 – $27.01 (again, free hosting)
July 9 – $82.88 (free accommodation through Hospitality Club)
July 10 – $23.83 (ditto)
July 11 – $0 (ditto)
July 12 – $344.15 (BMW rental)
July 13 – $238.38 (expensive accommodation in Munich)
July 14 – $5.82 (first day of Englischhausen volunteering in the Black Forest)
July 15 – $0
July 17 – $0
July 18 – $0
July 19 – $269.10 (expensive Munich accommodation, plus settling our drinks and wifi charges from Englischhausen)
July 20 – $241.90 (expensive Swiss hostel and expensive Swiss food)
July 21 – $202.98 (ditto)
July 22 – $512.83 (ditto, plus $300 for T’s canyoning trip)
July 23 – $116.14
July 24 – $168.41 (including laundry)
July 25 – $142.46
July 26 – $112.11
July 27 – $427.57 (including $70 on train tickets and $150 on a gondola ride)
July 28 – $203.51 (glorious, glorious food)
July 29 – $156.24
July 30 – $132.78 (including bus to Rome airport and train from Athens airport)
July 31 $554.11 (including Acropolis tickets and 239 euros for ferry tickets to Santorini)
August was another full month in Europe, most of it in Italy, but a relatively frugal one. We spent $2423.68 although half of the month was spent volunteering on a farm. We could have spent less on food for sure, but who goes to Italy to NOT experience all its culinary delights? Food clocked in at 41 percent of spending, accommodation at 37 percent, transport at 14 percent and entertainment at 5 percent.
August 1 – $81.57
August 2 – $202.33 (including quad rental, petrol)
August 3 $194.30 (ditto)
August 4 – $136.55 (including laundry)
August 5 – $124.08
August 6 – $102.48
August 7 – $146.07 (including bus transfer from airport)
August 8 – $160.84
August 9 – $132.94
August 10 – $125.05 (including train tickets to Salerno)
August 11 – $172.54 (including ferry and bus tickets to/from Amalfi)
August 12 – $131.63 (including bus tickets to Naples)
August 13 – $92.50
August 14 – $115.54
August 15 – $135.59 (including Naples museum entry)
August 16 – $147.22
Cerveteri (where we stayed for free while working on the farm)
August 17 – $87.48 (including new plug adaptor, train tickets from Rome to Palidoro)
August 18 – $0
August 19- $0
August 20- $0
August 21- $0
August 22- $0
August 23 – $0
August 24 – $9.85 (beer)
August 25 – $0
August 26 – $0
August 27 – $0
August 28 – $50.88 (groceries)
August 29 – $0
August 30 – $0
August 31 – $73.86 (a night out on the town)
September took us from the farm to Paris and to Iceland.
September 1 – $0
September 2 – $0
September 3 – $0
September 4 – $0
September 5 – $0
September 6 – $99.51 (a day trip to nearby Viterbo)
September 7 – $24.62 (T’s night out on the town)
September 10 – $151.97 – (including bus from the airport)
September 11 – $173.04 (including laundry)
September 12 – $106.03
September 13 – $102.61
September 14 – $113.20
September 15 – $112.45
September 16 – $66.05
September 17 – $117.38
September 18 – $211.02 (free accommodation with friends, but Eurostar tickets for two – total 77 pounds – pushed us over)
September 19 – $226.17 (free accommodation through Couchsurfing, but car rental, petrol and food pushed us over)
September 20 – $162.89 (ditto)
September 21 – $159.29 (ditto)
Tags: money, travel
I have spent an inordinate amount of time over the past couple of weeks mulling over what feminism means to me – and it’s all because of this post on A Practical Wedding. If you follow one link from this post, please make this the one. Maybe you’re not into the academic side of feminism (neither am I). Maybe you don’t think we even need feminsm anymore. Either way, this post – and especially the comments – are thought-provoking. Here are two of my favourite excerpts:
[From the post]
“I want all women to keep their last names. I don’t want women to use the language, “I kept my name,” but instead to use the language, “Neither of us changed our names.” I want women to pass on their last names to their children. I don’t want women who hyphenate to always allow their male partners to have their name go last. I’ve made those choices personally, I’ll defend them till I die. Beyond that, I’ll do everything I can to make those choices easier for others, and to help women see why this issue is so important.”
“I shave my legs and armpits, and by doing so I’m reinforcing the idea that women’s bodies are disgusting in their natural state and need to be modified in all sorts of ways to be appealing to men, whereas men’s bodies are generally ok as-is. I can’t say “I’m not doing it for men, I’m doing it for me because I like my legs smooth” because I’m aware that my own preference for smooth legs is simply an internalization of society’s demeaning norms about women’s bodies. And I won’t hide behind “choice” rhetoric because the women’s movement is not about freeing some women to make the choice to shave their legs (or change their names when they get married) and freeing other women to make other choices. It’s about eradicating the underlying objectification of women that supports the leg-shaving norm, which I’m implicitly supporting by shaving my legs.
I have to own that shaving my legs is not a feminist choice. But I don’t have to feel bad about it every day. And when I have kids and I can’t bear to explain to them why mommy has to take the hair off her legs and daddy doesn’t, maybe I’ll decide this is a fight I’m ready to take on.”
Here are the various levels of family dinner, according to Dinner: A Love Story
One of the first things I want to make when I get back to NZ: fried haloumi, a’la Hungry and Frozen
Chelsea Talks Smack on the anatomy of fucking up
Donna reminds us writers to stop undervaluing our work
Save Spend Splurge breaks down why she no longer wants to move to Portugal
Budget and the Beach lists some financial decisions she’s never regretted
I’m a bit backlogged on the blogging front, but rest assured that we’re chugging along on the road and loving it. I’ve been so privileged to meet some of my favourite bloggers and all going to plan will meet a few more on the West Coast. Happy weekends!
Hotel rooms in Rome can be more affordable than you might think – especially off-peak! The difference I saw between early August and late August rates alone was nothing to sniff at. Today’s guest post offers a few more tips for finding accommodation in Rome.
With a population of 2.8 million and covering an area of almost 500 square miles, arriving in Rome can be a little overwhelming.
However, if you’ve already booked a great hotel room in a great location, you’ll quickly find your feet, settle into Italian life and start enjoying your Roman adventure.
But how do you find this great hotel room, we hear you ask? Well, all it needs is a little bit of research, a touch of organisation and a dash of Italian magic.
Decide on your itinerary
The first thing to do before booking your accommodation is to decide on a rough itinerary.
This should give you a good idea of the areas you’ll be visiting and help to narrow down potential places to base yourself for your trip.
There’s loads of information on the internet about things to do in Rome, so deciding on a sightseeing plan of action shouldn’t be too hard.
Choose an area
Once you’ve decided which of Rome’s many attractions you’re going to prioritise, you should be able to work out where you need your hotel room to be.
A lot of Rome is pretty compact so you should be able to walk between many of the main sights. However, you’ll probably need to use public transport as well, so finding a hotel that has good transport links is essential.
Decide on a budget
The budget that you set aside for your accommodation will have a big impact on the location that you end up in.
The best way to work out a hotel budget is to assess how much you’ve got for your entire trip, take away the cost of museum tickets, meals out and transport and then see what’s left over.
If you’re looking for luxury hotels Rome has a lot to offer, but there are also plenty of cheaper rooms available, so you should be able to find something for every budget.
Go to comparison websites
Once you’ve decided on a location and a budget, the best way to find great deals is to go to a comparison website.
These sites compare the room rates of lots of hotels across the web, so will give you a great idea of what’s available.
Many comparison sites will have reviews of each hotel that they list, so remember to read these as they’ll give you an honest view of what you can expect from each hotel.
All of the time and effort that you put into finding a great hotel room for your Roman break will be more than rewarded when you finally touch down in The Eternal City.
Long-term travel changes you, sometimes in ways you could never have anticipated.
The people who produce our food. Who make sure our trains and ferries run smoothly. Getting out of the office and experiencing so many facets of the tourism industry and beyond has given me way more appreciation for their contributions. It may not be the most enthralling work in the world but it’s work that needs to be done. Even as we move toward a weightless economy, some of the most seemingly simple work remains the most crucial.
It started back in Asia, with all the water bottles T and I must have added to landfill. And it only got worse from there. All the little individually wrapped items on planes, in hotels, and so on… When you live out of your backpack, you become hyper aware of everything that passes through your hands. Paper – maps, tickets, receipts. Packaging. Plastic bags (terrible for the environment as they are, they’re still very handy and in some cases, necessary). Plus, having been through the likes of the Netherlands and Germany, we’ve seen how recycling really gets done. Come on New Zealand, we’ve got a lot to catch up on.
Back home, world events just seem so far away. Protests, riots, bombings all take place on the other side of the globe. Buffered by oceans on all sides, it’s easy to get complacent in our isolation. But being in the thick of it all for a change is a reminder of how closely we’re all connected. When the US was first considering strikes on Syria, we were in Italy. And that’s when I realised: Whoa. We’re not at home anymore. That’s only a couple of countries over. That’s REALLY FREAKING CLOSE TO US RIGHT NOW. (You may find this beginner’s guide to Syria helpful, if you’re interested.)
As one of the most recently settled countries around, New Zealand has a short and relatively dull history. We don’t have much in the way of culture to speak of. It’s not surprising that a lot of travellers find it boring here.
The upside of that, though, is that we don’t have the integration problems that many other countries have, or at least not to the same extent. Every country has its own racists (usually of the type who conveniently ignore the fact that their ancestors were immigrant settlers not so long ago), but compared to many other countries, I honestly believe that our race relations are positively rosy. We’re also largely spared the strange dilemma that old cities face: how to preserve their heritage while incorporating new influences; modernising without diluting their traditions and culture.
I find myself trying to draw parallels constantly. Oh, this must be about as far as Hamilton is from Auckland. Oh, this looks just like our mountains! We draw on our knowledge of the familiar to make sense of what’s new around us. I find this annoying when other people do this too much, but I’m guilty of it myself.
On a similar note, I’ve also come to realise the true power of a strong brand. They can be a lifesaver in a foreign country – Coke, Twix, Subway, or of course, that familiar beacon the world over, McDonald’s. And after flying with a bunch of different airlines, I’ve got a lot of love for our national carrier, Air New Zealand. I genuinely think it’s up there with the best, and let’s face it, their flight videos kick ass.
We suckity suckity suck. Our compulsion to meddle in other countries’ affairs, to invade and conquer and kill one another, is beyond belief. The more we travel, the more I realise just how dark and bloodsoaked our history truly is. And religion is to blame for a lot of it. I hate that there were – and still are – people willing to murder over religious differences. I suppose it’s admirable that there are people who are ready to die for their beliefs, but it’s all so heartbreakingly futile, particularly in cases where the two sides believe in basically the same god.
People are people are people. I knew this already, of course. We’re all human beings, and essentially, we tick the same. We respond in kind, we take pride in where we come from, and we’re eager to help others if we can. Sure, sometimes there are significant cultural differences, and yes, stereotypes exist for a reason – but they’re often less prevalent than you might think.
And ultimately, people – the connections you make – are what make travel memorable. Amsterdam and Prague and Edinburgh were lovely, but Berlin, Munich, New York, Vermont, Toronto, Chicago… they will all stand out in my memories for the generous, welcoming and friendly people who welcomed us into their homes, who showed us around, who let us be a part of their lives.
Tags: life, reflections, travel
To date, we’ve eaten our way halfway across North America – from the deli sandwiches and food trucks of New York City to poutine, pancakes and maple syrup in Canada, to pizza in Chicago. We’ve shopped at Target and Trader Joe’s, navigated subways above and below ground, and discovered the joys of Chipotle and apple cider. (Taco Bell and White Castle, however, we could take or leave.)
The thing that’s great about the US is the sheer variety on offer. Whether you want adventure, shopping, lakes, beaches, snow … you’ll be able to find it somewhere in America. We’ve had the privilege of experiencing big cities, small towns, rides through the countryside and mountains… As Brand USA reminds us, there’s so much to discover.
Ahead of us still lie the alluring New Orleans, the deserts of the southwest, the Grand Canyon (that is, of course, assuming the government situation resolves itself before then), the bright lights of Las Vegas, and the sunny West Coast. Moving away from the East Coast, we’re expecting to see big changes in the landscapes, the accents, and the culture. And that’s all part of the fun. The road trip continues!
This is a sponsored post, but opinions are my own.