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?

What kind of career do I want? How my thinking has changed over time

MONEY WILL HELP YOU BE MISERABLE IN COMFORT

In reading back over some of my very first blog posts, it’s clear just how much things have changed in my life.

In particular, how many times I’ve changed my mind about the kind of work I’d like to have. It’s not just a case of me being fickle, I promise – my chosen career field is a rapidly changing one.

When I first graduated I thought I wanted to be a subeditor. Thing is, there are fewer and fewer of those jobs these days – it’s a dying art – and the hours are often crappy. It wasn’t long before I ditched that idea.

Then social media took off. Everyone and their dog was becoming a social media manager or consultant. I loved that I got to play with social networks as part of my job, but the more I did it at work, the less I wanted to do it for fun, and I quickly learned that I would want to be  more than just a ‘Twitter monkey‘. (I had to laugh when someone I follow locally on Twitter, who’s been a social media champion from the early days, tweeted that she is now looking to do a project as far removed from social as possible.)

I’ve always been a doer. I wasn’t into the top-level stuff – I’m a details person, not a visionary. I like that this, at times, allows me the flexibility to work from anywhere, since all I need most of the time is a computer and internet. But I don’t love staring at a screen all day – and I don’t think it’s been great for my health. Fortunately, as I’ve gained more experience I’ve also become more interested in the strategy behind the doing and being involved in how/why things are done. I still have  zero desire to manage people but increasingly I’m thinking I’d like to learn more about doing things more strategically and getting involved at a higher level.

It’s great to love your work. It’s also great to be able to afford the kind of life you want, and to have the kind of job that allows you to have that life outside of your working hours. As much fun as my work has been so far, I knew I had to be realistic about the long-term opportunities. Publishers are struggling to make money – but on the flipside, all other kinds of organisations are investing in content.

In thinking about what I might want to do next, I narrowed it down to a few areas I would ideally like to work in:

a) the travel and tourism space

b) the personal finance space (a cool bank, or, say, at sorted.org.nz)

c) an awesome startup (though arguably my last job was pretty close to a startup job)

Amazingly, I found a role that perfectly marries my writing chops, digital skills and love of travel. It’ll be my job to help extol all the virtues of New Zealand as a place to visit – a dream gig, really.

So far, I anticipate a lot more collaboration, a lot more meetings, a workload that ebbs and flows – more facilitation, planning and strategy alongside the nitty gritty production stuff rather than a constant cycle with very tangible daily outputs.

Overall, will I love it just as much as I did my old work? I think it’s highly likely. Time will tell; I haven’t gotten too much into the ‘doing’ yet. I dig the atmospherical aspects and am pretty sure the workload will be less relentless. All things considered, higher pay, the chance to hone new skills and better long-term earning potential don’t hurt, and are definitely factors that play into professional satisfaction.

Maybe further down the track I may have to make a stark choice between money and satisfaction, but not just yet. Phew.

So that was year one. Happy anniversary to us

NZMUSE 1 YEAR WEDDING ANNIVERSARY

Is it strange that I can’t think of all that many romantic moments from our honeymoon? That might be because we’re not really romantic types, and also because we were backpacking for six months, not ballin’ it around the world.

But what an adventure. A few memories that really stand out:

Lamb, wine, filo pie, and explosive sunsets in Santorini, a stunning tourist trap that bears only idyllic memories for me

Flying through the forests in the Munich countryside on our pushbikes, feeling every bump and dip along the way

Paddling through Halong Bay, peering out for monkeys, craning my neck to look up at the strange land formations

Strolling the Highline in NYC at sunset, and late night karaoke in the East Village

Wandering along the sand dunes at a San Diego beach one night

Blazing through Vermont on a motorbike, surrounded by rosy forests and empty roads (and nearly falling asleep on the back after lunch)

Winding through Venice’s canals, marvelling at the skill of our gondolier

Enjoying a platter of mixed soft cheeses and honey in quiet ecstasy at a random Roman restaurant

And of course, all those instances of greedy face stuffing in Thailand, Bologna, Paris, New York, of spring rolls, panzerotti, cakes, gelato, cheeses, deli sandwiches and tacos.

There was enough luxury for it to feel special amongst the backpacking – the constant discomfort (Auckland’s stupidly mild temperatures have spoiled us both), the stress of navigating non-English countries (especially for him).

I am so, so happy we took that trip. It was great for us on so many levels, not just as individuals but as a couple. We’ve seen each other at our absolute worst and pushed through. Made so many memories to share. I feel it brought us closer together and strengthened our relationship. Between that, and the big scary talk that came up pre-wedding, I’m not sure what state we’d be in now. Possibly a less healthy one. Either way, it was a catalyst for us to re-examine things and work harder at them. Because when you don’t, they can deteriorate very quickly. It takes years to build what can be undone in days, hours – minutes, even, or seconds. Even after years together, you can still surprise yourselves, and even after years together  you can work toward making some things better than you’d ever dreamed possible.

Weddings are powerful events. No matter how informal, they pack a lot of emotional weight. As Elizabeth asks Philip on The Americans: “They’re just words people say. But do you think things would have been different between us if we’d said them?”

But beyond that, weddings are ultimately occasions of unbridled joy. As I write this particular paragraph, I’m in floods of quiet tears, having just gorged on a friend’s 600-odd wedding pictures. Just as with the photos from any other wedding, ours included, the thing that shines through is how happy everyone is. Imperfect as ours was, I still like to look back on photos for that little lift they give me.

I  am still not used to the words ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ yet. I’d barely gotten comfortable with ‘fiance/e’ by the time we got married, so maybe in another year or two?

Link love (Powered by early starts and mozzarella balls)

nzmuse blog link love

After one week at the new job, I think I can safely say that I am in love with the environment and organisation.

The people are genuinely lovely and it has the most cohesive culture of anywhere I’ve worked. The physical office is gorgeous and most importantly WARM, and the setup and lighting isn’t causing me any issues or strain. I do miss my lovely Apple keyboard (returning to a Windows environment) and shorter commute, but I enjoy the buzz of working in the CBD again … and I’ve discovered that there’s a new bus stop in town, which means I literally only have a 1-2 minute walk at either end of my trip, to the office or to my house.

So far it’s mainly been about settling in, getting up to speed and meeting people. There are a lot of systems and processes – which is new for me – and that obviously has pros and cons. We wrapped up Friday with waiata (Maori song) practice; every new hire is welcomed with a song, so everyone learns them so that they can take part. Singing in the workplace? Two thumbs up from me. And while there’s drinks and chips at the end of the week, I wasn’t the only one heading for the non-alcoholic options, so double YAY.

This week’s links

A reality check: finding purpose in your work regardless of what you actually do

How to build a career that’s both financially and emotionally rewarding

All the things that are currently wrong with freelancing, via Kommein

Amber and I are on the same page when it comes to the topic of dream jobs

Word! Why the question ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years’ sucks

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such an open discussion about recognising problems and committing to a relationship as I have at Married with Luggage

Her Every Cent Counts on why she’s getting married even though it’s a practically obsolete rite of passage (reminds me of a conversation we had with a guy who hosted us in Berlin)

Live alone or with flatmates? Leslie breaks it down

Wealth Informatics on the many ways other people can influence your finances

Four questions to ask yourself when you’re feeling stressed, via Jess Lively

As someone who this totally applies to, this might be my favourite Modern Love column yet: “When a writer falls in love with someone whose spelling and grammar are poor, it challenges her assumptions about the type of man she’d want to marry.”

Last but not least… I once read this breathtakingly awful line in a Harvard Business Review post about creative sector pay: “The more you pay people to do what they love, the less they will love it.” *cue sputter* A massive part of the reason I’ve loved all my jobs to date was that they paid decently and I did not have to worry too much about money on a daily basis. Yes, we tend to accept lower wages in exchange for getting to do this kind of work, but that is not an excuse to try and get away with paying as little as humanly possible. I was reminded of that sentiment when I came across this piece on the modern knowledge worker. “When people are looking for jobs that don’t feel like work, companies can hire a guy who will take their lower salary and no benefits over the security of one of the quickly evaporating salaried jobs where he’ll be a middle manager counting up widget sales and thingamabob costs.”

Planning a budget trip to Cairns/Port Douglas? Herewith, my recommendations

Yes, those are little kangaroos! We spotted these joeys on the way to Port Douglas. I like to think of this as kangaroo school in session
Yes, those are little kangaroos! We spotted these joeys on the way to Port Douglas. I like to think of this as kangaroo school in session.

Before this month, I didn’t even know what city one would fly into to visit the Great Barrier Reef. Once I figured it out, the question was: stay in Cairns, or venture up to Port Douglas? Cairns is cheap and cheerful but lacks a decent beach; Port Douglas is nice but expensive – and, as I suspected, turned out to be a little dull. Once I figured out it would be smartest for us to hire a car, the choice was made: have it both ways with two days in Cairns city and two in Port Douglas township.

(I scrapped trying to fit in the Whitsundays – expensive, and more of a sailing than a snorkelling destination – and stopovers in Sydney/Melbourne/Gold Coast, due to time and money.)

Here are fun things we did that I would wholeheartedly recommend:

In Cairns

michaelmas cay great barrier reef nzmuse

Great Barrier Reef tour – Seastar Cruises

Seastar may not be the cheapest Great Barrier Reef tour operator but neither are they the most expensive – and they are highly, highly rated on Tripadvisor. We chose Seastar for the small numbers and good reviews and did not regret it. They include everything you might need (even optical snorkel masks don’t cost extra) and take a bunch of photos throughout the day that get posted up on Facebook straight after, too. The staff are super friendly, the food is simple and tasty and it was a fun day all around.

The only downside was the rough weather. I highly recommend buying seasickness pills for $3 onboard. Thankfully, I did not throw up, but it was a close call towards the end, even with the meds. Having ticked this off my life list, I think I’m well and truly done with all water-based activities; I am just too prone to motion illness. By the time we got out to Michaelmas Cay (Seastar is one of the few operators that go there) I was not feeling at all happy about being out at sea – and knew for sure I had made the right choice to stick to snorkelling rather than trying diving. The current was pretty strong – way more intense waves than any I’d ever snorkelled in before – and I spent most of the time following our snorkel group around trying to tamp down the rising panic and breathe slowly. We did see some cool fish and T enjoyed his introductory dive, where he got to see a moray eel, giant clam and touch a sea cucumber. (These do cost more – $75 for the first dive, $45 for the second.)

Our second stop at the outer reef was at Hastings Reef – not as picturesque as Michaelmas Cay from the surface, but way cooler underwater. The current was a lot calmer, the coral was closer to the surface – and most importantly, we saw a turtle!

prawns barnacle bills nzmuse

Seafood – Barnacle Bills

The sheer amount of dining options in Cairns is a tad boggling. T spotted an earlybird special at Barnacle Bills (order between 5-6pm and get 25% off) and I was sold. And what do you know – it turned out to be an all around stellar meal. Our dishes were huge and while nothing fancy, were perfectly executed. The salsa garlic bread appetiser was a standout: fresh but avoided falling into the soggy trap. The barramundi was beautifully seasoned with a healthy side of beans and potatoes. And you really can’t go wrong with Aussie size prawns. We loved them so much that in Port Douglas we went and bought some more prawns from the supermarket and cooked them up at our Airbnb rental. DIY seafood is a great option on a super tight budget.

crystal cascades cairns nzmuse

Greenery and swimming holes – Crystal Cascades

You will need a car to get to the Cascades! It’s about 20 minutes drive from Cairns central. Head north to Redlynch then follow the signs for Crystal Cascades. It’s an easy paved walk through the rainforest and there are spots to swim amongst the huge boulders in the river. You might spot a few birds or other wildlife while you’re at it. If you don’t have a car, the Botanic Gardens in Cairns are a nice naturey alternative, sans swimming holes.

In Port Douglas

Chips at Dave’s Takeaway

We stumbled across Dave’s while strolling Macrossan St – the main drag. It’s cheap, but it’s also freaking awesome. Great burgers and the best chips I’ve had in a long time – delightfully crisp and just salty enough.

mossman gorge rainforest walk creek

Mossman Gorge

The Mossman Gorge offers a free peek into the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest. T bitched and moaned about walking the 2km from the carpark/visitor centre to the gorge, but at $8.50 a pop the shuttle bus fare was a bit steep for my liking. There’s a spot to swim and a few other places to get your feet wet but overall the idea is to walk the circuit trail through the forest. Not super exciting in my books to be honest, but no regrets.

wags free wednesday sunset sail port douglas yacht club

Free Wednesday sunset sail from the yacht club

While we didn’t wind up going (probably a good thing; we popped down to the waterfront a little later on and saw the boats setting out and the seas were a little choppy) I had fully intended on doing this and had blocked out time for it!

The basic idea is that you turn up at the yacht club at 4pm and if you’re lucky you might get to go along for a free evening  sail with a local skipper. Probably nice to buy them a beer in exchange.

Sailing at the Yacht Club – on Wednesday afternoon. Previously known as WAGS (Wednesday afternoon gentlemen sailing), now also known as WAGLS (Wednesday afternoon Gentlemen and Ladies Sailing) minimum age for participants is 18. This is a free sail. Arrive at The Yacht Club by 4.00pm sign in and a skipper will personally ask you to join their team on their private yacht for a sail. – See more at: http://www.tropicaltours.com.au/blog/free-activities-to-do-in-port-douglas/#sthash.oXzuLiiv.dpuf

Investing in precious metals: What about silver?

investing in silver

Anyone looking at alternative investments (as in, those outside of the day-to-day stock market) will probably find gold popping up on their radar. Of course, it’s not the only precious metal out there. Here’s Richard Stiger, answering a few common questions about silver investment.

What’s the difference between silver and gold investment?

The answer to this question can vary depending on what you’re looking for and your method of investment, but for the most up-to-date comparison of the two precious metals, Wall St. Cheat Sheet posted a list earlier this year of seven reasons silver is a better investment than gold. The article points to a number of factors, but the general theme is that silver is being produced more rapidly and being used more frequently (in many household devices, for example, rather than just in precious materials). These factors—coupled with the fact that you can get far more, in terms of ounces of metal, for your money—make silver a more appealing investment than its popular counterpart.

Where would someone buy silver? What’s involved?

This too depends on your specific goals and situation, but often it’s actually gold investment sites and platforms that offer the most convenient silver purchases. Investment platform BullionVault has lots of information on silver, including up-to-date pricing and details on how to purchase and store silver through the site. This particular site provides vault storage in in London, Zurich, Toronto, New York, and Singapore, and it provides investors with the option of having their silver physically sent to them or having it stored in one of these vault locations. It is also worth noting, however, that investments are not limited to people in the countries with vaults listed. In the case of this particular investment site, investment opportunity is offered worldwide. The vaults are merely designated for the actual storage of the silver (though the site only supports payments in US dollars, euros, or pounds sterling).

Why invest in silver?

Generally speaking, the reasons for investing in silver are similar to those for gold: Precious metals operate with universally decided prices, and as such do not fluctuate dramatically in response to economic shifts in any particular country or region. Therefore, precious metal is often deemed stable in comparison to currency or ordinary investments. Silver upholds this concept on a significantly smaller scale than gold, but the strategy is more or less the same. As far as how silver is performing in 2014, and what its immediate outlook is, Business Standard posted a nice breakdown of international factors and how they’re affecting the price of silver.

All things considered, silver investment is a fairly convenient alternative to gold. It’s also one that some investment experts see as favourable in the current economic climate. But the most important question is still what you can get for your money and whether or not it’s a strategic investment for you personally. As of April 20, 2014, the price of silver is roughly $20 US per ounce (depending on which vault or market you buy from, with prices varying by a few cents), meaning a $1000 investment can get you 50 ounces of silver, as a point of reference. Whether or not this would be a sound investment is ultimately up to each individual to calculate for him or herself.

The general idea is that silver may be a strategically sound investment at the moment. But again, that’s for each investor to decide!

Five first impressions from Cairns/Queensland

nzmuse queensland great barrier reef

Basically all everyday items were cheaper than they are here in NZ. I base this on a few separate supermarket visits, the price of petrol (and cars for that matter), and one ad I saw for unlimited broadband. The one bakery we went to, however, was stupidly pricey.

Portions are huge. Check this out for an entree – this is a full size plate, and the bread is loaded up with toppings (Barnacle Bill’s – stay tuned for recommendations in my next post). I assure you that the equivalent here in NZ would be half the size for the same price. It was like being back in the US! Our hosts over in Port Douglas, who we had dinner with one night, had appetites that put ours to shame, too.

barnacle bills cairns meal

The water is delightfully warm. I don’t think I can ever snorkel in NZ again – it’s just too damn cold. It was so bizarre to be standing by the water’s edge and have the air be still and warm (rather than windy and cold). Jumping off the boat out at the reef was like slipping into a lukewarm pool. Even the outdoor pool at our Airbnb rental was surprisingly unchilly.

But there are way too many things you have to watch out for. Everywhere there’s water, there’s a sign warning of crocodiles in the area. Most beaches have stinger nets you have to swim within. And bugs. SO MANY BUGS. Arrrgh.

ellis beach queensland

I saw more half Asian/half Caucasian couples and their offspring in a few days here than I’ve probably seen in my entire life to date. (If I was staring at your kid/s, I was only trying to get a glimpse into my future – sorry if I creeped you out.)

Joint credit cards and other such shenanigans

By: PersonalMoneyNetwork

Ah, credit cards. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, there are times when they are just an outright necessity.

Before we left on our big RTW trip, getting a credit card organised for T was one of the many annoying things we had to do. He’s the driver in our pairing (I hate driving and don’t have my full licence) but had never had a credit card of his own. He didn’t go to uni, so he never had banks offering him sweet deals on overdrafts and credit cards on campus during orientation.

Ironically, as it turned out, he didn’t even need it. Yes, car rental companies require you to show a credit card in the name of the driver when you turn up, but we prebooked through CarHirePlanet, which took a small deposit early on and then charged the full amount a couple of weeks before pickup, strangely. I had used my credit card to make the booking, so at no point was any part of the rental charged to his. And of course, when we picked up the car there was no balance owing, and the terms of the booking meant we were fully insured with a zero excess so even if we had an accident there would be nothing to pay.

When we popped over to Australia last week, although I booked through the same site, things were categorically different with this particular Cairns rental company. The excess would be $3300 (yikes) and payment was to be made on pickup using a card in the driver’s name. Debit cards incurred an extra fee and of course require you to actually have the full amount available in your account. It’s one thing to have a few grand of credit placed on hold; another entirely when it’s a few grand of your own cash being held hostage.

We’d cancelled his credit card when we got back to NZ, and with so little time before we actually left for Australia (last minute trip!) and the fact he’s currently between jobs, the odds of him getting a credit card with a high enough limit were not looking good.

The solution: an additional credit card for him linked to my Visa. This is different from a joint credit card – this means as the primary card holder I remain responsible for the account. The process was relatively quick and easy and his card arrived just in time a couple of days before we departed.

While I’m not loving the idea of paying another $12 in annual fees for his card, you never know when you might need it – and I reckon it’s easier to have one on hand than to find yourself scrambling for one. We’ll probably keep this one this time around.

Do you have a shared credit card with your partner?

Link love (Powered by airports and seafood)

nzmuse link love roundup

Much as I love travelling, I am so over the transport part of it. Flying really sucks (though Air NZ makes it about as painless as possible – meals I actually look forward to and reasonable legroom. Three cheers for our national airline). And it’s official: I get seasick when there’s anything resembling a real current. Sigh.

I’ve also gotten soft after nearly six months staying put. We spent two nights in a hostel over in Cairns – a pretty nice one, too – and I felt squicky about it the whole time.

And now, it’s nice to be home. We just aren’t used to heat like Queensland temperatures! I don’t think I can explain to foreigners how mild Auckland’s climate really is.

This week’s links

MONEY

Jess shares her most extreme cheapskate moments

Paula reflects on her journey to figure out the purpose of money

Tonya made me smile with her post on taming your spending dragon

Frugal Portland breaks down some common investing jargon

Over at Cash Cow Couple, when being too generous backfires

Love this chat between Gretchen Rubin and JD Roth on money and happiness

Do you REALLY want to buy that? Two questions to ask yourself before handing over your wallet from Budgets are Sexy

TRAVEL

Aliens in the Apple are back in the US and reflecting on oddities they’d forgotten about

So much truth: 10 great and not so great things about long term travel, at Traveling 9 to 5

Gearing up for a world trip? Check out this prep list from Goats on the Road

This Quora thread pretty well sums up why overseas travel is a bit of a rarity in America, I think - EXCEPT for the money part. Flying anywhere from the US has nothing on the cost of flying anywhere from NZ, trust me. Plus you have the opportunity to travel hack with credit cards, another thing we don’t get

LIFE

Via Yes and Yes: the four word phrase that might change your life

Leslie lays it out: making plans like an adult

Thoughtful advice on getting through tough times via Zen Habits

How one couple achieved equality at home

A lovely summary of what management actually is (I know it’s not for me, but it was still insightful to read someone’s outlook on what a good manager actually does, especially in light of my recent exit interview)

Fast Company profiled Chelsea Clinton and her struggle to find her way as an adult – fascinating to read about her journey, though her version of ‘drifting’ is a pretty elite one

Finally, a reminder that you are more than your job:

The biggest myth we are fed as artists is that we need to sustain ourselves solely on our art. This is ridiculous. Every artist has at some point in time had some other job. Some of them kept these jobs their entire lives.

There is more nobility in hard work than in pure luck.

Real artists have day jobs, and night jobs, and afternoon jobs. Real artists make things other than art, and then they make time to make art because art is screaming to get out from inside them. Screaming, or begging, or gently whispering.

 

Do you believe in signs?

When it comes to job hunting, I always tell people there’s no harm in trying. What’s the worst that could happen? You get ignored, like you almost always do anyway? You’ve got to be in to win, and there’s absolutely nothing to lose by sending your application out to a faceless (and often nameless) person.

Yet I almost didn’t take my own advice. When I first came across the listing for my new job, I shook my head and sighed. It sounded like the perfect role in every way … but the timing wasn’t right. I wasn’t planning on leaving until later in the year! I know positions like this don’t come along everyday, but I decided to shelve it anyway and put it out of my mind.

And then …

Without going into any detail, let’s just say something happened to remind me that business is business. Your only loyalty should be to yourself, first and foremost. Never forget that. —-> SIGN 1

I decided to do a little more research and put in an application. And what do you know: a Google search revealed that the position would be reporting to someone who worked at my previous employer, who I had actually had a couple of dealings with. —-> SIGN 2

They called me right away, and although I’d just had my wisdom teeth out and was a bit sore, I wasn’t in too much pain and didn’t want to put off the interview. It went well, and I had a second interview a week later.

A few days after that, my (super awesome) boss announced her resignation. —-> SIGN 3

Handily, this also freed me up to ask her for a reference, and in keeping with the theme so far, that very same day I was asked for reference contacts by the HR consultant.

In a strange twist, as it turns out, we both ended up joining and leaving the company at almost exactly the same time.

I am a bit bummed to bail out before winning an industry award. But then again, I was sad to leave my last job before getting assigned a travel feature – and then I got to do a couple of sweet trips at this one.

Because of the way Easter and Anzac holidays shook down this year, I wound up with 10 days off in between. Add in the fact T didn’t have work to go to either, after getting very close to a very cool sounding job (final 2 candidates) and I took this as a sign that we should make the most of this time and take a trip somewhere. Call it an early anniversary celebration.

So we took off to the Great Barrier Reef for a few days of relaxation. (Recaps to come.)

And funnily enough, on our last night over there I learned through Twitter that my bank’s social media team will soon be hiring – another ideal opportunity that I had been hoping might manifest. It’s still on my career bucket list.