Tag Archives: rant

My beef with capitalism: Inequality’s a bitch

The problem with inequality

Economics is not my strong suit. Nor can I say I am particularly interested in it. I’m a micro person, not a macro person; a creative trying to get by in a capitalist world.

But even I can’t fail to note that the wealth gap is growing, not shrinking.  Yep, even here in little old New Zealand.

I like this dummy proof breakdown:

“New Zealand, which had the developed world’s biggest increase in inequality from the mid-1980s to the mid-2000s, has seen more economic damage than most. According to the OECD’s calculations, our economy grew about 30% in the last two decades – but it would have grown by 45%, or half as much again, if inequality had stayed at 1980s levels.”

Inequality matters. It’s a no-brainer. It’s a drag on the economy, and I think the saying that “you’re only as strong as your weakest link” is perhaps relevant here.

“When families lack the income they need to pay doctors’ fees and keep healthy, or to fix their car so they can travel to a new job, or to give their kids the equipment and clothes they need to succeed at school, it’s obvious that economic growth will suffer. You could argue that these are problems of poverty, not inequality, but really the two are inseparable; the reason some people have so little is that the fruits of economic growth are going largely to our richer citizens.”

As someone who ostensibly belongs to the middle class, occasionally I feel a tremendous sense of guilt that I have it so much better than many other people, and gratitude to be lucky to be where I am. But the other 99% of the time I spend fretting that we’ll never be able to really get ahead.

Bridget at Money After Graduation sums up my feelings perfectly:

“Wealth inequality is a growing, terrifying problem and I don’t want to be on the losing end of the deal. I’d rather we live in a more equal society when it comes to wealth distribution, but so long as we don’t, my singular goal is to get as far away from the bottom as possible.”

When necessities take up more of your income, you may even need to borrow to afford them. I don’t believe in ‘broke yet happy’. I think it’s something people tell themselves in order to feel better. Nice idea – in theory.

So, what are we supposed to do? Same old, I guess. Hustle, hustle, hustle.

A key piece of the inequality puzzle in New Zealand boils down to that most basic of needs: shelter. The way I see it, so much of this hinges on property – stability, security and quality of housing. The status quo is a disaster in financial terms – and in health terms, for renters.

It’s good to see that our go-to economist for all stories on renting vs buying is finally starting to discuss the pragmatic downsides of renting in New Zealand. While the actual quality of rental housing isn’t a talking point (and thus, the problem with mainstream media and the limited perspectives of the typically privileged people within it) he acknowledges New Zealand has some of the most restrictive rules in the developed world for renters.

“New Zealand is strangely different in that we have made this almost special provision around renting of residential property versus other types of renting.” – NZ Herald

“The rental market is designed for students flatters. It is no surprise that it is the young couples with children who are most unhappy.” – Stuff

But the level of chatter around the state of rental housing is growing.  Research shows that private rental housing is in worse condition than houses that are owner occupied, however, in a tight market, you have to take what you can get.

“One potential tenant, looking at a property, asked if the holes could be fixed and rodent droppings cleared before she moved in. “[The landlord] said: ‘If you don’t like it, there’s other people that want to live here’.”

Is it any wonder the typical tenancy lasts only just over a year?

Amazingly, here’s a rare mainstream newspaper editorial that hits the nail on the head.

Housing in New Zealand is not only scarce and expensive; for too many people, it is also downright unhealthy.

“Our national housing stock is of poorer quality than most OECD countries. In particular, too many houses are damp and cold – which means they contribute to our grim rates of infectious and respiratory diseases.

This is deplorable in an advanced country, and like our other housing problems, it needs to urgently change.

Extensive work has already been done, so there is no excuse for delay. Most recently, results from a pilot study on 144 rental homes showed 90 per cent failing the warrant. That number needs some qualification – some houses failed for such easily remedied reasons as flat batteries in smoke alarms. But other results were more deeply concerning – like the third of rental properties that lacked any form of fixed heating.

No-one in New Zealand should have to live in a dog of a house.”

In order for renting to life to work you need to be able to save and invest what you’re “saving” by not having a mortgage. The problem is, rents are not going anywhere except up and up.

  • Renter demand in Auckland is forecast to increase by 63% over the next 20 years and it is unclear whether “mum and dad” investors will be able to meet this demand
  • Rental affordability is a critical issue for low- middle income households in Auckland, and people who enter retirement renting are likely to face ongoing hardship

The prospect of continuing to have to pay rent throughout retirement is scary. I can kinda understand why suicide at 65 starts to look like a pragmatic option.

Recently, an acquaintance posted a photo on Facebook . In it, he and his girlfriend stood on the deck of their new house, all smiles. Of course, like all our other home-owning peers, they only managed this because their parents stumped up cash for their down payment. Heck, if mine offered, I’d swallow my pride and take the offer.

But is this what the future of our country looks like? Only the well off buying homes for their children and passing the privilege of living in a decent property on down the generations, while everyone else remains stuck in cold, damp rentals and suffering all the ill effects that poses?

Surely we can do better than that.

So, I just learned something really shitty…

The Disputes Tribunal – essentially small claims court – cannot deal with cases where “someone knows they should do something but simply refuses to (for example, to chase a debt that someone agrees they owe you)”.

Why this sucks: Since T quit Toxic Job, we have been waiting to be reimbursed a couple hundred dollars in expenses. These were incurred on behalf of the company on our personal credit card shortly before he left.

It has now been over four months. We have been constantly following up. There are two bosses; let’s call them Aaron and Ant. Aaron is the sane, decent, normal one, and who unfortunately is/was also the less hands-on one. After initially contacting Ant, T has mostly been emailing Aaron lately – since he is infinitely more reasonable – and Aaron has been apologetic and understanding. Though, let it be observed, not to the point of ACTIONING THE REIMBURSEMENT.

Based on the vibe T is getting from him, and the fact that T’s ex-colleague/buddy (we’ll call him Rich) just interviewed for a job at the competition, it seems like shit is going down over there. Rich is young, a small town boy, a bit of a pushover really, who has put up with Ant for months. So for him to have finally had enough and be looking elsewhere, it must be bad. (On the plus side, since he got the new job and starts in January, it’ll mean no more talk about Toxic Job when he comes around to visit in the future. That was the worst part about the friendship IMO – dwelling on all that drama.)

I have financially written off that money, but I cannot let it go emotionally (though I really should for sanity’s sake) and I refuse to give up on the principle (and T is fully in agreement on that count). Being an asshole and driving away all your staff is one thing; cheating them out of money that they are owed is another.

I’d had the idea in the back of my mind that Disputes Tribunal would be the next step, but apparently it won’t be. The fact that money is owed is not actually in dispute.

I know that unpaid wages would fall under the Employment Relations Authority; I’m assuming money owed for reimbursements would probably be in the same boat. Need to look into this further, but it’s a headache I really do not need right now.

Allrighty, vent over. Any advice gratefully received.

The plight of the ‘banana’ (Yellow on the outside. White on the inside)

The plight of the banana
By: Steve Hopson

When you go to a Chinese restaurant, the staff speak to you in their language and look disappointed when you can only offer a small shrug and a ‘sorry’. They may offer you forks, and no doubt take note of the fact your white partner uses chopsticks a million times more deftly than you do.

When an elderly Asian person tries to communicate with the bus driver, and fails, the driver casts a meaningful look back at you over his shoulder, and all you can do is offer a small shrug and a ‘sorry’.

When an Asian person comes up to you on the street and (presumably) tries to ask you for directions in their language, and all you can do is offer a small shrug and a ‘sorry’.

When people at work ask if you speak any other languages, clearly hoping that you do, and all you can do is offer a small shrug and a ‘sorry’.

When a white security guard says ‘ni hao’ to you as you walk past, and you don’t know how best to respond.

When people learn your Chinese/legal name and gush about how beautiful it is, and you don’t know how best to respond.

When you open your mouth and someone hearing you for the first time expresses surprise at your total lack of an accent, and you don’t know how best to respond.

I’ve had too many of these incidents happen too close together of late, and I’m tired of feeling apologetic all the damn time. It’s my own problem to deal with, I know; it’s not about malice, it’s about what’s going on inside me and my own identity issues.

I am Chinese by heritage, born in Malaysia, raised in New Zealand. I know more Malay words than I do Chinese, and I am pretty sure I know even more Maori words in total. English is the language we spoke at home – my parents grew up speaking different dialects – and while my dad briefly tried to teach me Mandarin once, I had neither the desire nor inclination to succeed. If it weren’t for, I suppose, external forces, I wouldn’t even care. Maybe in my dotage, like my mother, I’ll feel the urge to reconnect with my birthright and start taking Mandarin classes – but for now, it’s just not on my radar. But being non white in an overwhelmingly white industry makes me feel like I need to be some sort of ambassador or representative at times. But I’m not. I’m an impostor.

I am surrounded by white people for the vast majority of my waking hours. At work. At home. In the media I consume. Sometimes, despite the fact I see myself every day in the mirror, I think I actually forget I’m not white too.

Landlord or slumlord? The downsides of private rentals

RENTING NIGHTMARES - NZ Muse

Much as I hate paying fees to rental property managers (here, rental agents do not do anything to help you as a renter, like assist you in finding somewhere to rent – they only serve the landlord) for the privilege of being allowed to rent a place, there is something to be said for dealing with professionals over the long term. Problems get fixed quickly and with minimal fuss.

For example, it would totally have been worth it to me to pay a damn fee to avoid these nightmares we’ve experienced:

Incompetent landlord #1: The Apartment

You might recall that we once spent a year in an apartment and hated it. Suburban apartments are usually kinda ghetto. Soundproofing sucked and it was impossible to have people over, ever, or you’d get in trouble for being too noisy. We were forced to use a certain utility company (one I’d never heard of) who charged stupid prices for electricity. There may have been a small roach problem. And like basically all new intensive construction, it had weathertightness issues – earlier this year the entire building basically disappeared under what looked like Gladwrap while they reclad it.

We also had a pretty crappy landlord. It was fine up until we left – then they withheld money from our bond. Why? We had been paying rent in arrears, they said, and thus owed the last week’s rent. Uh, HELL to the NO. Nobody – and I mean NOBODY – ever pays rent in arrears. Rent is always paid in advance – at the start of the week, for the week ahead. Landlords and agents simply wouldn’t have it any other way. I was so stunned I couldn’t reply. I don’t know what they were playing at. Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity, the saying goes. Maybe this was their first time as landlords. Either way, once they ‘consulted’ their records they realised their mistake.

The other reason they withheld money came down to a handful of ridiculous complaints. Dust on the outdoor balcony. Lint in the dryer. Rangehood hadn’t been cleaned underneath (okay, that one was fair – I’d never lived anywhere with a rangehood before and it simply didn’t even occur to me).

I was pretty pissed off and decided to take the matter to mediation – which was a complete waste of time. Within a couple of minutes it was suggested we split the difference 50/50 (literally, $50 and $50) and that was that. I’d taken the time to bus all the way out west and it was over in less than five minutes.

I would do things differently today, but 20-year-old me was young, naive and confrontation averse – I thought it would be worth taking the time to go to mediation with a third party.

Incompetent landlord #2: The House of Horrors

The house we moved into straight after that apartment was a nightmare. We lived with a couple of T’s friends, one of whom turned out to be the flatmate from hell and will never repay me the money he owes me. It was cold and damp and our bedroom, a converted garage, was the coldest and dampest room of all. For the first time, I had to deal with mould inside my wardrobe and on my clothes. Our front window had no security whatsoever; we had to secure it by jamming a piece of wood into the track so that it couldn’t slide open unless you removed it. It was also in a super ghetto area, but nobody would rent a decent place to us (students and entry level workers). After looking for months, this was as good as it got.

While we initially dealt with an agency  – not one of the big name companies, though, and weirdly it didn’t charge a letting fee – once the landlord lost his job he got rid of the property manager and took over the job himself. And it went downhill from there

He wanted to increase the rent approximately 25%, which I talked him down from. (My first ever negotiation!) And being out of work, he dragged his heels on fixing all the things that started going wrong with the house.

The floor of the shower cubicle cracked, which he tried to blame on us. It turned out the shower hadn’t been properly installed. Duh.

The power bills started going up…. and up… and up. We couldn’t figure out why. And then we lost hot water completely. Turned out these things were related. It wasn’t a quick fix, either. We had to deal with only cold water for a couple of weeks. I was too chicken to ask him to help out with the increased power bills, since they were due to the hot water cylinder and not anything we’d done – though I doubt he would’ve agreed, since he could barely afford to fix the water.

The wallpaper on the other side of the wall from the shower in the bathroom started flaking and peeling off in ever-larger chunks. Again, due to dampness stemming from issues with the bathroom installation. By the time we moved out, that wall in the living room was basically bare.

Finally, the roof sprung some sort of leak. Of course, he tried to blame us. Which was insane.

Given all these issues, we might have had cause to break our lease. But at the time, I was under huge pressure during my last year of uni, dealing with T’s unemployment, and working all hours. I simply didn’t have the mental capacity to take on that drama. Instead, I took showers at work and ignored what was happening around me at home.

Would you rather deal direct with landlords, or property managers?

Why I’m way more worried about buying a house than retiring

Why I'm more worried about buying a house than retiring

New Zealanders have not traditionally been great at saving for retirement. (I doubt we are the only country in this boat.) KiwiSaver was only introduced in the last 10 years and still has a lot of skeptics.

Honestly, if I’d never come across personal finance forums and blogs, I wouldn’t be particularly worried about retirement savings. I might have left my contributions at 4 percent and never increased them.

But here’s the thing. Governments have proven they are unwilling to tinker with NZ Super. And the only parties willing to do anything about the state of rental housing have wound up on the wrong side of power.

To me, then, the logical and pragmatic thing to do is to continue to pursue home ownership. I’m not counting on the government to do anything about quality, affordable housing, either rented or owned. Current policy encourages buying – the latest change would double grants for first-time buyers who are building a new house, not unlike the Homestart first home buyers grant in Perth – and nearly 10 years of renting has well and truly turned me off renting in New Zealand. I see buying as the more likely route to securing a healthy and stable future for me and my own. Our chief human rights commissioner summed up things pretty succinctly in a recent speech: “…If you can do so you will do what it takes to ensure your family live in an adequate home … many people are not fortunate enough to find a landlord that they would trust to do that.”

Since the government seems far more likely to cater for me in my twilight years than ensuring healthy housing in my best ones, I’m going to prioritise getting into a house over retirement for now. I used to be pretty set on not touching my Kiwisaver account for a down payment. (I don’t personally think it’s a great idea to enable people to withdraw even more money from their Kiwisaver accounts to buy a house, as new rules will soon allow.) But I’ve changed my mind. I’m not going to rule out drawing on it – that’s drawing from, NOT draining it, to be clear – if that’s going to mean the difference between owning and renting.

I’m tired of the terrible quality of rentals. Mushrooms and mould do not belong indoors, ever. As property owners get richer selling houses to one another, people priced out of buying have to make do with substandard rentals and no legislation to protect them from shoddy, unhealthy properties. For a country that’s been at the forefront of things like gender and marriage equality, it’s well past time we got onto the basics of housing equality.

I’m tired of being on the wrong side of rising prices. Just a few years ago when I graduated, $360 a week could get you 3 bedrooms in my area. Now it only gets you 2 on average, and I guarantee in another year or two, it will only get you 1 bedroom (and a lot of the smaller 1-bedders forbid couples. AWESOME). This is an untrendy fringe area; prices are much higher in more central suburbs. Our city is growing and there’s not enough housing. Auckland is the Sydney, London, or New York of New Zealand. I do not see this trend reversing. I think high (and rising) prices are the new normal – here to stay.

I’m tired of the uneven playing field. I have the privilege of having the kind of job where I can duck out of work during the day to go to a viewing, but even I can’t do this all the time, and you need to do this at the drop of a hat when you’re actively hunting.

I’m tired of the instability. At any time a landlord can decide to cash in and sell out, displacing you, (and of course increase rent).

Like marriage or having kids, home ownership will be bloody hard … but I believe with all my heart it beats the alternative here.

Not every rental is crap and not every owned house is warm and dry – there are always exceptions. But in broad terms, there is a divide. When you’re an owner, you have the option of taking action to address the root causes of issues with your house. I can’t wait to have (or install) decent insulation and maybe even a heat pump. When you’re renting, you simply have to put up. I personally tried to do my bit for the cause by going beyond the numbers and highlighting the quality issues in a recent magazine article on renting vs buying, but what we need is sustained mainstream coverage.

There’s a reason multiple political parties put their support behind standards for rental housing this year. There’s a reason people are talking about this issue (though as has been proven, Twitter/the internet are far from representative).

The absolute worst things about job hunting

The worst things about job hunting are...

Thanks to a lot of hard work and a healthy dose of good luck, I’ve never really personally struggled with unemployment. Being a firsthand witness to a long job hunt, though, has definitely got me sympathising. These are the worst things about job hunting, as observed by me.

Please call in order for us to reject you

I can’t believe there are people/companies that will leave a message asking you to call back – only for them to tell you that you were unsuccessful, once you return the call. Just leave a voicemail, or send an email. Seriously.

Radio silence after in-person interviews

There’s a special place in hell for those who don’t get back to you after interviews. I get that some industries don’t screen much and often interview a lot of people in person, but I do think it’s a courtesy once you’ve brought someone in. (Personally I don’t think rejections are needed if you don’t get to interview stage, and actually prefer it this way, but I know a lot of people disagree. As a job hunter, I don’t expect any acknowledgement of receipt, just like I wouldn’t if I was a PR rep pitching a journalist – editors are busy and we’ll ignore pitches we’re not interested in.)

Super scammy sales roles

There are always SO many entry-level sales/promotion type roles promising a fast track to success for hard workers. The thing is, these sales roles are usually pretty dodgy – shady insurance companies and the like – and often just door to door marketing. If it sounds too good to be true…

The weird thing about job hunting is that you’ve got to totally amp yourself up for interviews and really commit to imagining yourself in a particular job. Then you’ve got to completely disengage and do your best to forget about it, since odds are high you won’t make it any further.

What are your pet peeves about job hunting?

Learning to let go

learning to let go of worries

I don’t like to throw around the word depression lightly. But the last couple of weeks have seen me at my lowest point in a long, long time.

There’s been fatigue, trouble sleeping, nightmares, an MIA period, tears and eventually, that’s bubbled up into conscious stress. I’m basically walking an emotional tightrope.

In search of peace and a good night’s sleep, I’ve been doing my best to let go and give up worrying about things that are outside my locus of control.

The job situation

I cannot control if/when T gets work. It’s as simple as that. I need to minimise fruitless dwelling on this, because it’s unproductive.

The house situation

I cannot control what the market does. How fast prices or rents rise. What rules the government/banks decide or don’t decide to impose on buyers. What the government does, or doesn’t do, about rental housing standards. How much competition there is for housing here – renting or buying.

I need to stop stalking real estate listings online. It does no good. It makes me depressed because we cannot afford to buy anything and we cannot afford to rent a good place – certainly not on one income as we are. And until I totally give up hope of ever buying, it’s imperative to keep rent cheap.

I stupidly got my hopes up last week. It was all sorts of rare: a private rental, so no agent fee; viewings at lunchtime but ALSO after work hours; a bit more than we really wanted to pay, but it looked so good we went along to the first evening viewing. It was nice but not enough to make the rent increase worth it, and there was already a FAT stack of completed rental applications on the counter anyway.

The car situation

I cannot control how long our car lasts or what else goes wrong with it.

Fun fact – it was totally brake-less for a while a few weeks ago. Thankfully that is now fixed, but there were already a million other issues and it just keeps deteriorating. Another fun fact: after maybe 4 years of owning it, we just found out that the engine was replaced at some point – a 2001-or-later engine sitting in a 1998 car. This explains why every time we’ve had to get parts for it or get anything done to the engine, it’s been a massive clusterfuck.

The conundrum, of course, is T needs a reliable car for work purposes but needs work to afford a car. We’re just going to have to wait until he’s back in work – no way am I draining cash savings for a vehicle. We were previously planning to get a loan for a decent car – I was waiting until he passed the trial period at work and had job security – but that situation turned toxic  and screwed up the timeline on that plan.

What else is bugging me? That T stupidly came off his motorbike last week and scraped himself up something terrible – basically nixing any hope of immediate temp work and saddling me with the housework on top of earning a crust to support the two of us. That we’re still waiting on about $250 in reimbursements from that toxic ex-job of his. That we have at least another three years of a government that doesn’t give a toss about renters. That I’m literally feeling a constant weight on my chest – my sternum – making it hard to breathe (whether this is a symptom of stress or just the cold – spring made a brief appearance then disappeared – I don’t know). That I didn’t fall in love with a millionaire. KIDDING. Still have a sense of humour.

I don’t like dwelling on this kind of stuff. I don’t want pity. I hate when people with a die-hard victim mentality go online just to bitch and moan and refuse to make any effort to help themselves.

I’m also conscious that I don’t want to paint NZ in broad brushstrokes – it’s a mild, clean, safe and beautiful place, and as one of the few NZ bloggers I know of, I want to represent my country fairly. But as you already know, it’s not cheap. And the state of housing is especially dreadful – I think it’s our biggest shame. Luckily for you, though, I think I’m almost all blogged out on that topic.

I’ll probably regret publishing this, but it’s been cathartic. I’d even venture to say it’s helped me let go of things.

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

I’m trying to focus on the good things. I’m earning more than I ever have before, even if I’m not seeing the actual bottom line benefits of that at the moment. Since T missed out on a good job that would’ve taken up all his weekends, at least we’ll be able to get outdoors in the weekends this summer and do stuff. And food, as always, is a guaranteed pick-me-up; the best 50 cents I’ve spent recently was on upgrading to a croissant roll with chicken and avocado, rather than a plain bread roll. When in doubt, eat, and make hay while your metabolism is still on your side. Mixed metaphors FTW.

Any advice on letting go of worries?

My Scarlett O’Hara declaration

My Scarlett O'Hara declaration

“I’ll never be hungry again!”

Say what you want about Scarlett, but she was one determined lass who always came out on top.

In that vein, here is my commitment to myself:

One day, the sooner the better, I will live in my own house. I will never scrub mould from the ceiling or walls again. Never see my breath in front of my face while indoors. Never come across a mushroom growing through the carpet. Never come home in winter and cross the threshold to find it just as cold inside as outside. Never get into the car only to find it warmer than indoors.

The next couple of years will tell whether buying a house is a possibility. Depends what life decides to lob our way. (If there’s one thing in life I hate, it’s not being able to plan.)

If not, I’ll have to come up with a backup strategy … one that somehow incorporates renting a decent, healthy and reasonably modern property to live in and raise kids in – such properties are expensive and rare – while ramping up retirement savings way more at the same time to compensate for the lack of home ownership.

Not too far off impossible, then.

Friday Five: Take these things and shove ‘em where the sun don’t shine

What’s been bugging me lately:

Rising prices

Now you can’t get a six-inch sub at Subway for under $5. Even the cheapest subs are now $5.70. DISLIKE.

Mexican food poseurs

You all know how passionately I feel about Mexican food (specifically, its absence here). I wish I could ban coworkers from uttering the names Mexican Cafe or Mexicali Fresh in my earshot.

Winter

I feel bad complaining, knowing most of you guys live places where it snows. But I don’t care. Given how cold our house is, I reckon it evens out (even T is wearing multiple layers indoors and complaining about the cold, and that, I can tell you, is a rarity). Who needs four seasons anyway? (Not that we really get four seasons in Auckland; it just starts getting colder and wetter around May or so.)

Technical debt

I was recently introduced to this term. You know how building anything involves choices and compromises – after all, you can’t get anything that’s good AND cheap AND fast? And how building, tweaking and fixing software creates a many-headed monster over a time? Yeah. I’m over it. Where’s our technical fairy godmother and her magic wand?

Humans being shitty to other humans

As we all know, there’s been a lot of spectacularly bad news happening this month. It makes me so, so sad. That’s about all I have to say on that front.

Travel snobbery I’m so over

 

A takedown of travel snobbery

Travellers are generally pretty cool. It goes with the territory – chilled, open-minded, etc.

But this is the internet, and it brings out the judgemental worst in us all.  

At risk of biting the hand that feeds (see also: Personal finance topics I’m so over), today’s rant is about the superior mentality some travel blogs like to take.

‘That cost you how much?! We spent way less than that…’

If you want to survive on as little as humanly possible, that’s your prerogative. If you can afford to travel in luxury and that’s the way you want to go, enjoy it. If you are mostly frugal but splash out on food, who are we to judge? Just because it’s possible to spend as little as $10 or 20 a day in some countries doesn’t mean you’re ‘doing it wrong’ if you choose to splurge some days. Even the cheapest countries cost money and I’m inclined to agree with Adam Seper on this one: “You can’t do/see anything on $10/day, no matter where you are.”

Being on the road for six months, we occupied a strange middle ground – one that fell somewhere between normal people who couldn’t fathom how we spent so little, and long-term (often permanent) travellers who berate me for spending so much.

Six months worked in well with legalities (visas and such) for the destinations we wanted to visit and our finances, among other things. It did mean we moved at a fast pace by RTW standards and therefore jacked up daily average spend but it was the perfect length for us.

(Also, the US is not the only country in the world. There are travel bloggers from other countries, who deal in currencies other than the greenback.)

Anyone with a bag bigger than a 25L backpack is doing it wrong

I liked the idea of travelling with only a carry-on, I really did. Then I learned just how tiny the dimensions are for carry-on luggage with some of the budget airlines. There was no way that was going to happen. Plus, our RTW flights (for all the long-haul journeys) included checked baggage anyway – it was only the shorter European flights we had to worry about. So I sucked it up and paid extra for baggage on those flights.

I wouldn’t consider myself high maintenance; I only had a couple pairs of shoes and a handful of pieces of clothing for six months – one of the benefits of travelling in warmer weather. But we did have a few other things like electronics and a sleeping bag to contend with, and I am a lazy, untrained packer who likes to haphazardly squash things in. Oh, and yes, I packed jeans, and yes, I wore them a ton!

We could certainly have bought smaller packs (ours were never completely full until towards the end, when we did all our shopping in the States) and learned how to use packing cubes and the like if needed, but I figured I would rather have the option of more room in case I needed it (this definitely came in handy at times).

Props to the super minimalists and pro packers. Travel is always easier with less stuff to transport – but different strokes for different folks. My 9kgs may seem excessive to seasoned nomads, although non-travellers always balked at how little we apparently had.

The ‘right’ way to travel

Like most things in life, travel is intensely personal. I was itching to get out of the Louvre after an hour; some people dream of visiting it their whole lives. I adore Venice, but plenty of people decry it as a tourist trap.

So-called ‘real travellers’ occasionally astound me with their close-minded snobbery. How about we let people experience travel however the hell they want? Not everyone has the luxury of slow travel – the ability or the DESIRE to travel for long periods – so let’s not give them shit for trying to get the most out of their time. We only had 3 months in Europe as per Schengen visa rules so yes, we were kinda speed-freak backpackers  over there as we wanted to fit as much in as we could – and it was a blast. When you’re from NZ,  Europe is a long and expensive journey away, so this was a one-off/rare shot for us.

Not everyone wants to stay in gritty guesthouses and hostels, no matter how authentic that might be, or volunteer on a farm, or teach English abroad. (We did all these things ourselves and had a blast … but they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea.)

Also, not everyone wants to spend months or years in developing nations no matter how cheap they are. After six weeks in southeast Asia we’d just about hit our limit in regards to heat and the environment in general. We spent too much on foreign food when we could no longer tolerate local food for every meal and found ourselves lingering longer in our air-conditioned rooms in the mornings as time went on. It was a grand adventure and amazing experience, but too far out of our comfort zone to spend months in.

I will wrap up with this:  “You can indeed have a narrow mind and a thick passport.” (Borrowed from William Chalmers, whose excellent list of 22 examples of travel snobbery is here.)