Posts Tagged ‘travel’
Here’s a truism if there ever was one: Travel widens your horizons.
You can know a lot of things intellectually, theoretically – but often you can’t really grasp them until you’ve experienced them firsthand. Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone?
What would my ideal city be? I’m still stumped. Somewhere warm, but not punishingly hot. That poses a problem for T, though. We would prefer to live at opposite ends of the globe in that sense – I’d decamp to a sunny island, he to Antarctica. Other criteria:
- Somewhere with advanced transport – a comprehensive metro system.
- Somewhere with diverse, awesome and affordable food options, including a range of ethnic choices.
- Somewhere with cheap/free entertainment options year round.
- Somewhere with proximity to beaches, and maybe bush, mountains, etc.
- Somewhere that doesn’t have a sky high cost of living, or at least a place where incomes and costs are in line, proportionally speaking.
I’ve yet to find this magical city, and I fear it does not exist.
While New York is now my absolute favourite destination in the world, it’s not my forever city. Sure, it seems like a fabulous place to live in your 20s, but long term… probably not so much.
Toronto was another city T and I found ourselves nodding at. Canada seems pretty close to perfect as a country goes; it has the good stuff you enjoy in the US (low prices, a range of ethnic cuisines, good customer service) and none of the bad (guns, healthcare, lack of employee rights, the imperial system, litigiousness – did anyone else adore that Don monologue to the lawyer in The Newsroom?). But the weather! I doubt I’d survive a single Canadian winter.
I thought I would return home either with a newfound fervent love for New Zealand, or the exact opposite. Turns out, it’s a grudging mix of both, tilted slightly in favour of the former.
My city has its faults. But I also need to appreciate what we do have.
- Auckland has ridiculously unpredictable and rainy weather, but it’s milder than almost anywhere else in the world. A variance of about 15 degrees from hottest to coldest really isn’t very much at all. Many parts of the world have it so much worse; sure, they have lovely hot, dry summers, but by the same stroke, bitter, snowy winters.
- We have the most pathetic excuse for public transport, but we aren’t under CCTV surveillance everywhere we go. Nor do we have armed police.
- We have no squirrels, but also, we have no scary/poisonous creatures (or even plants) that are out to get you.
- It’s hard to get ahead if you’re part of the squeezed middle class, but we do have a reasonably laid back and egalitarian culture.
- We don’t have anywhere near the variety of cuisines that bigger international cities have to offer (though that’s sloooooowly improving), but at least we don’t put high fructose corn syrup in everything.
- Everything costs a lot. There’s no getting around that. But, erm, at least we don’t add sneaky taxes at the till?
I realise things in Auckland are unlikely to change. We are too small for mass transit; we don’t have the density and possibly never will. We like our houses, detached ones. (That goes for me, too.) It’s a city that’s desirable enough that prices keep steady or continue to increase; there’s still enough money around, both local and international, to feed this – even if the rest of us get left behind and priced out. We are too small for competition in consumer markets and far away from other countries – the tyranny of distance still exists for certain kinds of goods.
Living in New Zealand really is a lifestyle choice. Now, at least I’m a heck of a lot more aware of the sacrifices I’m making in exchange for what I get.
What tradeoffs do you make to live where you live? Have you found your forever city?
Tags: life, reflections, travel
Tags: photos, travel, usa
In which I pay tribute to a few instances where we got great service with minimal drama.
Burrito Boyz in Toronto
Mucked up our order, giving us a spicy instead of a mild. Made up a new burrito and let us have both (win!)
Uno Pizzeria, Chicago
I had a total ‘duh’ moment and realised I’d ordered the wrong size pizza. Turned out it was too late to change things in the kitchen, but our waitress only charged us for the smaller portion in the end.
Outback Restaurant, Irvine
Waitress forgot all about T’s beer, and brought it by after we’d finished our meals. (We still haven’t got the hang of making a fuss about that sort of thing.) Apologies flowed, and she didn’t charge us for it.
Earl of Sandwich, Disneyland
I brought some snacks along with us, but spending a whole day here necessitated the purchase of some food. It took a little psyching up, but I ballsed up and spoke up, as they messed up my order and gave me a horrible flavour combination I didn’t want any part of. I got the right sandwich in the end – and got to keep the other one (which I did also eat most of, and it was indeed revolting).
T-Mobile, somewhere in LA
Instead of charging us $10 to change our card (we needed to downsize ours from a micro to a nano sim), the sales guy gave it to us for free after hearing we would only be in the country for a few more days.
And while I’m on the topic, two thumbs up (and one thumbs down) to Slingshot, the NZ ISP. I gave up on their signup process as the system insisted my credit card details were invalid, went to eat dinner, and after that, decided to revive my existing account with Orcon instead. Saving roughly $50 over 12 months was not worth the headache with Slingshot. Alas, Slingshot called me right after I got off the phone with Orcon (and apparently tried calling a couple of times while I was on the phone) to see if they could help me finish the signup process. Sorry, guys, if you’d been 10 minutes earlier…! Not impressed, though, that Slingshot kept bugging me with multiple calls a couple of days later (last night). Enough is enough, and I hope that’s the end of that. I will definitely reconsider at the end of our contract, but for now I’m set.
Had any amazing/terrible customer service lately?
Tags: photos, travel, usa
Out of an entire week in Paris, we managed one day under budget (and that’s one more than I expected, to be quite honest). We more or less stayed in our Airbnb apartment, watched movies, cooked at home and relaxed.
Confessing that feels strange; it feels like admitting to having wasted a perfectly good day in an amazing foreign city. But the thing is, you need ‘weekends’ while travelling, too. Being on the go all the time, while not ‘work’ in the typical sense of meetings + endless emails + squinting at a screen, does take it out of you.
(Let’s not get into the fast travel vs slow travel debate here. Rushing around trying to cram three days of sights into 12 hours isn’t for everyone, but neither is flying halfway across the world only to be stuck inside working and not getting to see anything at all, while proclaiming you’re a ‘real’ traveller because you’re living like a local. Yes, there’s something to be said for simply BEING in a new and exotic place … but that only goes so far.)
T and I are naturally slothful creatures. That quickly became apparent while we were away, too. Somehow, it worked out that we had a day off once a week, more or less (sometimes two). Whether we were in Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh, Edinburgh, Berlin, Bologna, Athens, Grindelwald, New York, New Orleans, or Flagstaff, we carved out time to sleep in, watch movies, and recharge just as we would in daily life.
Bonus: if you freelance, those are the perfect days to catch up on work.
Tags: reflections, travel
Much as I loved the coastal cities, when it comes to natural beauty, the Southwest blew my mind. I love a good desert landscape, and you guys did not disappoint. I can’t decide whether I love New Mexico’s white sands or Arizona’s red deserts more! Here’s some of my favourite shots from the region.
There’s the red rocks of Sedona…
The can’t-quite-believe-what-I’m-seeing painted cliffs…
That big ol’ hole in the ground, the Grand Canyon
And the surreally blinding White Sands. I can’t believe entry is only three bucks.
Tags: travel, usa
Tags: canada, photos, travel
There’s something about the cover of night that lends a sinister air to, well, anything. Like when I’m out for an evening run and the sun sets faster than I expected, I find myself picking up the pace just a little, hoping to beat darkness home.
A few weeks before we left for our trip, I was walking through downtown at night. I saw a swarthy, scruffy looking guy approach a young girl at the bus stop. I was walking past at the time, but I slowed down and kept looking over my shoulder to see what was happening, relaxing only once he walked away. I don’t know what I would’ve done if he’d tried anything – screamed? Rushed back to confront him? – but I felt somewhat obligated to keep an eye on that particular encounter.
In KL I was urged not to make the 5-10 minute walk to Times Square from our hotel alone by my friend. My parents, who still keep up with headlines back in Malaysia, always seem to be relaying news of some stabbing, kidnapping or home invasion.
In Bangkok, and Naples, and Athens, I always heeded my aunt’s warning to hold my bag close to my body. Busy spots like Times Square and the Trevi Fountain always seemed like prime spots for pick pocketers to haunt. I never went as far as to carry a fake wallet to deter any would-be muggers, though.
In six months away, however, I never once felt actively uneasy about my personal safety. That may have had something to do with the fact I almost always had T with me, who cuts a reasonably imposing figure. I definitely looked like a tourist, with my camera, day pack, and often, my trusty zipoff travel pants. It’s probably worth noting that we didn’t venture into any ‘dangerous’ territory, sticking to stable, fairly popular destinations. Safe travel is much easier when you follow well worn trails.
I have to admit that we took a few risks, getting more and more lax towards the end. The more cautious traveller might lug a laptop around all day in tropical heat; we almost always left ours back in our hotel rooms, many of which didn’t have safety deposit boxes. In the US, I stopped wearing my passport pouch under my clothes, leaving it in my bag instead (I did have digital and paper backups of the important pages, though).
You always think that these are things that happen to other people. Even to experienced travellers, sometimes! In hindsight, there really was no excuse for my slacking off. I am immensely grateful that we had such good luck with weather, political stability (no riots, uprisings, and no real impact from the US government shutdown) and safety. The closest we got to any whiff of crime was Sunday brunch at a restaurant about a block away from this shooting in San Francisco.
So when I’m asked about any mishaps we had along the way, really, the worst I have to point to is the infamous ceiling fan incident. It could be worse.
Do you have any travel horror stories to impart?
Tags: photos, travel, usa
is absolutely astounding.
I envisioned couchsurfing across Europe; we ended up hostelling and hoteling. (We did surf a few times though, and hosts generously drove us to the train station/lent us bikes/gave up their beds for us). I then envisioned us couchsurfing across North America, and instead, we ended up staying with so many generous blog friends. Not to mention the many others who took the time to show us around, take us out to eat, or put together adorable goody bags/welcome packs for us.
We also miss your pets! We’ve met so many awesome dogs along the way, which was such an eye-opener for me; to date, almost all the dogs I’ve ever encountered back home are outside dogs that belong to, erm, Westie trash types and fall into one or more of the following categories: dirty/mangy/loud/ill-behaved/scary. By contrast, I now know that clean, housetrained, inside dogs DO exist.
I think it was a little weird for T, but he quickly got used to the idea that we’d be meeting semi-strangers in almost every city we visited. There was Manda in DC, Sandy in Massachussetts, Asian Pear / Save Spend Splurge in Toronto, Windy City Gal in Chicago, Athena / Funny About Money in Phoenix, Revanche / Untemplater / Financial Samurai in SF, Tiny Apartment / Erika / Stacking Pennies / Tonya in LA. I can’t forget Lesley in Iceland (formerly of 23toLife.com), either, plus we narrowly missed a few others along the way (so close!): Leslie, Amber, Daisy, Katie, Stephanie (I’m really hoping I haven’t forgotten anyone! Eek!)
I can’t thank you guys enough, and hopefully we’ll be able to return one day to relive the magic. It’s probably going to be quite awhile before we leave NZ again though … so, come see us soon. Okay?
Tags: reflections, travel