Bound to Happen

We knew it would happen.  It was bound to happen.  We figured, Japan, China, Vietnam–any place where the food was strange and the menus are in another language.  But no.  It happened here in safe, English speaking New Zealand–food poisoning!  After a rough night of sleep, Phil woke up feeling a little off kilter, which led to feeling awful as he “vommed” up the dinner from last night.  We didn’t go to some shady restaurant or anything.  This place was very highly rated on Trip Advisor.  And to be fair, the dinner was lovely, it was just the aftermath that left a little something to be desired.

We considered blaming Phil’s Aunt Joanne, who wanted to know if he had tried the lamb in New Zealand yet.  So, he ordered lamb.  Everyone can guess how that worked out.  I actually blame Phil, who touted cute pictures of lambs laying lazily in the fields as we drove through the countryside, then turned his back on them by eating lamb for dinner.  It is a bit of cosmic revenge, wouldn’t you agree?  Whoever is to blame, let’s just say it was a bit of a rough day for Phil, which is really too bad because it was a gorgeous, spring-like day here in Wellington.

Once we got Phil up and on his feet, we decided to take a drive along the Wellington coastline.  It is absolutely beautiful, with waves crashing against the shore, native birds swooping over the beach and people coming out in droves to enjoy the sunshine and uncharacteristically mild August day.  As we wound our way around the coast, we saw a sign for a penguin crossing!  How cool would it have been to see penguins!  Sadly, it was not meant to be.  However, we were able to glimpse the snow-capped mountains of the South Island as we looked out across Cook Strait.  Just seeing them made us even more sad we won’t be able to make it there on this trip.  Next time, I suppose.

What has been really great about today is getting to spend time with our lovely Air BnB hosts, Sara and Danny.  Knowing Phil wasn’t feeling up to par, Danny insisted we join them for a homemade dinner that “wouldn’t poison us.”  We sat on the deck, drinking wine and watching the sunset, as Danny cooked up a delicious dinner on the barbecue.  We talked about lots of cultural reference points regarding both America and New Zealand.  We were discussing all that we learned on our trip to the museum yesterday, when Sara brought up Danny’s film “Rage.”  Danny Mulheron is a director, actor and teacher at the Film Institute and he made a truly engrossing film about the 1981 Springbok Tour.  Never heard of it?  I hadn’t either until I visited New Zealand.  It is the fascinating story of the South African rugby team’s visit to New Zealand in 1981. Because South Africa engaged in apartheid, the Maori rugby players were not allowed to play against the Springbok when they played in South Africa.  Now that the team was visiting New Zealand, many citizens refused to stand by and support their racist policies.  The civil unrest that followed is fascinating and Danny captured it well on film.  We watched the movie alongside Danny and found it to be a very unique experience to screen a film with the director.  We have a lot more insight into his choices, the actors and the history of the story.  In short, we had an awesome evening!

Sadly, it seems our time in Wellington is winding down, as is our time in New Zealand.  Tomorrow, we begin the journey back north to Auckland.  We won’t make the drive all the way in one day, as it is rather far and don’t want to spend the whole day in the car.  We are just glad that Phil is feeling back to himself and we won’t have to change the name of our spaceship from “Vela” to “Vomit Comet”!


Categories: City Visits, Destinations, Driving, Eating, Health, New Zealand, Uncategorized, Unusual Experiences | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Thoughts on traveling in New Zealand so far

We wanted to quickly say that Brooke and I have been flattered and delighted by the number of views and comments we’ve received on the blog so far. We are really glad that people seem to be enjoying (or at least reading) our travel journal. As a reminder, if you’re interested in keeping up to speed (and don’t mind some more junk in your inbox) you can sign up to get an update via e-mail every time we update the blog which is about once a day. To do so, just click on the “follow this blog” link on the right hand side of the screen.

Baby lamb photographed from the side of the road!Our trek through New Zealand continued today as we’ve made our way to the southern tip of the North Island. Our spaceship is now docked in the capital city of Wellington. A day driving in rain ended with a stay overlooking the city and a warm bowl of soup and delicious pizza on Cuba Street in the heart of the city. Another day driving through rain and small towns on roads that you fear might turn to gravel made us twice as glad to arrive. We look forward to explore New Zealand’s most hyped city.

We touched down in New Zealand a week ago and now we’re getting the hang of adapting to the long-term travel lifestyle. Turns out that all I really need to start the day has been a hot shower with good water pressure. Success at at every stop so far. And all Brooke needs is just a solid cup of coffee somewhere along the way. We’ve also found that living in New York City for the last six years has prepared us well for this trip. Dealing with nighttime noise, small beds, smaller hotel rooms, navigating public transportation and even discussing living in NYC (a city that everyone knows and has a thought on) has all worked to our advantage. And, of course, I’ve been blessed with the perfect travel partner who is helping to make this trip amazing each day.

Over the past week, it’s been a blast to soak up all the small differences that we’ve found so far while traveling. I’m getting pretty quick at converting kilometers to miles, centigrade to farenheit and US dollars to New Zealand dollars, but still get thrown for a loop when I have to figure out how much $7.99 NZD per Kg of zucchini really is. There are lots of small but unique contrasts in language, social behavior, and more that we thought were worth sharing.

Coffee for a long drive to Wellington!The first lesson we learned is that coffee is a whole new ballgame here. While there are vibrant, independent coffee houses every two blocks in New Zealand, ordering a cup of black coffee will only reward you with a confused look from the barista. Thanks to our new friend Jason, we’ve learned that a “long black” is what we’re after. It is basically a shot of espresso topped off with steaming hot water. Delicious and strong but not cheap. The minimum we’ve paid for a solid cup of joe has been about $3.50. And there are never refills. American coffee may be living up to the cliché of being on par with mud in comparison, but at least you can get it by the gallon for a couple of of bucks at the local gas station.

Another thing we’ve noticed is that although everyone speaks English, we keep stumbling across some different words. In all public buildings, restrooms are just called the toilet. Which makes us feel relatively crass when we ask “Where is your toilet?” when at a restaurant. Sort of on par to “Point me to the crapper!” but it gets the job done. You “hire” a car instead of “rent.” On a menu, appetizers are called entrees. And entrees are called mains. When spoken aloud, websites such as is referred to as “dub dub dub Rugby dot co dot en-zed”which is just fun.

Paying for purchases is also a bit different. Everyone takes credit card, but entering a pin number is much more common when you charge a purchase. Signing is decidedly against the norm and they check our signature against the signature on the card every single time. Since no one ever checked in the US, I would sometimes sign faux names like “Johnny Tellyawhattodo.” That won’t fly here.

Lastly, the people we’ve met so far are an incredibly friendly, well traveled bunch who are endlessly hospitable. It’s interesting to hear how they see America. It gives us some perspective on our own country. For example, we forget that, say, since Texas is almost nothing like Maine, 50 different states really does translate to 50 different mini-countries.

Overall, we are glad we started with New Zealand, because even though there are some small and interesting differences, we can generally clear up any confusion by asking a few questions. We are intimidated by our anticipation of how this will work in the next several countries we’ll be in (Japan, China, Vietnam, Singapore) where English will be much harder to come by. I guess we’ll find out soon enough!


Categories: Cell Phones, China, Discounts, Diversions, Health, Museums, New Zealand, Wardrobe | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

More on Getting Vaccinated

In a recent post, we wrote about the process of getting vaccinated and immunized for our upcoming trip. Just the other day, we completed the final steps of getting our shots, pills and more. Thus far, this process has been one of the more cumbersome and time consuming affairs to prep for the trip. While at the medical Center on Monday, we certainly got the impression that they don’t have a ton of people coming in for world travel vaccinations. There was revolving confusion, waiting and more waiting. Once back from our trip, we look forward to leisurely paced suburban medical practitioners. You know:  Giant fish tanks. Friendly nurses. Etc.

Typhoid and more

The precautionary steps that Dr. Park recommended included three series of shots to prevent diseases that I’ve only really read about and some that I can barely spell (Hepatitis A, Polio Booster and Japanese Encephalitis), one oral vaccine prescription (Typhoid), and one set of pills to prevent…um…gastrointestinal emergencies (Ciprofloxacin –made famous by the Anthrax scare which also has an efficacy to treat diarrhea). We topped it off with a regimen consisting of boatloads of Dramamine for motion-sick-prone Brooke. Trust us, with sixteen different flights scheduled – she needs it.Getting Vaccines

The nurse was actually a lot of fun. She told us a few jokes to distract from the combined the six pricks that we received in a few minutes. The shots were overall painless with relatively small needles. One burned just a little bit, but other than that it hurt less than a Tetanus shot and only the Hepatitis burned for a second.

All in all, it put a pretty hefty dent in the wallet: Almost $400 per person. Oof. Insurance should help pay back for a couple of the shots which helps. Are the odds high that we would have contracted these illnesses had we not taken the time and cost to get immunized? Who knows. Probably not very high and we’ll be taking other precautions to stay healthy. But one of the big reasons that we’re taking this tip is because we didn’t want to look back regretting something we didn’t do. And, let’s face it—contracting a horrible, debilitating case of Japanese Encephalitis somewhere in Vietnam because we didn’t get a vaccine falls into the same category.

Now, I have to end this post in order to go to the fridge to take my semi-daily Typhoid vaccine. Hunh.  That’s something I never thought I would type.



Categories: Health, Insurance, Trip Prep, Vaccines | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Travel Insurance

One of the many items on our pre-trip checklist was securing travel insurance for the voyage. First we asked ourselves “do we really need travel insurance?” After all, the insurance is just one more cost. And we’re healthy folks who can handle just about anything, right? After researching and talking with others, it turns out that the answer is an unequivocal resounding “Yes.” For the endless number of possible scenarios that could turn an easy going day in Buenos Aires to a long night in an Argentine hospital, insurance is a must have.

Hunting for the right insurance plan was a whole process in itself. There are dozens of plans that cover hundreds of scenarios. Travel Guard Chartis, CSA Travel Protection and The Divers Alert Network (DAN) are three well regarded and well-reviewed companies we found. We had success using the Travel Insurance aggregate site Squaremouth to sort through the plans.

The particular package that we ended up purchasing has similar coverage as those offered by most other plans. Practical offerings that should keep us covered in a handful of relatively likely scenarios: Travel Delay, Baggage Delay, Personal Items Loss, Life Insurance and 24-Hour Assistance Service. But the biggest coverage for us, the one that is more important than all others combined, is the Emergency Medical Insurance and Medical Evacuation & Repatriation. A lost bag we can deal with. Needing to get back to America ASAP due to an unexpected, horrific and terrifying emergency medical condition is where we would likely need a big helping hand.

We ended up choosing the Travel Guard Platinum from Chartis primarily because they’ve earned top marks on taking care of everything when a medical situation arrives after your day has taken a dramatic turn for the worse. No hospital co-pay, all paperwork covered and if something crazy happens where you need to be flown back home (Repatriation), they handle every single step. Most standard healthcare insurance plans offered by companies do NOT include the repatriation part and can be hit or miss with health care coverage abroad.

We recommend scouring through the plans, fine print and costs to find one that is tailored for your specific trip needs. For example, we had absolutely no need for “Employment Layoff” coverage, but the “Missed Connection” might come in handy to pay for a night in a hotel if needed. We also got a kick out of reading some of the disclaimers. Such as the horrifying yet humorous details on what percentage of your life insurance you’ll be compensated for losing just one leg or a finger & a thumb on a flight. Another example, you may receive compensation if your trip is interrupted by a Hurricane or Tropical storm, but only IF that storm has already been named.  Also, we are NOT covered if we need insurance because we were inciting a riot in another country or competing in a professional sporting contest abroad. Oh, insurance people. You know us so well.


Categories: Doccuments, Health, Insurance, Packing, Trip Prep | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Getting Vaccinated

Not surprisingly, prepping for this big trip of a lifetime has required a fair amount of effort, planning and time. Working hard to take four months off has been our marching orders over the last few weeks. One of the more important chores on our to do list is making sure that we’re set on all the vaccines, immunizations , booster shots, and anything else needed when you’re doing a bit of globe hopping. Ensuring we’re set for healthy travel has ended up being one of the more time-consuming but incredible necessary rigmaroles thus far.

We both have the same general physician: Dr. Jayson Park at Beth Israel Medical Center.  For years, Dr. Park has been attentive, helpful and just a quality Doctor to have in your corner. After a few comprehensive conversations and a thorough review of the countries and regions we’re visiting, Dr. Park was able to prescribe a small battery of shots and oral medications. While there were some risks in rural parts of Argentina and Croatia, it really is our planned visits to China and Vietnam that got us. If not for those two countries, it looks like we could have bypassed this hassle and cost altogether. As it is, below is what the doctor ordered:

  • Typhoid vaccine: Oral prescription for four days and good for  four years. Easy enough.
  • Adult Polio booster. Learned that shots when you’re a child are apparently not enough.
  • Hepatitis A vaccine series:  Two shot series.  One now and the second booster in six months.  First shot is to takes care of us now and gives us sweet, sweet immunity for travel.  Second shot is to get lifelong immunity.
  • Japanese encephalitis:  For the risk that we’ll have in Vietnam.
  • Ciprofloxacin. Unique, international food will likely sometimes give us a bit of traveler’s diarrhea. Symptoms include acute abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea and lots of Phil whining. Should help immensely and immediately.

Much to our chagrin, our insurance (and apparently most insurance plans) cover very little of this. Our costs may total $300 + a person. But the other option is, you know, running the outside risk of getting Typhoid. And that doesn’t sound like much fun at all. For those curious, we apparently don’t need a Malaria Prophylaxis, Rabies Shot or Yellow Fever vaccine at all. Hooray!

There is a lot to get excited for in planning this trip, but there are certainly some pain-in-the-ass-realities like this we’re working to tackle as well. Hoping they give us a delicious lollypop after our shots.

Categories: Health, Medical, Trip Prep | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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