Random Thoughts

It’s always a good time

Greetings from the YHA Hostel in Taupo, New Zealand. Brooke and I just wrapped up a home made dinner and some time in the community lounge watching, of all things, Adam Sandler’s “Grown Ups” with some fellow travelers. Taupo brings us the smallest room stay to date (you might have to step outside to change your mind), but it is clean, cozy, comfortable and friendly so it will work out nicely. We are learning that we prefer hostels and services like AirBnB to hotels since they have kitchens, community areas and a more unique atmosphere. Besides, when you’ve seen one Hampton Inn room, you’ve probably seen them all.

Maps getting us from place to placeToday was mainly a travel day which meant a day of Vela trekking through some towns and some more windy roads in a bit of unrelenting rain past plenty of contented sheep. Driving in the rain makes us sleepy, but State Route 1 took us through plenty of small interesting towns. For example, we drove through a town called Bulls which has a sign welcoming us to (this is true): “Bulls – A town like no udder.” They also had garbage cans that said “Be Responsi-bull.” Hah! You know I love a good pun. The time in the car is always scenic since the terrain changes every 150 miles. Today, we drove through the “desert road” section of the North Island, which was mostly just brown. Not so much with sand. Our spaceship also took us past Mt. Tongariro which had erupted last week but is quiet now. Hoping to avoid a bunch of that. As Brooke keeps saying, while it would make for a good travel story, we don’t need a story that good!

The Silver Fern -Painted on the table at our Hostel

The Silver Fern -Painted on the table at our Hostel

Our New Zealand discoveries continue. This week, we’ve happened across Vogel bread and Vogel cereals which is the pride of the Kiwis. Native to New Zealand, it is beloved and delicious. We also learned that “Old Blighty” is an excellent slang term for England. Yup, when we come home, we’re going to be those people who refer to garbage as rubbish, calling someone as ringing someone and England as Old Blighty. Oh, and from now on, a Zip Line is a Flying Fox. That’s right. I’m also learning about rocker Johnny Devlin – New Zealand’s hip-swinging answer to Elvis Presley in he 1960’s.

Look! A Gum named after me!

Check it out! The kind people of New Zealand and Wrigley’s have named a chewing gum after me!

Wanted to end the post today with something a little bit different. Below are some YouTube videos (sorry e-mail subscribers–you’ll have to go to http://www.luggagetagtravels.com to view these) of sites we’ve seen in New Zealand that just quite weren’t the same in photos. Something to mark our second to last night in New Zealand!

-Phil

Categories: Driving Abroad, Eating, Exploring, Hotels, New Zealand, Random Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Wellington, New Zealand

On the Cable CarDuring our time in New Zealand, we’ve slowly made our way south on the North Island. We started in Auckland, the largest city in the country, and now we are exploring Wellington, the nation’s capital. After one full day we can say with great confidence, Wellington is a wonderful city and probably the first city we’ve visited where we could imagine ourselves living. Unlike Auckland, Wellington has character and personality. It has a vibrant pulse and a livelihood that Auckland really lacks. We can’t get enough!

Wellington is a big city, with a very urban vibe, but it doesn’t feel overwhelming or intimidating. Situated on the coast of the Cook Strait and in the hills of the Rimutaka Mountain Range, its winding roads and steep hills are remniscent of San Francisco. Not only that, but the independent shops, restaurants and bars give it a very cool feeling that reminds us of the best parts of the Lower East Side in New York City.

So sleepy!We began our day at Te Papa, the National Museum of New Zealand. The new building and modern exhibits immediately impressed us. We were especially amazed by the holographic explanation of life on the boats of the Maori people when they first arrived in New Zealand. Another fascinating exhibit taught us about the fight for equality regardless of race, sexuality or gender. Their struggles are strikingly similar to those in America, though in many ways we are finding New Zealand’s ideals far more progressive. For example, they are an anti-nuclear country which caused a split in alliance with the U.S. in the early 80’s. Also, they have a member of parliament who is openly transsexual. Fascinating.

Grip Car 2After the museum, we wound our way through the city centre to Wellington’s famous cable car. Because this is such a hilly town, the government decided at the turn of the 19th century to build a cable car to help open up some of the neighborhoods in the hills to the shopping district downtown. It still gets used today by both residents who are heading home or to university and also by tourists like us who want to get a great view of the city. It has a rich history, and visiting the museum at the top was really interesting. The ride was a little freaky because the hills are quite steep, but it was totally worth it. The views from the top are amazing and if you are interested, you can also visit the nearby botanical garden and observatory.

Wellington

After such a busy day, we navigated our way back home using the city’s extensive bus system. When I say “home” of course I mean the home where we are staying. Our stop in Wellington is our first time using Air BnB. This method of finding accomodation lies somewhere between couch surfing and staying in hostels. People who have a room available in their homes post it on Air BnB, and then people can book it like a hotel room (though often for a much more affordable rate). We are staying with Sara and Danny, who have a beautiful home in the hills above Wellington. The views are amazing and they have been super welcoming. Danny and Phil spent much of last night testing each other’s trivia knowledge over a few glasses of wine. There is something really nice about staying at someone’s house, especially when it is as nice as this one is! Plus they’ve ensured us that it is safe to be here in an earthquake because it is a wooden home, therefore it will bend with the motion of the Earth. By the way, did you know Wellington is on a major fault line and regularly experiences earthquakes? We didn’t either!Awesome house!

After our lovely day in Wellington, we’ve decided that we need a little more time here. Phil found an amazing vintage/record shop called Vanishing Point and I know he wants to go back. We feel like we’ve only just begun exploring all the cute shops and interesting bars and cafes. Because of this, we are extending our time here for one more day. That is what is so wonderful about this trip. If we hate a place, we leave. If we love it, we stay a little longer. We really can’t go wrong!

-Brooke

Categories: City Visits, Destinations, Diversions, Exploring, Friends, Hotels, Museums, New Zealand, Random Thoughts, Self Guided Tours, Transportation, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Away we go!

Last night, I enjoyed a delicious homemade dinner on a back patio with some of my family. In a way, it was the quintessential American home cooked meal: Pork Chops from the grill, chopped & sautéed summer veggies, succulent corn on the cob and more. About halfway through dinner, whilst picking corn out of my teeth, it dawned on me that this is the last homemade American-style dinner for quite a while. Starting tomorrow, I stop carrying keys or anything around in my pocket. I’ve stopped sleeping in my own, comfortable bed.Very soon, I will stop being able to speak the local language. And all my cash is going to be in funny colors. In short, tomorrow Brooke and I are going stop doing what we’re used to and start diving into the unknown.

After all this yapping, planning and anticipating about the trip, we’re less than 12 hours out from our first flight. Amazing. Intimidating. Daunting. And then exciting all over again. It’s here, baby. (Some last minute shopping aside…I still need to procure a second dang money belt.) I’m ready to expand my horizons a touch, enrich my life if I’m lucky and come back with a treasure chest of memories. Embarking on the trip of a lifetime is right around the corner.

There is so much that is just unknown about this trip and that, in part, is what makes this all so damn electrifying.  Where will we be sleeping in Scotland? What will we be feasting on in Zagreb, Croatia? How on earth does an ATM work in China? Even the stars above our heads are going to look different when we’re in the southern hemisphere. But I am ready.  It has been an astounding amount of fun planning this trip over the last few months and getting set for it all. Every morning I feel like waking up and shouting, “What’s next?” This massive doings that began as idle conversation a long time ago is now, suddenly, somehow, unlikely, here. We are going to be travelers on a journey around the world for the next few months. Exciting. Well, surreal and exciting. It’s going to be a whole new way to spend our days. And we hope you guys enjoy following our journey through this blog. For now, however, I think I’ll catch a couple of innings of Reds baseball while I can.

-Phil

Categories: Eating, Flights, Random Thoughts, Trip Prep | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nerves

So, we are less than one week from the start of our RTW trip and I have a confession:  I’m nervous.  It is hard for me to pinpoint exactly why I’m nervous, but I am.  I’ve never traveled in this way before—we will be gone for almost four months and much of that time is unplanned.  Yes, we have hotels booked for each city we fly into, that way we have a place to go from the airport, but after that who knows what we’ll see and do?  That is awesome.  That is exactly how we want it to be.  However, I think that is also what is causing some trepidation.

I think it is inevitable that there will be days when we don’t know where we will be laying our head that night.  What happens when it is 9:00 PM and we still don’t have a place to stay?  Can I handle that lack of predictability?  Will I end up getting upset and will Phil and I end up fighting because of my discomfort with the situation?  I imagine when this happens we will end up having to stay in some real fleabag motels or we will end up shelling out too much money and staying in a far nicer place than we planned.  Ultimately none of this really matters—no matter what, everything will work out fine, and if it isn’t all smooth sailing, well it will make for a great memory.  Intellectually, I know this is true.  However, I think I won’t fully understand it until we actually begin our journey and have these types of experiences.

Don’t get me wrong, I am so excited for our trip.  We have been planning and talking about it for so long and it is finally here!  There is just so much that is unknown—I guess it is natural to be a little nervous.  Hopefully when I’m drinking my first Steinlager beer in New Zealand, I will take a deep breath, toast to my husband, and my nerves will melt away.

–Brooke

Categories: Budget, New Zealand, Random Thoughts, Reflections, Trip Prep | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Homesick

So, last night I watched the Fourth of July fireworks from a house we are renting in Westhampton, NY.  They broadcast the fireworks live from NYC…I must say, it was quite an impressive show.  Nearly 30 minutes of beautiful displays of light and color all set to patriotic, and sometimes cheesy music.  Here’s the thing—as we were sitting there watching the fireworks I realized something.  I think I’m going to be homesick while we are on our trip.  There was something about watching the fireworks display, especially when they played the Armed Forces Medley that made me realize I’m going to miss America.  I think I’m going to be very excited to return home.

When I mentioned this to Phil, he asked me what I would miss the most.  That’s a tough question.  I think I’ll miss my friends and my family, of course.  I’ll miss my favorite foods and the comfort of my own bed.  But more than anything, I think I’ll miss that familiarity that is home.  I’m trying to prepare myself for this now so it isn’t such a shock when it happens.

One way we are preparing ourselves is by sleeping in other beds.  Weird, right?  Well, we realized that we wouldn’t be sleeping in our own bed for a really long time, and we needed to get used to sleeping in unfamiliar places.  Waking up and not immediately recognizing where we are.  Shaking ourselves out of that hazy sleep and figuring out what city we are in.  So, the next few days, we sleep in a bed in Westhampton, NY (pretty comfy, though a little bit bouncy).  We will have3 more nights in our own bed, in our own apartment, and then, it’s different beds in different cities until December!  It is daunting and exciting, and will be a workout for our back muscles, but overall, I think it will be totally worth it.  Just imagine how awesome it will be when we set up our new apartment in Louisville, KY, take out our bed which has been in storage for months and sleep on it that first time, only to dream about the adventures we just had while traveling around the world.  Amazing!

-Brooke

Categories: Homesick, KY, Moving, Random Thoughts, Trip Prep | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Getting Closer

We’re just a couple of weeks away from boarding a China Southern 777 plane at LAX that’s Guangzhou bound (en route to New Zealand) and raising a glass of champagne just before take off.  At that point, we’ll be celebrating the official kick off on a journey we’ve been planning for a long time.

I look forward to not having keys in my pockets for the better part of four months. I anticipate waking up and occasionally not remembering exactly which country I’m in that day. I am excited to be able to discern how Vietnam Coffee compares with Argentine Mate. I want to learn how to say “Thank You” in Hungarian. I’m ready for the challenge of trying to watch at least one World Series game in Scotland and watch at least one real Caber Toss. These are remarkable days indeed.

-Phil

Categories: LA, Random Thoughts, Trip Prep | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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