Awkward and Awesome

As some of you may know, The Daybook is queen of this subject but I’m going to do my NZ version because traveling abroad brings about all things awkward and awesome.


-Dustin confusing Iran with Israel. “Did you say you were from Iran?” Oops.

-A Swedish couple asking me all about the election and concerned that I wasn’t there to vote…

-children throwing temper tantrums that are way too old for that

-sitting right across from someone on the train (eye contact? no eye contact?)

-making a joke about our 1998 cell phones and the person pulls out a very similar style. “oh well they’re great, too! I don’t waste as much time and iphones are overrated…”

-strategically placing my under wear on our shared clothes line hoping no one drives up as I’m doing said chores

-the convection oven broke while we were making our garlic bread, we burned our popcorn in the microwave and we ordered 4 boxes of pizza in one night…our landlord seemed concerned

-ordering 4 large pizzas ($3.99/each) and then eating from the boxes stacked in our car for 4 days…ok I stand corrected, that’s awesome b/c I love pizza

-Dustin making a joke about pupu springs – the lady didn’t laugh

-ordering a decaf macchiato thinking it was a mochachino…turns out a macchiato is a shot of caffeine or in my case a shot of decaf coffee

-“where are you from?” Texas. “oh, I don’t judge all Texans from George Bush. Some of you are actually pretty cool!”

-asking a couple to take our picture and right before the snap she said in broken English…”you lookalike Ken and Barbie!” Not so much awkward but more like funny.


-skyping with friends and family

-the warmth and generosity of everyone we have met so far

-hitchhiking with two sweet old ladies

-finding a lady that sells fresh tortillas and salsa

-finding a church your first week with an awesome group of believers all your age…God is so good!

-round a bouts – no stopping, continuous traffic…FANTASTIC.

-lots of gluten free options in restaurants and bakeries

-after finding a lot of common interests with a girl she said, “ok, to solidify our friendship…what’s your take on Anthropologie?” Yep, we’re friends.

-getting 6 job offers after looking for jobs for only 4 days!

-garlic aioli sauce…kinda like ranch…yummm.

-lots of great local hike and bike trails (hiking is pretty fun!)

-living an hour away from one of the best national parks in NZ

-living in a foreign country but oddly feeling right at home


Waitomo Caves

After deciding to head south for the summer, we mapped out a fun little trip through the North Island. Our first stop was probably the most touristy thing we’ve done so far but I just really wanted to go! When I had heard about a glow worm cave in the states, I had my heart set on seeing it so Dustin, even though he hates super touristy spots, willingly made it our first stop of the day. We had 2 options to see these supposed glow worms. Option #1 was to repel into the cave, crawl through tiny holes and then sit in a tube in dark, cold cave water (with eels) for about 3-4 hours. Option #2 was to walk through the well lit cave through large openings and ride in a dry canoe to see the glow worms which only took about an hour. Hmmm…can you guess who wanted to do which option?? We didn’t have 3-4 hours (shucks!) but Dustin was still really glad we went! The glow worms looked like tiny little stars and we ended up getting our own private tour because they underestimated the size of our group. There is a part of the new movie, “The Hobbit” that was filmed in the cave so we are excited to look out for that scene. Since we weren’t allowed to take any pictures, here are a few from their website. Stay tuned for the rest of our adventure…


Penny the Pulsar

We were ready to get a car since we had BIG bags that we were hauling around. It was probably quite humorous seeing two Americans walking down the street with 5 big bags between the two of us. And yes, you can definitely tell the difference! We have unknowingly been sizing everyone up to see if they’re Americans. I saw two girls with blonde highlights, fake nails and Ugg boots at Starbucks. Dead give away! Kiwi’s love their coffee and Starbucks isn’t an acceptable coffee shop around these parts.

The power of prayer has been so important in this whole process. Before we ever began planning this trip, we prayed -asking God to open or close doors wherever necessary. Asking for His hand in everything and His guidance in every decision we make has made the job, apartment and car hunt a lot easier. For me, it’s not always easy to remember that but every time I can look back on things we prayed for and see God’s hand right in the middle of it. He provided us an apartment almost to the exact day that we needed it in the perfect location in between our wedding and our departure. One of the biggest things that I have realized since being here is asking God with confidence to lead us where we need to be, having faith that He cares and He will provide even if it isn’t what we had hoped for. Dustin is a great spiritual leader in our family and seeing his faith in God’s guidance has strengthened my confidence in God’s will. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Unfortunately, there weren’t even any cute campervans to choose from! It ended up being ok due to a couple of reasons why we chose a car. For one, petrol is $8 USD per gallon! YIKES! Campervan’s definitely aren’t fuel efficient so it wouldn’t make sense to spend a lot of money on gas when we could driving something a little more fuel efficient. Also, we found this awesome company that sells cars to backpackers but then has a guaranteed buy back set in place (50% buy back). You buy the car and have full ownership but sign a contract saying that you will sell back the car if it is in good enough condition for them to buy back. They have an invested interest in the quality of the car so they can keep buying/selling it which gave us a total peace in our decision.  Win/win. Here is the anti-climatic reveal of our trusty transportation that you won’t be pinning on Pinterest…Penny the Pulsar!


New Game Plan

Well, we have finished our first WWOOF’ing job and it looks like we are changing up our strategy! (don’t mind the dorky football lingo). Hmmm….let’s just say our first experience was memorable. We really enjoyed our hosts and the work wasn’t bad but we have realized a few things while working there that we weren’t expecting when we planned our trip overseas.

1. Everything is very expensive over here! You can expect to spend at least $15 USD for a sandwich at a cafe and expect to spend a lot more if you go to a restaurant. Luckily, we already brought all of our camping gear and most of our clothes and accessories or else we would be dropping some serious cash. I saw a jacket at their REI like store yesterday for $800 NZD. We found a pair of north face hiking pants on sale for me to wear…who knew those pants that zip half way are actually kinda cute and make a lot of sense…who am I?

2. WWOOF living conditions could vary widely.  After sharing a bathroom with a family we just met for 10 days (funny moments that we will forever laugh about!), we decided that it might be pretty difficult to get suitable accommodation for newlyweds. There are a lot of people that offer separate accommodations but it’s not always guaranteed and frankly, I don’t want to be surprised every 10 days of whether or not we might be sharing a living space with a family. Dustin totally agrees!

3. We are in the prime time for seasonal hiring. Since we are approaching their summer season, hotels and restaurants are starting to hire for the summer season. We are thinking of working and settling in a fun town for a few months while still traveling on our days off. At the end of our time working wherever we get a job, we will spend the rest of our time traveling around the South Island and back up to Auckland hopefully with some great friends that are going to come visit. (eh hem…Elena??)

4. The minimum wage is $13.50! What in the world, America? We couldn’t resist a guaranteed $13.50/hr each for doing a pretty simple, seasonal job. After doing the calculations of time and money spent, financially it was a no brainer to work somewhere rather than WWOOF for free food and accommodation.

5. It’s colder than we thought. The summer season doesn’t officially begin until December so it’s still a little too chilly for these Texans (pronounced Teecksens in NZ). We don’t mind pulling weeds but not in the cold rain so we figured we might as well get some good paying minimum wage jobs (indoors).

We are heading to the South Island for our first interview soon but first, we have a really fun road trip (about 600 miles) planned including a bed and breakfast, glow worms and geothermal mud and water!  See our destinations below…


Beer and Wine Tour

We have spare time every afternoon so one day we decided to go on a beer and wine tasting tour. At first we looked up the cost for a wine tasting tour and it was going to be $120 each! No thanks! I know our Nike/Target outfits might deceive you but Dustin and I have no idea what we are talking about when it comes to wine. Usually our hostess will take us into town but on this particular day we had to walk. The house is pretty isolated but we didn’t mind since it was a great way to see the island. We accomplished something that Dustin has been dying to do since arriving here. We hitchhiked. He probably doesn’t want me to tell to you the rest of the story. We hitchhiked…with these two sweet old ladies. haha! They saw us, stopped their car and reversed to see if we wanted a ride to the end of the road. We were SO appreciative and their response was, “well, that’s Waiheke Island for you!” It’s like a small town here which can be really nice and welcoming. Anyways, 4 miles later we made it to the brewery. They have 6 little tastings that we tried but I only drank the cider beer since it was gluten free. They had this non-alcoholic ginger beer that was their #1 seller…Dustin said it had a little ginger bite in the back of your throat. Acquired taste I’m guessing?

Next, we walked to the nicest vineyard on Waiheke…wearing – you guessed it! Nike attire! We looked like total backpackers and we were just curious about what a wine tasting really was. We ordered our wines to try and the lady made us stand there and listen to her whole speech about how each one has a peachy/oaky/orangey/minty flavor. Really? There’s no way you can taste all of those flavors in one sip. It was pretty awkward since we wanted to sit down and enjoy our sips of wine that we deserved after a 4 mile hike! If you ask us, it’s all a little silly but hey, now we can cross it off our list. Wine tasting AND hitchhiking all for a mere $20 total and 800 calories burned. Not too bad!!


Kiwi Tour

We have already learned so much about the kiwi life while being here for just a few days. One of Dustin’s friends grew up here on the north island and we had the privilege of hanging out with her and her family the past 2 days. She took us to her home and to the beach that was close to her house. The beach was the most picturesque view I’ve ever seen in my life! It was unreal…large crashing waves on the giant cliffs surrounded by lush green hills and black sandy beaches. Wow! Anyways, I will let the pictures do the talking.

Here’s a few NZ phrases that are important to know if you want to hang out with some locals thanks to our friend, Ruth!
-sweet as = cool
-kiwi = locals
-flash = fancy
-eh = yeah?
-jandals = sandals
-togs = bathing suit
-petrol = gas
-heaps and heaps = a lot
-cheeky = sassy
-flat = apartment
-mate = friend
-O.E. = overseas experience
-flatmate = roommate
-yute = truck
Ruth told us to bring our tog’s since we were going to the beach. We couldn’t remember if that meant flip flops or bathing suits so we brought both! She was just being silly since it’s too cold to swim right now but we all laughed about our conversation trying to figure out what she meant.
We have been at our first WWOOF’ing job for almost a week now so be sure to stay tuned to hear all about that!

The Hostel Life

While we were in Auckland, we stayed at a hostel downtown that came with the packaged deal of buying our visa through an agency here. They upgraded our room for free to a private room as opposed to staying with other people in a dorm like setting. We were definitely some of the oldest backpackers! They are all very young, which will be another post in itself. Anyways, staying at a hostel is where I’m learning to get out of my comfort zone and embrace the backpacker’s lifestyle. It wasn’t exactly the Ritz Carlton but we were thankful to have our own room, hot water and a tv! We bought food to cook at the hostel to save money and we had to use community plates, silverware, etc so that was also a comfort zone stretch. haha! It’s all a part of the adventure, right? Here is a really quick tour and a short glimpse into mine and Dustin’s interactions. He makes a silly joke and I get embarrassed!