Archive for the ‘People’ Category

Thankfully the Mayans were wrong. (Funny side note: New Zealanders didn’t even acknowledge the apocalyptic hype). As the new year approaches, we’ve reached the part of the calendar where it’s fun to look back and reflect. Without further ado, here are our top 12 memories from 2012.

12. Long distance election

thanks for the memories, Mitt

thanks for the memories, Mitt

Our isolation protected us from the daily annoyance of political commercials and Fox news. But thanks to the internet we  caught all the highlights from the campaign trail. Here’s looking at you, binders full of women.

11. Breezy Point

Breezy lives up to its name

Breezy lives up to its name

One of our single favorite days. It was one of those spring days where you could feel summer fighting to get out. Rich invited a bunch of us to spend the day at his family’s beach house so we all spent the night at Katie’s apartment (closest to the ferry), rolled out of bed, took a boat ride, and enjoyed our first beach day of 2012.

10. Double summer

Arguably the biggest perk of our year. We left one summer, crossed the equator, and landed in a second summer.

Raglan in December

Raglan in December

9. White Christmas

Not snow white. Sand white. This was the first Christmas we spent together and also the first Christmas either of us spent on a beach. Despite the fact that we painted our bodies with two coats of spf 50, we both got our first New Zealand sunburns.

8. Waterfalls

Bridal Veil Falls, Raglan

Bridal Veil Falls, Raglan

There’s something about cascading water that makes me happy. Maybe I’m weird. But we’ve encountered a few different waterfalls in 2012 and each one has created an incredibly beautiful memory. This was our favorite.

7. Moonrise Kingdon

thanks for the memory, Wes Anderson

thanks for the memory, Wes Anderson

This just makes the list because it was our favorite movie of the year. And we had a great afternoon watching it in Lincoln Square with Kate, Rich and Walker. Speaking of movies, being at the world premier of The Hobbit was cool too.

6. Thanksgiving

actually went with a chicken since turkey's are scarce here - but still delicious

actually had chicken since t-bird’s are scarce – still delicious

We were a bit anxious about turkey day since it was our first holiday in New Zealand away from our families. And the onus of cooking an edible feast fell entirely on us. But we pulled it off and enjoyed the best meal of our year. Special thanks to the Mauro family for their sausage stuffing recipe and Meg’s dad for spiritual and culinary guidance.

5. Wedding season

We crashed this one...

We crashed this one…

We attended two weddings this past summer: Hannah and Marcus & Jessie and Mick. Both were held at postcard-worthy destinations in upstate New York and we made a million great memories with our friends. O’Briens anyone?

4. Road trips

Who doesn’t love a good road trip? I was fortunate to enjoy two in 2012. I have many good memories driving east from Colorado with my brother and dad–trying green chili beer in Taos, New Mexico is at the top. And Meg experienced her first road trip in epic fashion during our ten-day Brogtrip.

3. Leaving New York

another line crossed through our NYC bucket list

another line crossed through our NYC bucket list

Yes we miss our friends. And yes we both left jobs that we were lucky to have right out of school. But the only way we could experience the adventure of a lifetime was by leaving New York. But even before we fled the city, we had some down time after leaving our jobs to explore parts of the city that we were too busy to see while working. Like visiting the Bronx Zoo. And setting foot in Brooklyn. The five going away parties we had were nice too.

2. The first week of July

It would have been easy for us to leave New York and suffer from social withdrawal symptoms after being surrounded by so many close friends for two years. Fortunately we are able to call some of the best people in the world our friends, and these people took time off from work to spend the week in Massachusetts.

Beer Olympics - the delegates were frustrated with Iran

Beer Olympics – the delegates were frustrated with Iran

1. September 18, 2012

Air New Zealand

Boston to San Francisco to Auckland



We hope everyone has a happy and healthy new year. Since we’ll likely welcome 2013 a bit sooner than most of you, we’ll be sure to let you know if anything crazy happens. Like, for instance, the Mayans were right but just a couple days off.


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But it’s been difficult to maintain this notion in New Zealand. Eliott and I have been living a much quieter lifestyle over here. At first we accounted our early bedtime to the wwooffing lifestyle. It’s hard to stay up late in someone else’s house. Then we assumed it was living in the suburbs- there’s just no where to go. Then we got to Wellington where we lived on our own, in the middle of a big city. On most nights we made it to 11 before crashing. At that point we decided the lack of nightlife was due to our particular situation. As a couple, it’s awkward to sit at a bar for very long where you don’t know anyone. As two guys or two girls you at least have the option of flirting with strangers. As a couple, that’s just weird.

The essence of cool

The essence of cool

So we were really excited when Broghan came to visit. We figured with a third member of our crew we’d be able to make our own party. I envisioned our group seated at a table laughing like hyenas at our own cheeky jokes. Laughing so hard that nearby tables pulled their stools up to ours and we became the largest, loudest, most fun group at the bar.

I know right? And this is when we're sober. You can only imagine the fun after a few drinks

I know right? And this is when we’re sober. You can only imagine the fun after a few drinks

However, that dream never really came true. It was certainly not for lack of trying. On the way to each destination we researched the best bars and picked up a case of New Zealand Lager for our pre-game. Time and again, our plans were foiled. The pre-games at the hostels often ended up becoming the full game, and on one of the best nights that game became Monopoly. Honestly, our night of Monopoly in New Plymouth was the closest we came to my vision. We were the loudest, most fun group in the hostel and we even attracted a crowd of on-looking Germans.

Flashback: is this the outbreak of WWII? American capitalists dominating while hungry Germans chomp at the bit to join?

Unlike every Monopoly game of my childhood, this one did not end with me flipping the board over…I just threw my cards

So we adjusted our expectations and just made the most of the opportunities that presented themselves. For example, the Raglan hostel had a lot of fun-looking guests so we brought our NZL’s into the common area where we found a large group of boys mesmerized by the “Planet Earth” dvds. We awkwardly enjoyed our drinks, watching quietly, until a woman in her late 50’s joined us at the table. We never did get her name, but we refer to her as Verushka, because it just seemed like it would fit. Verushka entertained us for hours with her stories. Kiwis are notoriously good travelers and she was no exception. She regaled us with tales of opium tripping in Thailand and beating back wild hogs with a stick while on a bathroom break in Vietnam. We had intended to visit a bar that night, but for obvious reasons we abandoned that plan in favor of Verushka’s company.

NZL- the unofficial sponsor of the BrogTrip 2012

NZL- the unofficial sponsor of the BrogTrip 2012

Over the course of two weeks we learned some valuable methods for coping with un-vibrant nightlife scenes. First, make dinner a production. If you’re going to cook at home, take your time at the supermarket- carefully select ingredients and when in doubt buy the bigger one. Always drink while cooking. It makes for very interesting decisions and a convenient painkiller if that grill flares up. If you’re going to a restaurant order appetizers, eat slowly, and make sure to stuff yourself to the point that you’re unable to stand up. This will prolong your dining experience.

The grill master. A regular bobby flay here

The grill master. A regular bobby flay here

Let's just zoom in here and take note of the burger size. America really does do everything bigger

Let’s just zoom in and take note of the burger size. We chose the bigger ones obviously

Secondly, be sure to survey the company surrounding you. There are unsuspecting gems here, but also some potential landmines. If you look at someone and think, “what the hell are they doing here,” you should make a point of hanging out with them. They will supply hours of entertainment. If you find yourself surrounded by 19 year-old Germans that arrived at your hostel on a bus blasting techno music, you should stay in your room and create a drinking game to a movie like “Mean Girls.” Know your surroundings and know your limits.

So what if we did feed the black swans? That might make for an interesting night

What if we did feed the black swans? That might make for an interesting night

So in the end, it always came back to the three of us. We had to make our own fun a lot of the time, and New Zealand offered up some unconventional resources to work with. I have a feeling that other backpackers have had similar experiences so these are lessons that we’ll bring with us as we continue to travel and may even have to use at home depending on where we move!

Just like the good old days

M&B, Just like the good old days

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Our last three days in Gisborne were more action-packed than the latest Bond movie. All-hallows-eve in New Zealand was fun, but less of a spectacle than we experienced growing up. The loot was pretty tame compared to the monjo-sized candy bars we used to collect. #americanobesity

face paint in broad daylight just didn’t feel the same

Luckily, the lack of sucrose on Wednesday helped us squeeze into wetsuits for our surf lesson on Thursday. That’s right, a truly Endless Summer. We were a little nervous because kiwis are renowned for their extreme take on sports, but it all turned out for the best. The waves were pretty mild. Surfing with Frank was amazing! He drilled the basics, but got the both of us standing within 20 minutes.

unparalleled form right here

We even advanced to surfing the “green faces” and turning, which he said was pretty good for first-timers. “You’re freaks,” was the actual language he used. We hear that there’s good surfing outside of Wellington so we’ll try to keep our momentum going. Who knows, the surf may now be a factor to consider when we look for our home-base back in the US!

hanging ten-ish

We ended our lesson with a dinner party hosted by Greg and Sue. We enjoyed some local fermentations, a massive pork shoulder, and a signature NZ Pavlova with some of the neighbors. Our crew included a surprising number of Americans who had moved to NZ, including the Putnams from Cape Cod and Kris from Michigan. After spending 3 weeks in Gisborne we weren’t at all surprised by their moves, but don’t worry everyone- we still miss you too much to stay here permanently.

we’re growing a taste for the local flavors

Which brings me to our next and last piece of business, the highly anticipated announcement of Sheap Travel’s political endorsement. Well the wait is over folks:

the ballots were a bit confusing this year

So while our votes won’t be counted in Massachusetts (little snafu with the absentee ballots on our part), just know that the outcome on Tuesday might sway our inclinations towards NZ a bit further….

Just Kidding! Politicians couldn’t really influence our plans that much. In the end they’re all just a lot of bark, and never much bite.

too bad Rover’s not a citizen, he’s 44 in goat years and his foreign policy is second to none

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It was a cloudless day last Sunday and the temperature was 22 degrees…celsius (or 72F). Meg and I were getting ready to clean out the gutters when Sue, our wwoofing host, came up with a better plan.

with Eva at the Rere Waterfall

Sue said she couldn’t stand to see us work on such a nice day, so her husband Greg packed a picnic and we joined the family for a day trip to Rere. Our first stop was the Rere Rockslide. Sue and Greg talked up the perilous slide for the entire half-hour car ride, so when we arrived we were thoroughly intimidated. But after watching Greg bomb down head-first on his boogie board we followed suit.


After lunch we stopped at the waterfall. Sue prodded me to venture under the fall. I tip-toed to the entrance and quickly encountered slippery rocks and angry, whirling water. With my tail between my legs, I returned to the group and said I didn’t think it was possible.

Enter Meg. She promptly threw her wet suit on and led me back to the tempest. Sure enough, it was possible. We made it to the middle of the waterfall. Yet again I realized how lucky I am to have such a brave and adventurous companion. It’s hard to describe the view looking up at the sky filtered through the cascading water, but it’s an image I won’t forget anytime soon. And I would’ve missed if it wasn’t for Meg.

it felt like the inside of a car wash

Eva, admittedly more courageous than me, urged her dad to venture out after us.

All in all, our Rere excursion was a fitting end to a perfect weekend. On Saturday we cheered on Eva at her first tee-ball game, then donned costumes at night to attend a Halloween party with the family. Meg was a Native American and I went as a Blues Brother.

Our stint in Gisborne is wrapping up but we’re not slowing down. Greg helped us arrange surf lessons with an American ex-pat tomorrow and Sue planned a big farewell dinner with some of their friends that we’ve gotten to know over the past three weeks.

There are so many things we’ll miss about Gisborne–the sun, the people, our amazingly generous hosts–but we will stay in touch with all our new friends and make even more memories in Wellington.

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Eliott and I were apprehensive before arriving to Gisborne. We didn’t know the specifics of our work/stay, just that we’d be on a farm. I imagined docking sheep in a mud pile, while Eliott saw himself riding a motorbike across fields herding a flock. We were surprised and relieved to discover that the “farm” was actually just a lifestyle block with chickens and fruit trees. Lifestyle blocks are common in NZ. It’s basically a family home with a patch of land, a few animals, and a larger-than-normal garden. The “fruits” of the farm are used primarily to sustain the family. The idea of self-sustainable living is popular in NZ and while it takes a bit more effort, we’re finding it also has many perks.

These hills are alive with the sound of music

The family that we’re staying with have been fantastic hosts. Greg and Sue have taken “wwoofers” for many years now and also travelled the world in their early years. They moved to Gisborne because of the amazing surf and it’s sunny disposition. They have three wonderful kids, Jaques (14), Charlie (12), and Eva (6).

Damn vagabonds

Now to business: what are we doing to earn our camper van and 3 square (delicious) meals? Just some good old-fashioned housework and a hell of a lot of gardening. We’re growing quite the green thumbs on this trip. The day’s chores range from dusting and scrubbing to weeding and mowing. Every morning we also feed the chickens and collect the eggs. We then take it upon ourselves to consume a majority of those eggs. Waste not, want not as they say. The lifestyle block is a very comfortable way of living. There is always fresh produce and meat around the house, and yet the family is not required to labor in the yard tirelessly. We enjoy ripe fruits, fresh eggs, bacon (RIP Wilber), and the other night rooster meat (thus quieter mornings)! We were also able to witness the miracle of life this week. Nine adorable chicks were born in the coop. The alpha male and mother are white, but a couple of the chicks came out dark brown. Eva most eloquently explained the different pigmentation to us, “Another rooster must have had a twinkle in his eye…” Which goes to show that the the lifestyle block can also teach us some valuable life lessons.

Curious colors here…

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After each of our stays we’ll break down our experience into three simple categories to help everyone at home assess the trip. This segment was inspired by the only column ever worth reading in the Hamilton newspaper: Thumbs up, Thumbs down, Who Cares. It has been properly renamed.

Rain = defined by bad, poor, or lesser qualities

  • Our Football Skills: As if being cut from JV soccer wasn’t embarrassing enough? At least back then I was younger than everyone. This time we got schooled by 11 and 8 year old boys.
  • Shoveling Rocks: Enough said.
  • The Weather: We never left home without our matching raincoats
  • The Hills: Of death. So much elevation on Waiheke.

To walk or not to walk? That is the question

Shine = the highlights and triumphs

  • Our Hosts: Dave, Sue, Zion, and Ky Mani were fantastic hosts. It’s like we became a part of the family.
  • The Wine: Bursting delicious reds, notes of sarcasm, and a hint of vintners pretention. The perfect bottle(s).
  • The Beer: Homemade brews packed with flavor and just the right price. We heard they recently added extra hops?
  • Matching raincoats!
  • The Food: 14 days of fresh burgers and home-cooked meals- would you dare to complain?
  • The Work: Not too hard, not too gross, but a good dose of humility and some life skills to boot.
  • The Scenery: Breathtaking views if you could make it to a hilltop…

Find your beach, Corona

Overcast = mehh, who cares

  • Our Social Lives: We didn’t meet anyone else our age, leading to a lot of Eliott and Meg time, and that’s just is too boring for words.
  • I lost a sock. It was smart wool. Only time can heal some wounds.

Don’t we make you want to throw up sometimes?

So as you can sense, it was a great trip. We’re taking with us some good life skills- cleaning, cooking, brewing, and Bokashi Composting. Best of all we got to experience life under a philosophy that’s different from today’s norm. Rather than “keeping up with the Kardashians” and constantly working more in order to buy more, our hosts worked comfortably with what they had. They didn’t overexert their business and they focused on saving, reusing, and recycling their existing property (think composting).

As a result they’ve ended up with a beautiful home, two grounded and fun-loving sons, and best of all the time to appreciate it. Sue put it best when we marveled at the low prices in the burger cart. She said, “I’m trying to make a living, not a fortune, love!” 

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Last Saturday we attended our first New Zealand party. Ever the gracious host, Sue invited us to join her for a house-warming party at her friend Eileen’s newly renovated home. Eileen’s house is doubling as an osteo-clinic, where Eileen will care for patients with osteoporosis and other bone-related health conditions. It’s a beautiful home overlooking the harbor. With high ceilings and open rooms it’s the perfect venue for a party. And a perfect spot for a clinic. We left the camera in our lodge because we didn’t want to be the creepy foreigners sniping candids of everyone, but it was a great house. Trust us.

following Frodo’s footsteps to the party

We met a range of interesting people, the majority of whom are not originally from New Zealand. Piri, from the vampire grounds of Transylvania, is a petit woman in her mid-forties who has jumped out of a plane over 800 times. She’s worked all over the world as a parachute-packer and videographer. If any of you have ever gone sky-diving and had someone film the experience, it was someone like Piri. After her son was born she gave up diving, but encouraged us to give it a try. Meg is staunchly opposed. I’ll try anything once, but hate the idea of doing it alone. So does anyone want to visit and give it a whirl?

Then we met Sue’s acupuncturist. Paul is a white-haired buddhist in his early sixties. He’s apparently known for putting people on the spot with his razor sharp tongue. The music was loud and Meg started raising her voice to talk over it, so Paul said, “Why are you shouting?” Meg kept a straight face and retorted, “Because I want to make sure you can hear me, grandpa.” According to Sue she’s never seen anyone make Paul blush the way Meg did. So we’re all waiting to see how Sue’s next acupuncture appointment goes…

We also befriended Nan, the sweetest grandmotherly woman you could ever meet. She brought a tray of mini egg salad sandwiches, with the crust meticulously cut off of each slice. After complimenting her on the snack we ended up talking for quite a while. At the end of the night Nan gave us a slip of paper with her address and invited us over for drinks the next day. She lives in a beautiful home on Onetangi beach and we spent the following afternoon there drinking lime sodas and swapping stories.

made a wrong turn en route to Nan’s but we figured it out eventually

When we returned to the EcoLodge Dave and Sue invited us to have a night cap on their deck. Dave brews his own beer and keeps it fresh on tap.

wouldn’t it be nice to have this on your back porch?

One beer turned into a few too many to count. Dave and his oldest son, Zion, are passionate Chelsea football fans and invited us to stay up late and watch Chelsea take on Arsenal. We’ve watched a handful of soccer games in America, but nothing compares to this experience. Dave and Zion hung up banners and jerseys all over the living room, transforming it into a blue dome. By the time Dave’s friend Paul (a big-time Arsenal fan) arrived, it was clear he would be watching behind enemy lines. (Paul–not the acupuncturist–is another interesting guy. The son of a diplomat, he’s lived all over the states and went to Skidmore, where he met his wife, so he was quite familiar with Hamilton).

At halftime Dave served homemade pizzas and topped off our pint glasses. The match ended with a 2-1 Chelsea victory just before 3am. Meg and I made good on our promise to wake up and get to work by 9, albeit with our first New Zealand hangover. Cheers.

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