Archive for the ‘Preparation’ Category

Since moving to Queenstown we have “flatted” with three Kiwis and two Brits. We have learned a lot about their cultures–New Zealanders love Pat Benatar; British people have tea upwards of five times a day. And I’m sure they’ve learned a great deal about ours–Americans make snarky comments at the television during reality cooking shows.

But the most interesting thing multi-cultural cohabitation has taught us is that we speak three different kinds of English. Here’s a list of unique New Zealand words and phrases. Just like a middle-school vocabulary list, we’ve included definitions and used each word in a sentence–specifically, a sentence pertaining to our trip.

bach: a cottage

Last weekend, Meg went to a lakeside bach with two of our flatmates. (Our other flatmate and I had to work 😦 )

bbq at the bach

bbq at the bach

boot: car trunk

The boot of our subaru is filled with tennis racquets and beach towels.

capsicum: sweet peppers (red or green)

Meg and Sarah recently planted capsicums in the communal garden.

car park: parking lot

On our Milford road trip, Cate did calisthenics in the car park.

entree: appetizer

The prawn entree at Fishbone comes with two jumbo shrimp.

flash: sensational or fancy

Our subaru is very flash.

Our subaru is very flash.

fringe: bangs

Most girls would agree, Zoe Deschanel has enviable fringe.  (that sentence doesn’t have anything to do with our trip, it’s just a true statement about fringe)

gutted: emotionally distraught

To say I was gutted when the Patriots lost would be an understatement.

jandals: flip flops or sandals

November through March is jandal season in New Zealand.

lemonade: sprite or 7up

During the brief period I quit drinking soda, I ordered a lemonade at a restaurant and it caused a relapse.

piss: beer

Flat photo: everyone's drinking piss.

Our flat went to Atlas and we all drank piss.

piss-up: a social gathering involving alcohol


We had a piss-up on Lake Wakatipu and drank out of a watermelon.

rattle your dags: hurry up, get a move on

Rattle your dags, “My Kitchen Rules” is almost on. (MKR is an addictive Australian cooking show; we think they put MSG in it)

scull: to chug a drink (beer)

Meg sculled both of these...just kidding!

Meg sculled both of these jugs…just kidding!

serviette: napkin

Cleaning up after guests at the restaurant has made Meg appreciate her mom’s enthusiasm for serviettes.

taking a piss: having too much to drink

Last weekend our flatmate Tom was taking a piss at his favorite pub, 1876, and woke up with this:

Glory lasts forever. So do tattoos.

Glory lasts forever. So do tattoos.

tomato sauce: ketchup

Fergburger makes their own tomato sauce.

Fergburger makes their own tomato sauce.

whinge: to complain

During road trips I frequently whinge about the cleanliness of hostel bathrooms.

zed: Z, the last letter of the alphabet

If you pronounce Z like “zee” rather than “zed,” people will laugh at you.


Don’t worry, there won’t be a vocab test on Monday. But if you ever plan a trip to New Zealand, save yourself some confusion and brush up on this list.


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Despite quitting my advertising job back in New York City, I have not been able to escape some of my duties as an account manager, namely timelines and budgets. One might think that a mandate of the backpacker lifestyle is to, “live by the seat of your pants,” which is one of the beauties of backpacking. However, for all its benefits, it also comes with drawbacks. We met a backpacker like this on the BrogTrip. He was our first hitchhiker (see what I mean) and he entertained us with stories of his travel throughout Asia and New Zealand. However, we saw the drawback of his lifestyle when we checked into our hostel and he was turned down at the door because the place was full. So there is certainly something to be said for drawing up a bit of a timeline.

While we put our feet up for the night, our hitchiking friend was out room hunting

While we put our feet up for the night, our hitchhiking friend was out room hunting

Eliott and I are naturally inclined to plan ahead. I mean, we were the kids bringing college brochures to our parents during sophomore year of high school. So while we want to embrace the “vagabond lifestyle” we are still doing some planning as we plod along on our trip. It’s helped us save money (we’re living “sheaply” remember) and also ensure that we maximize our experience in each new destination.



However, there is a major catch-22 with mapping out a timeline for your trip. If you plan too far in advance you risk closing yourself off to opportunities that present themselves on the road. Each stop along your trip will offer new and different options that you had not considered before. We’ve found that half of the battle to find exciting and unique experiences is just showing up.

The Bridal Veil Falls, a beautiful pit stop we found on our drive from Raglan to Rotorua

The Bridal Veil Falls, a beautiful pit stop we found on our drive from Raglan to Rotorua

So here are a few tips that we would offer from our experiences- planning and budgeting are useful but when practiced in moderation.

  • Try to plan at least 2 weeks ahead of your travels, but no more than a month. We say a minimum of 2 weeks because this allows you to live in the moment wherever you find yourself, but also gives you enough time to plan your next steps. When we got off the plane from San Fran we only had 2 weeks mapped out and it was the perfect amount of time to enjoy our local surroundings as well as set up our next stops.
  • Devote a lot of your research efforts to finding accommodation. The place where you lay your head each night will often be the most expensive cost, and it has a lot of influence over your experience. If you feel comfortable and secure in your accommodation you’re much more likely to enjoy that destination. If you’re in a place that lacks social opportunities or the weather is keeping you locked inside, a well-planned hostel or hotel can be your salvation. Bonus tip: find places that offer cooking facilities and wifi to ensure your trip is budget friendly!

You’d be surprised how much a poor night’s sleep dampens your travels

  • Research activities near your destination, but warm up to locals once you arrive and pick their brains for hidden gems. You’d be surprised at how much is NOT online. The stuff that you find online will be tourist traps. They’re the most expensive and busiest options, but unfortunately they’re not always the best. Sometimes you can’t escape the traps, like the Fox Glacier hike, but oftentimes the best hikes will come from notes scrawled on a napkin while talking to your hostel mates. For the times when you can’t avoid tourist traps use local review websites before booking. Rankers has been a great resource for our trips (and best of all we had dinner with the creators while wwoofing in Gisborne)!
Sometimes you just have to suck it up and pay the big bucks for an experience like the Black Water Rafting in Waitomo. YOLO!

Sometimes you just have to suck it up and pay the big bucks for an experience like the Black Water Rafting in Waitomo. YOLO!

  • Budget yourself at the beginning of your trip. This is a really dreadful exercise when you’re planning how to spend your money as opposed to your clients’ money. But if you’re planning on travelling for a while it is vital! Eliott and I didn’t draft a budget until we got to New Zealand because we took a few days to assess how much everything costs here and what we’re spending on (i.e. you may need to have a water section in your SE Asia budget, but not in NZ). Don’t be concerned with getting exact amounts. Generalize a day or week depending on the type of expense. For example: you’re going to eat 3 meals every day, you’d like to go out 1-2 times a week, you expect you’ll travel locally 3 times a week and extensively once a month, etc. etc. By generalizing your experience you give yourself flexibility so if your transportation costs are light one week you might see your accommodation costs go up. This is a really helpful exercise because it also helps you figure out what you’re willing to skimp on and what you’re not. That way, spur of the moment decisions will come easier. Eliott and I knew we wanted to splurge on unique experiences so picking up a surf lesson in Gisborne was an easy decision despite the unexpected expense.

In the end, I’d much rather do backpacker account management than what I was doing back in New York. It’s scary and stressful at times, but as people always say- “If it isn’t tough it’s not worth doing.” Besides, that other kind of account management was equally scary and stressful. I must admit though, the one drawback to backpacker account management versus advertising, is that I don’t get free toothpaste on the reg, but my teeth haven’t fallen out yet!

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Packing for this trip was quite daunting as you might remember. So after two months on the road how are we feeling about those decisions? What would we recommend to others embarking on their own backpacking trip?

We’ll break this advice into two posts, the first featuring five tips for any backpacker on an international trip. The second post will be geared towards a trip to New Zealand- as we do have some visitors coming in the next few months!

1.) Even if you’re not planning to sleep in tents, don’t ignore the camping gear. These two items are lightweight, easy to pack, and have been very useful despite our indoor accommodations. For some shut-eye we recommend the REI Travel Sack sleeping bags. They’ve kept us warm in the campervan and clean in the hostels. The REI quick-dry towels are also no scam. They’re truly quick-drying and super absorptive. Buy the original version not the Lite, it works much better and is still the size of a face towel.

Good night moon

2.) Go for the hiking backpacks because when have you ever bought a rolly-bag that actually rolled? Choosing the right bag is important because it holds your life. Purchasing one may seem a bit daunting if you’ve  never owned one before so here are three suggestions for a first-timer to think about:

  • Comfort counts– be sure to get fitted by someone at the store. It gets heavy.
  • Simplicity– Our bags have 3 pockets each- one on top, one on the outside, and the main storage section. The main section has an opening on top and on the side so when laid-down you can easily access items from top to bottom. Very clutch!
  • Buy the Duffel Cover– It’s an extra $20 on a $200 purchase and it’s well worth it. The cover will protect your bag from careless handlers on buses and planes. It also provides extra space to store a heavy jacket or boots if you can’t fit them into your backpack- we’re looking forward to this on the way home!

Backpacks deliver on their promise. They always fit on your back

3.) Think simple when it comes to the power adapter. We were attracted to our Dynex power adapter because of its all-in-one attitude. It’s got plugs for three continents, but it’s massive. In fact it’s so big that it falls out of the socket when any charger is plugged in. You have to prop it up to keep it in the wall.  Don’t get greedy, go simple.

Gravity wins again. Thanks for all the product testing Dynex.

4.) Don’t underestimate the importance of a few spare plastic bags. Think wet bathing suits after an impromptu swim or stinky, muddy sneakers and dirty laundry. Smell is airborne, plastic is the solution!

That smell will clear a room. Better to zip-lock it up

5.) Bring a carry-on sized bag that’s easy to carry with your primary bag. I brought a purse and Eliott opted for a small backpack. These are important for all kinds of transit because your big bag will be stashed below somewhere. It’s also great for a weekend trip. Trust us, if you have a place to store your big bag for a short trip, you’ll want to!

A small bag is clutch for quick trips to the beach or a walk around town. Just look at this happy boy.

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Life in 60 Liters

Meg and I are two of the world’s finest procrastinators, but even we realize there comes a time to pack for every trip. And for us, with 5 days ’til lift off, the time is now. Cramming a year’s worth of clothes into a 60 liter backpack is no picnic. In fact, it’s been downright frustrating. But through our tribulations we’ve learned a few things that have helped focus our efforts and alleviate some stress.

Here are our 6 simple tips for packing your life into 60 liters:

1. Sack up

The right backpack makes all the difference. And even though scrolling and clicking your way through Amazon’s travel aisle is a million times easier (and 3-8% cheaper), it’s just not the same as going into a store. Not only do you get to try on the packs, which is critical since the wrong size can lead to chronic back spasms, but you can compare all of the top brands and get input from people who know a lot more than you. (Yes they’re sales people, but they know their product. Just watch out for sharks.)

2. The first golden rule

Only pack items that you’re mentally prepared to throw away.

Not that we’re planning on renouncing our material possessions and moving to Nepal. But we’re only bringing things that we’re comfortable getting dirty…and possibly ruined. It’s amazing how much easier packing becomes when you make the top three shelves in your closet off limits.

Okay, I’m breaking the rule with the Patriot sweatshirt. There’s no way I’m coming back without it. Even golden rules have exceptions.

3.  Bring the most versatile 10 day wardrobe ever 

The water might spin in the opposite direction, but they still have laundromats down under. 10 outfits should be more than enough to last the year. Versatility is the key. Bring multi-purpose clothes–things you can wear to dress up or dress down. Which brings me to my next point. Jeans. Yeah, they’re heavy but you can’t beat the functionality. Plus, the right set of skinnys are aesthetically pleasing. [editors note: Meg is the only member of the team packing skinnys.]

It’s also important to consider the climate. We’ll be arriving at the start of spring, so even though the mercury will be rising, chances are we’ll encounter a handful of wet and chilly days. We’re not packing our winter coats since we’d probably grow to resent them by summer, but we’ve got another plan. Layers.

We’re also prioritizing quick-dry articles and dark colors. Why dark colors? Because they hide the dirt. You know, just in case we can’t find a laundromat for a few weeks.

4. The second golden rule 

Roll everything!!!

Meg has a lot of green shoes…

It’s the only way to make it all fit.

5. All the small things

Inevitably we’re going to arrive and realize how many details we overlooked. So our goal is to minimize the moving pains by covering as many small things now. Two examples:

Towels. Beach towels are clunky and when you’re working with 60 liters clunky is no good. For $17 we found these nifty quick-dry towels at REI. They take up less room than a hair dryer and boast 8x the absorptive powers of a normal towel. Done and done.

Example number two. Meg is a self-proclaimed sweater. She even wrote her college essay on the subject. (For the record, I don’t think she has a problem, but it was an extremely successful essay.) So when she heard that New Zealand doesn’t have stick deodorant–only spray–she biked to BJs and stock piled.

Yes, that is a google bicycle.

(It could be a myth that they only have spray. We’ll let you know when we land.)

6. Practice

We know how lame this is going to sound, but we’ve practiced packing (and unpacking) our bag…multiple times. But hear us out. Chances are we’ll have to load and unload it more than a dozen times during the year, so we figured why not get really really good at it? Plus, all this practice has helped us weed out unnecessary items and discover all the clever alcoves our bags have to offer.

Next steps: we’ll be sure to revisit this post in a couple months and see how we did. Chances are we’ll have learned a few things…because no matter how much you practice, nothing teaches you more than in-game experience.

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Even though we’re trying to do this trip on a tight budget we knew we had to invest in some vital necessities before departing. So we’ve hung up our NYC attire and begun to out-fit ourselves for a slightly different lifestyle in NZ.

Mobility was a key factor in deciding how and what to pack. We decided to get 60L hiking bags that would allow us to pack for about 10 days at a time (check out mine and Eliott’s, and the all-important pack duffel to protect our bags while in transit). We plan on being stationary for extended periods, but need to have the flexibility to move every few weeks if needed and while we’re travelling between cities. The kindly clerk at REI helped us select the size and style packs we needed and offered some great suggestions on sleeping bags and other necessities. We figured we could do no wrong taking advice from a guy in Vibrams. We also loaded up on some wardrobe basics that would be more expensive to buy in NZ.

And of course in order to keep in touch one of us had to get a new computer to replace the 2006 dinosaur that Eliott had been using. So courtesy of Ken and Nancy Shine I am writing to you from a new macbook air.

Skype me maybe!?

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Of all the countries why one that’s literally half-way across the world? Well to be honest that was one reason, but there were a few others too!

The Working Holiday Visa: We knew that we would have to work while living abroad so being able to get a visa that would allow this was important. As we mentioned earlier, the NZ Working Holiday Visa was ideal for our situation. We considered a lot of European countries, but the visa situation and unemployment rates (just over 20% for people under 25) took them out of the running.

The Culture:  Some research has revealed a few facts about NZ that we were excited to hear: the people are notoriously friendly, a far cry from the reputation of new yorkers and massholes! The culture is outdoorsy, adventurous, and casual. And there are a lot of foreigners and locals on the same kind of trips that we’re planning so we figured why not join them!

The Opportunity: New Zealand is home to just about every type of landscape on earth: glaciers, beaches, volcanoes, lakes, mountains, etc. With such varied landscapes there is inevitably a variety of lifestyles for us to experience. We’re siked about all the different opportunities we’ll have while traveling- working on a vineyard one month and skiing on the south island the next. Check out some of the views we hope to catch, and now do you wonder why we chose NZ?

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It’s been one month since we left New York and moved in with our families. While living apart is a big change after two years in our penthouse closet, life with the new “roommates” has been good.

The move back was almost flawless, which is more than you can ask for when it begins with carrying heavy crap down five flights. Our only stressful moment came courtesy of U-haul. Fifteen hours before we were supposed to pick up our truck, U-haul called and informed us that they overbooked and we were on our own. U-haul cancelled on hundreds of people who reserved trucks weeks and months in advance. Apparently their business model doesn’t value foresight as much as other reservation-based services.

We picked U-haul because they offer the cheapest rates. But if you’re ever moving out of a big city and need to rely on a rental truck company, just remember that with U-haul you’ll get what you pay for. And possibly less.

Fortunately Meg is a whiz at internet research and was able to line up a truck from Penske within an hour of U-haul’s triple bogey. Our dads helped us move out–for which we are extremely grateful to them and their backs. Accommodations in our Penske weren’t ideal,

but we made the best.

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