Archive for the ‘Shopping’ Category

Now we’re moving to some advice that is more specific to our trip here in New Zealand. We arrived in mid-September, and we definitely underestimated the significance of the spring season. Needless to say, we were cold for the first two weeks of our trip. It’s warming up every day now, but the summer highs average in the mid-70’s so it’s by no means sweltering. If you’re planning a trip to visit NZ (maybe to visit us?) than here are some tips to help you navigate the weather and fit in with the locals.

Bring layers: The relatively small size of the island makes it susceptible to strong winds and quickly-changing weather patterns. However, there is also a massive hole in the ozone layer that sits right above the country. Al Gore may have been onto something because you can really feel the power of the sun beating down on you. So it’s important to bring layers because on any given outing you can go from shorts and t-shirts to sweaters and rain jackets very quickly.

Scarf? Rain Jacket? On such a sunny day? You should’ve seen the clouds before we left

Go casual: This is our favorite aspect of the attire in NZ- it’s generally pretty casual. You do not often have to make the decision between function and fashion. Function is always respected, even in bars and restaurants in the major cities. Leave your high-heels at home, a dressy shirt and jeans will get you in the door anywhere.

Don’t be “that guy” at the party

Think outdoorsy: Kiwis love the great outdoors. Everyone enjoys a good tramp through the bush or a day on the beach. Don’t forget to bring sneakers, comfortable pants to walk in, and shirts you wouldn’t mind breaking a sweat in. The best views and the most genuine experiences that we’ve had have been out in the environment so it’s important to have clothes that you don’t mind getting a little muddy.

Watch out for that tree! A quick tramp outside of Wellington

Versatility is key: This is a pretty universal tip, but a good one to keep in mind no less. We’re on the move a lot here, and any good overseas trips will be like that. It’s important to pack as lightly as possible, but still feel comfortable in your constantly changing settings. A sweater and a scarf can turn three t-shirts into six different outfits, and (with a shower) they can transform you from a tramper to partygoer easily. That’s right white people, break out your scarves- go nuts!

Bad hair day? Wear a scarf.

When you finally sit down with that empty bag think about comfort, warmth, and packing light.  Here’s a short list of items we’d recommend bringing on your trip to New Zealand, if you are so inclined to visit us 🙂

  • Sneakers
  • Toms (or similar casual, lightweight shoe)
  • Jeans
  • Athletic, moveable pants (break a sweat, get a little dirty)
  • Shorts
  • Bathing suit
  • A few simple shirts
  • Athletic shirts
  • Sweater you can dress up and dress down
  • Sunblock
  • Lightweight Jacket
  • Rain jacket
  • Good book
  • Camera

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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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Before we jump headstrong into Wellington we thought we’d share our thoughts on Auckland. We were only in town for a week, so our impressions were probably a bit skewed, but nonetheless here they are. Hopefully it’ll provide a bit of perspective for our adventures in the capitol.


  • Queen Street: Have you ever heard a New Yorker rave about Times Square? Then you get the idea, I don’t think many Aucklanders go off about Queen St either
  • Ponsonby Shopping: Was actually amazing (think Urban Outfitters but the clothes are actually from local and vintage shops) but I’m giving it a Rain because I wasn’t able to buy anything and the temptation was cruel #poverty #backpacking

Tempting windows. Heavy bags



  • Happy Hours: Fatboy Fridays and $5 drinks at bars all around Ponsonby, and even one downtown, made drinking an easy choice
  • Ponsonby Cuisine: Plenty of variety and again some good deals meant we dined like kings
  • Gallery & Museum: Well you guys read about these already, and if you didn’t- caught ya! Here’s your second chance
  • Hostel Mates: Cool locals and visiting Aussies made our hostel feel like a college dorm- pre-gaming, movie nights, and all
  • Hostel Gossip: For as many cool people, there were a few nutters as well, but they provided some good stories for dinnertime chats

Fatboy friday specials at Degree on the Viaduct



  • Corporate Auckland: Those suits look just as miserable down undah as they did in NYC
  • The Sky Tower: Rather phallic. We’re over it
  • One Tree Hill: We got lost on the bus ride over and didn’t care enough to find our way, so we figured you wouldn’t either. JFGI


A bit over the top right?


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The Sky Tower lifts Auckland into the running for world’s most phallic skyline (sorry, Paris)

Situated 2km west of Auckland’s CBD, Ponsonby is a hip suburb that enjoys proximity to the city’s action while offering enough distance to avoid urban claustrophobia. Multiple bus routes offer easy access to downtown Auckland for $1.90. Cabs are plentiful but unnecessary.

Ponsonby’s 6,000 residents are mostly young families and retired urbanites. There is a strong communal bond on display in bars and restaurants that make it easy to see why kiwis settle here. As innocent eavesdroppers, we’ve observed neighborly conversations that extend well beyond the realm of small talk.

On a sunny day it’s nice to take a stroll or pack a picnic to enjoy in one of Ponsonby’s well-kept parks. School holiday is in full swing right now and the playgrounds are alive with rugrats enjoying their freedom. The playgrounds, by the way, trump any we’ve come across in the States. We think that can be attributed to the one thing they have that we don’t: ZIPLINES!!!

In Ponsonby the dream is a reality.  In the US it’s a lawsuit waiting to happen

The main drag, Ponsoby Road, is known for its upscale shopping and dining establishments. Three Lamps is a particularly nice retail center at the north end of the suburb (where our visits have been strictly limited to window shopping).

Despite the ritzy reputation, there are plenty of deals to be found. The Belgium Beer Café offers bottomless mussels with a free beer for $20. On Monday, we had dinner at Bolliwood, a cliché but delicious restaurant on par with all the Indian eateries we tried in New York. They serve up $10 entrees Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and they don’t skimp with the portions. Although we’ve made a point of eating in, we’re happy to venture out if the price is right.

Next stop: Gisborne.

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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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