The Big Trip- Month Nine Round UpThis month is definitely the most boring of my past nine months of travel because, well, I haven’t really been travelling.

I started month nine working for three weeks in Sydney covering Reception at a Media Company. I stayed between a couple of friend’s places who very kindly put me up as well as spending a week in a Hotel with my Mum and Step Dad when they flew over to Sydney to visit.

Despite working, I also managed to catch up with a lot of friends, spend a lot of time swimming at gorgeous Sydney beaches, visited two of my favourite city suburbs, Paddington and Surry Hills, and even attended a free concert on Manly beach.

Sydney beach

Then it was time to leave Sydney to go home to New Zealand, something I was very much looking forward to.

Over the past week and a half here I spent most of the time in Auckland where I stayed with my Dad and visited friends. I happened to be in town for the Pasifika Festival which I attended for the first time. Pasifika celebrates Pacific Island culture, a big part of New Zealand’s identity, with performances, and most importantly for me, food. So much good food!

I also fitted in a couple of walks, to Kingsland and around Parnell and Hobsons Bay, and I even climbed Mount Eden, the highest of many volcanoes that Auckland is built on.

Pasifika Festival

Leaving Auckland, Dad drove me up to Matakana where I caught up with my Aunties and had an amazing lunch at Matakana Kitchen before picking up the van for the long drive to Hamilton.

I stayed a night in Hamilton with one of my oldest friends and her lovely family which is always a treat. We watched the kids playing on their dirt bikes, walked around the lake and went for lunch. My short visit was unassuming but awesome, as always.

And now I am back at my Mum and Step-Dad’s in Tauranga where I will be for the rest of my time in New Zealand.

It has been rainy which is the perfect excuse to sit around watching TV and eating my Mum’s excellent neenish tarts. Not that I need an excuse.

Now onto the Stats:

Countries visited: Australia, New Zealand

Places visited:

  • Australia: Sydney
  • New Zealand: Auckland, Matakana, Hamilton, Tauranga

Islands visited: No islands this month

Best meal: Being back in New Zealand, I have had SO many amazing meals over the past ten days. It would have to be a tie between the best pakoras in the whole wide world from Mukunda’s Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurant in Auckland and the Chorizo and spud hash from Matakana Kitchen in Matakana. Kiwi food is the best!

Worst meal: I was disappointed in the pulled pork from current Auckland ‘it’ restaurant, Miss Moonshine’s. It was too fatty and reasonably tasteless. At least their mac and cheese balls and cornbread made it worth dining there.

Best craft beer: I had a sour belgian style wheat beer from 4 Pines Brewery in Manly that had been batch brewed. I love sour beer so this went down a treat.

Hikes:

  • Queenscliff to Shelly beach return 5km
  • Parnell and Hobson Bay loop 7.5km
  • Mount Eden Summit 2.5km return

Mt Eden summit

Interesting person of the month: My best friend Kurt and I were having what started out as a quiet afternoon drink at his bar when one of his friend’s Ramon joined us. It may have been a Sunday but what started as a quiet drink quickly turned into a BIG one with me stumbling home at 2am. Ramon is such an awesome, inspiring, transgender woman with such a big personality to match her big heart. I am so glad I got to meet her.

Reading: I have read nothing this month. I found my favourite book, ‘Into Thin Air’ by John Krakauer, for 50 cents at a Charity store so I am looking forward to re-reading it this month.

Listening to: Houdini from Foster the People is my current jam. LOVE this song, especially cranking it while cruising around in my Dad’s giant brown van (my wheels for my time in New Zealand)

Hobsons Bay

Highlights

Making some money rather than just spending it

It’s always nice to see money going into my account rather than just rapidly disappearing, so working for three weeks while I was back in Sydney definitely helped replenish my depleted travel funds. Now to hit the road and spend it all!

A friendship with Trav

I thought it would be awkward or weird seeing Trav again for the first time since we had broken up, but it wasn’t. We were both surprised how easy it was to transition from being a couple to friendship. I think the fact we both still care about each other and genuinely like each other as people has made it possible to be friends. I hope that we can keep our friendship going as time goes on and circumstances change.

Attending a Blogging Event

I received an invitation for a Cheapflights Blogging event being held in Sydney that happened to coincide with my time there. I haven’t been to many blogging events and when I saw that the Canadian Blogging duo, Deb and Dave from The Planet D, were going to be speaking about branding, I knew it would be worth going to. It turned out to be an awesome night where I got to meet Deb and Dave who were both lovely, as well as fellow Kiwi Liz from Passport Packed and another Liz, aka Young Adventuress, who I have been following for a while. The delicious canapés and cocktails also made it a great night out. And I even learnt a thing or two.

Beautiful weather in Sydney

Sydney is a lot rainier than people realise, in fact it rains more in Sydney than London! Because of its sub-tropical climate, unfortunately a lot of that rain falls during summer so I was expecting a lot of downpours during my time there. But the weather gods must have been shining down on me because Sydney was blessed with sunny days almost the entire three and a half weeks I was there. It was even sunny for the free beach concert at the Australian Open of Surfing in Manly, where it rained the previous two years. Life always seems happier when the sun is shining and that is exactly what I needed.

Being home in New Zealand

As soon as I landed in New Zealand I felt a massive relief to be home. I did enjoy my time back in Sydney but home was really where I needed to be. No matter where I am in the world and where I am living, I will always be a Kiwi. It is where I belong.

Mt Eden crater

A crazy Sunday night out in Auckland

What started out as a couple of quiet drinks after a beautiful day out with one of my besties Kurt, ended up turning into a massive Sunday session. When I was younger I was definitely a party girl and although those days are largely behind me, every now and then the party girl comes out again and she definitely did on this occasion. After multiple cocktails being bought for us by one of the other patrons, things got pretty crazy and the last thing I can remember was all of us dancing and singing along to Sheryl Crow on the jukebox. Fun times.

Making it up to Matakana

Matakana is one of my favourite places in the world and is a place I have been visiting for about 15 years now, since my Auntie and Grandmother moved up there. My Grandmother has since passed away and it has changed a lot over the years but I still love this country village north of Auckland and try to get up there whenever I am home. It was only a flying visit this time where I visited my Aunties, went to the Sunday market and had lunch with Dad at the excellent Matakana Kitchen, before picking up Dad’s van from storage and leaving after only a couple of hours, but I am pleased I still got to visit nonetheless.

Support from friends and family

I have been overwhelmed by the support I have received from my friends and family during the time I have been in Sydney and New Zealand. Everyone loves Trav but they understand that it was something that needed to happen for both of us to be happy in the future. They all just want me to be happy and that means the world.

Drunk friends

Driving again

I don’t get to drive much these days and haven’t owned a car since I left New Zealand way back in February 2004 so I always love having the chance to get in a vehicle and hit the road. I especially love driving in New Zealand which has got to be one of the best places in the world to drive with unreal landscapes and a lack of multi-lane freeways. On this visit I have been driving my Dad’s mini camper van and having the freedom to do my own thing feels great.

Reconnecting with my oldest friend

On this visit, I was able to spend more time than usual with one of my best friends than I have been able to in the last couple of years. We have been friends since we were four and as our families are also friends, we used to spend loads of time together and even went to the same holiday spot every year. She got sick a few years ago and it has taken its toll on her energy levels as well as her health so when I have been back in recent years, I haven’t been able to spend much time with her before she got exhausted. Her health is so much better at the moment and it was like having my friend back. We were able to connect better than we have for ages and it made me realise how much I had missed our friendship. I am so happy to see her doing so well and look forward to spending a lot more time with her in the future now I will be coming back to New Zealand more.

Lowlights

Finding it hard to be in Sydney

On one hand it was really nice to be back in Sydney. It is a gorgeous city, one of my favourites in the world, and I have a lot of good friends there. But it is also the place were I lived with my now ex-fiance, and everywhere I went I was reminded of our life together, a life that doesn’t exist anymore. By the end of the three and a half weeks I spent there, I was exhausted. To get on with my life properly, I needed to leave, at least while my emotions are still raw.

One really, really bad day

I had been doing pretty well with the break up but then when my Mum and Step-Dad were over, we arranged to meet up with Trav for lunch. Unfortunately Mum and I were not getting on too well and she was still upset over me breaking up with Trav so the day ended up just being awful for me. I felt hopeless and upset the whole day and nothing could make me feel better, the emotions were right on the surface and they weren’t going anywhere. Trav was so great that day and tried to comfort me; his kindness meant a lot. It was the only day that I thought that maybe I had made the wrong decision in breaking up. Luckily over the next couple of days I started feeling like myself again and was confident that I had done the right thing.

Working in a boring job

Working Reception in a company that hardly gets any phone calls where you can be sitting and doing almost nothing for most of the day is pretty damn boring. Sure, it gave me time to catch up on blog stuff but having to sit on my butt all day after travelling for eight months and having new and fun experiences constantly, the boredom was almost too much. I was very ready to leave after my three week stint back at a desk.

Spending:

Total: USD$799.50

Yep, pretty happy with this total. Despite spending the month in two very expensive countries, I have spent a lot less than previous months travelling because I haven’t been moving around much as well as staying with friends and family and working rather than exploring. There is no way this month’s total could be so low without the kindness and support of my friends and family who drove me around, let me crash at their places, cooked for me and bought me meals out. I am a very lucky girl.

Accommodation $0

I have been very lucky this month to have entirely stayed with friends and family so my accommodation costs are zero for the first month since I started this trip.

Food and Drink $396

It has been nice to be able to cook again and I have been doing a lot of that, although I also ate out a lot while catching up with everyone.

Clothing $16

  • Skirt $4
  • Hiking socks $12

Just a couple of small additions to my wardrobe.

Transport $286.50

  • Public transport in Sydney for three weeks $73
  • Flight Sydney to Auckland including two bags $210
  • Public transport in Auckland $3.50

I haven’t been moving around much this month so other than my flight back home to New Zealand, the only transport costs have been for public transport to get to and from work in Sydney, and a couple of trains in Auckland.

Activities $0

I didn’t have much time for activities this month due to work and all of the activities I did do, like attend the Pasifika Festival and Arts in Eden in Auckland, were free. I also did a lot of walking around and beach bumming in Sydney.

Other $101.50

  • One Year Website Site Lock Security $24
  • Gift $50
  • Toiletries $9.50
  • Camera lens cap $14
  • Tragus earring $3.50
  • Second hand book $0.50

A few bits and pieces this month including the renewal of site lock security for my website and a gift for a friend’s birthday.

Earning:

TOTAL: USD$1733.00

I am loving that I have earned more than double what I have spent over the past month! It is very much needed for the next part of my trip.

St Stephens Church

What’s in store for next month:

I only have one week left in New Zealand which will be spent in one of my New Zealand home towns Tauranga where I will be attending a friend’s wedding before I am hitting the road again, literally. I will be road tripping the USA for three months!

I fly into Denver on the 29th March and will be heading west from there, visiting New Mexico, the parks in Utah (fingers crossed I won’t be camping in late season snow!), dropping in on friends in Arizona then heading into southern California by the end of month ten.

I will be taking my time in the US as it comes and am bursting at the seams to get over there now, although I have also really enjoyed being back home.

USA: Bring it on!

To read additional Monthly Round Ups, you can find them here

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