The Big Trip- Month Thirteen Round Up

The past month has been a pretty quiet one for me, focusing more on making money than spending it for a change.

The first five days of the month were spent in Colorado, mostly camping in the brilliant Rocky Mountain National Park.

Damn, that park is beautiful! We hiked our hearts out, drove through alpine tundra, ogled the wildflowers (well, I did. Toby not so much), sat by the campfire with hot chocolates, explored the craft beer scene in Estes Park and tiny Allenspark, and generally just loved our time there.

Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park

I didn’t have super high expectations for Rocky Mountain National Park as I just hadn’t heard much about it. Turns out it is incredible and it completely blew me away. It is right up there with my other favourite US National Parks: Zion, Yosemite and Glacier.

We also stopped by to look around the vibrant college town of Boulder on the way there and back. Loads of people told me I would love it, and they were right. I didn’t get to spend long there but we enjoyed browsing the shops along the pedestrian Pearl Street, wandering University Hill and I even found a Yellow Deli, almost exactly the same as the one in the Blue Mountains of Australia that I love. Boulder: I will be back to explore more!

Pearl Street in Boulder

Then we were back to Denver for one night to hang out with Fo, Afor and the kitties before I had to farewell Toby (again) to begin the long trip back home to New Zealand. With long stopovers in LA and Sydney, I was dreading it.

In the end, it all went rather smoothly. I jumped on a later flight to LA and was compensated generously by Southwest for volunteering, and my 14 hour flight to Sydney didn’t even feel that long.

I even I ended up quite enjoying my 12 hour stopover in Sydney and didn’t feel half as bad as I thought I would. It was great to get back to one of my favourite places in the city, Newtown, as well as meeting up with a fellow blogger that I had previously only chatted to online, Lindsay from Frugal Frolicker.

I arrived into Auckland late and was straight into it the next day, re-interviewing at one of the Temping Agencies I worked for the last time I was working in New Zealand back in late 2013/early 2014.

And I have been in Auckland since, apart from a weekend down in Tauranga visiting my Mum and Step-Dad.

Walking round the Mount, Tauranga NZ

I got a job a few days after I arrived and have been working as a Receptionist at a small Accountancy Firm the past three weeks, along with fitting in visits with friends around the city. It’s been too cold to do much sightseeing in my time off but I did manage to do the 16km Coast to Coast walk that takes in a few of Auckland’s city suburbs as well as the wonderful Cornwall Park and Mount Eden.

I was staying in my Dad’s tiny apartment in downtown Auckland for the first couple of weeks I have been back but I have been housesitting for two sweet kitties on the North Shore this week, which has been great (although I have to get up much earlier to get to work).

My Mum and Step-Dad are here this weekend and we will be exploring Auckland’s North Shore: eating out in beachside Takapuna, and making our way down to Victorian Devonport.

Now onto the Stats:

Countries visited: USA, Australia, New Zealand

Places visited:

  • Colorado:  Denver, Boulder, Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Allenspark
  • Australia: Sydney
  • New Zealand: Auckland, Tauranga

Islands visited: Alas, my life has still been free of islands this month (I’m not going to count the north island of New Zealand where I am right now)

National Parks and Monuments visited:

  • Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Best meal: I have never cooked a roast before, it was always Trav’s specialty and he was so good at it so I just left him to it. But now it was my time to shine. I cooked a roast chicken with Yorkshire puddings and a medley of roast veggies and I was so proud how well it turned out! It was my first roast in many months and it hit the spot.  I also had one of my favourite dishes from the excellent Orleans in Britomart, Auckland – Chicken and Waffles. I haven’t been to New Orleans yet but I have had this dish a few places around the world and Orleans has the best I have tasted by a long shot.

Worst meal: My taco lunch from Taco Junky in Boulder. They weren’t terrible but I just found them to be quite bland and overpriced for what we got. The menu made them sound so delicious but despite us ordering four different tacos – they all came out looking pretty much the same.

Best craft beer: Vanilla Porter from Breckenridge Brewery. I have really been getting into the darker beers and this Vanilla Porter was so smooth and creamy that ‘just one’ quickly turned into three. That’s my no hangover limit so it seemed wise to stop there.

Hikes:

  • Bear Lake area loop and Emerald Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO 8 miles/12.8km
  • Tundra Communities trail, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO 1 mile/1.6km return
  • Section of Ute trail, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO 5 miles/8km return
  • Ouzel Falls from Copeland Lake 9.4 miles/15km return
  • Coast to Coast Walk, Auckland NZ 10 miles/16km
  • Mount Maunganui base loop, Tauranga NZ 2.2 miles/3.5km

High altitude in Rocky Mountain National Park

Reading: My first audio book ever and such a great one at that, Toby and I listened to ‘Little Princes’ when we were camping in Rocky Mountain National Park which was read by the author himself, Conor Grennan. This true story is about how Conor, an American on a one year trip around the world, spends time volunteering in a Nepalese Orphanage and his experience there. While at the Little Princes Orphanage Conor gets drawn into the dark world of child trafficking in Nepal and ends up starting his own foundation, Next Generation Nepal, which aims to connect lost children with their families. It was both very sad and very uplifting, along with being hilariously funny in parts. An incredible book and Conor does such a great job narrating it as well.

Listening to: Waiting for a War – The Morning Benders

Highlights

Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park

As I mentioned in the recap above, Rocky Mountain National Park turned out to be a real Dark Horse and we loved our four nights camping in the park. With breathtaking scenery at every turn, the park was an epic place to hike. Over three days, I hiked between pristine glacial lakes, over high altitude tundra through thousands of brightly coloured wildflowers, and along a fast-flowing river to numerous waterfalls, taking a cold power shower under one of them. The diverse scenery makes the park such a wonderful place to hike and I thoroughly enjoyed hitting the trails there.

Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Finding a Yellow Deli in Boulder

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I found a branch of one of my favourite cafes ever, The Yellow Deli, in Boulder. I have talked about my love of the Yellow Deli before, and I visited the one in the Blue Mountains of Australia countless times. The food is good but that isn’t why I love it so much, it is the feeling of stepping into a fairy tale when entering: the décor is very Hobbiton-esque. The Boulder branch wasn’t quite as cool as the one in Australia but it was familiar enough that it felt like coming home. Also – best spiced apple cider in the world!

Finally getting to eat Voodoo Doughnuts again

I got on the Voodoo Doughnuts bandwagon way back in 2010, when Dad and I sampled their deliciously creative donuts at the original location in Portland. Despite loving Voodoo Doughnuts, I decided to try a different donut place when I was in Portland in May because I knew that there was a Voodoo Doughnut in Denver. I had every intention of going there as soon as we got back into Denver but as it was a little out of the way of the places we were staying, I ended up putting it off until my last night in the city, when I made Toby mission out there with me to scratch my donut itch. We grabbed a selection that we shared and they were just as tasty as I remembered.

Getting $400 in airline credit

I had a seven hour stopover in LA looming ahead of me before my long flight back to New Zealand, which I really wasn’t looking forward to. In the end that seven hour layover ended up making me $400 in Southwest credit. I was sitting on the plane, all ready to fly from Denver to LA when one of the Flight Attendants came on over the loud speaker, asking for a volunteer to take a later flight to LA. I quickly pushed the call button, found out the next flight was only three hours later and that the volunteer would get $300 credit plus the amount of their original flight. I very quickly agreed because catching the next flight would still give me four hours in LA, plenty of time to grab my bag and catch my next flight. Winning! I will definitely be putting that credit to good use and have already booked my first flight with it, flying from LA to Denver in a few weeks time.

Somehow avoiding jetlag

I tend to suffer badly from jetlag, a lot of the time taking a week to fully recover. So with a total of 35 hours spent flying and in transit to get back to New Zealand, and with an eighteen hour time difference, I was expecting to be hit hard. But, for some unknown reason, this time I wasn’t. I was tired when I finally got back, just before midnight, two calendar days after I left Denver, but I slept for nine hours and woke up the next day feeling completely normal. I expected it to hit me a day or so later but it never did. So weird, but so good.

Getting temping work straight away

I was stressing about money before I got back, worried that I wouldn’t be able to find enough temp work to be able to support myself for the next six months I would be spending in the US and travelling. I needn’t have worried, I got back late on a Thursday night then started work in a four week position the following Tuesday, and there is a good chance that the job will extend. It is a Reception role which doesn’t pay the best but as I am not paying for accommodation or much for food, I can save a large portion of what I earn. Coupled with the online work I have been doing, it should be enough to get me through.

Securing more housesits

We have been killing it on the housesitting front! We only finished our first housesit a month ago and we already have another four lined up, one of which I am currently doing now. Signing up to Trusted Housesitters is one of the best decisions I have made, allowing us to explore new areas, save money and have lots of time with adorable pets. I am looking forward to more and more housesits as time goes by.

Friends and family catch ups in New Zealand

Practically all of my family and a lot of my friends live in New Zealand, making every visit back home a whirlwind of catchups. With long periods without seeing the people that are so important to me, it is always fabulous to be able to spend time with everyone when I am back.

View over to Matakana Island, Tauranga NZ

Gorging on Kiwi food

One of the things I miss most about home, along with the people? The food. New Zealand has the best pies, incredible coffee, delicious chocolate (oh Whitakers, how I love thee), unique Kiwi baked goods, abundant and high quality Asian food, and that isn’t even mentioning all the feijoa products that I love so much – I would be a very happy girl if I could drink feijoa smoothies every day. The produce is fresh, we have some of the best seafood – with fish that you can only get in New Zealand waters, and the Café food is some of the best quality I have seen anywhere in the world. Kiwi food rocks! It’s just a shame that it is so expensive.

Lowlights

Saying goodbye to Toby – again

This one will pretty much be coming up in my lowlights every month due to the transient nature of Toby’s work as well as visa restrictions in each other’s countries. It’s never going to be fun to have to spend time away from each other, especially when it is for long periods like the seven weeks apart we are currently doing. I miss him a lot. We will have six months almost entirely together when I get back, and I can’t fricken wait!

Me and Toby with Lucy

Freezing my ass off in New Zealand

Holy crap Auckland is cold at the moment, and this is one of the warmest parts of the country! It is the first time I have been back to New Zealand in the middle of winter for about seven years and it is so much colder than I remember it. Doesn’t help that New Zealand is terrible for in-house heating – it is pretty much non-existent here. Brrrrr! I am very much looking forward to getting back to summer in a few weeks’ time.

Worrying about money

Another item that will most probably come up a lot on the lowlights list for the next couple of years – worrying about money seems to be my favourite pastime. This is what happens when you aren’t rich, you fall in love with a guy from another country, you pretty much move to that country so you can be with him, and you aren’t allowed to work there. We are trying to figure it all out day by day and it can definitely be stressful.

Struggling to get more online work

I have been spending hours applying for Virtual Assistant positions through Upwork but have had no luck as yet. With years of experience as a Personal/Executive Assistant in the real world, as well as being a Travel Blogger, I know that I have so much to offer in a VA role but as I am competing with other candidates that are willing to work for as low as $3 per hour and with a lot of candidates having more online experience than me, it’s hard to find employers that want to give me a chance. But I will just keep trying.

Estes Park, CO

Spending:

Total: USD$693

Woohoo new record – THIS is my cheapest month to date and it is mostly because I have been largely hibernating from the freezing cold winter temps in New Zealand, along with crashing on my Dad’s floor and him paying for my food. Thanks Dad!

Accommodation $60

I only paid for a couple of nights camping when we were in Rocky Mountain National Park. The rest of the month I have been staying with my Dad, my Mum, or housesitting.

Food and Drink $307.50

This is low thanks to my Dad paying for the groceries during my time in New Zealand. We have a deal – he pays for the food and I cook it. It works out pretty well for the both of us. To save money I have also been taking a packed lunch to work every day.

Clothing $24.50

  • Pajama Pants $24.50

Transport $174.50

I do not include long haul flights in my monthly totals

  • Flight from Denver to LA $102
  • Trains in Sydney $15
  • Return bus Auckland to Tauranga $26
  • Weekly ferry pass Bayswater to Auckland City $31.50

Activities $0

No activity costs for this month as we have a yearly pass for US National Parks that covered entry into Rocky Mountain National Park, and I have been working for the rest of the month rather than travelling.

Other $126.50

  • One month NZ phone plan and SIM $23.50
  • Showers whilst camping $12.50
  • 4 x bottles of Facewash and delivery $74
  • Lotto ticket $8.50
  • Lip gloss $8

Earning:

Total: USD$1415

Man, my finances were getting perilously low so this time back home in NZ temping the past three weeks has done wonders. I also got all my tax back from the four weeks I worked in Australia during the past tax year.

Hiking to Ouzel Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

What’s in store for next month:

Most of the next month I will still be in wintery New Zealand, doing some temp work and catching up with friends and family in Auckland, along with visiting an old friend and her family in Hamilton and making my way to Matakana for the Saturday market and to see my Aunties.

Then I will be flying back to the US, and summer!

The last week of the month will be spent back with Toby, recovering from jetlag for a couple of days in Denver. Then we will be beginning our house sit in the small city of Ogden, in northern Utah.

I hadn’t heard of Ogden before but I have been doing a bit of research and Ogden looks pretty awesome!

Ogden has an attractive historic downtown, it is only 10 miles from the Great Salt Lake, and it has lots of hiking trails nearby so I am excited for the two weeks we will be spending there.

Bring on month fourteen!

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

8 comments on “The Big Trip: Month Thirteen Round Up”

  1. Yay, getting that flight credit is awesome! Always been waiting for one of them opportunities to come up…you pretty much were earning over 100$/hour for those three hours…winning!

  2. Sounds like you’ve had a pretty good month. The Rockies look beautiful! Must have been a breathtaking place to wake up each morning.

    Hope your next few weeks in NZ go well. Looking forward to hearing about your summer adventures 🙂

    • Thanks Jess! Rocky Mountain National Park is so photogenic. Yea it isn’t easy, I had to go through it all with my ex too. Sometimes I wonder why I can’t just fall in love with a nice Kiwi or Aussie guy – it would make life easier. But where is the excitement in that 😉

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