Month Twenty One of Digital Nomad life was spent back in my country of birth and part time home: New Zealand!
It has been so awesome being back and the land of the long white cloud has mostly been blessed with sunshine for the past month, which isn’t surprising as February and March are usually the nicest months of the year.
I kicked off my month in Tauranga where I swam at the beach, went shopping for new work clothes with Mum, and went on my Step Dad’s boat – the first time in years. I always love going back to my home town – Tauranga is where I went to High School and where my Mum still lives – and it was a great visit back.
Then it was back to Auckland, to start working!
I always try to get some temping work when I am back in New Zealand to top up my savings, which had reached all time lows after travelling in the Caribbean and Mexico.
This time around I landed an amazing job – as an Executive Assistant at Southern Cross – New Zealand’s largest private healthcare provider! More on that exciting development in my highlights (I never thought something to do with work would be a highlight, but there you go).
So, much of the past month I have been working, but I did manage to squeeze so much into my spare time too, even with having to juggle my online work. Luckily I am on hiatus with a couple of my clients which has made it a lot more manageable.
So you know my highlight from last month about winning the Drag Queen hosted quiz at the Cabaret bar Caluzzi? Yea well we have continued to dominate every week since – reigning champions for five weeks now which has just been incredible – I had never even won one quiz before and now we are quizzing legends!
I have also been re-exploring Auckland’s diverse and delicious dining scene, catching up with friends all around the city which has been great. I am eating a lot more vegetarian these days – about 80% – and there is a lot of great veggie options in the city.
There has also been plenty of beach time and swimming which I appreciate even more now that I am in Colorado for a large part of the year. Luckily I love the mountains so much too.
I also made it down to Wellington to visit my good friends Jolie and Tom, who returned from Melbourne to New Zealand last year. Jols is pregnant and they bought a house so life is ticking along nicely for them and I was so happy I could pop down to hang with them for a long weekend.
I arrived into Wellington to brilliant sunshine, then it was fish and chips on the beach in Eastbourne – I was loving being back in Wellington for the first time since 2009.
Then we woke up to rain, and it didn’t let up for the next three days that I was down there.
But no matter, we did a road trip down to Cape Palliser where we would be glamping for the night, via cute towns and over rugged mountains, and even though things didn’t end up turning out as we had planned in regards to our glamping experience, we enjoyed it none the less.
I also had a day exploring Wellington itself. Although I had planned to go up Mt Victoria and to take the cable car to the botanical gardens, I wasn’t too disappointed that the rain forced me to change my plans, exploring funky Cuba Street, meeting an old workmate from Sydney for lunch, and spending a few hours at Te Papa Museum instead.
My last weekend of month twenty one I did something I had wanted to do for a while – catch the ferry out to the bird sanctuary island, Tiritiri Matangi.
My island experience turned out to be even better than I could have imagined, and the incredible late summer weather we were blessed with on the day definitely helped make it so spectacular.
And that was month twenty one.
Now onto the Stats:
Countries visited: New Zealand
- New Zealand: Auckland, Tauranga, Wellington, Cape Palliser, Featherston, Greytown, Martinborough
Islands visited: Matakana Island, Tiritiri Matangi Island
National Parks and Monuments visited: None this month unfortunately, but got one on the cards for next month
Best meal: Vegetarian Roti Canai at Ponsonby International Food Court. I had been wanting to try roti canai for a while now, and my friend Kurt recommended this place. I LOVED it – the curry was so rich and creamy, but the roti was the best bit: Malaysian roti is more like a flaky croissant pastry than more bread based Indian roti, and it’s irresistible.
Worst meal: Slimy smoked salmon wrap at a bar opening I went to. Such a gross texture that I really struggled to even swallow it.
Best craft beer: Honestly, the craft beer game is not super exciting in New Zealand, but it is getting better, slowly. I haven’t drunk much beer at all this month and there was nothing that stood out as great of what I did drink.
- Base and Summit tracks of Mount Maunganui in Tauranga, New Zealand 4.5 miles/7.2km
- Mt Eden Summit via the Domain in Auckland, New Zealand 5 miles/8km
- Te Whiti Riser trail in Lower Hutt, New Zealand 4 miles/6.6km return
- Kawerau Track loop on Tiritiri Matangi Island approx 3.75 miles/6km
Reading: The Hypnotist’s Love Story – By Liane Moriarty. Man, I loved this book. Liane Moriarty also wrote ‘Big Little Lies’ which was excellent, but I liked this one more. It centres on a hopeless in love Hypnotherapist who falls for a guy… that has a stalker. I love how the book gets into the mind of the stalker as well as the Hypnotherapist, making you realise that stalkers are people too – and a lot of them didn’t start out that way.
Watching: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – I love this silly, funny Netflix show that has a burnt out Lawyer bump into her ex from summer camp, a guy she has never really gotten over. After this chance meeting she quits her job and moves to his home town in California, where he has recently moved back to, in hopes to win him back. Each episode includes hilarious musical numbers and the cast is full of lovable and quirky weirdos. Light hearted and very fun.
I also saw ‘Lion’ which was one of the most heart-wrenching, beautiful movies I have ever seen. I don’t know if I will ever have kids – I’m still on the fence – but adopting is something that me and Toby have talked about – hypothetically at least. This movie further cemented the desire to adopt rather than have a biological child. There are so many children out there that need a home, and love.
Lots of Beach Swimming
I love me a swim at the beach, and the last few times I was back in New Zealand, it was too cold for swimming. This visit coincided with the best days of summer so I have been swimming to my heart’s content at the beaches around Auckland, on Tiritiri Matangi Island, and in Tauranga. It has been glorious.
A Day on the Boat and Swimming to an Island
It had been years since I had gone out in my Step Dad Robbie’s boat, and in fact he now has a new one from when I last went out in 2013. The weather was perfect during my weekend in Tauranga so we spent one morning out enjoying it on the boat – cruising around the harbour and out to sea for a bit. I love being on boats, as long as it isn’t too rough that is, as I can be prone to seasickness.
There is a long island of pine trees and white sand beaches, Matakana Island, just across a small channel from Mount Maunganui and I have always wanted to go there. So I decided to swim over from the boat for a quick look. I am reasonably fit but swimming is something I don’t do a lot of these days, but I managed to make it the 50 metres or so over there with no trouble, walked along the beach for a bit then swam back. I may not have stayed long on the island but at least I have stepped foot on it now.
Getting a Fantastic Job
Usually when I am back in Auckland and looking to do a temping role for a month or two, there isn’t a lot available that will fit around my availability. The last few times I have been back I just got some Reception work. Not that there is anything wrong working as a Receptionist, it is just so boring and the pay isn’t great. So luckily this time around my timing couldn’t have been better – I snagged an amazing role as the Executive Assistant to the new CEO of Southern Cross Health Society! I was an EA back in London at Kings College and I enjoyed the fast-paced environment. I also love organising people so being an EA is the perfect role for me.
It has been crazy busy but the people are so nice, including my boss, and I have really enjoyed getting back into the swing of things after years away from working this type of role. I even extended my time in New Zealand by 4 weeks so I can make some extra money before heading back to the US.
Enjoying a Busy Social Life
Another plus about being back home in New Zealand for a while is that most of my friends and nearly all of my family live here – meaning I have lots of trips planned to visit people, as well as dinners, drinks, brunches etc in and around Auckland. Now that I have been travelling for almost two years, I don’t usually have such a large community of loved ones around me. I do have that in Denver too, thanks to Toby’s family, it’s just on a bigger scale here and I am loving it. I am a social butterfly by nature so I am in my element!
A Sunny Friday Night in Wellington
Leaving Auckland, the sky was dull and grey. By the time I flew into Wellington less than an hour later, the sky was bright blue and cloudless – it was such a contrast! Flying into Wellington, passing over small offshore islands, and over rolling green hills, was one of my favourite landings ever. It wasn’t even windy, something that ‘windy Welly’ is notorious for.
I reunited with my friends Jols and Tom who I hadn’t seen for a bit over two years, and their wonderful dog baby Melby, and we headed to Eastbourne beach, around the bay from Wellington. We sat on the beach eating delicious fish and chips, a Kiwi classic and my first since being back in New Zealand this time around, playing with Melby then watching an epic sunset where the few clouds in the sky turned shades of pinks and peaches. It was the perfect return to Wellington.
Disconnecting completely for 24 hours
Now that I am a Digital Nomad, it really isn’t often that I am offline for more than a couple of hours. So staying in a cabin in a pretty remote part of the North Island of New Zealand was the perfect remedy for that – there was no cell signal or wifi. We had planned to be hiking (see lowlights below) but because of the rain we ended up spending our offline time chilling in the cabin instead. I ended up reading a whole novel over the course of an afternoon and evening! It felt really good to not have anything planned and to be forced to just relax and decompress. I realised that I haven’t really done that for a while – and I am going to make a point to focus more on just relaxing and doing nothing more often.
Island Life on Tiritiri Matangi
My best friend Kurt and I had been talking about making the 50 minute trip out to Tiritiri Matangi Island from Auckland City for a while. The small island in the Hauraki Gulf is a world renowned bird sanctuary island that is home to many species of native New Zealand birds, including a few that you can’t find anywhere other than wildlife sanctuaries in the North Island anymore, like the endangered takahē, and the kākāriki.
Hiking around the island and hearing all the bird song was just incredible, and we even went for a dip in some of the clearest water I have ever seen at Hobbs Beach. I also loved the historic lighthouse and the magnificent views over the Hauraki Gulf from the headland that it sits on. It was an amazing and unique day out.
Rained out in Wellington (and surrounds)
I mentioned in my highlights that my arrival in Wellington was heralded by sunshine and blue skies, and that I loved being able to disconnect while at our hut near Cape Palliser. Those were the good points of my weekend away, but I won’t lie – the constant rain that plagued the rest of the weekend was a real bitch and we could definitely have done without it.
The original plan was to stay in a remote hut through Glamping Hub, but as we would have had to hike for two hours to reach it, and because there were numerous creek crossings, we were advised that we shouldn’t attempt it as we may have been trapped up there if the creek rose. It was disappointing but we still enjoyed the new plan of chilling out in the upgraded hut we stayed in that we didn’t have to hike to.
It would have also been nice to see the small towns we stopped in along the way and the Cape Palliser Lighthouse in the sunshine, instead of cold driving rain. But, what can you do.
Struggle to lose weight
I always gain weight when I am in the US, I blame the constant travelling which means I can’t cook as much as I would like, as well as Toby’s penchant for fast food (Ok, I kinda like it too but I wouldn’t treat myself so much if it wasn’t for him!). Usually when I come home, get into a routine of healthy eating during the week, lots of walking and only treating myself in the weekends, I start losing the extra weight. This time around it just doesn’t want to budge though. Maybe it’s my age – the older you are the harder it is to lose weight. I think I will need to be stricter with myself when I am back in the US so I don’t gain in the first place (just so you know, I don’t by any means think I am fat, I just feel a bit flabby and unhealthy but it’s not the end of the world).
Weird ache in my right arm
It’s gone away now, but for about a week I had a weird ache all up the back of my right arm and my hand which, although it was only a dull pain, it was constantly on my mind. I thought maybe it was RSI but I have also had it in my leg before. Pretty weird and something that I may need to go to the Doctor for if it happens again.
Ahhhhh this is more like it! So nice to be knuckling down and saving some money rather than spending for a while. Also, being so busy with work means that I’m not out and about spending money so much. My bank balance is definitely thanking me!
Settling down for a while really cuts accommodation costs! I have been staying with my Dad in Auckland, I spent a weekend at my Mum’s in Tauranga, and a weekend with friends in Wellington. We did spend a night in a cabin booked with Glamping Hub but they gave me a voucher in exchange for a write up.
Food and Drink $225
Woohoo loving this! Because I have been working the whole month, I have saved a lot of money on food by taking my lunch to work everyday rather than eating out as much. My Dad has been paying for the groceries too while I am staying with him so obviously this has helped me save loads too.
- Singlet tops x 2 $35
- Bikini $15
- Bikini bottoms $9
- Work dresses x 2 $30.50
A few things for work, a bikini that was made for an alien (hot tip: do NOT buy bikinis from cheap Chinese clothing sites) and some bikini bottoms – nothing too outrageous this month.
- Bus from Auckland to Tauranga return $38
- Return ferry Auckland City to Devonport $8.50
- Bus from Airport to Lower Hutt $8.50
- Flight from Wellington to Auckland $41
- Public transport in Wellington $3
- Bus from Wellington to Airport $6.50
- Bus from Auckland Airport to Auckland City $12.50
- Return ferry from Auckland City to Tiritiri Matangi $49
Although I walk to work during the week, which means I don’t have to pay for public transport, I have had a few expenses for weekend travel including my return flight from Wellington (I used miles to get down there), the bus to and from Tauranga and the ferry to Tiritiri Matangi.
No activity costs this month. I was going to put the ferry to Tiritiri Matangi on the list but as it isn’t a tour and there is no entry fee as such, it is under transport.
- Toiletries $32
- Charity $3
- Bullet Blender $35
- Kiwiana Gifts $52.50
- Phone top up $19.50
- Hair cut $25
I went a bit nuts on Tiritiri Matangi and bought a crap load of Kiwiana stuff as presents – including some for myself including a fantail suitcase tag, a mini Pukeko toy, and a new glasses case with native NZ birds on it. I also treated myself to a bullet blender that I am planning to travel with. I love smoothies for breakfasts so it’s been great so far.
What’s in store for next month:
The next month will see me still in New Zealand, working during the week and exploring most weekends.
Next weekend I will be back in Tauranga, a visit planned to coincide with one of my good friends from High School visiting too (she lives in Australia now). She has planned a big reunion night out with about 15 of us in the Mount – I can see a bad hangover again in my near future. I will also be hanging out with my Mum and Step Dad and catching up with other friends, as well as meeting my friend Todd’s baby!
I will be going up to Matakana for a couple of days on a work offsite meeting which I have helped put together. We are staying in these great baches (that’s Kiwi for holiday home) by the water and will be having dinner at one of my favourite restaurants, Matakana Market Kitchen, as well as doing a team building activity, oh, and the boring meeting stuff that I have to take minutes for.
We will wrap up on the Friday afternoon and I am going to stay in town to see my Aunties, my Dad will be coming up too, and will go to my beloved Matakana Market on Saturday. Then on Saturday afternoon I will be catching the bus to Hamilton for the rest of the weekend to see my friend Ann Maree and her awesome family – can’t wait!
Then it’s Easter after that and I have a really exciting adventure planned. Me and Dad are going to leave Auckland after I finish work on the Thursday, staying at the Waitomo Caves Hotel for the night. Dad used to be the General Manager there and I got my first full time job there, as a Receptionist, when I was 19. And I haven’t been back since. I am excited to see how much it has changed since then.
After leaving Waitomo, we will be Tongariro National Park bound!
Since doing the Kepler Track in November 2015, I have made it my goal to do all of New Zealand’s Great Walks (there are nine in total) over the next few years. There are a couple that I have been most looking forward to doing, one of them being the Tongariro Northern Circuit.
So I’m doing it!
Dad will drop me off at the beginning of the trail and I will hike it over three days by myself, staying in huts along the way. I am so freaken excited about this but also a bit nervous as I haven’t done a multi-day hike since the Kepler. I’m also nervous about the weather – fingers crossed it won’t rain (or snow) on me.
So that’s the next month – even though I am working full-time I am pretty excited about all the fun New Zealand travel plans that are in the cards. I may not be a true Digital Nomad right now but I am still loving life.
This country really is incredible.
To read additional Monthly Round Ups, you can find them here