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Month Forty Three of Digital Nomad Life was a pretty relaxed one, split between snowy Colorado and hot Hawaii.
We started the month with a six day housesit in Littleton, a small town in the south of Denver. The two dogs we were caring for were super sweet and we walked them daily on the trail system right by the house. It was nice to have our own space for a bit and I did a lot of cooking and baking for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day family events.
Christmas in Denver was fun, although it wasn’t a white one – but it did end up snowing on Boxing Day and then heavily on New Years Eve so I at least still got to experience some snow – it’s still a novelty for this sub-tropical Kiwi.
Along with all the Christmas events, we had four family member’s birthdays over the Christmas/New Years period so we were busy with those. We also fit in game nights, movie nights, a day trip to Idaho Springs and Central City, and friend and family catch ups in Denver, Littleton and Boulder.
I got sick with a cold right after New Years and it hung around for over a week which meant that I had a lot of downtime watching ‘This is Us’ in bed, trying to get better before flying to Hawaii.
Unfortunately the sickness was still lingering when we arrived in Hawaii, so my three nights in Waikiki included a lot of resting, but we still spent hours on the beach, walking round town, and eating garlic shrimp and delicious malasadas, so it wasn’t a total bust.
From Waikiki we flew to the Big Island, where we spent the last ten days of the month at our Help Exchange in South Kona. We work around 22-25 hours per week in exchange for accommodation – our own little studio with sea views – and some food.
Toby has been doing some maintenance and construction projects around the property, and I have been working the pizza stand at two local markets each week – hard work but so fun!
I’m really enjoying the quiet rhythm of our lives at the moment, working 2.5 days a week for the Help Exchange, cooking and eating at home for most meals, walking the roads of South Kona, snorkeling at Two Step and swimming at Ho’okena – our closest beach.
It’s nice to have a bit of a routine and to relax a bit, enjoying the warmer weather.
Now onto the Stats!
Countries Visited: USA
- Colorado: Denver
- Hawaii: Oahu – Waikiki; Big Island – Kailua, South Kona, Kua Bay
National Parks and Monuments Visited: Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park on the Big Island of Hawaii
Islands Visited: Oahu and the Big Island of Hawaii
Best Meal: Food Highlights of the month included a delicious Christmas Day Lunch with all the trimmings at my Auntie’s house; Roast chicken with an orange glaze, green chile polenta and asparagus from Breckenridge Brewery in Littleton, CO; The excellent crab legs and creme brulee at the Isle of Capri Buffet at Central City, CO; Haupia (coconut) and Mac nut Malasadas (Portuguese donuts) from Leonards Bakery in Honolulu; The best tapioca pudding with brown sugar and tropical fruit from the Waikiki Farmer’s Market and King’s Village; and The Garlic Shrimp plate with extra garlic from Sam’s in Waikiki.
Worst Meal: Nothing that bad this month. I did get the orange chicken at Panda Express and quickly remembered why I didn’t usually get that – the quality of the meat is pretty bad with lots of fatty pieces.
Best Craft Beer: Pretty much everything at Kona Brewing Company. There are so many more options at the brewery than I have seen at the shops and I especially loved the Kanaha Blonde Ale with mango, the Hanalei Island IPA with guava, passionfruit and orange, and the Lemongrass Luau.
- Clear Creek Trail in Wheat Ridge, CO 3 miles/5km return
- Lee Gulch Trail in Littleton, CO 3 miles/5km return
Not much hiking this month because I was sick for nearly half of it. I did do the Lee Gulch trail about four times because we were walking the dogs on it during our Littleton housesit, and we did a few roadside walks in Hawaii too.
Reading: Origin by Dan Brown. I love reading Dan Brown books because they are an easy read, they get into the action straight away, and they always weave in real historic events – and I am a sucker for history.
Origin is about a Billionaire Computer Scientist and Futurist who is planning to announce to the world that he has discovered the origin of humans, an announcement that promises to rock the religious world. As he is about to announce his life-changing discovery, he is murdered, then the rest of the book has his friend and former teacher Robert Langdon racing to uncover his discovery to the world with the bad guys on his tail. Pretty standard Dan Brown formula but a fun read none-the-less.
Watching: This is Us. I can’t believe I didn’t start watching this show sooner because now I am completely hooked. I ended up watching all the current two and a half seasons of episodes over the past month – when I was sick, I was binge watching around five or six episodes a day.
If you haven’t heard of This is Us, it is about a family over the course of about forty years, with flashbacks and flash forwards in each episode. I don’t know if a TV show has ever made me cry as much, and I’m also pretty sure there has never been a hotter TV Dad than Jack Pearson, especially around the time the triplets are born #DAMN!
Christmas in Denver
I had such a great time with Toby’s family over Christmas – my first Christmas in the US. We did a boozy ugly Christmas sweater pub crawl with Toby’s brother and sister and law and some of the cousins, we went to a Christmas cookie making party and had Christmas Day at Auntie Patsy’s, and we had Christmas Eve at Auntie Vicky’s.
At Christmas Eve I was given the joke panties – a gigantic pair of hot pink and black lace panties that get given to someone new in the family each year. It is a family tradition that Toby’s Dad started over twenty years ago. So now I am REALLY part of the family.
It was fun to spend so much time with everyone after not seeing them for a couple of months, and I was so impressed by how much Americans get into the Christmas spirit, with so many houses and businesses going all out with their decorations.
I am already looking forward to my next Christmas in Colorado!
Some Fun Boozy Nights out in Denver
I don’t usually drink a lot these days but every now and then it is fun to have a blow out, and I had three last month. The Ugly Christmas Sweater brunch pub crawl was a really fun one as I got to see a lot of cool pubs around RiNo and Five Points in Denver that I hadn’t been to before, as well as catching up with some of my favorite family members.
Auntie Patsy had her birthday at Proof Niteclub and I drunk too much vodka, but had such a fun night dancing my ass off, and my sister in law Afor had her birthday brunch at View House, which was such a fun one because there were loads of people there that I hadn’t seen for ages, and they have games there like indoor volleyball and corn hole.
All three blow outs took place over only one week so I had to take a break from drinking for a couple of weeks after – but it was totally worth it.
Finally Visiting Central City
Central City is a historic mining town in the Colorado mountains, under an hour from downtown Denver, and I have wanted to visit for a while because it is different than most of the mountain towns in Colorado – most of the buildings are now occupied by casinos.
We finally made it there this month and I loved the little town. The Main Street looks like it did over 100 years ago, and it isn’t super obvious that it is basically the Las Vegas of Colorado. Right next to Central City is Black Hawk which is much more obvious with the casinos, as there are a lot of newer multi-story buildings there.
We did a bit of gambling on the slots at one of the small casinos then had dinner at the Isle of Capri Buffet in Black Hawk, which has amazing crab legs, and a really good range of other dishes.
It was a fun little excursion and I would definitely go back – even if it’s just for the crab legs.
Arriving Back to one of my Favorite Places
It has been so amazing to be back in Hawaii, one of my favorite places in the world. This is my fifth visit but it is Toby’s first, so it is really cool to see him experience and fall in love with this island state.
Whenever I return to Hawaii it always feels like coming home, and this time isn’t any different. We feel so lucky that we get to spend the next couple of months living here.
Meeting Some Cool Fellow Help Exchangers
We really lucked out with the other Help Exchangers that we are working with. There is a great couple from England, Toby and Emma, who have been here for a month, and two Hungarian girls, Bianca and Vicky, who arrived a few days before us. It has been fun getting to know everyone when we are working together, and when we do group outings with our hosts Lori and Cameron, who are also great.
Working at the Markets
I have always wanted to have a stall at a farmers market, which was one of the reasons why we chose this Help X placement. Over the past couple of weeks I have been learning how to set up, work and break down our host’s market stall, and I have loved it – even though it means getting up at 5.30am twice a week for market days.
Our hosts have a stall selling incredible pizzas, Lilikoi (Hawaiian passionfruit) lemonade, and waffles. I have mostly been in charge of putting pizzas in and taking them out of the oven, cutting pizzas and making waffles, but I have also learnt how to work the counter serving people and handling money, so it has given me a pretty good overview of the business.
Even after the short time that we have been here, I already know a number of locals and other stall holders from working the markets, and I look forward to every one. It has been a great way to feel like a part of the local community, which has been a dream of mine since I first came to Hawaii.
I want to have our own market stall even more now, and it is definitely something we will consider for when we get back to Denver – I’m thinking New Zealand baked goods and savory pies.
Swimming with Dolphins – Finally!
Swimming with wild dolphins has been at the top of my bucket list for years now, and despite being in places over the years where it is apparently easy to swim with wild dolphins, I just haven’t been in luck – until now.
We were down at Two Step the other day where spinner dolphins are spotted often, and there was a pod of them hanging out a bit off shore. I tried swimming out there but I didn’t have fins and my snorkel was leaking so I ended up giving up and swimming back to shore, pretty bummed out.
About an hour later when the other Helpers got back from snorkeling, I noticed that the dolphins were still around so I borrowed a snorkel and fins off one of the others, and swam out there. And then I saw them, a few metres in front of me!
The pod swam to the side of me then dove under me – I watched them chasing each other as they swam to the bottom. And then a few minutes later they came up right near me again!
After that I swam back to shore because I get a bit freaked being in super deep water by myself but it was such an incredible experience. I hope to do more dolphin swimming during my time here – the Big Island is known for its large dolphin and whale population so the odds are in my favor. Our host even swam with whales the other day and that would be incredible too!
Hanging out in Kailua-Kona
The largest town on the west side of the Big Island may be touristy but I love it anyway – I think it isn’t so touristy that it has lost its charm. The town has a great vibe – relaxed but vibrant – and it makes me feel happy just being there.
We have been in to Kailua a couple of times so far, to explore the shops in town, eat amazing poke from Umeke’s, visit the Kailua Stroll – a once a month market, swim at the tiny town beach and sample the tropical beers at Kona Brewing Company.
We are planning on many more trips in the weeks to come.
Inheriting a Kitty
On our second night at our Help Exchange a little Siamese kitty showed up at our little studio, and now she has been showing up every day since. We don’t think she is feral because she is the friendliest little love cat ever – never have I seen a cat that loves cuddles as much as she does – but we don’t know who her owner is.
She comes every evening and spends most of the night with us, wrapped around my neck like a scarf or lying on Toby’s chest.
It’s going to be very hard to say goodbye when the time comes. I am dreading it already.
The Cold That Felt Like it Would Never End
As I mentioned in the recap above, I was taken out by one of the worst colds I have ever had. I felt like crap for ten days, spent a lot of time in bed, and started to feel like I would never get better.
It ruined plans to go to Rocky Mountain National Park and snowshoeing in Colorado, and it tainted my first few days in Hawaii. Also, spending eleven hours in the air and in transit is not fun anytime, but especially when you are not well.
I think next winter I will prepare more by taking vitamins etc to hopefully prevent getting sick again.
More Issues with my Laptop Charger
I have had it up to here (indicating over my head) with Macbook laptop chargers! My original charger died when I was on a small island in Cambodia last March and it was a pain in the butt to replace, then the replacement started playing up just before the wedding in September, when my stress levels were already pretty high. I managed to find a part to fix it, but then the whole thing stopped working again this month, when I was sick and two days away from flying to Hawaii.
Of course, like most Mac products, it was expensive to replace because I didn’t have the time to get one online. I hope this one lasts me at least a couple of years but I am not holding my breath.
Hawaii Car Hire Fail
We were meant to be hiring a car for the day to go to the North Shore of Oahu because Toby wanted to see the giant waves (and because it is awesome), but after he spent over an hour early in the morning on a bus to the airport to pick it up, they wouldn’t let him rent it.
Toby only has a debit card so there are more conditions attached to a rental if you don’t have a credit card. They ask for two forms of ID and they didn’t end up accepting his second form of ID (his Social Security card because he couldn’t find his passport before we left), or his outgoing flight (because it was to another island rather than back to the Mainland).
So he had to take the bus back to Waikiki and we just ended up spending another day there instead. Hopefully when we get back to Oahu at the beginning of March there will still be some big waves for him to see.
A lot better than last month but would love to see my spend dip under $1000 for next month. It’s actually a possibility too because we will still be at our Help Exchange in Hawaii, where we will mostly just be spending money on groceries and only very occasionally eating out.
My paid accommodation this month consisted of my half of the deposit for our three nights in a private room of a hostel in Waikiki (the balance was covered by a late honeymoon donation). We also spent six nights housesitting in Littleton, eight nights at Toby’s brother’s in Denver, four nights at Toby’s Mum’s place in Brighton, and ten nights in our little studio at our South Kona Help Exchange on the Big Island.
Food and Drink $631
Not too ridiculous on the food and drink spend this month. We weren’t eating out quite as much as we weren’t on the road, although I did spend more on alcohol this month than I usually do, with Christmas celebrations and a large number of birthdays. Also – groceries cost more here in Hawaii.
- Ski Boots $10
- Gas $39.50
- Parking $2.50
- Uber $12
- Denver Trains $5.50
- Airport Shuttle in Honolulu $18
- Flight Honolulu to Kona $85
I don’t include International flights in my costs
- City Bike Hire in Honolulu $3.50
- Phone Credit $50
- Toiletries $6.50
- Four months of the pill $38
- Gifts $51
- Proof Nightclub Entry $5
- Gambling $10
- Macbook Air Charger $76
- Bag fees $22.50
- Hostelling International Yearly Membership $18
- ATM fees $6
A few unforeseen costs this month but nothing too crazy.
Van Costs $14
- New Headlight $14
Website Costs $12
- Monthly payment for Keysearch $12
What’s in Store for Next Month
The next month will see us still in Hawaii, doing our Help Exchange in South Kona.
We are planning to go camping for a night or two in the Waimanu Valley in the north of the island – as long as it isn’t too windy or rainy, as well as our weekly trips into Kailua-Kona and beach and snorkeling trips to Ho’okena and Two Step.
My Dad will be flying into Hawaii at the end of month forty four, and he will be hiring a car and staying in the little studio on the property where we are currently living, so we will be able to do more island exploration once he arrives – we have lots planned!
To read additional Monthly Round Ups, you can find them here