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Digital Nomad Life: Month Sixty FiveI spent the first half of Month Sixty Five in managed isolation in an Auckland hotel, and the second half of the month I spent between Auckland, Tauranga and Wellington, visiting friends and family and enjoying my freedom.

My two weeks in managed isolation flew by because I had a busy routine that included client work, writing, behind the scenes work on this website, 30 minute online HIIT workouts, daily car park walking laps while listening to podcasts, calls with friends and family, and lots of movies, TV show bingeing and reading.

And I just felt so grateful to be back, and I know how incredibly privileged I am to be here.

Albert Park in Auckland

I spent another week in Auckland after I got out of isolation, walking all over the city, socializing, visiting my favorite museum – the Auckland War Memorial Museum, hiking Cornwall Park, the Domain, and Mount Eden, and generally just marveling over and enjoying having a regular life again after 7 months of lockdowns, social distancing, and masks.

It felt so surreal at first but now it is almost like the pandemic doesn’t exist and that this crazy year didn’t happen, although every time I watch the news I am brought back to reality.

It was my 38th birthday on my last day in Auckland, and I spent the day on the bird sanctuary island, Tiritiri Matangi. The weather was gorgeous, and we hiked around the island and saw so many native birds.

Beach on Tiritiri Matangi

I also swam at the beach there, which was surprisingly warm and had crystal clear water – it was divine. I loved the ferry trip there and back too – such a great day to be on the water.

After a week in Auckland, I drove to Papamoa to meet up with family for my birthday, and then spent a week enjoying Papamoa beach and the Mount, celebrating my Mum’s birthday a week after mine with a dinner out.

I also popped over to Hamilton for a night during the week, to visit my friend Ann Maree and her family, and I revisited the excellent Hamilton Gardens for the first time in twenty years – I shouldn’t have waited so long to return because I loved it.

Chinese Garden at Hamilton Gardens

From Papamoa, I drove down to Wellington, stopping in Bulls for a night on the way.

I spent the last night of the month in Wellington after a great afternoon spent walking the trails and native bird watching at Zealandia, visiting the Botanical Gardens, and taking the cablecar into the city.

Tui at Zealandia

Countries Visited: New Zealand

Places Visited: Auckland, Tauranga, Papamoa, Hamilton, Wellington

National and State Parks, Monuments, and UNESCO Sites: None this month

Islands Visited: Tiritiri Matangi in Auckland, Leisure Island in Tauranga

Best Meals: Moroccan warm chicken salad from Cornwall Park Cafe in Auckland, Butter chicken pie from Henry and Ted’s Cafe in Papamoa, and the chocolate bubble waffle from HKS Bubble Waffle in Auckland.

Moroccan chicken salad at Cornwall Park Cafe

Worst Meals: Nothing really bad this month.

Best Craft Beer: Fitzroy Apple Crumble Sour by Urbanaut Brewing in Auckland.

Hikes:

  • Domain and Mount Eden walk in Auckland 9.3km/5.8 miles
  • Judge’s Bay and Hobson’s Bay Walkway in Auckland 8km/5 miles
  • Domain, Newmarket and Mount Eden Walk in Auckland 10.5km/6.5 miles
  • Tiritiri Matangi Island trails in Auckland 8km/5 miles
  • Mauao summit and base tracks in Tauranga 7.3km/4.5miles
  • Mount beach, Leisure Island, Mauao summit and base tracks in Tauranga 9km/5.5miles

Watching: Extra Ordinary – this quirky Irish movie that involves a couple of Satanists and a reluctant and awkward medium/driving instructor was the best movie I have seen in a long time. Also, The Queen’s Gambit – who knew chess could be so interesting?

Reading: The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia.

Posts Published on The World on my Necklace This Month:

The Best Easy Hikes in Kauai

I revived this older post about the best easy hikes in Kauai for anyone visiting the islands once it is safe to do so again.

Why you Should Experience Holi in Jodhpur

While regular Holi celebrations probably won’t be going ahead this March, I wanted to write about my Holi experience in Jodhpur for future reference – it was one of the highlights of my time in India and if you are planning to visit anywhere in India for Holi in the future, I hope this post will be helpful.

With locals celebrating Jodhpur Holi

What to Expect on a 3 Day Uluru Tour

This post is about what to expect if you are planning a 3-day backpacker trip to Uluru, Kings Canyon and Kata Tjuta in Australia’s Outback in the future.

The Best Natural Hot Springs in Idaho for a Relaxing Soak

Another new post this month, this one is about all the natural hot springs in Idaho that I visited during my recent road trip, and a few that I didn’t make it to but have great recommendations.

An Epic Adventure: Hiking to a Boiling Lake in Dominica

All about how to hike to the second-largest boiling lake in Dominica, a real adventure!

Why you Need to Visit the Bagan Pagodas in Myanmar

The Bagan Pagodas are incredible, and I re-worked this very detailed post so when the world is open again you will know exactly what temples to visit, where to stay, and what to eat in Bagan.

Highlights

Thriving in New Zealand Isolation

Everyone keeps asking me if isolation was hard, expecting me to say yes, but honestly – for me it wasn’t. As I mentioned above, I had lots to do to keep me busy and I just felt so thankful to be back in New Zealand.

I was so impressed by the whole process of arriving into New Zealand. It was streamlined, easy, safe, and so, so friendly and welcoming. And it continued when I arrived at my managed isolation hotel.

Auckland isolation hotel

I got a great hotel – M Social in Auckland – and was lucky to have harbor views from my room and really good food which I chose on an app for the whole week, with two to three choices for each meal and even dessert!

The hotel staff were very friendly and welcoming too and it was so nice to have this incredible kindness shown to me, it made me feel so proud to be a Kiwi.

I wasn’t sure if I would feel welcomed coming back but I couldn’t have imagined just how welcomed I would be – it truly blew me away.

Re-Gaining my Freedom and Feeling Safe in New Zealand

As much as my two weeks in isolation went well, I was still very excited to get out and go back into a pretty much back to normal society after nearly eight months of lockdowns and safety measures.

And what a feeling that was! It was so weird at first going into shops or restaurants with no one wearing masks, but I got used to it really quickly although I still feel so grateful to be back and to have this freedom when most of the rest of the world doesn’t.

View from Mount Eden in Auckland

A New Hope for the United States

I knew that there was a really big chance that Trump would get a second term so I didn’t allow myself to feel hopeful for this election. I went to bed in New Zealand on election night with it looking like he was going to win, and I was ready for it.

But then, waking up the next morning and seeing that Biden wasn’t out of the race after all after winning Wisconsin and Michigan, I finally let myself hope that he would win, and I felt everything – bawling my eyes out that the United States could finally get out from under that tyrant that encouraged racism and hate around the country.

I was glued to the TV for the next few days, and it just got better and better, and waking up on the third morning and finding out that Biden had defeated Trump was best of all.

Although I am still scared about going back in January or February because the virus is out of control, I am so happy that at least someone that is taking it seriously will be in control by then and I have much more hope for the future of my adopted country.

A Perfect Birthday on Tiritiri Matangi Island

Tiritiri Matangi Island is a small island in Auckland’s harbor and an important predator-free native bird sanctuary. I had been before a few years ago and loved it, so my bestie Kurt offered to pay for a return visit for my birthday and it was the perfect place to celebrate another year on this earth.

Jetty at Tiritiri Matangi Island in Auckland

The ferry ride out there and back was scenic, and the weather was beautiful and warm, perfect for hiking the island’s trails and even swimming at the beautiful beach. I was so surprised how warm it was for November – spring in New Zealand.

We saw so many different native birds and the birdsong on the island was magical. The birds we saw included saddlebacks, stitchbirds, tuis, kakariki, and a nesting blue penguins.

Saddleback at Tiritiri Matangi

That evening Dad took Kurt and me out for dinner to a beautiful Italian restaurant in Britomart that I had wanted to try for a while, Ortolana, and it was the perfect end to the day.

Kakariki in flight on Tiritiri Matangi Island in Auckland

A Miracle Recovery of a Family Member

Toby’s Uncle was told a little over a year ago that his liver was failing and that he may only have a year or two left. Incredibly, after visiting the Mayo Clinic recently he was told that he is fine! His liver has either regenerated or they misdiagnosed him.

It feels like a real-life miracle and I am so happy for him, my Aunt Kathy, and their kids.

Rediscovering the Beauty of Hamilton Gardens

I had only been to Hamilton Gardens once before, twenty years ago, and I remembered enjoying it but I had it in my head that you had to pay to enter and that it was expensive so I hadn’t returned.

Indian Garden at Hamilton Gardens

But, turns out it has free entry so I visited on my short overnight trip to visit a friend this month – and it was even better than I remembered!

There are multiple themed gardens including a Japanese Garden, English Flower Garden, Chinese Scholar’s Garden, Italian Renaissance Garden, and a Surrealist Garden to name a few.

English Flower Garden at Hamilton Gardens

They have done such a fantastic job with all the gardens, and the setting is beautiful, with views over the Waikato River and the lush native New Zealand bush. 

I ended up going both days I was there and I know I will be back again soon.

Hiking the Mount and Dolphin Spotting

One of my favorite ways to work out when I visit my Mum in Papamoa is to walk the base and summit tracks of Mauao, the Mount.

The weather was beautiful during my week there so I drove down and hiked it a couple of times – I even saw a pod of dolphins the second time! It is such a beautiful spot.

View from Mauao in the Mount

Visiting Zealandia and the Botanical Gardens in Wellington

After visiting Tiritiri Matangi on my birthday, I was in full native bird nerd mode, so it was a no-brainer to visit Zealandia, another predator-free bird sanctuary, when I visited Wellington.

It is a beautiful spot in a forested valley, and I walked the main trail through Zealandia and did some of the hiking trails.

Kaka at Zealandia

I saw lots of kaka, a native New Zealand parrot, some stitchbirds, tui, and a couple of Tuataras, a reptile that looks like a lizard, but is actually the sole surviving member of a group of reptiles called Rhynchocephalia that originated in the Triassic period – 250 million years ago!

I had never seen one in their natural environment so that was pretty special.

Dam and Lake in Zealandia

I also really enjoyed the Zealandia museum exhibit, which had different bird calls you could listen to, and also represented a lot of extinct native birds.

After Zealandia, I explored the beautiful Botanical Gardens for the first time and took the scenic cable car down into the city. I definitely feel like I have had a more well-rounded Wellington tourist experience now.

Wellington Cablecar

Lowlights

A Full Plane and no Social Distancing on my Flight to New Zealand

As much as I loved the safety measures on arrival in New Zealand, I was really disappointed to board my Air New Zealand flight to find that it was nearly full, and that I was seated right next to strangers.

It felt like a big fuck you to all of us that were coming back – New Zealand would be safe because we were all going into a two-week isolation, but who cares about the people on the plane who could catch it because we were crammed in like sardines and coming from the most infected country in the world.

I expected more from Air New Zealand.

Trump Craziness

As much as I was over the moon about Biden winning, it was very disappointing to see Trump’s refusal to concede, and his followers protesting with assault weapons in different places around America.

Just give up already, the majority have spoken. I can’t wait till he is well and truly out of the White House in January and the US can start putting that dark chapter behind us.

Sheep on Mauao

Trouble Sleeping

It’s funny, I slept fine most nights in isolation, but I struggled to sleep once I got out – I did feel stressed with the aftermath of the election, and I went from sleeping in a double bed in a room alone to sleeping on a small mattress on the floor of my Dad’s tiny apartment, so I’m sure that contributed too.

I have started sleeping better now so hopefully it continues for the rest of my road trip.

Spending

Total: USD$739

Such a relief to see this right down after spending too much during the last few months. It will be up again next month as I will be roadtripping around New Zealand, but that is to be expected.

Accommodation $44

My paid accommodation this month consisted of two nights in powered sites in camping grounds in Bulls and Wellington.

My unpaid accommodation for the rest of the month was 14 nights in managed isolation in New Zealand, 7 nights staying with my Dad in Auckland, and 7 nights staying with my Mum in Papamoa.

Mount Maunganui Beach and Mauao

Food and Drink $197

Loving this! My costs were way down this month because I didn’t spend on any food except a couple of coffees for the two weeks I was in isolation, then my Dad purchased groceries as did my Mum when I stayed with them so my food and drink spend was really just a few meals and drinks out, and groceries for the first couple of days of my road trip.

Clothing $201

  • 3 x bikini tops $52
  • 2 x bikini bottoms $38
  • 1 x jean shorts $18
  • 1 x beach cover dress $14
  • 2 x singlets $14
  • 1 x boots $42
  • 1 x PJ pants $9
  • 1 x PJ shorts $14

Transport $67

  • Gas $60
  • Wellington Cable car $7

Activities $16

  • Zealandia Bird Sanctuary entrance $16

Other $202

  • Toiletries $38
  • Hulu $6
  • Phone plan $40
  • Doctor checkup $57
  • Gift $47
  • Fairy lights $3
  • Gear waterproofer $11

Website Costs $12

  • Monthly payment for Keysearch $12

Van Costs $0

Walking around the Mount

What’s in Store for Next Month

Pretty much the whole of next month will be spent roadtripping around the top of the South Island in New Zealand!

Starting in Wellington, I will be taking the van on the Interislander to Picton, then meeting my friend in Blenheim for some wine tasting, before a day driving the scenic roads along the Marlborough Sounds.

From there we will probably head to Nelson Lakes National Park to do some hiking before spending a few days catching up on work in Nelson.

Then I will be spending five days solo hiking between huts in Abel Tasman National Park – my longest multi-day hike yet! I hope the weather will be good because the beaches in the park are meant to beautiful and I would love to be able to swim.

After my hiking adventure, I will spend a couple more days in the Golden Bay area, exploring Farewell Spit and Wharariki Beach, then I will be hitting the West Coast via Kahurangi National Park.

I’m planning to visit Paparoa National Park, Punakaiki, and Hokitika on the West Coast, then I will drive Arthur’s Pass to Christchurch, stopping to do a hike or two along the way.

It will be my first visit to Christchurch since 2010 – pre-earthquake – so it will be interesting to see what the city is like now. While I’m there, I also want to do some hiking and roadtripping around the Banks Peninsula.

My last couple of stops on my South Island roadtrip will be Hanmer Springs to soak in the hot springs, and Kaikoura to eat crayfish and maybe go whale watching.

Then it’s back to Nelson where I will be leaving the van and flying back to Auckland.

I’ll be spending two nights in Auckland then on the last day of the month I’m catching a bus to my Mum’s in Papamoa for Christmas.

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

2 Comments on Digital Nomad Life: Month Sixty Five

    • I just left yesterday! I’m in Kaikoura now then fly back to the North Island for Christmas tomorrow from Nelson. Sorry I will miss you. I will be in Nelson for a week from 13th – 20th January so let me know if you guys are in the area then. Have a great Christmas 🙂

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