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Driving through New Zealand in 9 Days (Part 1)

Driving through New Zealand in 9 Days (Part 1)

In October of last year while I was busy studying for final exams, Tra had an opportunity for an adventure. A few other Americans invited him on a road trip through New Zealand. All the way from Dunedin to Mount Maunganui and back. They packed five people (with all their luggage) in a tiny Fiat. 

Tra took amazing photos on his trip and I just had to share them with you. I loved editing this crazy New Zealand landscape that I hadn’t seen in person for myself. Even though I was born in New Zealand and hold a NZ passport, I’ve really only seen a fraction of the country. Although after looking through these photos with Tra I feel like I was on the roadtrip myself.

This is part one of the trip from Tra’s perspective:

The first stop on the adventure wasn’t a particularly tourist heavy location. Mount Sunday sits in Central Canterbury and is most well known for being the filming location for Edoras, the capital of Rohan, in The Lord of the Rings. Mount Sunday is only accessible through a gravel road which guides you down into a valley. In the middle of the valley lies a giant rock, seemingly placed there intentionally. The walk to the summit is not long or difficult, but the view at the top is gorgeous. Because it is situated in the middle of the valley, you have a spectacular view of the whole valley all while being blanketed by the much larger mountains surrounding you. 

While driving to the west coast of the South Island the group made a quick stop near the beginning of Arthurs Pass to visit Castle Hill. When I looked at the hill he imagined that a Titan carrying a bucket of gravel tripped and spilled the vehicle-sized boulders all over the hill and didn’t have the patience to clean up the mess. The landscape is littered with giant rocks just waiting to be climbed and explored. Climbers could visit Castle Hill every weekend for a lifetime and not climb the same route twice. 

Before we made camp at Abel Tasman we wanted to visit Paparoa National Park and the Pancake Rocks. This was my first opportunity to see a Weka up close, which is a flightless bird that kind of looks like a cross between a chicken and a kiwi. While the locals view Wekas as pests, to someone who had never left the Pacific Northwest they were fascinating. The landscape of the park itself reminded me of Jurassic Park. The entire Northwest coast of the South Island felt like an entirely different island to someone who hadn’t spent much time out of Dunedin. It almost felt like a tropical island.

music pick

Each week I try and highlight an Indie music artist at the end of my blog post. If you would like me to consider your music please email me.

This week I’ve chosen a song from a Portland-based artist, Esmé Patterson. Give it a listen and maybe consider following her on Soundcloud.

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Morning Rituals + Pancakes

Morning Rituals + Pancakes

Breakfast is the perfect meal for people who love routine. For some reason natural social conventions dictate you cannot eat the same foods for dinner every night. If you eat spaghetti seven nights a week, you’re crazy. That rule doesn’t apply to breakfast however. I...

A Spring Afternoon in the Gardens

A Spring Afternoon in the Gardens

I’ve experienced so much winter that I think I’m starting to develop Stockholm syndrome. I find myself justifying the value of winter whenever friends ask if I miss spring and summer. Why would I want summer? You can’t cuddle up on the couch with your boyfriend, a...

48 Hours in Wellington

48 Hours in Wellington

The events of my life are almost always determined by routine. As our time in Dunedin was winding down I felt a need to shake that routine up a bit. I felt like I was growing tired of looking at the same buildings and walking the same route to school. I just wanted to see something I’ve never seen before. So, I booked two roundtrip, Jetstar tickets on a one-hour flight to Wellington.

Exploring a brand new place is just kind of magic. We drank great coffee on Cuba Street, walked along the waterfront and met up with a couple of friends. This was the first time I’d stayed in an Airbnb and it went way above my expectations. Our hosts supplied us with a cozy studio below their Mt. Victoria home, along with a bottle of wine, fresh bread and an occasional visit from their sweet cat.

For me, the highlight of our trip was certainly the Te Papa Museum. We were able to see Gallipoli, a war exhibit created by Peter Jackson. It was made a bit more meaningful to me when I learned recently that a relative of mine died at Gallipoli.

Wellington is a beautiful (and incredibly windy) city that was quirky like Portland but in a Kiwi sort of way.

Although it was a short trip it was refreshing to break our normal routine to enjoy a new city and check some things off our NZ bucket list. Flying to Wellington meant that we were able to make new memories together in a new city. In a way, it marked the beginning of the end of our time in New Zealand. That weekend will always stand out to me as I remember our short, sweet time in Wellington.

Music Pick of the Week

Each week I try and highlight an Indie music artist at the end of my blog post. If you would like me to consider your music please email me.

This week I’ve chosen a song from the Copenhagen-based group, My Bubba. Give it a listen and maybe consider listening to them on Soundcloud or giving them a like on facebook.

Manzanita, Oregon

Manzanita, Oregon

Manzanita is perfect for 14-year old Emma, the Emma yearning for independence. In Manzanita I could ride my bike or walk anywhere around this tiny coastal town. If my family was settled in for the night watching a movie, I could quickly bike to the beach and catch the sun going down by myself. My brother and I used to bring our best friends along with us and we would spend all week exploring and laughing. When I look back on my childhood and teenage years, that time was important and so much fun.

This year we were joined by my cousin Tim. Before he biked from Vancouver, B.C. to our home in Battle Ground, Washington (that’s right, biked) I had never met him before! He joined us on our annual trip to Manzanita, Oregon.

Tim is originally from New Zealand, but has spent the most of the last 10 years living in Australia. This summer he’s been biking from Canada down the west coast to California. He’s got an adventurous spirit and was a great addition to our holiday. We really enjoyed getting to know him and I was so lucky to catch him while he passed through!

My family and I have been coming to Manzanita for about 18 years. We love this small Oregon beach town. It has a main street with shops, restaurants, a cafe and a pub which lead down to the beach. I LOVE fires on the beach and on our last night the weather was perfect for a cozy beach fire. The boys passed the rugby ball around as the sun was setting and we sat by the warm fire and roasted marshmallows. I’m pretty sure it was Tim’s first time eating s’mores, which is basically an American right of passage. I felt like I was able to do so much during my three-week holiday. I can’t wait to come back to Manzanita for many more summers and continue the tradition.

Music Pick of the Week

Each week I try and highlight an Indie music artist at the end of my blog post, but this week I can’t stop listening to Chance the Rapper. 🙂

Preparing for an American Holiday

Preparing for an American Holiday

I’ve always been obsessed with weddings. I’m a meticulous planner, and though my wedding isn’t on the immediate the horizon, I already have many ideas mapped out. When I was young, I started planning out ideas in my head along with one of my oldest and best friends, Kamille. I met Kamille when I changed schools in the seventh grade, we were as close as sisters all throughout high school. Both of us would daydream together about how we would do our weddings, and more importantly, who we would be getting married to. Well, in a couple of days I’m traveling back home for Kamille’s wedding, and I couldn’t be more excited. Not only am I attending her wedding as a giddy guest I will also be one of her bridesmaids!

The trip back home will also provide me with an excellent opportunity to look towards the future, when I’m done with my degree and am finished with my New Zealand adventure. Part of that means moving some items back home. I came to New Zealand with two suitcases and at this point I’ll need at least four to move back home.

I’m packing items I can do without for the remaining five months left of my NZ residency. Things like framed photos, books, sheets and posters. Honestly, I shouldn’t have brought some of these things in the first place but maybe I thought that they would combat my loneliness in the first months away from home.

I’m excited for this trip, but also nervous about stepping into a warm summer. As I’ve experienced four winters in a row, I’ve accumulated mostly cozy winter clothes! So I will pack the few summer clothes I have.

During this trip I’m going to a wedding, visiting family and friends, relaxing from an insane semester and going on holiday to my family’s favorite place… Manzanita, Oregon! Up until a couple of years ago, my family traveled there every year since I was six year old. We take one week out of the year during August, we rent a vacation house in Manzanita.

Every time we rolled onto the main street, Laneda Street, we listen to Mama Mia by ABBA. It started when we bought ABBA Gold on tape (yep, tape). Now we plug our iPhones into the auxiliary cord and play it off of Spotify, but we still abide by my favorite tradition of this holiday.

I’ve watched this small town change over the years but it still gives me the warm fuzzies every time we visit. I wish Tra could come along with us this year and join in our tradition, but we’ll have to make it next year.

Music Pick of the Week

Each week I try and highlight an Indie music artist at the end of my blog post. If you would like me to consider your music please email me.

This week I’ve chosen a song from the Seattle-based dream pop band Lofty Stills. Give it a listen and maybe consider giving them a like on facebook or downloading their album on Bandcamp.

Our Waiheke Island Pit Stop

Our Waiheke Island Pit Stop

As Tra and I were walking up a hilly road on our trip back from swimming in the ocean we were talking about our short stay on the island.

“They are so great!” we kept saying. “There must be a catch, right? Am I missing something? Nobody can be this nice.”

I was worried that on our trip to Waiheke I would feel like an intruder in somebody else’s life. It was the middle of the week after all. From the moment I stepped off the ferry I never had a chance to feel that worry. Brodie and Sam went above and beyond to make us feel at home and make our short stay special.

When Tra, Grandma and I were planning our holiday break we made sure to fly back through Auckland so that we could visit my cousin Brodie on Waiheke Island. It’s not often that I get to visit a place like Waiheke. Sometimes New Zealand can feel like a tiny continent. When you look at a globe you might feel a bit confined, but it still feels big. You could drive through either island for weeks and still have places to explore. Waiheke feels like an island. The roads are small, fresh green life covers every square inch that isn’t holding a building and around every corner there is a new beach to explore. When I try and visualize my time in Waiheke everything is so bright. Brodie told us stories about celebrities and rich technology executives that purchased holiday homes on the island. Visiting the island felt exclusive yet cozy.

I hadn’t seen Brodie since I was 14 and I was dying to meet her partner Sam and their adorable little girls I had only seen through social media. Brodie is a natural mom. She’s what I imagine my favorite mommy bloggers to be like in real life. She is the queen of multitasking. She can hold a full conversation with me while feeding the baby, preparing for dinner and cleaning up after her toddler. Brodie is three years older than me and doesn’t own a cell phone by choice. When people say “oh I’m not on my phone that often and I don’t really use social media” I don’t really believe them. Brodie walks the walk. Although, she does make sure to post adorable photos of her girls on Instagram.

Their house is stunning. It sits high above the water and only a 10-minute walk from the nearest swimming beach. In the morning you can watch sailboats from the couch in the living room while drinking your morning coffee. We were lucky to catch the tail end of New Zealand’s summer so Tra and I took every chance we got to swim in the ocean. The water was the perfect depth and you could swim out 30 feet and still touch sand. On the edge of the beach where the surf hits the land the water was so clear you could watch groups of tiny shells being dragged by the waves. Also the waves were perfect for body-surfing; not too strong that they pulled you under and not too mild that you felt like you’re in a wave pool at an amusement park.

Brodie’s oldest daughter Bali is really cool. Not in a 2-year-old Fonzie kind of way, more like T-Swift cool. So cool, in fact, that I guarantee she’s too cool for you because most of the time she was too cool for me. She spends her days how I imagine a retired 2-year-old would: lounging on a beautiful tropical island, watering her vegetable garden, swimming in the ocean, making art and dancing to Justin Bieber. When I hung out with Bali she only gave me the illusion that I was in charge, everyone knew that in reality she was the one calling the shots.

Brodie and Sam used to live in Sydney where they owned a beautiful espresso shop right on the beach. Sam is more knowledgeable about coffee than anyone I’ve ever met, so I was excited to pick his brain. One day Sam made us some fantastic filtered coffee in a V60. They are always ordering new coffee online from all over the world. Sam happened to been waiting on beans from Portland when we arrived.

Brodie exposes Bali and India to the widest variety of foods I could ever imagined. Bali was captivated by foods I barely even knew existed. She ate avocado with organic herb paste on spelt bread and then asked for more. Brodie’s pantry was enough to make a hipster vegan Portlander gasp.

Even though in a lot of ways our lives are very different to Brodie and Sam’s we got along so well. They treated us like real adults. Spending the weekend with them was a breath of fresh air and a warm welcome back to New Zealand. It gave Tra and I and glance at where we could be in a few years.

At this point in our lives Tra and I are torn between two homes. Home will always be with our friends and family in the Pacific Northwest, but at the moment home feels like the place where we spend our days and rest our heads. The transition process from one home to the other has been tough and filled with emotion for both of us. Our time in Waiheke with Brodie, Sam and their beautiful girls refreshed our spirits and filled our minds with excitement for the rest of our New Zealand journey. It’s not every day that you feel like someone really gets you, and Brodie and Sam certainly made us feel that way. Tra and I loved every part of our stay and we can’t wait to return.

Music Pick of the Week

Each week I try and highlight an Indie music artist at the end of my blog post. If you would like me to consider your music please email me.

This week I’ve chosen a song from the Seattle-based dream pop band Lofty Stills. Give it a listen and maybe consider giving them a like on facebook or downloading their album on Bandcamp.

Exploring: Orcas Island (Part 2)

Exploring: Orcas Island (Part 2)

I’ve heard Canadians express guilt for giving the world Justin Bieber. After spending the weekend a handful of miles off the coast of Victoria listening to Canadian radio stations I’m convinced that they still love him. We heard the same three JB songs probably 700 times, and it was wonderful. Bieber set an amazing tone for our weekend, and I swear I’m not lying.

When we woke up for our first full day on the island we quickly realized that our box of pop tarts and bag of mushy mandarins weren’t going to cut it. We welcomed any excuse to explore the adorable Eastsound downtown and we were excited to gorge at the first cafe we happened to drive by. What we didn’t realize when we accepted the invitation to visit Orcas Island was that the Island was in clear off-season mode. If it wasn’t for an annual marathon through Moran State Park I doubt more than a half dozen business owners would have escaped their Saturday-morning beds.

After admiring local shops, most of which had ‘closed’ signs hanging from their doors, our stomachs whined until we made our way to the Island Skillet. Within minutes of being seated we each identified a yummy order, which is no easy task when your group includes two of the pickiest eaters in Cascadia.

With our tummy’s full and our minds set to adventure we drove to Moran State Park to hike and hopefully catch a glimpse of a couple of waterfalls. Somewhere in my mind I knew the possibility of hiking was likely, yet it never actually occurred to me to pack accordingly. So, as it turns out, hiking in the mud alongside waterfalls in bargain slip-on flats is very difficult. What I’m trying to say is you better enjoy these photos because I sacrificed my life so you could see these waterfalls.

(If you want to see more photos of Moran State park check out part one.)

There’s nothing better than coming home from a hike to a cozy cabin on the water with ice cream waiting in the freezer. Well, that’s what I thought until Gracie served us ice cream on top of a freshly-baked brownie with season 7 of Seinfeld playing on the TV. Even though the point of travel is to experience new things, the comfort of familiar foods and entertainment cannot be underestimated. Sure, you can watch Seinfeld anywhere on the planet. But from now on whenever I watch an episode from season seven I’ll be transported back into that living room with that bowl of ice-cream-soaked brownie.

Sometimes trips like these can feel like little capsules or an episode of a TV show. At first you may recall the characters and the plot but as you keep digging you remember the little details. Maybe you remember a stupid joke that failed miserably or the unusual shape of the coffee table in the living room. Time stands still and you can move through the capsule like a video game. Small details, like looking for a gas station and almost accidentally picking up a hitchhiker when you first arrived on the island, feel like individual Polaroids in your mind. When you reach out and grab an individual frame it expands into a vivid hologram that you can step inside of and explore. Photos do more than represent events as they happened. They can transform your mood like a favorite song or a familiar smell. They have the ability to drop you into a room in the middle of a cabin on Orcas Island and smother you with all the good feelings.

Orcas Island was beautiful, and so were the people that I got to explore it with.

Music Pick of the Week

Each week I try and highlight an Indie music artist at the end of my blog post. If you would like me to consider your music email me.

This week I’ve chosen a beautiful song from the Bellingham jazz band Rex Queen. Give it a listen and maybe even consider giving them a follow on Soundcloud or Facebook.