Saturday, 28 December 2013

A Kiwi Christmas


Christmas at the Downey household
 
Christmas is that magical time of the year where everyone should dream a little. Ever since I was a little boy, Christmas has probably been my favourite holiday.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Auckland Street art


Art is, in my opinon, the closest medium we can get to an true universal language. Most people can understand it, to some degree.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Six months

Six months. I can't believe it. It's been six months today since I moved out of my Swansea home and back to Norway. And just over three months since I left Norway. Where's the time gone?

The view from my old room in halls

Thursday, 5 December 2013

WWOOFing

After I left Tauranga I went "wwoofing" for one week in West Auckland and had the time of my life. So I thought I better tell you a little bit about it.

Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms is a network of national organisations that connects farms/hosts to workers.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Homesickness and how to battle it


In my opinion, travelling is one of the best things a person can do. To try something new. To experience something completely different. Trying out a new spicy dish in India, staying in a monistary in Thailand, pet a kangoroo in Australia, hiking in "Middle Earth", posing next to Big Ben and meeting new people from all over the world; that's living.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

The road so far

I've been homeless and unemployed now for one week. One week of job hunting. One week of not knowing what will happen when I get that text alert from Westpac bank saying “Your electronic account is below $50”. I've applied for 27 jobs in the last couple of days. And I'm applying for anything. Everything from working in the cafeteria at the aquarium and working in a shop to being a receptionist at a medical firm. Even though I swore to myself many moons ago that I would never do this, I've even applied for a call centre job. So I'm turning every single stone.

From my journal as I was leaving Tauranga

Time's up. I'm now sitting comfortably on-board the Intercity coach in its grey and colourful patterned seats.
As we set off from the bus stop in Tauranga I'm faced with a series of feelings.

Firstly I feel sorry for the middle-aged guy in the blue shirt sitting across from me, who's phone ran out of battery as he was talking to someone. Simply hate when that happens.
No the feelings I'm faced with are relief, excitement and sadness.

Relief, because I managed to leave a job I was no longer comfortable and happy doing.
Excitement, because I'm about to embarke on a new adventure. So even though I'm homeless and unemployed, things will be fine because I've got hope.
Sadness, because I'm leaving people I've grown quite fond off.

In the short time I've been in New Zealand, I've had the great honour of meeting and getting to know some amazing people. People from all over the world; Canada, USA, Brazil, England, Scotland, Wales, Germany, Holland, France, Sweden, Denmark, Australia and of course New Zealand.

The road so far have been good, purely because I've got so many great people around me that have supported me. Be it from picking my stuff up when moving out and giving me a place to stay to making a cuppa and telling me in a motherly way “You'll be fine. Just keep on going.” All those things are what gives me strength and motivation to carry on. Even at the darkest of times there is always light, however small and far away it might seem, it is still there. You just have to look.

As the white bus makes its way up towards Auckland on Highway 2, cutting through the kiwi bus, I suddenly realise something. I'm in New Zealand. No I haven't been high on magic shrooms the past two months. I know where I am.

No but sometimes you get that eureka moment and you rediscover everything around you. All of a sudden you notice the ripe green kiwis hanging down from the endless green orchards and the van selling fresh avocados on the side of the road for a few bucks. Or the stunning green hills and majestic mountains normally only seen in The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit as various members of the Baggins family make their way through Middle Earth.

This feeling is also enhanced by the fact I'm listening to the soundtrack from the films. The steady beat of “The ride of the Rohrim” pulsating through my HTC earplugs, which for the cord do absolutely no justice to the composer.

Sorry sidetracking here. This post isn't called “Wish-list 2013”.
Where was I? Oh yes, the epic scenery. After pulling out from a sleepy town with probably 324 inhabitants (and 476 sheep) we are soon out in the Kiwi wilderness. Orchard after orchard pass by, showing of the delicious fruits of New Zealand.

Coming into Auckland, we cruise down the tiny bit of motorway New Zealand has got. As the bus stop I'm dreading the walk. Coming out of the bus, I immediately get into a massive bundle of people awaiting the (flying) arrival of my bags. After pushing past a flock of tourists with the Canon and Nikon cameras hanging around their neck, which only 10% of them actually know how to use, I locate the toilet. 


Here's a TIP for you; use the changing tables to put your backpack on! Trust me, you don't want to risk taking it off, putting it on the floor and trying to get it back on after.

Like many cities, Auckland has a logical layout, with straight streets and blocks, making it easy enough to navigate to the train station. Coming into the Britomarket Transport Center, I enter a modern building. After having successfully qued up to the ticket office and found my platform, I lean up against a bin to give my legs some much needed rest. The station is actually quite beautiful, with its columns and shiny metal details. The train coming in reminds me more of the London Underground trains that a “normal” train, except this one has aircon and space to move your little toe.

Arriving in the the relaxed town of Swanson, I sit down in the train station café. Many of the old colonial style stations are still here, though not necessary as a station. This for example has been converted into a café. I sit down with a nice cup of coffee and write in my journal, what you have just been reading.

Back to reality

Sweet potatoes planted

In between planting sweet potatoes and cleaning tour buses, I make sure I find enough jobs to apply for. Like I said there's always a job. And to be honest, even though I worry about stuff like food and accommodation, I deep down think this will be an experience for me. That's it isn't it? Figure out what you can learn from something. To grow as a person.

When I get into Auckland next week, I'll hopefully have some videos and pictures I can show you. Because I have limited internet access out here in the bush, so can't upload too much.

Now, I've got a promising job interview on Tuesday, so wish me luck!

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(This post was written on a mobile device, so apologies for any spelling mistakes, lack of pictures and/or the layout of the post itself.)



Monday, 11 November 2013

Moving to Auckland

First I'd like to give a huge thank you to my friends in Tauranga who have supported me this week. Giving me a place to stay, food and support. I am forever in your debt and promise I will make it up to you in the future.
Also thanks to my friends and family back home in Europe, who've given me comforting words over Skype.

--

One 90 litre hiking backpack, a 25 litre daypack and one bag containing my lunch and jacket. That's all my possessions (here in NZ). Backpacking and travelling on a limited budget makes you really think WHAT to pack and HOW to pack it.

As a result of quitting my job on Friday, two things happened; one, I became unemployed (obviously). Two, I became homeless. But you know what? It didn't scare me.
There's ALWAYS a job. It could be working as a cleaner at night in a supermarket or as a bartender in the trendiest part of town. My point is, there's always a job out there. And this year is also teaching me to let go and just take a leap of faith that everything will be fine.

I'm now waiting for the Intercity coach to take me up to Auckland, where I've managed to get some work on a farm, planting potatoes, for the next 1-2 weeks. It's not paid, but I work for food and accommodation (I will do a post about WWOOFing sometime later this week). It will allow me to take the train in to the city on days off and apply for jobs.
Any job. Pub, club, shop, kindergarten...everything.

I have really enjoyed my time in Tauranga and Mount Maunganui. It's a beautiful place with amazing beaches and a laid back and relaxed lifestyle. So if all goes after plan, I'll come back to Tauranga for Christmas to see my friends.

But for now, I'm off to the big city of Auckland. See ya!

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(This post was published through a mobile device, so please excuse any spelling mistakes, basic photo editing or the general layout of the post.)

Saturday, 9 November 2013

TOP TRAVEL APPS FOR YOUR TRIP

My smartphone is always with me and though I sometimes curse at it, I will always have it with me when travelling.

I use it to take pictures (lots of pictures), update social media, check emails, manage my bank accounts, make notes, communicate with people back home, organize my travels, send postcards and GPS guide, on the numerous occasions when I find myself in a new city with absolutely no idea where I am.


To make all that happen, you need great minds to create apps that can do all of that. There are many great travel related apps out there that will make your life so much easier and this is some of them. 


My top travel apps 2013


Pro Capture (media)

Pro Capture is my favourite camera app for Android. It allows you to easier adjust settings and includes features like burst, wide shot and panorama. Also the noise reduction is really good in this app.


Photo Grid (media)

Arrange your photos into collages. This is great for two things; make your uploads more exciting AND upload less individual pictures. It also has features to edit pictures and adding text and clip art.

Get it on Google Play 


News 360 (news/media)

News 360 is a brilliant app, regardsless if you're travelling or not. You select your interests and give thumbs up or thumbs down for the article. This way it starts to learn what you like. Connect it with your social media accounts and it will rock your world. It's also great, because it shows you local news where you are.

Get it on Google Play




Whatsapp (communication)
One of the worlds top messinging apps. No username. No password. All you need is your phone number and you're good to go. When they add support to add several numbers, I'll praise it even more.

Get it on Google Play


Opera Mini (communication)

When you're out travelling you don't always have a local sim-card and roaming charges can be an absolute killer. Opera Mini is a mobile browser that compresses the websites on their servers, which allows you to cut your data usage with up to 90%.

Get it on Google Play


PayPal (money)

In addition to day to day bank apps, like Natwest, Westpac or DNB, PayPal is great tool to transfer money across borders. Unlike traditional bank transfers, which often cost a lot of money, PayPal offers a cheap way to receive/send money around the world.

Get it on Google Play


Triposo (travel guide)

Download all relevant travel information to your destination over WiFi, so you can use it offline after. I've used this several times when travelling. It allows access maps, restaurant and activities information without any data charges.

Get it on Google Play


Trip Advisor (travel guide)

Trip Advisor is probably my favourite travel app, because it's so comprehensive. It shows you restaurants, clubs, hotels, sights, attractions and more. On each listing you'll be able to read any reviews people have written. It's a great alternative to the standard "touristy" guidebooks.

Get it on Google Play


Couchsurfing (community)

Probably the world biggest online network of travelers, Couch Surfing, it offers a great way for people to connect and explore cultures. It's basically strangers offering strangers a free place to stay (or meet for a coffee or similar). To make it safe, you can check which members are verified and vouched for, plus read reviews from other surfers.

Get it on Google Play


Juicedefender (lifesaver...)

Out hiking? Taking a bit longer than you thought? Only got enough power to make a 30 second phone call? If that sounds familiar, this is the app for you. It makes your battery last for a lot longer that it would by itself. It reduces everything from brightness and sound to graphics performance and screen sensitivity, to give your phone a bit more juice.

Get it on Google Play



Touchnote postcards (communication)

Going to shop, picking out the card that represents your trip and write down your adventure, is all well and good. But sometimes it's nice to make the cards even more personal. How about a picture of yourself in front of Big Ben? Touchnote is a great app that allows you to create your own postcards with your phone, tablet or online and send them to whoever you like. Your card is then printed in the region it's being sent to, cutting shipping time to a few days instead of you arriving home before the card itself.

Get it on Google Play




Bobs World Clock (tools)

Got friends all over the world? Or like to keep track when your favourite show is out in NY? This app will do just that. It's simple, it's easy to use and it takes hardly any space. You can add it to your home screen as a widget, showing up to five different locations.

Get it on Google Play



Trip It

Train from Oxford to London Victoria, then Gatwick Airport Express to the airport, flight to Oslo Airport, then train up to Lillehammer? That results in a lot of booking references.
This app will organize and sort out all your bookings in an easy to access system. All you have to do is forward your travel itineraries to plans@tripit.com and it will build a custom itinerary for you (PS. Make sure you create an account first). You can also share it with friends and family, so they can easily see your route.

Get it on Google Play


Sunday, 3 November 2013

VIKING ACTIVITY: The OGO

OGO in Rotorua is essentially you inside a plastic ball, rolling down a hill. That's it. By the sound of it you'd think that it would be really boring, but I can guarantee you it is not. It's worth every cent!

Located about 5 minutes outside Rotorua city centre (and next to the Skyline and Luge), it's perfect if you don't have a car or only have a day to do activities.


View Larger Map

We got the 99$ deal, which gives you three rides + we paid $40 ($5 each) to have the photos on a DVD. So all in all not bad. I say, if you've got $99 and you want to do something different and that's guarantied to make you laugh, then I say OGO is your thing.

(Conversion: 10$NZ = £5 / 8.30$USD / €6, 03/11/13)



Firstly the ball is filled with warm water and then you do a Superman and jump, or rather dive, into the ball. Then you, and possibly your partner(s), start rolling down the hill. At first you might do a feeble attempt of standing up straight and running, but I can assure you that will last mere seconds. After that it's arse over tit down the hill, often accompanied by an absurd amount of laughter. You can't help it. Is the thrill of rolling down a hill? Is it the dizzy sensation you get? Or is it that you just realised you've paid to roll down a hill in a piece of plastic? The latter being definitely worth it.

My friend Perine and I
Anyhoodle, by the time you reach the bottom of one of the track, you will be soaked, dizzy from tumbling over more than a lad on a stag due and tired from all the laughing. After you squeeze yourself out and have a quick snapshot, it's straight into the hot tub to wait your next laughter-filled turn.



If you're in Rotorua and want to try something new, cool and absolutely bonkers, then I suggest you do an OGO.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

VIKING ACITIVTY: The Luge - Rotorua

The Luge is a activity for both kids and grown ups. It’s part go-cart, part gravity racer and offers a unique “racing” experience for all ages.

I mounted my GoPro on my chest and raced down the hill.


The Luge itself is a brand that can be found several places in New Zealand, in Canada and Singapore. This particular one is in the heart of New Zealand’s volcanic area, in Rotorua. The Luge has three tracks, scenic, intermediate and advanced.

It all starts off with a gondola ride, Skyline, up to the very top. Here’s you’ll have a great view of the entire Rotorua area. Then after having found a helmet and securly fastned it, you head towards the starting area. On your first ride you’ll be given instructions by the staff on how to ride cart, after which they will give you a stamp and you can get into a different line next time, taking you straight to the carts.

The track takes you down the hill, twisting and turning, while you take in the great scenery or perhaps race with your friends. If you haven’t done this before and would like to see some of the stunning view at the same time, I would recommend you start out with the scenic track. This is somewhat slower than intermediate and advanced, but is a good way to get used to the cart and see area at the same time.

TIP. Look for the white tent in the middle of the forest where the host weddings and events. There’s a parking space on the left side of the road (see markings), so if you want to take a look round you can do so there.

After a scenic ride, I definitely recommend you try the other tracks. I tried the intermediate twice and the advance twice. Both of which are heaps (loads) of fun and twists and turns. When you reach the end of each track, you’ll get out of your cart, place it on the conveyor, take the ski lift up to the top and do it all again.

It's fun. It's crazy. It's Kiwi.

For for information go on to their website Skyline.co.nz/rotorua

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Weekend in Rotorua (mobile post)

Good morning (or evening, depending where you are in the world)!

Currently I'm on a holiday in Rotorua, with friends from my Auckland orientation. This weekend is absolutely packed with heaps/loads of adventure; skyline, zipline, zorbing/OGO balls, mud pools and more.

So far it's been a great weekend and I can't wait to show you all! Hopefully by the beginning of next week I'll be able to show you all the videos and pictures from the trip.

In the meantime, here's a picture from onboard the gondola (Rotorua Skyline).

Stay tuned and see you soon!

Monday, 21 October 2013

The 101 things I want to do before I die - My bucket list

The first time I heard about a "bucket list", I was around 14 years old. A film called A Walk to Remember had been released. It featured this girl who had been diagnosed with cancer and her desire to do all the things on her list before she died. (I'm not going to reveal the end, so you'll just have to watch it).
Not long after, I typed up my first bucket list and hung it on my bedroom door. It didn't have that much on it, but a few on the things still remain on my current list. It stayed there for many years and slowly I started to tick a few of the boxes.
Unfortunately the original list was lost, but I managed to remember most of it and have added many more dreams over the years. Until now, mine has been a word document saved on my computer.

A bucket list is a list of stuff you'd like to do. It's not like the ordinary to-do lists people make at the beginning of the week to feverishly try to balance work and spare time. No a bucket list is a list of dreams, activities and adventures you would like to do some time before you die.

December 2012: Licence - Though this is a fairly new dream, a few years back I suddenly wanted to get my motorcycle licence. Still have to buy a bike, but I'll get to that one day.

So why should you have one? Well first of all, it's important to have a dream. A goal. Something to aim for. It doesn't have to be huge like becoming the President of a country. It could be something as small as making you grandma smile every Saturday by bringing her flowers. Point is that we all need to embrace that inner child in us. That "Peter-Pan" stage of our lives where everything is possible if you only believe.

You can go about it in many different ways. You can make a scrapbook with recycled paper, use an website to manage your list or fill a wall with colourful post-its. Point is you need to find a way that suits you. It's no point me telling you what is the right way, cause there ain't one. What I will do however, is tell you how I went about it.

London New Years Eve 2012-13 : When I was growing up, I used to watch the telly on New Years and see the celebrations from all over the world. London, Sydney and New York was always my favourites. So that's how my childhood dream ended up on my list.
Brainstorming and thinking makes it easier to know what you want, really want, and that would make you truly happy might not always be an easy thing know. Take some time to do this, like an hour or two. Go to a place where you can relax, breathe and think. For me this is the beach on a sunny day. Listening to the waves relaxes me immensely.

Draft it on a piece of paper (or on your computer). Just write, or draw, whatever comes into mind. Remember, this is your list. Not your dads or your best mates', it's yours. The stuff you put on this list might seem silly to others, even borderline rude, but to you it means something. That's all that matters.

I bought this leather bound notebook with high quality paper.

The final version should be something you've put some thought into. Like I said at the beginning, this is not the average weekly to-do list which has got the groceries on it. This a list of life. Having said that, nothing is set in stone. You can add or change your list. Only rule is that it's your list.
My way of doing it is having two pages for each goal. On the left page there will be a headline with the dream and pictures from it. Then on the right side I'll write about it, what happened, where I did it and how it was.

By spending some time with it, you make it special. It's not just another piece of paper to go next to the pile of bills or in that folder on your computer where you save all the mixed documents. Nurture it. It's your new mantra. Your new Bible if you want to call it that. It's a reminder about your dreams, about your goals. So if, and you probably will at some point, feel a bit lost in your life you can look at your bucket list. You've done the hardest part, identifying your dreams. All you have to now is make them happen.

Put your personal touch to it

Now, some people might say that you should only put stuff that realistically can happen on there or that they think you're capable of. I think you shouldn't. My personal opinion is that you should write your dreams down, regardless how unrealistic they may seem. I put "Present at a TED talk". Now, I'll admit that I'm not any close at the moment in receiving an invite to speak at an TED event, but who's to say it won't happen in 30 years from now? Point is, don't limit yourself. It's your dreams.

William Arthur Ward once said “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it.”

Here's my bucket list (in no particular order)


My bucket list


Travel
  1. Live in a different country- V
  2. Travel by myself - V
  3. Travel to Oxford - V
  4. Travel to Venice (Italy)
  5. Travel to Australia
  6. See the Sydney Opera House
  7. Celebrate New Years in London - V
  8. Celebrate New Years in Sydney
  9. Celebrate New Years in New York
  10. Do Route 66 (USA) on a motorbike
  11. Travel to Scotland
  12. Travel to all seven continents
    1. Europe - V
    2. Asia
    3. Oceania/Australia
    4. Africa
    5. North America
    6. South America
    7. Antarctica
  13. Interrail - Travel Europe by train
  14. Travel to the end of the world - V
  15. Travel to the north of Norway and see the Northern lights
  16. Travel to Svalbard (Norway) and see polar bears
  17. See the Pyramids of Giza
  18. Travel in a hot air balloon
  19. Experience weightlessness
  20. Swim in every ocean
    1. Pacific Ocean - V
    2. Atlantic Ocean - V
    3. Indian Ocean
    4. Southern Ocean
    5. Arctic Ocean
  21. Go to the airport and pick a random flight and go there
  22. See the Eiffel Tower
  23. Travel to the North Pole
  24. Travel to the South Pole
  25. Fly a plane
  26. See an active volcano (active as lava)
  27. Have a pint at the Oktoberfest in Munich
  28. Travel to Pompeii (Italy) and see the stone people - V
  29. Visit the Amazon Rainforest
  30. Cross a country by foot/bike
  31. Attend the Mardi Gras in Sydney
  32. Ride the cable cars up the hills of San Francisco (US)
  33. Celebrate St. Patrick’s in Ireland

Work/education
  1. Get a degree from university - V
  2. Get a degree or certificate from University of Oxford
  3. Work as a bartender
  4. Get a job I love
  5. Work for Travel Channel OR National Geographic
  6. Work with kids - V
  7. Volunteer for an orphanage
  8. Find a job I’m completely happy in
  9. Work as a teacher
  10. Be a jury member
  11. Study philosophy and/or psychology
  12. Open a cafè in the countryside
  13. Volunteer for a charity - V
  14. Run my own business - V

Random
  1. Sleep under the star one night
  2. Learn conversational Spanish
  3. Learn a Sign Language
  4. Learn to play the piano
  5. Be two places at once - V
  6. Find a cure for my animal allergies - V
  7. Get a motorcycle licence - V
  8. Improve my handwriting and write more letters/postcards - V
  9. Pet a kangaroo
  10. Get a book published
  11. Drive a Ferrari
  12. Do a skydive
  13. Spend a few weeks in a buddhist temple
  14. Run a marathon
  15. Get over my fear of heights - V
  16. Get a tattoo - V
  17. Read every book I own
  18. Have over 500 books in my own library
  19. Watch the sunrise on the beach
  20. Hitch-hike
  21. Get six pack abs
  22. Have a “slow-motion-moment-with-family/friends-at-the-airport”
  23. Make a difference to in someones life
  24. Do karaoke for one whole night in a bar/pub/club
  25. Take a photo, every day for a year
  26. Run a club/hotel in Greece
  27. Send at least ten messages in bottles - V
  28. Ride a camel
  29. Own my own house
  30. Go zorbing
  31. Be on TV - V
  32. Take dance lessons
    1. Salsa
    2. Ballroom
    3. Samba
    4. Hip-hop
  33. Go to a P!nk concert
  34. Learn to juggle
  35. Attend the Olympics somewhere
  36. Get an article published in a newspaper - V
  37. Meet a Royal
  38. Attend an art class and learn how to paint
  39. Do yoga (for a minimum of 6 months, twice a week)
  40. Learn archery
  41. Swim with dolphins
  42. Climb one of the World Seven Summits
  43. Donate blood
  44. Fall in love
  45. Have kids
  46. Fire a gun
  47. Go on a safari
  48. Wear a kilt
  49. Eat insects
  50. Write my memoirs
  51. Have my own “Hallmark-perfect-Christmas”
  52. Milk a cow
  53. Present at a TED Talk
  54. Find my Narnia in the back of a wardrobe


    Now it's your turn, dream, write and do it!
    If you would like to share it or need any tips, feel free to comment below.