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!

----
(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!

-----
(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.