Flashpacker Alert!

Slowly I’ve evolved into what can only be deemed as a flashpacker. It took 15 years of individual travel, nearly 30 countries, and a variety of food, accommodation and day tours but it was on my most recent trip over to the North Island of New Zealand that my flashpackerism came into full recognition.

Guilty Flashpacker

One part backpacker, sleeping in hostels, joining adventure tours, trekking solo through unchartered territory but also one part flash. Flashpackers have been described as independent backpackers who like to travel in style, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Typically over the post-college buzz and have established careers which enable them to opt for alternative options. Put it this way, backpackers don’t habitually have options as it all revolves around the cheapest, which could also mean the longest route and unclean bed. I like having options.

I scanned the top shelf of my bedroom wardrobe contemplating which type of bag I should pack for my 10 day last minute trip over to New Zealand. A weekend over the shoulder bag would be too small, however packing my carry-on size Tumi wheelie would just scream flash, so as with my usual oversees trips I reached up and pulled down my backpack wheelie.

The backpack wheelie is the best invention on earth. You see, most backpackers typically travel for extended amounts of time with everything they own within that time allotment strapped onto their back. I’ve gone one step further, and made the decision 3 years ago before my trip to Thailand to purchase myself a backpack for the same convenience factor however mine comes with wheels. Genius. The thing with traveling is you never know before arriving if you will spend nonsensical amounts of time wandering around trying to figure out which way to go, can’t check in to accommodation for multiple hours, have inconvenient flight times, etc. so I never bring more than what I know that I can personally carry, and the flexibility of the backpack wheelie makes it even more suitable for all terrains.  There’s nothing worse than that friend who brings the BIG suitcase that they can’t maneuver up and down stairs, or drag around cobblestone streets in Italy’s small nooks and crannies. Don’t be that friend.

Arriving in Auckland my first decision to make was to get from the airport to downtown. With cabs costing around the $60 mark, I wasn’t too proud to opt for the $16 airport bus into the city. With luck a friend was in town on business so I was able to take full advantage of her company perks as well, and checked into the 2-story suite at Hotel De Brett, a 25 room luxury boutique hotel for two nights.  The extravagance of someone else’s work expense account meant that we could dine at renowned Ponsonby restaurant SPQR at night while visiting the wineries of Waiheke Island by day.

Saratoga Vineyard, Waiheke Island

But then the weekend arrived and it was time to move on. We rushed out of the hotel doors to discreetly meet Adventure Tours out front of Nomad’s hostel for our trip up to the Bay of Islands. On the 4 hour journey up north we stopped in Parry Kauri to hug a giant Kauri tree, Warkworth for breaky at a cafe, Goat Island  to snap some photos of gorgeous scenery, Whangarei for lunch, then to the famous Hundertwasser toilets in Kawakawa before arriving in Paihia. Once in Paihia our lovely guide was on a mission to find cheap eats for the night, but truthfully my friend and I wanted to relax, have a glass of wine and a decent meal so we opted to refrain from the group dining to treat ourselves to exactly that.

Kauri Tree hug

But oh how quickly the tables turned. After dinner we found ourselves in line for entry at the various backpacker bars in town, scoring cheap drinks and chatting with other friendly travelers before I tucked myself comfortably in to the top bunk of Salt Water Lodge hostel’s shared dorms. When responding to the tour guide’s question regarding where we ended up finding food the previous night she replied smugly, “Oh, the posh place.” Looks like we’re not off to a great start.

The next day however had us in full on adventure mode, after taking in the scenic Bay of Islands on the Dolphin Discoveries boat, in which we encountered heaps of dolphin pods, in addition to hyperactive school children, and then spent the night in cabins on Urupukapuka Island. There were less than 20 people who stayed on the island for the night which gave it a sense of a sleep away camp (something I was never fond of as a child). After a full day of hiking, kayaking, and soaking up the sun we had a lovely group dinner of fish and chips, and sat around sharing stories and sipping wine from the much appreciated bar.

Urupukapuka Accomodation, #14

It’s time to travel back to Auckland and the tour guide wants to know which hostel to book us in. Fortunately for us, or should I be more specific and say lucky me, we had one more night in Auckland on my friend’s expense account which meant a stopover at The Langham, another 5 star gem.  She even opted for the upgrade, which meant complimentary drinks and canapés in the Club Lounge.

The next morning it was time for me to move on and take on the next seven days of the North Island by myself, well, under the – can you even call it – supervision of Stray Travel, another backpacker tour company. Luckily it’s filled with mostly single travelers as well. Here’s the difficult part though, getting on the bus at 7 am after a night of fine wine in the Club Lounge had me feeling a bit hairy, but first impressions count, especially when I’m in dire need to make some friends for my next week-long adventure, so it was all smiles downing bottle after bottle of water.

As I built relationships with various travelers from the UK, Germany, Brazil, Canada, India…it dawned on me how unprepared I was for this trip. I was initially meant to be in Fiji and my head was still a bit in full on island mode – especially when I packed at 10 pm the night before my flight. I hadn’t mentally put myself in backpacker gear, and it slowly sunk in when I realized…they all have proper hiking boots… we’re in New Zealand…my Toms and flip flops will not cut it in this terrain. They have waterproof jackets…it’s raining…my pocket sized checkered Totes umbrella will not withstand this wind. They all have fleeces…its winter…my one pair of jeans and black hoodie will not be fresh by the end of this! Flashpacker alert.

Being economical while backpacking for weeks on end, most travelers cart around food in a reusable grocery bag after making a stop every few days at the grocery store. So, before arriving in the famous surf town of Raglan (a home to muscian Jack Johnson and featured in the film Endless Summer), our driver Oskar, aka Mud, stopped the bus at a large shopping center and told us we have twenty minutes if we want to pick anything up for lunch or dinner. Sure…so I hop out, as usual aimlessly wander around the store feeling anxiety over what I can buy that will cause me no effort to consume, and walk away with two apples and box of cereal bars. As we make our way away from town towards our accommodation Oskar tells us about the great place we are staying, Karioi Lodge, how it has both beach and mountain views, a famous surf school, and more or less, we’re set deep into the bush so if anyone wants to participate there will be trivia happening that evening as there’s not much else to do.

Um…like the bush, bush? Like the middle of nowhere, far removed from town? Hmmm, I kind of was hoping to take myself out for some sushi tonight, yeah, but all I have here is this apple. Yes, that bush! I made my way over to reception to kindly inquire if there were any shuttles going into town anytime that evening but the receptionist curtly replied that there were no more shuttles that day. So I went over to Oskar to inquire if he had any need to go into town. He looked at me, as I chomped away on my apple, and said, “Don’t tell me all you have to eat is that apple!” “It’s true!” I said. And so he asked, “Well, what do you normally do, what do you normally eat?” And I said, “Well, secretly I’m not a backpacker!”

Oskar takes me to town

Oskar gave in and took me to town, and better yet, I convinced him that I’ll buy the food if he cooks it. Win-win I tell ya. I learned my mistake from then on, and always bought extra snacks just in case!

There’s a reason why I straddle this double life, enjoying the luxuries that I’m fortunate enough to afford however crave the experience of what you encounter when it’s just about simplicity. There’s no need to talk work, or petty drama, or bills. It’s just experiencing great company, amongst beautiful scenery and endless opportunity. I’m just nervous for when I get too old for it to stay this way and I have to give up the backpacker part of the flashpacker.

Taking it all in.

As Old As The Places I’ve Been

Included are some recent almost “excerpts” from my diary, excuse me, I’m a grownup I seem to forget, uh hum, I mean excerpts from my journal these last ten days traveling down to Sydney before off to New Zealand. I mean, why give you the condensed highlights when I can reveal nearly every inner thought I wrote down while it was happening. Obviously. I’m not going to lie however, it’s no Gossip Starter, but this is long.


I love the Rusty surf shop in the Brisbane airport. Every time I fly I buy something. I’m starting to wonder if I keep up the frequency if I’ll end up befriending the staff for real. Would be a funny story at least. My new bffs from the airport surf shop, ha.

I hope my roomie locks in our new roomie when I’m away. It’s nearly the end of the month. We had peeps swing by last night and there are a couple of good options. We’ll either pick M or Blondie – more or less as the wine flowed we got friendlier and their names got blurrier.


At Sydney International airport on my way to New Zealand! I’m sooo excited. Also a bit anxious and I can’t pinpoint why. Perhaps in the back of mind are the recent earthquakes in Christchurch, where I’m laying over, and the giant ash cloud traveling across the Pacific from Chile. Alas, I’m on my way baby (did I actually write that? Yes). Country number 27!!! And now, I’m as old as the places I’ve been.

This weekend in Syd was ridiculous! Friday was low key. Traveled after work so arrived and was tired. Just ate some humus and grabbed some drinks at the Clock Hotel on Crown in Surry Hills. Saturday I did lots of shopping in Paddington on Oxford Street and the weekend markets. I love markets. It was great. I freaking love Sydney! Then it was time for the Rubik’s cube themed house warming party at Stephs. Sooo fun! You’re meant to dress in all the colors of the cube then exchange with people until you get one solid. The chef’s I met the previous time over were there so it was nice to know people going in. It was so fun.  Time out – just boarded, great seat, 2A!

Oxford Street, Paddington

Then things got crazy. I think I burnt my tongue on the million mini-pies I ate fresh out of the oven, steaming hot. And who knows what the heck I was talking about the entire night, just rambling to whomever. I think I may have fallen after someone else spilled a beer. All while NOT smoking mind you. Then the boys from the Sydney Swans, professional rugby team showed up. Not too shabby.  We headed out into the Cross, my shoe broke, I was convinced by others that no one would notice the lopsided hop, and therefore would like to blame that on me being denied entry to the last bar at the early hours of the morning. Sunday was spent in a lot of pain, and a lot of hours searching the streets for a new pair of black shoes for my work week ahead. And now, I’m New Zealand bound.

Steph and I, Rubik’s Cube themed party

First time traveling on Air New Zealand. Plane = super nice. Free noise canceling ear phones, personal TV, and soothing music over the speakers. Actually just played a song by Flight of the Concords. How funny. But they made me check my bag, boo!

They must have purchased me a premium ticket because I got food and wine and not many others did. Flying in, over Christchurch, WOW, it’s beautiful. Crazy, jagged snow capped mountains and then so quickly it shifts to oddly flat terrain. Different shades of green on green.

Flying to Christchurch

Drastic change in landscape in minutes

Sitting in the regional terminal in Christchurch airport, again, no security check, crazy. I’m starved and nervous I won’t have anywhere to eat when I arrive in Dunedin – things close early, and its Monday. For reasons unknown, Monday means an extra special cause why things won’t be open. Silly. It’s dark now, and I won’t be able to see much out of the plane for this next leg.


Dunedin is an old Gaelic word that means Edinburgh. It’s also the most Victorian and Edwardian city in the southern hemisphere. It’s also freezin in Dunedin. Say that real fast and it rhymes!  I think it’s like less than 7 degrees Celsius and there is talk of potential snow. My winter has lasted for a very very long time and I’m well over it!

The city actually does remind me a bit of Edinburgh. Not like the Royal Mile or anything, but some old buildings with mountains in the backdrop. Yea, it’s sorta pretty. Unfortunately the cold and rain, mixed in with my presentations make exploring unlikely. I did manage to make it to the Otago Museum while my co-workers had some appointments to go to though. Did you know the first man to climb Everest was a Kiwi (New Zealander)? Yup.

Drinking hot chocolate now. I feel like everyone drinks hot chocolate over here all the time. Like weirdly. I know its winter and all but it’s like everyday someone asks me if I want a hot chocolate. I’ll have to take notice in the summer, but it’s a bit excessive I think. I haven’t had a HC in, I can’t even tell you how long because it’s just not common practice. Is it?

Heading out to Palmerston North soon. That’s it. In, then out in a few hours and on to the next place. A quickie New Zealand tour. Moving on from the South Island and heading to the North Island. That may mean warmth because it’s all backwards here. The farther north you go, the warmer it is.
Well, Palmerston North is meant to be even more desolate then Dunedin. Oh boy, hopefully I’ll be able to see out of the plane if it’s not too dark.

Note to self: Don’t sit in 4A on the small planes. It’s directly next to the propeller which is in the front of the plane because this plane is tiny. I just keep watching it spin round and round and can’t help thinking if it were to unfortunately fly off, well; I’m in the wrong seat that’s all.

Air New Zealand

I’ll be taking 7 flights total on 5 different days over a 10 day period. Crazy, but rack those points up! Actually, I thought that was pretty intense until the business passenger sitting next to me informed me that he’ll be on 5 different planes in 2 days so I had no choice to respond with “you’ve got me beat”.

I wonder where Matt Kiwi lives? Matt “Kiwi” from London back in 2003. He sure was cute. Or Stephen from Auckland back in Cairns in 2010. Alas, I’ll never know I guess.

It’s now late and I’ve arrived in Palmerston North. Long day of flying. In BK’s motor lodge and the owner lady is a bit strange. My room has a huge bed, but also two recliners at the foot of it facing the TV like a living room. It’s odd.

I miss traveling work trips with my homie. Getting mani-pedis and vintage shopping. It’s just not the same without her.


Flying from Palmerston North to Auckland is AMAZING. I saw a rainbow in the airport out front before I left. We’re flying low between the clouds, its lush green, and jagged and other times looks real soft.  Amazing contrast of colors. Wowza. It looks like what you would think New Zealand would look like. But I wonder what it actually looks like. From above it’s all so beautiful and picturesque but if I were standing on it, or in front of it, would it be more or less impactful? I’m wondering what is done with all this land. I haven’t seen a house in ages, although I’m low enough to spot urbanization. Did the scouts for Lord of the Rings just helicopter down in any of these random spots and say right, yup, this should do it?

Palmerston North Rainbow

Meant to have dinner in the Sky Tower tonight. Whatever. It’s cold again. I need to have some wine from the Marlborough region and hopefully make my way down there at some point.  I look forward to exploring the Bay of Islands this weekend in the meantime.


At Uni of Auckland – nice city campus. Last night we were meant to have dinner in the Sky Tower, big blue needle in the center of the city but couldn’t get a table, boo. And I said to my co-worker, but I already put it on facebook that I would be! So we had dinner at the gourmet Chinese restaurant in the building below. Does that count? People bundy off of this tower. I wish I was braver.

Sky Tower, Auckland

I finally got a good night sleep. It’s like all it took was for me to get to a city to feel more relaxed. After this next presentation I’m off on my own for the next few days. Will be nice to just do my thing.  Ooo, yes, warm sun on my toes. It’s still cold here!

Maori are the local Polynesians in this area. Typically many are in Auckland and specifically found on the North Island.

It’s now 630 pm and I’m riding solo. I did a walk up to the water… bay, harbor, sound? What the heck is it? I’m tempted to rush back to the hostel to get free pizza at 730 but then I just realized that I’m old enough and mature enough to buy my own damn meal and indulge in the 160 beers this place is known for and treat myself to a delicious meal. I’m not backpacking this time around and I’ve eaten enough toasties on campus all week to just eat something awesome. First beer, Invercargill Pitch Black Stout from New Zealand, A+.

It’s just about after work time on a Thursday and there are a lot of after work-looking men here. I wonder if it’s strange that I’m here by myself. I wish they would turn the lights up just a smidge so I can read my kindle and look like a giant dork.

Two things to note: Firstly, pumpkin is on and in everything in NZ and Aus. Like, everything. It’s good though. And even though its winter, I’m told it’s not even a seasonal thing. It’s just everywhere. And secondly, capsicums are peppers. They too are everywhere and in everything.

Next up, Grotteenbier, Belgium. It’s brewed in caves and mmmmm, yum. It’s also the local staff’s favorite as well. I’m hearing everything in this bar! Old school Killers, Beatles, Strokes, Morning Glory! Love it! Good music, good beers, and good food. All I need is some sun and I’m set.

Back to the Belgian beer. Mmmmm. Think I’ll order the mussels.

Perhaps my two beers will give me courage to go back to the hostel bar and mingle. One more, Epic Lager, New Zealand. Awesome! Bartender is cute and I fear I’m the weirdo standing at the bar, writing in her diary, excuse me, journal. Oh well.

Plan: walk back to hostel, stroll by hostel bar to scope it out, pack for tomorrow just in case, go to bar, get more beers.


Good vibes on Stray backpackers bus up to Bay of Island. I’m hung-over, but listening to Adele and looking out at beautiful country scenery with the sun shining is excellent. I’m laughing at the fact that Ab and I used to eat Kiwi’s with the skin on them.

So last night, made friends with Japanese girl at hostel bar while drinking local brew Tui – pretty good. Then I met a German girl who took me to a few local spots and I learned that she was a bee keeper back in Germany and is continuing her trade here in New Zealand to cultivate Queen bees. Very strangely interesting. The bathroom in Cassette bar – which is pretty sweet spot by the way, has cat pictures plastered all over the walls. In many bars, as in Sydney, they serve liquor drinks and shots out of tea pots. I like that. I spoke to guy named Neville and had to prevent myself from referring to him as Neville Longbottom to his face, as is, Harry Potter’s friend.

The smoke right now hovering over the mountains is amazing. Is that Mordor? Wow, I sound like sci-fi geek and I don’t even know much about that stuff.

I’m wondering if I’m too old now to do the hostel thing. I can afford a normal hotel, but once I get mingling with people I love it. I envy those who can just pick up, quit their job, and just travel. Work in hostel bars; sleep on bunk beds every night. When did I get so picky? All those who buy around the world tickets and travel alone. I’ve never been that fond of traveling alone but its easy here. I like it. But still, there’s a lot of 18 year olds too. Like Doug from Manchester, who’s sitting in front of me right now on the bus up North.  Still, I think it would be great to open an amazing hostel chain in North America.

There are 4 million people in New Zealand, and 40 million sheep.

Its 5:15 and I’m checked in to Salt Water Lodge in Paihia. It’s really nice and clean with en suite bathrooms and hot water! It’s still cold everywhere I go, no matter how far north I go. We cruised the Bay of Islands this afternoon. I saw dolphins, and baby dolphins, and jumping dolphins, oh, and some seals. The scenery and backdrop was super gorgy, and the water color was amazing. It rained toward the end though, and my camera unfortunately decided to break before I left for Sydney so that’s why all my pictures are blurry.

Bay of Islands from Paihia

There are 144 islands in the Bay. We went through the Holein the Rock. I just wish my camera didn’t suck for it. Then I started to feelsea sick.

Hole in the Rock

I’m meeting the girls from Arizona and Jeremy from Perth at Base for the BBQ tonight. Hope its fun!

New Zed greenery


Why do I always meet cute boys I’ll never see again? Alas. I had a great time up in Paihia. I went to the BBQ to meet the girls over at Base. $12 for a BBQ and a beer, not bad. Met a girl from the Isle of Man – a place between England and Ireland that I’m quite confused about the fact that I never know it existed! They’re their own entity, with their own government and currency and everything. Really?

Then I chatted with an American, Canadian and Brit. Karaoke was on in the background. I wished Emily was there so we could duet to MCR’s the Black Parade. The glow in the dark body paint came out and I’m pretty sure I looked like a fool. I lost my lipstick at some point. I saw the Milky Way later that night, I think.

My painted face


On a jumbo jet back to Brissy. What a week. Just bought a new camera at Duty Free. I think I’m broke at the moment but not positive. Just spending and not thinking, yikes. Is it safe to eat sushi at the airport? Oh well.

I hope everything is okay with the damn Chilean ash cloud as to not interfere with my flight. Back to reality tomorrow.