Friday, December 5, 2008

The End Of The Road

Today we officially took our first steps in good ole' Boston in over 16 months. We almost had to follow the freedom trail in order to find our way around.

If you've spent most of the past year and a half wondering where we were, you're not alone. This collage should help a bit; it's all the places we've slept on our journey. Or at least all the places we remembered to take a photo.

We can't say thank you enough to all the people who have opened up their homes (and pantries) to us in every country - our current hosts included!. We love our tent Gusty, but it is good to get a shower occasionally. (If your house isn't in the collage, it means we were too bleary eyed when we left to get a photo and you need to send us one!)

We did a rough count of how many times we stayed in different locations:
Our tent (Gusty): 74 different sites (100+ nights)
Houses of friends and family: 28
Motels/hotels/B&Bs/hostels: 16
Huts: 15
Train: 1 (overnight from Sydney to Adelaide)
Boat: 1 (on Doubtful Sound)
Car: 1 (Under a bridge, down by a river. I'm not kidding, it was late, we were tired, and we didn't want to camp next to train tracks for another night.)

Not to fear though, being back in Boston does not mean we will stop having adventures. Stay tuned for more, maybe we'll even fill in some of the gaps while we're at it, you never know.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Vegas Baby!

Of course we're hiking!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Where'd the Hair Go?

Several of you commented that my hair seems a lot shorter in the recent blog posts. There's a reason for that. My good friend Carrie had some fun playing with scissors.

The thought was that if I didn't cut my hair during the year I was gone, maybe it would be long enough to donate when I returned to the country.

Most places require 10 inches. To my great surprise, my ponytail measured in at 15. Guess that will do.

Carrie was a bit nervous because I kept making her cut more off. But how else are you going to end up with lovely hair covered shoulders? Plus, she's an expert in disguise. She definitely has a backup career if dance falls through.

Greg begged us to keep the ponytail after it was cut off to help him speed up growing out his beard, but in the end he caved and let us send it in to Locks of Love*, he figured they needed it more.

*"Locks of Love is a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada under age 18 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis." (

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Political Canvassing

We were in Portland, Oregon for Labor Day weekend and did some volunteer work with both the Obama and Jeff Merkley campaigns. They were both pretty different experiences and rather surprising.

Jeff Merkley is running for US Senate in Oregon against the incumbent Republican. He's very progressive on a lot of issues and it would be great to see him get into the Senate. I had given some money to him last December and thought it would be great to volunteer for the campaign while we were passing through Oregon. So while in Seattle I sent the campaign an email and signed Mekayla and myself up to do some canvassing.

I had thought that canvassing would be something I would hate, and Mekayla would love. She just tends to be a lot more willing to talk with random strangers than I am. Boy was I wrong. Mekayla hated the idea of interrupting people's days and trying to convince them to vote for a particular politician. It turns out I thought it was incredible fun.

Once I got over the initial wierdness of knocking on strangers doors and I more or less got a rythm of starting the conversation I had a great time talking with people and talking about issues with undecided voters. Even though I didn't know all of the details of Jeff's positions I could always fall back on talking about Democrats in general and the reasons why I was supporting them. I knocked on about 85 doors and talked to about 25 people. Not a bad success rate for a Saturday over Labor Day weekend.

The next day we decided to volunteer with Obama's campaign doing voter registration. This was a bit more in line with something Mekayla was happy with. We essentially stationed ourselves in a high traffic location at an art show and made it really easy for people to register.

For both days we got a lot of "thank yous" on the street and they were both great experiences. And it adds a whole different dimension to our road trip across the US to actually connect and talk with locals along the way. We hope to volunteer with some other Democratic Senate campaigns as well as Obama as we continue to travel.

FYI, I've gotten a lot of my information about the Senate campaigns from the Senate Guru Blog and making donations through their ActBlue Expand the Map page.

Twenty-nine years of crazy cakes

Well, another year has come and since we are once again on the road we are again baking in a random kitchen. But Mekayla's great birthday cake tradition continues. We took over her cousin Pamela's kitchen for the day and then Mekayla, her Dad, and I cooked throughout the afternoon and into the evening.

This time the cake was a flourless chocolate torte. We of course decorated with a lot of fruit and chocolate shavings. And to kiwi-ify it another part of the cake was made from Grace's Pavlova recipe. A Pavlova is essentially a type of meringue, but Australia and New Zealand argue over who actually invented this version. Grace swore us to secrecy and provided us with her secret family recipe for this event.

Now to answer the big question everyone is asking: What shape is it this year? Naturally the shape had to capture a bit of our time in New Zealand and the idea that we have been traveling a lot. So the shape this year is a Maori canoe, called a waka.

One of the great things about the word "waka" is it is now used in Maori for as the root word for any mode of transportation. So the word for plane translates as "canoe of the sky". And the word for car "waka whenua" [wa-ka fen-u-a] translates to "canoe of the earth". We gave our new car the nickname "waka whenua" also.

Before dinner we also continued to hone some of our Indian cooking skills and made what turned out to be a quite good vegetarian meal.

So our journey across the US has begun. We are now in San Jose, and today we leave for some camping in Yosemite.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Four days left!

We have a mere four days remaining in New Zealand, and are running through a mixture of emotions. We are looking forward to seeing everyone back home and exploring the US a bit, but we are definitely going to miss many things about NZ and a number of people here as well.

Our general route back to Boston goes like this:
  1. Hawaii: I can't wait to get away from winter.
  2. US West Coast: We have weddings to go to in Seattle and LA in Aug and Sept, so we'll be wandering down the coast.
  3. Colorado: Probably go up through Utah because it's supposed to be scenic and amazing.
  4. Some random route through the southern portions of the US to the East Coast.
  5. DC, NY (state, probably not the city)
  6. Then Boston.
The general plan is to hit Boston before Thanksgiving. All of this is of course subject to change with no notification. :) And it is interactive. For instance if you are in say Kentucky, perhaps you could alter our route in your direction by offering a floor to sleep on or a backyard to camp in. :)

But enough un-subtle hints.

We have also finished sorting through and editing our 15,000 New Zealand photos (I am not exaggerating). We're going to spread out the posting of the best of them so nobody is overwhelmed (us included). The first set takes you through all the places we have gone tramping (backpacking). And features such pictures as this:
The second set are various special occasions (like my 30th birthday) and look a bit like this (this is actually Grace's picture):
You can view them all from here. We will probably put up some more just before we leave, and then put up the rest after we reach the West Coast (of the US, not the rain soaked paradise of New Zealand's South Island).

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Happy 4th of July... It's snowing.

While everyone is enjoying the summer sun we thought we would break your revelry of northern hemisphere chauvinism (I read that recently in a book) with some greetings from our wintry wonderland.

Of course, really snow here in Christchurch isn't quite the same. Being on the coast means even at 45 degrees south latitude it is still somewhat temperate. For instance when I said it was snowing, I should point out that none of the snow stuck to the ground because both before and after the snow it rained. It rained a lot. And there were some great 130 km/h wind gusts to keep the rain falling at a 45 degree angle. (I think most of the snow was falling up earlier). Of course a few hundred kilometers away there are glaciers and mountains where the snow never melts.

So tomorrow when you walk outside and bask in the sun's glow for 16 hours of the day please spare a thought for those of us on the other end of the world who just finished celebrating the WINTER solstice.

Most of these pictures have nothing to do with winter, but we were fairly cold in all of them so, here you go.

Mekayla and Caleb under a water fall in Milford Sound.

Me walking on clouds on the Kepler track:
Our hike on Franz Joseph Glacier:

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Thinking Forward

I've landed a job with Landcare Research, a top NZ environmental research organization. Much of the work that they do is scientific in nature, studying the natural environment (plants, animals, soils, etc), but they also think about how we as humans could be living our lives more sustainably. I'm working in their Sustainability and Society group.

This is all quite exciting for me because I've been spending quite a lot of time during our travels trying to explore different aspects of sustainability through reading books, interviewing people, taking courses, and just keeping my eyes wide open. My hope is to figure out a bunch of different ways of how I might be able to focus my work more into this area.

But maybe I should back up a little. The word sustainability gets thrown around a lot these days, but what does it mean? First of all, it's more than just 'environmentally friendly'. When we think about sustainability, we think about what it will take for us to live in a way that meets the needs of today's people and environment without jeopardizing that of future generations. This takes into consideration the environment, yes, but also economic and social factors.

In any case, trying to make our society more sustainable pretty much always requires change of some sort. Change in the way we think, change in the way we act, change in the systems we build... it all depends. So, my job is to help think about the best way to bring this change about. In order to do this, you need to understand the people that it would impact. By doing this, you can design ways to bring them along instead of causing more problems or contention.

The particular project I'm looking at is in the commercial building sector. How to encourage and spread the uptake of sustainable building practices. If you have ideas, or examples of people doing this well, let me know.

Here's a few photos since it's always fun to have photos in a post. They're from the Earth From Above exhibit, which was on display in cities across NZ. Check out more of Yann Arthus-Bertrand's work on his website ( )

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ko wai koe? No hea koe?

It seems I just can't be satisfied coming to another country without learning another language. At first, I thought it would be enough to focus on learning to understand the Kiwi's crazy form of English. It's been no easy feat to get to the point where I can come out with proper responses to phrases such as "Bob's your uncle", "Good on ya", and "sweet-as".

However, in addition to English, there are actually two other official languages in New Zealand: Māori and NZ sign language. While I've always been interested in learning sign language, I decided to focus on Māori for the time being. Those of you who have visited NZ will know that many place names and signs are in both English and Māori. However, this is a relatively recent change. Māori only became one of the official languages in 1987. Prior to this, and the start of several Māori-language recovery programs, there was actually a fear that the language would be lost. There were many reasons for the decline of Māori speakers, among them the fact that for many years Māori was forbidden in the schools and all proceedings in Parliament were conducted in English. Many Māori felt there was little reason to teach the language to their children. At present only about 4% of the NZ population speaks Māori. However, knowledge and interest in the language (and culture) is on the rise in both official and personal settings.

One of the first things we are learning is "Ko wai koe? No hea koe?": "Who are you? Where are you from?" It seems like a fairly basic question, but traditionally the answer would include a whole description of lineage and family history. When we first introduced ourselves, we were asked to give our name and place of origin, as well as "our" river and mountain. It's added a whole new dimension to some of the discussions Greg and I have been having lately about identity.

*Photos courtesy of my mom. Hopefully we'll get a post up about our travels with her and Robert soon...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

30th B-Day's Deserve Ice Cream Cake!

I have a wee birthday tradition of having a Carvel ice cream cake on my birthday. Doesn't happen every year, but it seemed like my 30th was a good year not to skip. Unfortunately Carvel seems to have not expanded into New Zealand quite yet. So I ventured into unknown territory, inspired a bit from Mekayla's tradition, and decided to make my own ice cream cake. Fortunately the web is filled with ex-Carvel employees who are addicted to making their own cake and provide some great recipes to start from.

I should emphasize at this point that this "cake" is composed entirely of ice cream. There is no spongy cake layer to detract from the ice cream experience. Here, in exquisite detail, is my cake starting at the base:
  • layer of chocolate ice cream (ahh, I wish they sold coffee ice cream in NZ, maybe next year)
  • layer of crunchies (oreo's mixed with Magic Shell Chocolate, this is a KEY ingredient)
  • layer of vanilla ice cream with M&M's mixed in (this was actually a mistake, the M&M shells melt off too much, and they lose their crunchiness)
  • all frosted on the outside with freshly whipped cream
  • blueberry colored whipped cream to decorate the edges
  • M&M's to write "30" with.
  • More crunchies (including some made out of delectable Tim Tams)
The cake had to go through 4 freezing steps over the course of two days. We were freezing it out in the freezer in the garage, so I had to break out the head lamp occasionally to fetch it.

By the second day I think I was on a sugar high from eating too much whipped cream, as were the cats.

It turned out very well in the end, and even the Kiwi flatmates who were particularly horrified during this whole process seemed to enjoy the final result.

Of course Mekayla did try to melt the entire cake by insisting on putting thirty candles on it, but I swiftly averted disaster by blowing them all out (after basking briefly in their glow).

Thank you everyone for the birthday wishes. Now, if you will excuse me, there is left over ice cream cake that needs my immediate attention!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Matzah Boat is Late

After my experience trying to find Hannukah candles in NZ, I decided I should start early in my quest to find Matzot for Passover.

Thanks to the genius of the World Wide Brain*, I tracked down the one store in Christchurch that does actually carry matzah. Not only that, they carry matzah meal and matzah Balls as well!!

If only I were so lucky... When I called before making the trek to the store, I was told "usually we have those items several weeks in advance, but we're pulling our hair out right now... the Matzah Boat is Late!".

I never realized that there was a single boat that sailed the seas in preparation for passover, delivering matzah to the Jews of the world. I hope they aren't soggy.


*The Internet to those who aren't familiar with Grace Dalley's (our illustrious flatmate) terminology

Monday, April 7, 2008

More Tramps

Elizabeth and Caleb visited us from Boston recently. This visit had been in the works for months and was all planned around us getting to finally do the Routeburn Track, which is quite justified in being called one of the best walks in the world. At the last minute, we got a surprise: another visitor! Eva (who lived with Mekayla and her mom for a year in 1995) decided to come visit all the way from Berlin. She had no choice but to join the intrepid trampers.

It is about 32km over three days. It turned out to be a lot easier than we thought it would be. I originally read the elevation change to be 1200 meters. Mekayla and I had done one walk recently that was that steep, and it was grueling. We were surprised by how quickly we arrived at the first hut until we realized that the map we had was nicely translated into feet for the foreigners. Apparently I now think using the metric system. 1200 feet is a lot less daunting than 1200 meters.

But even though it was not as difficult as we had expected, it was really magnificent. So without further ado:

Mekayla and I are heading off tomorrow to tramp the Kepler Track. It also should be amazing.

What in the world have we been up to?

My, how time waddles. Time is flightless here just like many of the birds. For instance, the penguin:

We've been exploring all over the South Island the past two months, both on our own and with various visitors who have accompanied us. Tomorrow we head off again to meet up with more visitors, so we thought we'd try and post a few pictures before we leave again.

We went kayaking up in Kaikoura.

Where we walked through a vast colony of seals (and took 300+ pictures).

We went tramping in Arthur's Pass where we stayed one night in this great little hut.

Mekayla attended a Permaculture Design Course (which she says she'll post on eventually) up in the Tui community near Abel Tasman NP. Here is one of the houses there. Unfortunately we never saw it while the dragon was smoking because it wasn't cold enough yet for them to be using the fireplace.

And here is a vast set of sand dunes near Farewell Spit at the northern tip of the South Island.

These photos are just to whet your appetite. We spent the past two weeks sorting and editing all of the photos we have taken in New Zealand. 7500 photos has now been reduced to 1600. When we get back from the two week trip we leave on tomorrow we'll start uploading sets of them for people to enjoy.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Super(bowl) Tuesday

It's been quite entertaining trying to answer questions about the American primary process. Many people over here are quite informed about what's going on in the US (wow, in other parts of the world they actually have news about what's happening in other countries!), so their questions can be quite detailed and specific. Overall, it's made me realize just how confusing and convoluted our system can be.

However, the most recent question definitely tops the list...

I was hurrying out of work to go catch the end of the superbowl (yes, it was already Monday afternoon here), and one of my coworkers said, "Superbowl? Now, remind me again, is that the same as Superbowl Tuesday?"

Oh dear. All though, come to think of it, they do have a lot of similarities...

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Come on over (we need people).

Many Kiwi's are surprised that it was so easy for us to get 1 year work permits here in NZ.

They're used to heaps of people coming over from other commonwealth countries, but the US doesn't really fall under that category anymore. Even Bostonians, with their 'pahk' and 'cahr' , clearly can't pass for the true Brits.

More importantly, many of them have tried to get work permits in the US, and failed. Funny that. Apparently this is not an equal exchange.

But now, we start to see the true welcoming nature of the Kiwis. Our visas have no where near expired and they're already trying to get us to extend our stay. For all of you that are rooting for us to return to the states at some point, be forewarned, you're competing with all of Immigration NZ :

Happy New Year Mekayla

As someone who has visited New Zealand on a Working Holiday visa you'll know about our long, lazy summer days, with sailing and cycling after work and weekends at the bach.

Creating memories to treasure. And share with your friends and family.

Which is why I am writing to you now.

First, as someone who entered New Zealand on a Work Holiday visa you may be thinking about your future options. You have many, including staying here in New Zealand and applying for a work visa as a skilled migrant.

In fact, this is a great time to consider staying because with our current low unemployment, we're looking for professional qualifications and experience. If this is of interest to you, my advice is to complete an Expression of Interest application by clicking here, or alternatively complete a registration on If you do the latter, we'll then send you a series of emails about life in New Zealand that will also include visa information and job links tailored to your age and experience.

Second, if you have colleagues you think would enjoy working and living in Aotearoa, why not excite their interest by sharing the attached video with them? It's a recent one from Tourism New Zealand, and reflects the passion we have for life. You can also refer your friends to by clicking here.

As one of the youngest nations in the world, New Zealand has much to offer. For work. For travel. For life.

If you are keen to stay and/or return to Aotearoa, why cherish your memories when you can continue the journey?


Victoria Forrest
Immigration New Zealand

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Australia? Did we go there?

Well, 3841 Australia pictures have now been reduced down to the much more easily consumed (and uploaded) number of 290. Mekayla still thinks that is too many. (As if you have something better to do than live vicariously through us. HA!) So we have also created a Top 40 list showing the best of the best.

Of course you have probably seen many of the top 40 on the blog, but now you can also download full resolution versions of them and use them as you see fit. Who doesn't want a desktop background of me sitting in a tent, or me looking at a termite mound. The possibilities for plastering my picture on every facet of your computer experience are endless. So dive on in:

Australia Photos

If you are unsure of where places are, take a look at our journey map of Australia.

Within each of the albums you can also start a slideshow of the photos by clicking on this icon on the top left of the page:

The slideshow does a good job of loading the other pictures in the background while you are looking at one. Unfortunately our site is not quite as user friendly as it should be, so most people probably never realize that the slideshow feature is there.

Speaking of updating the site, I updated the main page: Not that this actually makes any real difference in anyone's lives, but I've been having fun with web programming recently, and thought I would share.

Anyway, enjoy Australia. We need a bit of a break before trying to tackle New Zealand photos, but hopefully they will get up in early February. Of course the number of NZ photos keeps increasing too. I took 400 photos of seals over the weekend! Cheers!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

NZ's Biggest Sports Bar

I managed to watch my first Patriots game of the season! Of course, it was also the first post-season game. For some reason they don't show much Patriots football in New Zealand. I was a little worried that my watching might ruin this rather excellent streak they've been on. Fortunately it turns out that I do not possess that kind of power. At least not yet...

From what I understand, this little streak has been big news back in the States. I also understand that most of the country rather dislikes New England at the moment. Seeing as how I don't want to anger my growing national audience, I will now cease mentioning of the Patriots (at least until after their Super Bowl win).

I dragged Mekayla to downtown Christchurch to watch the game in "New Zealand's biggest sports bar": The Holy Grail. It actually is quite big. Of course the biggest bar felt quite empty and cavernous with only a dozen or so football fans in it.

I think the bar was originally designed for more popular events and would always be so packed that everyone would have to stand. This is the only explanation I can think of for only having ten chairs anywhere close to the bar. It does have stadium bleacher seats though from which you can watch the lo-def broadcast on the "biggest screen in NZ". (NZ likes their HD TVs, but unfortunately doesn't broadcast anything in HD.) And when there is no crowd stadium seating is actually quite luxurious. Kinda like lounging around in the good seats at a Roman coliseum I imagine.

Anyway, a fun time was had by all. Hope everyone is enjoying the post season.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Work Work Work

For some reason, we keep getting questions about work. I don't really understand, since we think that work is a much less interesting topic than all the adventures we're having, but I suppose it's time to satisfy the masses and answer some of the questions:

Yes we've been working.

No, we don't think it's as fun to tell work stories as it is to make you jealous of all the beautiful places we get to visit in our time off.

No we're not shearing sheep or picking kiwi fruit (although I did consider getting a job as a bread maker at an organic bakery, mmm bread!).

Boring as you may think it is, we've actually gotten jobs more or less in our fields. I'm working at an insurance company and Greg's designing websites.

Didn't you know that's what our specialties really are?

Greg gets to sit at home all day, messing around on the computer, and I get to go into a big traditional insurance company and help them learn how to do User Centered Design. Very similar to the type of work I was doing at IDEO, except that working with a team of people that's familiar with the process, I'm working with a bunch of people who have never done this type of work before.

Turns out you have to spend money in order to make money. I don't think they would have been too happy if I had showed up in the faded shirt I've been wearing hiking for the last 5 months. Especially since all the software programmers wear ties and shiny black shoes to work. Ah well, I guess I can save the hiking shirt for casual Fridays ;-) .

Time for me to go learn some more insurance terminology!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Circling the South Island with My Parents

Well, somehow we all survived it. My parents have been visiting us for the past two weeks and we took them for a whirlwind tour of the South Island. A few times along the way I was not entirely sure how we would all survive the trip, but by the end we had found a balance and gotten into a steady traveling rhythm.

Since our Australia map has had an astonishing 230 views I thought I would make a new map to show this journey. All told we put an additional two thousand kilometer on the car and I took 1398 pictures. I think there were at least a hundred times that my parents collectively said "Wow!" at the incredible scenery we saw along the way.

For instance, they were both excited to get rather close to the Fox Glacier (it is impossible to capture with a picture just how big it really is).

Here they are on the way back from a rather long hike we took them on up the Pororira River valley.

Marveling at Mt. Cook:

We even got my Mother to cross a foot bridge that swung fifty feet above the churning melt-water coming from Mueller Glacier.

Occasionally we found ourselves out walking on beaches:

Or tasting a wee bit of wine outside of Queenstown:

Or just wandering through fields of flowers:

Hope everyone has been having a good start to the new year.

My parents made me promise to try and go through all of our pictures and get them uploaded to our website. I just went through and counted, and actually there are fewer than I had feared: 3841 from Australia and 3728 from New Zealand. I was sure I had broken the 10K barrier by now.

So sometime in the near future I'll try and cut that down to just the good ones. Somehow I don't think anyone wants to wade through all 424 pictures we took on our whale watch in Australia.