Top 20 Things to do in Auckland, NZ

Top 20 Things to do in Auckland, NZ

We lived in Auckland for one month and did so so many things while we were there. There weren’t many days we didn’t explore the city and surrounding area. We compliled this list to help anyone who is thinking about visiting Auckland, is currently in Auckland, or is dreaming of seeing Auckland. We did all of these things with our kids in tow so they are all kid friendly but are not kid specific as we could and would have done all of these without the kids.

  1. Visit the Auckland Art Gallery-we wrote a full review of our visit here
  2. Go see Maungawhau, Mt. Eden which is the highest natural point in Auckland
  3. Ride a train, ferry, or bus-read our review of the public transportation here
  4. Sky World Mall-Wonder what the Mall would look like in The Jetsons? This is it!
  5. Visit The Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira
  6. Have lunch on the bean bags in Britomart and go shopping
  7. Take a 30 min drive out to see Karekare falls.
  8. While visiting Karekare be sure not to miss the black sand beach right next door
  9. Spend a day visiting Mission Bay-there are tons of restaurants and shops here
  10. Take the ferry out to Devonport-be sure to check out Bookmark Secondhand Books
  11. Go to a farmers market
  12. Have a picnic at Albert Park
  13. Spend a day with the sheep at One Tree Hill/Cornwall Park
  14. Manukau Heads Lighthouse
  15. Take a trip to see Sky Tower
  16. Visit a farm-we went to Kiwi Valley Farm
  17.  Have a new ice cream experience at GIAPO
  18.  Take the ferry to Waiheke Island and one of the vineyards
  19. Piha Beach
  20. Have a meat pie at your local bakery

How are you paying for all of this?!

How are you paying for all of this?!

How we made the move and how we support ourselves and our travels financially.

So how exactly did we do it? How much money did we have? How were we funding this trip? This is probably one of the things most people are curious about and we want to share with you all how we did and are doing it. Sean and I had talked about traveling full time for several years, but we wanted to wait until our older daughter finished school because she was already so well established in school and was almost done. So, we waited, in the mean time we made goals that would help us with our travel dreams. This included Lorena going back to school to get her master’s degree, one of the adults becoming a licensed architect, and starting our own architecture firm. We made a list of all the things that needed to happen and worked hard at checking them off as quickly as we could. That list is below.

  1. At least one of us needs to pass our architectural registration exams and become a licensed architect-Sean did this, Lorena is still working on passing her last two exams out of 7
  2. Mireya and Lorena need to graduate-They both did this Mireya got her high school diploma and Lorena got her Master of Architecture
  3. We need to sell our house
  4. Figure out what to do with our animals (two cats, one dog, and four chickens)
  5. Minimize-sell all of our stuff in a garage sale that we would not be taking with us on our adventure (we each brought 1 checked bag, 1 carry on, and one personnel item)
  6. Book our one-way tickets to New Zealand as soon as we got the money from the house
  7. Apply for our visas (Sean, Lorena, and Gaby would be applying for visitors’ visas for 9 months, Mireya would apply for a working holiday visa)
  8. Sell our cars
  9. Work on getting as many clients as we can that would be willing to work with us while we travel-this is an ongoing thing in order to support ourselves overseas
  10. Pack our bags and GO!!!

Short Quick Version:

For those of you who do not have the time or just want the numbers do not worry. I will provide those now.

  • We sold our house-Profit $17,000
  • We sold our stuff-Profit $2,000
  • We sold our cars-Profit $2,000
  • One-way plane tickets from OKC-NZ -Cost $4,000 (for 3 adults and one child-Mireya is 18 so she is an adult now Gaby is now six so she usually has to get a full price ticket as well but NZ Air gave us a child discount)
  • Airbnb for two months $3,000
  • Carry-On Bag fee-Cost $50 each so $200
  • Lugguage/cloths for trip/etc-Cost $2,000
  • Travel in USA to visit friends and family-Cost $5,000
  • Cost to buy a used mini van in NZ-Cost $1,000
  • Total we have left once all is said and done to fall back on if we need it or to get us back to the states if we need to do that is $6,000 and we also got a credit card before we left as an emergency fund with a limit of $6,000. So cushion is $12,000
  • We plan to continue to work as we were in Oklahoma for our firm as much as we need to to pay for our monthly cost of living etc and hope to not touch our little nest egg but it is there if we need it to help us along our way or get us back to the USA if need be.

The Full Breakdown:

For those of you who do want a full break down of how we did all of these things and tips to save you money please do continue reading this post. We spent a lot of time writing this information in the hopes that it would help others who are dreaming of doing this same thing so if it at least does this with one person we will be happy.

Number 1 & 2-Hard Work and a time for celebrations

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Sean passed all his architectural exams and became a licensed architect and we celebrated!  Lorena went back to school and received her Masters of Architecture and passed five of her seven architectural registrations exams while in school, we celebrated again. Mireya graduated from high school another celebration. We also started our own architecture firm (MC2 Architecture) and you guessed it we celebrated again. Things were happening, and they were happening fast. We all had a lot going on and were very busy, but we also had lots of fun exciting accomplishments happen for us all. Including Gabriela starting real school and graduating from Pre-K. This was an amazing blessing as it meant we no longer had to pay for daycare and she was able to attend an all-day Pre-K program right down the street from the University Lorena was attending. She loved it and it all worked out so great with our new schedules.

Number 3-Selling of Casa McDow

This was a tough one. We spend the last eight years in this house making it our home. So many memories happened here, we went from a family of two (Lorena and Mireya) to a family of three (Lorena, Sean, and Mireya) to a family of four (Lorena, Sean, Mireya, and Gaby) in this house. It was our first home and we knew this would be difficult on both an emotional level and a financial one as the house did need some repairs.

This is when it really started getting real. We had given thought to selling our house ourselves, but we were intimidated by the legality of it as neither of us were very familiar about that process or the necessary paperwork. We both had so many things going on that we decided that this was not the time to try and educate ourselves in home realty. It made more sense to just take the hit (financially) on hiring a realtor and focus on working as much as we could for our firm to try and lock down some clients that would be willing to continue to work with us while we traveled.

We hired a realtor and had them come out to the house and talk us through the process. Originally, we were told they would take 3% of whatever we sold the house for but then we were informed that it would probably end up being more like 6% because if the person who bought it had their own realtor then that person would also want 3%. We were shocked! Like I said we did not know anything about selling a house and did not expect to have to pay someone this much for helping us sell it. So be prepared for this. We were able to talk our realtor down to 5% we just had to talk with them and ask. We even had them agree that if they were the only realtor then it would only be 3% but if there were two realtors, they would only charge 2% and give the other realtor 3%.

We felt a little discouraged by this as this meant that much less for our trip however, we just tried to keep our head up and keep going. We crossed our fingers that we would get what we were asking for our house and that in the end we would come away with around $20,000. We walked through the house inside and out with realtors and made another list. If you haven’t noticed this by now, we are big list people. The list included things like, paint bedrooms, paint siding, trim bushes, get new carpet in rooms. We did most of the stuff on the list and had the house photographed and put on the market within one month of the realtors first visit. It was a lot of work and it created a lot of tension in our house for that month. Trying to keep a house clean non-stop with 2 kids, a dog, and two cats is nearly impossible. The list of things that needed to be done was stressful and expensive. We did it though and considering it only took us a month I am pretty darn proud of us. Overall, I believe we spent about $3,000 (roughly) on all the repairs so deduct that amount from what we make on the house because we used our credit card for all the repairs and had planned on just paying it off with whatever money we made from house.

With all the repairs done and the house photographed we put the house on the market. We had four people lined up to see it that first week and the first person who viewed our house made us an offer. A low offer, we weren’t happy, we renegotiated, they renegotiated, and in the end, we took a hit but decided we HATED trying to sell a house, the staging, the keeping it spotless 24/7, the loading up of all the animals, etc. We walked away with a profit of $17,000 which was $3,000 less then what we had hoped to get. This was the total after paying all the realtors fees, and all the other fees associated with selling a house. As soon as the check cleared our bank, we bought our flights to New Zealand. No backing out now!

Number 4-What to do with our pets

What would turn out to seriously be the hardest thing we had to do for our move. Harder then selling our house, harder then selling our stuff, and harder then reading through the millions of different visas and paperwork we needed to do for the move. We needed to decide what to do with the animals. In the end we decided that for health and financial reasons it would be best for us and the animals that they stay in Oklahoma. We worked hard to find them homes and we spent many weeks crying about this part of our move.

The chickens were the first to go. We had got the chickens a while back and loved having them. There really is a simple joy in getting up in the morning and going to get fresh eggs from your chickens. I’m so glad we all got to experience this. Because they were laying eggs and were not very old, we knew someone would want them. We also knew we were not going to be traveling around the world with chickens in tow. So, we put them up for sale and they sold the next day to a nice family who wanted to have fresh eggs. They occasionally would send us photos of the chickens and it seemed they were doing well.

The cats were given to us when they were kittens as a birthday gift for Lorena but over the years, they became Mireya’s cats. Originally Mireya was not sure if she would be coming on this trip and had wanted to keep the cats. As the days started approaching for us to move out of the house, she made the decision to come with us. The cats were older, and we knew bringing them with us would be very difficult on them. So, we started a search to look for them a new and loving home. They spent several weeks living with my mother while we looked for them a forever home. This turned out to be so hard because most people do not want older cats. My parents are not in situations where they could take the cats and so that was not an option and most of our friends already have animals of their own. As the days got closer to our departure the only place that would take them was an animal shelter in our hometown which was a no kill shelter, so we have high hopes they were adopted. The shelter people seemed very nice and said they would keep them together and had high hope they would be adopted because they really were cute cats.

Originally our dog was the only animal that we had planned on bringing with us. He was not young, but he was not super old either. He was in good health and we read that we could do it that we would just need to do some paperwork and he would need to be quarantined for around 2 weeks. We weren’t looking forward to being away from him or him to be in a quarantine facility for that long, but we were going to try and bring him. We investigated cost, paperwork, pet visas, pet carriers, etc. Originally, we thought this was going to cost us around $2,000 for the necessary paperwork, quarantine, and flight. However, we were then informed that we would need to get a pet exporter and that Logan would need to receive a series of vaccinations before he could come to New Zealand and that these would roughly take 6 months. Our flight was scheduled for two months away so we started to stress and wonder how we were going to do it. Who could take him while we were away and take him to the vet, and airport and what not.

We began looking into pet exported and soon found out that this would cost us around $5,000 in addition to the $2,000. We were not in a financial situation where this was an option. We raised the $2,000 we originally thought it was going to cost to bring him by selling all our stuff in a garage sale the week before we left. However now that it was going to cost us $7,000, we knew we would not be able to take him. We put him on a German Shepard adoption website for and got two emails that same day with people who were interested in buying/adopting him. We got lucky and found a nice family who wanted to adopt him. Their living situation was very similar to what Logan had been used to in that they had two kids and two cats just like us. They also said they would come pick him up that next day which was a day before we were scheduled to leave our home, so it really did just feel meant to be. We are still in contact and really do believe this was the best decision for him and our family. No quarantine, no flight, and he really does seem to have bonded with his new family. I cried for two weeks after he left and still till this day get teary eyed thinking of him. However I know he is enjoying his new home and I am so happy he is happy and that we get to see him still. He really was such a sweet and loving dog. We will all miss him forever.

Number 5-What to do with all our stuff.

This is something that originally, I thought I was going to have a really hard time doing. How do you go through years and years of stuff and decide what to keep and what to get ride of? This was actually a lot easier than I expected, and I was surprised the amount of stuff we were all willing to part with. We had sort of already began this process the year Mireya started her senior year and after having watched a documentary on minimalism we were inspired and began getting ride of things. However now we had to get really serious. What would we take? What did we want to keep but not take? What could we part with forever and what would we give away to friends and family?

We took it one room at a time and made 3 piles. Pile#1 What can we part with, donate, and sell, Pile#2 What did we want to keep but not take, and Pile #3 things we would be taking with us. Originally, we had thought about just donating everything we were not going to take as we did not want to hassle with having a garage sell and did not think we had that much stuff but soon and I mean really soon the donate/sell pile was huge! So we decided that instead of just donating all the things we had once spent money on we would try and recoup some of our money and put it in our travel fund. We did give some things away to our loved ones and had several people come over and tell us what they wanted before we had our garage sale. Some of our friends and family even gave us money knowing that we were trying to make money for our trip. We then had our garage sale one week before we were scheduled to leave our house and made around $2,000.

Number 6-BOOK TICKETS!!!

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One way tickets for the four of us to New Zealand cost us close to $4,000. We booked two separate flights which saved us around $1,000. Our first flight was from Oklahoma to Los Angeles. Then one from Los Angeles to New Zealand. We highly suggest you research your options when it comes to travel. Just because you are in one place does not mean that you need to book your flight from that place to your destination. Nor do you have to book through the same airline or travel company. Just make sure you give yourself time for all the check-in stuff at the airport. I would actually even recommend considering staying a night in one place then heading off to the next place. We looked for tickets from OKC to AKL and were surprised that most flights had several layovers and did not just take us from OKC to one of the direct flight locations to New Zealand so after seeing this we started researching which airports and airlines offered direct flights to New Zealand and found several. Including Houston, Hawaii, LA, and San Francisco. So, we started looking at how much it would be to book separate flights and after doing A LOT of research we found flight from OKC to LA for about $200 each and then from LA to Auckland for about $800 for the adults and $600 for Gaby. Keep in mind this was for one-way tickets for flights in September. There are always offers and specials out there and dates can change prices significantly so keep this in mind as well.

Next, we had to do something we did not put on the list, figure out where to live in between the time the house sold and our flight to New Zealand. We posted all about this in a separate thank you post to all our family and friends who we stayed with and visited along in this time. You can read it here https://directionofourhearts.com/2018/11/06/that-time-we-were-couch-surfers/. We basically floated around Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Colorado. In that time we spent roughly $5,000 over the next 2 months traveling to see our friends and family in the United States.

Number 7-Visas and paperwork

While we couch surfed our way through the next couple month and a half, we did a lot of paper work. Not just for our travel to New Zealand, but also for schooling for Gaby and Mireya, and things for our business. This process took us quite a while to do and involved lots of backup documentation. We may write another post about this if you guys are interested in knowing more about this process. It took us a full day of reading and entering information, but this does not include the time/hours/days we spend on gathering all the necessary paperwork needed including passport renewals, bank statements, and so much more. We did it, we got approved, and we jumped for joy because it took a while to get approved and we were starting to worry that maybe we did something wrong. Mireya was approved much quicker and the process was also a lot shorter and easier.

Number 8-Saying goodbye to Glen and Maggie

(yes, we named our cars and yes their names were based on TWD characters who remind us of ourselves)

We needed to sell our cars. With a departure date in hand we tried to wait till the very last min to sell our cars, so we would not be completely carless, and this worked out well for us. We sold Sean’s car about a month before we were scheduled to leave, and it basically covered the amount we owed on the car, so no money was made there. We sold my car 2days before we left to New Zealand and made $5,500 but we owed $3,500 so we made roughly $2,000.

Number 9-Finding work and being your own boss

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Although this was number 9 on the list, we worked on this almost every day for over a year before we left. We have been pretty lucky when it comes to work finding us and have not had to search very much but the reason for this is because we have put in the work in networking, being good and hard workers in our past, and just being good people, who people are happy to work with. Sean and Lorena are both hard workers and enjoy learning everyday to make themselves more appealing, versatile, and competitive. Sean is great when it comes to the technical side of things and Lorena is great when it comes to the business side of things and they both have an eye for design.

Before we left, we had several business meetings, projects, research, and paperwork to do for our business which we planned to be our main source of income for our trip. We weren’t exactly sure how it would all work out with the internet and time differences, but we had/have high hopes and truly think that with technology being what it is today and are careers being so broad we shouldn’t have to be tied down to an office and a 9-5 schedule. Out of all the people we met with we were able to get five projects for ourselves to work on for the first several months of our journey. However, things do not always work out like you plan and we are two months into our 9month stay here and after wrapping up a few projects we are on the search again for more work to continue to life this travel life. We are strong believers of the saying “where there is a will there is way” and know that we will find something soon.

Because of the visas we received we are unable to work in New Zealand which makes things a little tricky, but we have started working on a few other side projects and means of extra income to hopefully help fund this trip. We opened an Esty shop to sell digital high-quality photographs from our travels, we are working on getting a few books published, and are constantly looking for more ways to earn money and support our family.

Number 10-Packing our Bags and Flights

Packing our bags was such a huge deal and took several nights of organizing, reorganizing, weighing, and reevaluting the things in our packs. We wrote a full write up about what we take with us daily https://directionofourhearts.com/2018/10/24/backpack-gear-list-auckland-nz/

and are planning to write a post about what we packed with us for the trip, what we actually ended up needing, what we wish we hadn’t brought, and the things we wished we had. That will be up very soon.

We made sure to check what the airline requirements said about bag weights and prices. We were each allowed 1-checked bag under 50lbs, 1-carry on, and one personnel item (think purse or backpack). These were all free of charge, so we made sure to weigh our carry on but did not worry so much about our carry on. However somehow, we seemed to have overlooked that for our second flight from LAX to AKL traveling on New Zealand air you were only allowed 1-checked bag and a personnel item and carry-on bags cost $50 a piece so there was $200 we weren’t expecting to pay added to our travel. Also, our carry-on bag could not be heavier than 7kg (15lb). This was a problem because we were homeschooling Gaby and her carry on was basically just a ton of HEAVY books, as was Lorena’s as she was bringing several of her study books to work on finishing her architectural registrations exams. So needless to say they were both heavier. The front desk worker with New Zealand air was so sweet and helpful and let us pull to the side reassess and rearrange things in order to get to the 15lbs. If we had not done this it would have been an extra $100 for each bag because they would be considered an extra check bag. So Lorena ended up chunking one of her books and we put some of Gabys books in Sean and Mireya’s carry on bags and were able to make it work without paying extra fees on top of the $50 each we were already paying. Needless to say double check the airline requirements and if you have multiple flights make sure and check them all because even if it is the same airline bag fees can be different from one place to another.

Our first flights left Oklahoma at 6:15 a.m. so we made sure to be at the airport by 4:30 a.m. because you never know what can happen and we always try and give ourselves plenty of time especially when traveling with kids. Then we had a very long layover at the LAX airport while we waited for our next flight that would take us to where our real adventure begins. We landed in Los Angeles at 7:26 a.m. and our flight from Los Angeles to Auckland was scheduled to leave at 9:30 p.m. So when I say long layover I mean LONG layover. It was ok and we enjoyed having some time to walk around and stretch our legs before our 12hr flight to New Zealand.

Final numbers

So after everything was said and done we made $17,000 on the sale of our house $2,000 on selling all of our stuff, and $2,000 from the sale of our cars. We spent $4,000 on our plane tickets, $200 on our carry-on luggage fee with New Zealand air, and $5,000 traveling all over the United States to see our friends and family before we left, we also spent about $1,500 on purchasing things we needed for the trip and on hotels in Norman, Arkansas, and St. Louis. We had roughly $10,000 left in our savings.

We went ahead and booked our first two Airbnb’s so that we wouldn’t have to worry about rent for the first two months while in New Zealand. This was roughly $3,000. So, we have a $7,000 cushion while here. We planned to work just as we were doing in Oklahoma and had people that were willing to work with us. We would basically just be living off the same income we were living on in Oklahoma but in New Zealand. We had investigated rental places, transportation, and food and thought if we were willing to make some adjustments this would work.

We would probably be staying in a much smaller space then the 4-bedroom house we had in Oklahoma but we were willing to do this and this would turn out to be one of the best things about the trip so far because it has not only taught us that we don’t need a lot of things to be happy it has also strengthen all of our relationships especially Mireya’s and Gabriela’s. We wouldn’t have a car and would be using our two feet and public transportation and try our best to make most of our meals at home. *we actually ended up purchasing a car for $1,000 after our first month to get us to all the other places on the island as public transportation is not as great once you get out of Auckland.

Originally, we wanted to pay back what we spent on our credit card for our home repairs but after seeing our “profits/travel funds/nest egg” dwindle we decided we would rather just pay this out in payments and keep the money we had for our travels. So, after deducting the amount we spent on a car we had $6,000 as back up incase our business plan didn’t work out or if we needed to come home because we realize we made a horrible mistake. Not much of a nest egg or a cushion but it would get us home if we needed it to or pay our rent for a few months if we decided to do that. We also got one other credit card to use as an emergency fund if things really got bad. The limit we had on this emergency credit card was $6,000.

As you can see, we are just a normal family who believed in our dream and have decided to take the risk of traveling. Some people hear our story and think we are crazy or don’t understand and that is ok this story isn’t for them. Its for anyone who has ever had a dream of traveling, of taking a risk, of losing it all to make a fresh new and better start, this is for the dreamers, the believers, and the doers. It really does take quite a bit of guts to believe in your dream and yourself enough to take this risk. However there hasn’t been a minute that any of us have regretted this choice.

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That Time we were Couch Surfers

That Time we were Couch Surfers

A thank you to all of our family and friends:

When we made the decision to pack up and move with kids in tow we were shocked to see how much people supported the idea. We thought we would get a lot more backlash from our family and friends about how crazy this idea was. There were some things said that of course we expected like why? Why are you selling all your stuff and moving? Why not just take a vacation? How are you going to educate the kids? How are you going to pay for everything? And what about your parents? However, most of the people we spoke with said they were excited for us, that the kids were going to have an amazing experience, that we would be ok, that they believed in us, they were proud of us, and that we were inspiring people to follow their dreams.

So, we put the house on the market in the middle of July and it sold that same week and the buyer wanted us out in two weeks. We did not expect things to happen this fast and debated asking the buyer to push the close date to the end of August or September but then we thought about all the things we could do with the money we would save if we went ahead and moved out by July. One of the major things was being able to visit our family and our friends in other states and spending quality time with our family and friends in Oklahoma City. So, we agreed to move by the end of the month. It was a lot of work and a little insane, but it was also liberating and exciting.

So now what? We had talked about moving in with my mother, getting a long-term room at a hotel, and traveling all over the US to see our family and friends. After looking at the cost of hotels, looking at Airbnb’s in Oklahoma, and talking with our family and friends we decided to “couch surf” for the couple of months till our departure but first we would book one night at a hotel to celebrate selling our house and starting our adventure. We booked a room at the Embassy suites in Norman, OK and spent the night relaxing at the pool, watching movies, and enjoying a toast at the hotel’s happy hour. The next day we began our adventure of floating around Oklahoma, Colorado, and Kentucky. We also stopped in St. Louis and Arkansas on the journey back to Oklahoma from Kentucky.

1st stop was a 2 week stay with our best friend’s in the heart of  Oklahoma City.

The Parsons Family

The Parsons family, they are some of our closest and longest time friends. We were thrilled when they invited us to come stay with them. Anna and I met and became friends in sixth grade and have been great friends ever since. Our kids love each other and our husbands are good friends and have so much in common that we were excited to see how these two weeks would impact our friendships. We were also a little nervous. We had never spent so much time together as a family. We are so alike in many ways when it comes to parenting our kids and our marriages, but we are also different. Would these things become a problem? Would these two weeks do more damage then good for our relationships? These are all normal things to consider if you are thinking of doing the same thing.

For us this experience was GREAT! We loved staying with our best friends. We learned things about each other that we didn’t know (which seems impossible when you have known someone for so long). I took so many things with me from this time with them and I think Sean and Gaby did as well. What I thought was going to be two weeks just hanging out and spending time with our best friends turned into so much more then that. We dreamt together, we grew together, and we laughed. A lot. We are beyond thankful that they opened their homes and their lives to us. We will never forget the time we spend there. Not only do I think our kids became closer in this time I think Anna, Trey, Sean and I did as well.

Our next stop was a week house/dog sitting for one of our other closest friends in Norman, OK.

The Fusselmans

It is so strange the way things worked out. We did not have a set-in stone plan about what or where we were staying but knew that we had a place with my parents no matter what happened. However, with the days approaching things just kind of started falling into place. Angie (the Mrs. of the Fusselman team), is a great friend of mine. We meet in college back in 2008. We have shared so many memories and fun times with her and her husband Michael including watching each other’s pets during vacations. So, when she called to ask if we had plans for the next week because her and Michael were going out of town and she was looking for a dog/house sitter we were happy to help. Anna and Trey said our stay with them was an open offer, but they had a foreign exchange student that would be coming to live with them in the next couple days, so it felt right that we leave.

We stayed at the Fusselman house located Norman, Ok for one week and watched their two pups and cat while we were there. It was nice being back in Norman and being around animals as we really are animal lovers. The Cat was not happy about us being there and didn’t warm up till the last couple of days, but the pups loved us. We enjoyed being close to our favorite locations and were happy to have Mireya back with us. She had been staying with friends and family while we stayed at the Parsons because she too had people she wanted to spend time with before we left for New Zealand. When the time came for us to go to the Fusselmans she was ready and was also excited to be back in Norman.

We are grateful and happy that the Fusselmans let us stay in their home and we were pleasantly surprised by the snacks and goodies they left for us to enjoy while there. We enjoyed Moscow mules in their dungeon (what they call their hang out room), a fire in the backyard, and lots and lots of puppy kisses. We wish they had been there, so we could have all hung out and they did invite us over to stay again once they got back but there were still so many people we needed to see so we didn’t get a chance to do that. However, we are thankful that we were able to do it while they were away. I will miss our girls nights and our double dates with our husbands.

Back to the place I grew up and to spend some good quality time with…you guessed it!!

MY MOMMA

We then headed to my mom’s house to stay for a couple of days before we set off to visit our friends in Colorado. I am so thankful to have such amazing parents who I know we always have a place with no matter what. My mom lives alone in a one-bedroom house in Oklahoma City, so I knew this would probably be hard in that it would be a lot of people in a very small space. However, it was nice being able to spend time with her. We were only there for a few days before we hit the road again, but we had so much fun in those couple days. My mom really is so hilarious, and I know we will all miss her very much when we leave. I tried to be present while there with her and to just enjoy her as I know it will be a while till I see her again. This will be one of the hardest things for me and my family. We were used to seeing and spending time with her about once a week but I know she is excited for our adventure and we have a plan for her to come visit us and maybe even join us on our adventure someday.

Colorado here we come. We spent one week in Lakewood, CO with our other best friends

The Severs

The Severs live in Colorado and had invited us to come stay with them. We were excited for this little mini road trip to see and spend time with them. We had so much fun during our stay with hiking, hot tubing, and playing games. We love spending time with The Severs anytime we can and know we will miss them dearly when we leave. Skylar and Dave moved to Colorado a few years back and it was great talking with them about their move. We talked about the process they went through, the struggles they dealt with, and the joy and happiness they had about their new home. It was inspiring and exciting to hear how moving had changed them. I’m so happy that we were able to make this trip happen and so thankful to have such great friends. We know we will always go back to visit and spend time with The Severs and hope that they are able to come visit us someday as well.

Back to my moms we go. We spent a week with my mother before we left for Kentucky to visit my brother and his family. We hung out, worked on our business, started online school for Gaby, and finalized all the paperwork we needed for our move while there. We booked our first Airbnb, got our visa applications approved, and finalized our packs for the trip.

Time with my pops and one more dinner with my brother and niece

We also spent a lot of time visiting my dad and other family members while in Oklahoma City. We stayed with my dad for one night and hung out and watched movies, ate snacks, and just talked. We even got to check out a concert with my dad before we left which was so much fun. My dad is so cool and funny and really is one of my best friends. He has always been there for me when I needed him and I will forever be thankful to have him as my dad. It will be hard to live so far away from him not only for me but for Sean and the girls too. We will miss him dearly and plan to facetime with him, my mother, and siblings as much as we can while we are away.

We then spent a week in Pikeville, KY visiting my brother and his family.

Familia McClain

This is one of the first trips we had planned to go on before we even sold our house as they were going to be welcoming a new baby into this world and we knew we had to meet her before we set off on our adventure. We had so much fun on this trip and loved seeing our family. We got to meet our newest niece, play with all of our sobrinos (niece and nephews), and spend some good quality time with my brother and sister in law. We celebrated my birthday there and my sister-in-law Cat made me breakfast in bed and my favorite cake.

We also went on an adventure to a beautiful little river and had a picnic. It really was one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had. We got to spend one on one time with all three of our nephews and both of our nieces which was amazing. I read bedtime stories to Noah, listened to Zavier read, sang to Kinley, played with Ryan, and fed Lainey her first bottle. I’m beyond thankful for the time we spent with them and the nice things they did for me on my birthday. It makes my heart happy that we were able to see them one last time before we left the states. We will all miss them all very much.

Mini stops in Arkansas and St. Louis

On our way to Oklahoma from Kentucky we decided to stop in St. Louis and see the arch which turned into us spending two days there enjoying the town, the architecture, and each other. We then set off again to Oklahoma but decided why not stop in Arkansas. Sean and I had spent an anniversary here once and loved it, but Gaby had never been. So, we stayed a night in Arkansas and took Gaby to the Crystal Bridges Museum. We spent the night in Eureka Springs and enjoyed walking through the town, shopping at the local shops, and eating at the place that had our all-time favorite piece of pie-Mud Street Cafe.

Our last week was spent lots of time with my mom, my dad, my older brother and our oldest niece. We also had one last diner double date with the Fusselmans at one of our all time favorite restaurants-Packard. I had breakfast with my bestie Cody at one of my favorite breakfast/brunch spots-Kitchen 324. We attended a family birthday party where we had a chance to say goodbye to all our aunts, grandma, and cousins. I had a girls night with some of my longest time friends, deserts at our favorite bakery with our architecture buds, diner and wine with my grad school girlfriends, one last date with Sean in Oklahoma, a final diner out just the four of us in Norman, and lunch with my grandpa. We spent our last night with the Parsons before heading to the airport for our departure. I couldn’t have asked for a better last week. I’m so happy that we got to see and spend time with all the people we love so much.

We will miss everyone so very much and are so thankful to all our family and friends who let us stay with them before we left. We know that no matter the distance our love for each other will not change.

 

 

Grocery Store Adventures

Grocery Store Adventures

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It is always nice to have home cooked meals as an option while traveling.  This is especially true if you plan to travel for an extended period of time.  Purchasing food from a grocery store rather than constantly eating out provides the opportunity to eat home cooked meals, save some money, and explore local food diversity.

There are several large scale supermarket grocery stores in Auckland including Countdown, New World, and Pak’n Save.  In addition to these supermarkets each neighborhood typically has at least one small convenient store known locally as a “dairy.”  We were very happy to discover that we had several options available within walking distance of our Airbnb.

There was a Countdown supermarket just one mile from our Airbnb which became our grocery store of choice.  We signed up for their rewards card to start receiving special discount. It was free to sign up for the card, you just need to go online and register before it can be used.

Most everything within the grocery stores are the same in some form or fashion to what we are accustomed to in America, and most of the “big name” products are available.  The common and well known chip, snack, and soda brands are all available with some exceptions.

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Does New Zealand have Ranch and Ketchup?

We had been told by several sources that New Zealand did not have ketchup or ranch dressing.  To our surprise, after weeks of preparing for a life without ranch, we walked by shelves filled with both ranch and ketchup.  Needless to say we were extremely excited and bought a bottle of ranch. That evening we ordered some pizza and opened up our newly purchased ranch.  It had a very tangy and almost sour flavor. It was good, but different than we are accustomed too.

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Ketchup has been a little more hit or miss.  There seems to be two types of ketchup flavors here and one tastes similar to what we are used too but sometimes we have an extremely sweet flavor ketchup.  This sweet ketchup tastes good but is definitely different!

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Meat Selections:

Lunch Meat:

The lunch meat in the prepackage and from the deli are both very similar to America in both flavor and texture.  The prepackaged, however, is very small in size and only enough for one meal. Since there are four of us and we love our sandwiches we needed more meat than the packages provide.  We prefer to head over to the deli and get 200-400 mg of sliced lunch meat, which usually lasts us a week.

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Hamburger:

We bought pre-formed hamburger patties to make burgers at home.  The raw beef appeared as we expected but when cooked turned red. We continued to cook the patty as we thought it was still raw.  We eventually realized that it was this red color for other reasons and we still don’t know why, but it did taste great and we didn’t get sick.  If you know why it was this color please let us know in the comments below!

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Hotdogs:

The hot dogs here have both a different flavor and texture.  They taste very similar to spam type meat with a soft pate texture whereas the hotdogs in America have a firmer texture.

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Bacon:

The bacon is similar to what we would call Canadian bacon in America.  We are not sure if the cuts are thicker or different in other ways but the bacon does not get crispy.

Vegetables and Fruits:

The vegetables and fruits are the same in both texture and flavor and so wonderful! We have learned a couple interesting differences though.

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Cilantro is known as coriander here in New Zealand.  After some back and forth with the supermarket crew and a lot of confused faces we remembered that cilantro seeds are known as coriander.  So while in America the leaves are called cilantro and the seeds are called coriander, in New Zealand the leaves are called coriander and the seeds are called coriander seeds (the word cilantro does not exist).  Luckily we got it figured out and the supermarket crew pointed us in the direction of the fresh coriander!

Fresh Jalapenos have been extremely difficult to find here.  We got lucky one time and found a package of three tiny jalapenos (if combined they would equal one jalapeno from Oklahoma) for $5.

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A huge adjustment being on an island for so long is truly appreciating the concept of buying “in season.”  When we first arrived in New Zealand winter had just ended and therefore many fruits and vegetables were not in season and their prices were crazy high!  A single zucchini was priced at $30!!! The price, however, is slowly dropping as they are coming into season.

International Isle:

The international isle contains a section for USA which is awesome!  This is where you can find Root Beer but we have yet to see Dr. Pepper.  They also have, among other things, Heinz products available.

Eggs are not refrigerated and on a regular shelf!

We raised chickens in Oklahoma for four years and gained a lot of knowledge about eggs in that time.  We learned that eggs do not need to be refrigerated and that most of the world does not refrigerate their eggs.  We had been conditioned, however, by our surrounding environment to egg-spect (sorry had to do it!) them to be refrigerated at the store and to keep them in the fridge at home.  So when we saw them not in the fridge and on a shelf it was fascinating! We even stopped putting them in the fridge when we get back to our Airbnb!

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Some milk looks like cleaning solution.

The milk is delicious and tastes as expected but certain containers have a design aesthetic that seems to resemble cleaning solution. We don’t think that this would ever be an issue but we sure found it interesting.

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Other Interesting Things to Note:

Bare Feet are Common

It is extremely common for people to be barefoot in New Zealand.  Although we heard of this before arriving, the first time we saw people walking through the grocery store barefoot we were amazed.  We love the idea of being barefoot and once our sensitive tinder feet toughen up no more shoes for us!

Passport needed for adult beverages

As a reminder for those traveling outside of their country, you must have your passport on hand to purchase alcohol.  We decided to purchase some wine while at the grocery store and the manager asked for identification. He denied us the sale of the wine when we gave him our Oklahoma drivers license.  He explained to us that they only recognize a New Zealand drivers license or passport as valid forms of identification.

Going to the grocery store when traveling not only provides a means to save money but also a wonderful insight into local tastes.  There are many supermarkets and dairies in New Zealand with a large selection of foods and beverages to choose from. While some food will be the same, some will taste very different!  We have been having so much fun trying different things from the grocery store and discovering new flavors!

If you have a story about trying something new from the grocery store please let us know in the comments below!

Oklahoma Roots:

Oklahoma Roots:

Oklahoma Roots:

Today we want to share a little bit about our home town. Sean and both girls were born in Oklahoma. I on the other hand was born in Minnesota but moved to Oklahoma at a very young age so I consider it my home. Mireya was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and had lived in Oklahoma her entire life. Gabriela was born in Norman, Oklahoma and it was her home for the past 5 years. I lived in El Paso briefly as a child with my mom and brother but moved to Oklahoma at the age of three, so I grew up there. Sean had lived in several different places all over the world growing up but had been living in Oklahoma for 15 years before we packed up and set off on our big adventure.

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I have great memories of growing up in Oklahoma and being a kid there. I remember walking all over my neighborhood as a child with my little brother, making honeysuckle crowns and pretending to be the queen of the “forest” aka my backyard that had two trees in it, walking to school, riding my ten speed till the sun went down, and going to the lake with my parents to hang out and play with my brother. Oklahoma will forever hold a special place in my heart for both my childhood memories and my adult memories. I had both of my children here and raised one of them here since birth (Mireya). I met the love of my life in Oklahoma (Sean of course), we got married, and made huge plans here. I am excited to see how traveling will influence our children and the differences we will see in how Gabriela grows compared to how Mireya and I did. Not to mention how Sean and I will grow, how our marriage will evolve, and the new things we will learn about each other.

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Oklahoma has really flourished in the past ten years and is becoming such a cool and happening place. We are excited to see all the changes that will happen in our time away and are expecting great things. We love Oklahoma and think it really is a cool place. However, we have very curious and adventurous spirits and we wanted to see what else was out there. We wanted to expose our kids to all sorts of cultures and thinking. Hopefully we will all grow from our travels and have so much to share with not only our fellow Okies but people everywhere.

Before we left we tried to go to all our favorite places and soak up as much of Oklahoma as we could. We also got the great opportunity to spend some real quality time with our family and our closest friends when our house sold three months before we expected it to and before we were schedule to depart on our adventure. This alone was such an interesting experience that we are making a post just about this-coming soon.

The following are some of our favorite locations in Norman and Oklahoma City:

  • Restaurants: Norman, OK: Teds Café Escondido, Blu, The Library, Pho Sooner, Sweet Basil, Pad Thai, Fancy That, La Baguette; OKC, OK: Tacos San Pedro, Kitchen 324, Packard’s, Jimmy’s Egg, Syrup, Trappers, Vast, Cheever’s, Shogun Steak House of Japan, Sushi Neko, Tokyo House, Himalayas – Aroma of India,
  • Museums: Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, Oklahoma Art Gallery, Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Fred Jones Jr Museum of Art,
  • Entertainment: Myriad Botanical Gardens, Reeves Park, Science Museum Oklahoma, Warren Theatre, FlashBack RetroPub, Civic Center Music Hall, Lyric Theatre, Cox Convention Center
  • Festivals: Norman Art Walk, Paseo Art Walk, State Fair, MidEvil Festival, Arts Festival, Jazz in June, Norman Music Festival
  • Architecture: The Bavinger House (no longer standing but it was in Oklahoma and holds a special place in Lorena & Sean’s hearts), Price Tower, Gold Dome building in Oklahoma City, Prairie Chicken House, Pollock House, Osher House

If you are traveling in the USA consider going to Oklahoma. It really is great and there are so many things to do and see. If you do go or have been and have places to add to the list above or share your memories from Oklahoma we would love to hear them in our comments below.

Backpack Gear List: Auckland, NZ

Backpack Gear List: Auckland, NZ

Spending a month in Auckland and exploring the city was incredible (check out our post on public transportation in Auckland here).  When we would leave our Airbnb for the day we always made sure to have our EveryDay Carry (EDC) bag ready. We developed our EDC bag during our time in Auckland to satisfy both our needs and wants while out exploring the city.  Having a bag with basic needs tailored to your current location is important as it provides a sense of security and comfort while away from home. Everyone’s needs are different but we thought we would share with you what we carried in Auckland to give you guys some ideas for your bag.

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The purpose of our bag

When packing an EDC bag you need to decide on the purpose of the bag.  Our EDC bag for Auckland needed to provide us with comfort and security for up to 12 hours while exploring the city.  It also needed to have enough extra space in case we bought merchandise or groceries while out.

Let’s take a look at our bag

  1. The pack – Frost River Isle Royale Jr.

We use a Frost River Isle Royale Jr. which we absolutely love!  The waxed canvas bushcraft style pack not only has plenty of room but a timeless style that can’t be beat.  We knew that we wanted a large, well built backpack that was going to last a lifetime and we believe our expectations have been met.  The bag has also been carry-on compliant (without a water bottle in the front pocket), which makes it the perfect size.

  1. Umbrella (x2) – 12” when folded

We learned quickly that all four seasons occur every day!  This means that every day it will be cold, hot, sunny and raining.  It is really quite interesting how fast the weather changes! The rain is very unpredictable as it comes in fast and with heavy spurts.  Therefore having two umbrellas with us at all times was important. Reminder:there are four of us so that meant two people per umbrella-sharing is caring.

  1. Tripod – Sunpak 4200XL

Although we love selfies, we also love having a tripod on hand.  We ended up getting a travel tripod with extending legs. When folded up it is no larger than 12” and can fully extended to 4 feet tall.  We have used it frequently and always make sure to pack it.

  1. Flashlight – Maglite mini

Several times we have been out past sun down and have needed a flashlight.  We almost always use the flashlights on our cellphones but have an emergency backup just in case.

  1. Lighter – Bic

You never know when you might need a means to start a fire.  This is another “just in case” item and we always make sure to have one.

  1. Chapstick – Carmex Jar

It seems like our lips are constantly dry, possibly due to the intense sun in New Zealand.  We make sure to have chapstick in our pack.

  1. Hand Sanitizer – Travel size

There is always those times some hand sanitizer is needed and we make sure to have some in our bag.

  1. Pocket knife – Buck folding knife

From opening packages to cutting a string having a pocket knife is indispensable.  We always make sure to have a pocket knife as part of our pack, provided local laws permit the carry of a knife.  Please always check local laws and regulations before finalizing your pack! This knife was a valentines gift from Lorena to Sean back in 2014 and he loves it so very much!

  1. Water bottle – Stanley 25 oz. Insulated

When exploring a new city through walking and public transportation for up to 12 hours at a time it is extremely important to stay hydrated.  We always carried a water bottle as you never know when you might need a drink. Free tap water is available most everywhere in Auckland which gave us plenty of opportunities to refill our water bottle throughout the day.  This wonderful water bottle was a birthday present (Lorena’s mom to Sean) and is awesome!

  1. Camera – Sony a6000, Canon G12 powershot, Polaroid Cube

We love taking pictures and always double check that at least one camera is in the bag.  You never want to miss a shot!

  1. Dry bag – Magellan outdoors 5L Dry Bag

We have an extra waterproof bag that we can use for anything that might require it rolled up.

  1. Phone wall charger – Standard USB block plug and wire

Our first line of defense from the dreaded dead phone is a wall charger.  We all rely on our phone GPS system to get to where we need to go and this is especially true for Auckland.  As mentioned in our Public transportation post, the bus doesn’t display which stop is next and you need the app to know.  We ended up purchasing a New Zealand plug style phone charger so we could make sure we could charge our phones while out exploring.

  1. Backup phone battery pack – 4” long

We carry a backup phone battery pack that has worked very well.  We have already had to rely on it while trying to get home on the bus and we’re so grateful we had it in our bag.

  1. Compass – Personalized from from Bgenious15

Everyone should always make sure and have some form of a compass with them, especially when traveling to an unfamiliar area.  This way you can orient yourself even when your phone is dead. This beautiful compass was a Christmas present from Gabriela to her daddy (Sean).  If you are interested in purchasing one check out Bgenious15 on Etsy!

  1. First Aid kit – Total Resources International 123 Piece

We have a pre-assembled First Aid kit that we added too that has been very useful.  We added a bottle of headache medicine, allergy medicine, water purifier tablets, and toilet paper which as satisfied our needs while out.

  1. Travel wallet – Generic with Zippers

While traveling outside America you need to have extra documentation on hand that you would not normally carry.  A travel wallet is larger than a normal wallet and has additional pockets that contain this documentation nicely.

  1. Snacks – Frost River small accessory bag

As with carrying water, having snacks on hand is very important.  We have found that having a good amount of trail mix or several granola bars is perfect.  We currently use Frost Rivers small accessory bag with a cotton handkerchief as a liner to hold our snacks and it is perfect!

  1. Blanket – Sonoran Supply Company

We carry a blanket not only to use when we get chili but also to sit on.  We spent September/October in New Zealand and although the weather was getting warmer there were still times it unexpectedly got cold and having a blanket was nice.  It was equally nice to be able to layout on the blanket and take in the amazing views Auckland had to offer! This blanket was another wonderful Christmas present (from Lorena to Sean) that is so very loved! It was purchased from SonoranSupplyCo on Etsy if you would like to purchase one of your own.

We started out with a general idea of what we might need throughout a day exploring Auckland, New Zealand and packed our bag accordingly.  Our bag evolved, however, as we learned what we both needed and wanted during our days exploring. EveryDay Carry bags should be tailored to not only the user but also to the location.  As we continue this journey it will be interesting to see how our pack will evolve as our locations change and as the locations change us.

What do you guys carry when you explore? Let us know in the comments below!