New Zealand-Maungawhau/Mt. Eden

New Zealand-Maungawhau/Mt. Eden

Maungawhau / Mt. Eden

DSC00734-smallYES!!!! This is what I’m talking about Auckland! This was the first time we had explored Auckland and truly felt that we were in another country. We stopped at what would become one of our favorite coffee shops (Goodness Gracious Cafe) on our way to the top of the mountain and grabbed some much needed caffeine and snacks to give us superpowers to walk up the mountain. We did the fairly easy walk/hike or better yet tramp (this is what they call walks/hikes in New Zealand) up to the top and we were not disappointed.

At 643 feet tall, Maungawhau or Mount Eden is the highest volcano in Auckland and just one of the 48 volcanic cones. Once you reach the top you can enjoy panoramic views of the city as well as see the large 160 foot deep stunning bowl-like crater. The Ngati Whatua tribe is the guardian of the mountain and you can join a guided walk – Tāmaki Hikoi – of the mountain and its surrounds, led by a tribe member.  You can visit the Auckland Council website here for more information.

We unfortunately did not get to do this because I actually didn’t know anything about it until we had already went. Lots of times we kind of decide to do things spur of the moment so we don’t get a lot of pre-planning done beforehand. One of the main reasons for this is because it has rained (a lot) here in Auckland so if it stops raining we are out! Where we go no one really knows till we just kind of show up. However learn from my mistakes and do the guided tour. It sounds AWESOME! I was already blown away just reading about the place but to actually get a guided tour from someone who knows the history would have been pretty amazing.

It took us about an 1 hr to do the 1.6 k walk to the top from the coffee shop and if we had been better prepared we could have easily spent a day there. Its just one of those places that you just want to hang out at. It was a bit eerie yet it is also beautiful and relaxing. To think that this was once an active volcano and is now covered in this insanely majestic green flowing grass is a strange feeling. Also the size really makes you feel quite small. I think this is good, it is good for us to know how small we really are. It shows us that we aren’t the center of this universe and earth is a big beautiful place. So lets get out there and explore the hell out of it. In a good way. Look, learn, and respect.

This is what we always strive to do on all of our adventures. To learn new things about this world and ourselves, to see and experience places and cultures with open hearts and minds, and to above all respect the places and people that we are so lucky to visit and meet along our journey. We also want to inspire others to get out there, explore, and have fun! You don’t have to take a trip to the other side of the world, beautiful things can be found in your backyard. Go somewhere in your hometown that you have never been. I bet you will be surprised by what you find.



Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland, New Zealand

Our First Month Living in New Zealand


Our First month living in New Zealand was spent in Auckland exploring the city and surrounding areas. We loved the city life and think this was the best place to spend our first month living abroad. We were really quite surprised by how developed the city was. I guess in some ways we all kind of expected to get off the plane and see the rolling hills and mountains of New Zealand but instead we were greeted by a hip city life. Full of tall buildings, billboards, shopping, streets, and businesses. Okay, I have to be completely honest here. At first we were a little disappointed I mean seriously…where are the hobbits!? We came here with hopes of seeing and experiencing something totally different. However, now that we have been here for a while and thought about all the things we have done in the past month I really do think Auckland was a great first stop for our family on this journey.

The main reason for is because it made the adjustment easier in that it was so similar to the cities in the United States and what my family was used to. We didn’t just go from living in a city to living in the bush. It really gave us a chance to adjust to living in a different country, being so far away from our family and friends, and time to just figure out this new life of ours. We utilized public transportation and walked a lot during our time in Auckland. I swear I lost at least 5 lbs in our time there just from walking because you better believe I was eating all the foods! Check out our top picks for places to eat here.

The public transportation is really great and if we had planned to just stay or live in Auckland I think that is probably the best way to get around the city. Not only do you get exercise by walking places you also get to truly experience the place you are in and discover things you probably wouldn’t have if you were driving. We were so impressed with the public transportation in Auckland that we wrote a separate blog post all about the transportation options here.

Here are a few of the most exciting things we did while in Auckland;

We are in the process of writing about all the adventures above and hope to those completed for you all soon so you can read in depth details about all the above adventures. We also made a top 20 list of things to do in Auckland here.

Living here is definitely different then living in Norman, Oklahoma but it is also the same in a lot of ways. We are still a normal family and we still do normal everyday things like go grocery shopping, get haircuts, cook meals at home to save money, go to the movies, do laundry, and play board games. We are seeing new things everyday and learning about the world and ourselves in the process. Over the next 8 months we will continue to explore the island of New Zealand. Traveling from one place to another one month at at time in order to truly experience the area. How will it change our family? What will we learn about traveling, our locations, and ourselves? Stay tuned to find out.





Toi o Tāmaki – NZ’s most extensive collection of national and international art.


The Auckland Art Galley was a fantastic time for me and my family while visiting Auckland. We are all art lovers so when our daughter (Mireya) said she wanted to go to the art gallery we were thrilled! The prices were reasonable, and the experience was well worth the price they charged us. All New Zealand residents are free of charge which is so great for the local people of New Zealand. If you are a resident and have not been stop reading this and GO! Then let us know how our experience compared to yours. Children under 14 are free of charge so we did not have to pay for Gabriela and Mireya was also free because of her work visa (which we brought along just in case-they did ask to see it). Sean and I paid $20NZD each to get it. So, for less than $27 USD the four of us enjoyed a full day at the museum. There is plenty to see and you can easily spend an entire day there. They have a café and outdoor seating if you get hungry and need a break.


It was founded in 1888, it remains New Zealand’s largest visual arts experience. It really does have something for everyone. Sculptures, paintings, historical pieces and local art, were just some of the things you can expect to find on your visit to the gallery. Our five-year-old daughter Gabriela loved the Māori Portraits and enjoyed reading all about the history of the people. She also got to see her first Pablo Picasso piece in real life which was a great treat as we had been studying his art in our school lessons. Our older daughters Mireya loved the classical paintings from around the world. Sean really enjoyed the Gordon Walters exhibit and it was interesting to read about Gordon and find out that he is one New Zealand’s most influential modern artists. I enjoyed the Collective Women exhibit and loved sharing this experience with our daughters.

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Let’s take look at the architecture.

The renovation of the building in 2011 resulted in an award for the building as World Building of the Year at the World Architecture Festival (2013). FJMT (Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp), Archimedia, and Auckland City Council worked together on the design for the new art gallery. This project is one of the largest projects of its kind in New Zealand and has won multiple awards for the design as well as been featured in several articles and magazines.


First impressions always leave a mark and this building did a great job of doing that. We were warmly greeted by a series of large kauri wood columns and taken under the almost tree like roof structure into the museum. The warmth of the material choices was continued inside and drew the visitor into the entry and front gallery space. The tree like roof which also extends inside the space is a great connection to the nearby Albert Park and made the space feel open, light, and airy. Upon entry the material choices and detail became cleaner and allowing the art inside the building to remain the main focus. The curtain wall design around the building allows natural light to enter the space in a beautiful way and also helps establish the connection from the surrounding area into the gallery. This simple yet elegant design was continued in the glass railings on the staircases.

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Sean and I are well educated in architecture and have worked and studied it for over the past 13years so we can be pretty picky and critical when it comes to design, but this art gallery was truly one of the best we have seen in the world. Around every corner there was a different exhibit and an interesting yet subtle architectural detail that would catch our eyes. We could be seen photographing door details, archways, and stairs which to most people might seem strange (as we did get some weird looks) but this building was truly a work of art in itself. We have visited several art museums in our time and have been to some where the architect seems to have lost sight of what the building was meant for (displaying art) and focused on solely making the building the piece of art. This is were we believe many architectural projects fail. They forget the purpose of the building and focus to much on creating their own masterpieces. If you fail, your user your design fails, it really is that simple.

This building does not do that in fact it does the opposite. It highlights all the art on display and does not take away from the fact that this is the purpose of the building. It also does a splendid job of not only connecting itself to the surrounding area, it is connected to the history of the area. This can be seen throughout the museum in several different places. The use of the local kauri wood is one great example of this. They even had pieces of the original building on display as part of the exhibit and it was beautiful.

They also commissioned three Māori artists to create artworks for permanent display in the gallery. The first piece is the one which can be seen upon entering the gallery and really did catch our eye. It is a piece by local artist Arnold Manaaki Wilson & Anthony Wilson. It is the carvings/design located on the top of each of the three columns on the forecourt. The other two pieces can be found throughout the gallery and they all connect the gallery to the history of its location and its people.


If in Auckland, do not miss the opportunity to see this great art gallery.

Top 20 Restaurants in Auckland, NZ

Top 20 Restaurants in Auckland, NZ

For all you Foodies out there

If you are visiting Auckland and want to know the best spots for a good meal look no further. We lived in Auckland for one month and compiled this list for all our fellow foodies who look at food first when deciding on a trip. These are in no particular order as we had a hard time deciding which was number one and so forth. So we decided not to stress about the order and just give you our top 20.

  1. The Shires Restaurant & Bar-Probably our most favorite restaurant in Auckland
  2. Ramen Station-By New Lynn Mall
  3. The Ancient Mariner – Kiwi As Fish and Chips
  4. Okra Espresso Lounge-Featured photo is from this place it was so so good!
  5. Monsoon Thai Restaurant-Devonport
  6. Des Traditions-Mt. Roskill
  7. New Windsor Bakehouse-Meat pies, pastries, and a great cup of coffee
  8. The Kapiti Store-Ice Cream in the CBD
  9. Sals Pizza
  10. Burger Fuel
  11. Nandos
  12. Ben & Jerry’s- Ice Cream in Mission Bay
  13. Goodness Gracious Cafe
  14. BMK – Bun Mee Kiwi
  15. Mexico Food & Liquor – Ellerslie
  16. Voila Cafe
  17. Mexican Cafe
  18. Hansan
  19. White’s & Co. for coffee
  20. Santos Coffee Limited
Here we are enjoying our first taste of NZ ice cream from The Kapiti Store in the CBD

Grocery Store Adventures

Grocery Store Adventures


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.


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.


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!


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.



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!



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.



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.


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.


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!


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.


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!

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.


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!