Tag Archives: expat life

Wrap Up: August 2018

Wrap Up: August 2018 | Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal | The Atlas Heart

*Note this post contains affiliate links

I arrived back to California a few nights ago and I already feel like a weight has been lifted, as if my shoulders can finally relax from carrying around the backpack that I’ve been living out of for the past 5 and a half years.

Without a doubt, it feels good to be home because I know this is exactly where I want to be right now.

It’s the first time in a long time where I’ve been content to not have any future trips planned at the moment. Mostly, I’m excited that I moved into my new place in San Francisco yesterday and that I’m already starting to set up a more fixed life in the Bay Area.

When I was walking around the city on my first full day back, waves of excitement kept washing over me with the dawning realization that this is my city now. It’s a place that I can start calling home and get to know in a more detailed and nuanced way.

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I’m Moving (Back) to California!

I'm Moving (Back) to California!

After 5 and a half years of slow travel around the world, I’m ready to have a more stable life in California. This is why. 

When the wheels lifted off the tarmac for Iceland in May, I felt my heart sink and float back down to San Francisco. 

A realization set in. I was leaving for yet another indefinite amount of time abroad, and all I could think about was how much I was going to miss California. 

I rarely get homesick, and the fact that I was already feeling a homesickness creep in during takeoff was proof enough that, at least for now, California is where my heart and mind are at.  

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Wrap Up: June 2018

Wrap Up: June 2018 | Porto, Portugal | Europe | Travel Blogger

Just as soon as I started getting used to life in the UK, I found myself on a plane to Portugal mid-month to immerse myself in a new language and culture completely.

You would think after all my years of travel I would have little to no culture shock by now when arriving in new places, but I always forget how challenging the first couple weeks can be in a new country, especially non-English speaking ones, and especially when you plan to live there for awhile (i.e. you’re not just a tourist).

On a whim, I decided to base myself in Porto for a week and a half before my friend Adi from San Francisco arrived at the end of June, and before my sublet started in Lisbon at the beginning of July.

Porto was a good start to my summer in Portugal (partly because it included a lot of wine tasting!), and I’m glad I was able to enjoy a northern city before settling down for awhile in Lisbon.

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My 28th Year: On the Places I Once Called Home

Solo traveling through Sydney, Australia in 2013 - The Atlas Heart

You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place. // Miriam Adeney

I’m currently on a train in Scotland, rolling through the lush green countryside. There are deep blue-grey lochs on my left and clean white light filtering through the many windows in my car. 

This is my life, or at least it has been for the past 5 years. I somehow find myself in the most beautiful places, usually by myself, or all to myself, if you frame it that way. 

It’s my 28th birthday this Saturday. The past years have been a whirlwind of travel memories, some of my strongest friendships, losses, and countless new beginnings. 

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Finding Home: Brussels Edition

Finding a Home: Brussels, Belgium | Grand Place

My goal in the next year is to travel to a select few places, to see if I could actually set up a base there.

This is what I found in Brussels.

Last year, I wrote a post about how I’m ready to find a home base, where I can have a proper community again and a life that’s not only about travel. I want to be able to have a sense of home to come back to.

I’ve also realized as a writer and entrepreneur, I can’t be a full time traveler and do all the things I want to do for my business. I can’t keep growing at the rate I want, and I no longer want to feel stagnant. Thus, I’m finally ready to find a stable place from which to work remotely and to start setting down some roots.

In being as transparent as possible on this blog, I want to take you along on this journey through a series of posts about finding my idea of home, and what that ends up meaning to me. 

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A Guide to Getting a Work Visa in New Zealand for Americans

How to Get a Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand for Americans

SECURING A ONE YEAR WORK VISA DOWN UNDER CAN BE AS EASY AS FILLING OUT AN ONLINE FORM IN 15 MINUTES.

My second installment on how to secure a work visa down under for Americans, this is my New Zealand edition!

Last time, I talked about how easy it can be to get a work visa for Australia, but if you also want to work & travel to that place from The Lord of the Rings, keep reading to see how it’s even easier (and much cheaper!) for New Zealand.

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A Guide to Getting a Work Visa in Australia for Americans

A Guide to Getting a Work Visa in Australia for Americans - The Atlas Heart

*Note: this post contains affiliate links

Getting a work visa in Australia can be as easy as filling out an online form in 15 minutes.

It always surprises me how many Americans don’t know about the working holiday visa in Australia.

To be fair, I was one of those Americans too, until I took my first solo venture to Europe and made friends from a variety of different countries. One of those friends happened to be British, and she told me about the working holiday visa she was planning on doing in Australia, and how she thought it applied to Americans too.

In an instant, the course of my life changed drastically.

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Thoughts on coming home

When I first left home, I wrote this post the day I left San Diego.

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When I left San Diego on a train taking me to LA, which would be my departure city from the States, I remember watching the sun fade under the canopy of palm trees, and feeling like I knew, at least I was 95% sure, that I was doing what was right and leading myself to where I was meant to be.

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I feel that way again now, but in the opposite direction. I have an underlying notion, a hunch I can’t shake, that my life is meant to be at home right now.

In a month, I’ll be walking on a plane that will take me back to the US. I’ve never felt the ache of homesickness as much as I have since I’ve been in New Zealand.

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There are little reminders, a quote, a picture, little things that come back to me and remind me of a specific memory of home, and I get an ache like I’ve never felt before.

An ache that something is truly missing.

I never thought I was someone who got homesick, but then again, I had never been abroad for (almost) two solid years before, with nothing so much as a visit.

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I consider myself incredibly fortunate that my life has lead me to where I find myself today, and that I’ve had the tenacity to keep myself financially afloat while traveling the world.

But, without a doubt, it’s time for me to see home, at least for a little while.

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It was not an easy feat to leave San Diego behind, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to see it again very soon.

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The taquerias with the best Mexican food I’ve tried in my life, the sandy beaches that are perfect at anytime of the day, but especially at night when you can look up and see all of the constellations lit up in the sky.

The microbreweries, my college friends, sorority sisters, and Taco Tuesdays, even La Jolla, the slightly snobby suburb of San Diego where I went to school, I spent 5 years of my life there and it still holds a lot of fond memories.

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North Park, with one of the best live music venues and hip bars filled with whiskey, mustaches, and black and white movies. A suburb brimming with art, or at the very least, a unique take on society.

Even with all this love for San Diego, I think it would be hard to move straight back to the last place I left, so I’ve decided to try out a new city. You can bet I’ll be spending my brief time in San Diego to the fullest, and seeing it in a new light I never appreciated when I actually lived there.

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Instead, I’ll be going into unknown territory, probably Portland, Oregon, and bringing my Kiwi boyfriend with me who has never seen the West Coast before.

Portland sign at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall at night, Oregon
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I’ve never lived with a boyfriend before now, let alone moved across the world with one, so it’ll be an interesting next year, but one that is sure to be heaps of fun.

He has been planning on coming to North America to explore the craft beer in the US for over a year now, it was actually one of the first things we bonded over when we were still just friends, and now that we’re a couple we’ve decided to plan our trip together, it worked out quite serendipitously.

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There’s also the case of visas and everything that comes with a multicultural relationship, but his dual Canadian citizenship should hopefully help a bit, we won’t know until we actually get to the States.

It may still be up in the air, but we’re just happy to be able to travel with each other, and hopefully he’ll find a sponsored job in a brewery once we arrive in Portland.

With that said, being able to show someone I love where I come from, where I grew up and went to school, my family and friends, it’s a profound feeling of joy, an experience that I’m greatly looking forward to.

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With the unknown bits and bobs that make life interesting, I sometimes feel that I’m more excited than I should be to be coming home. I have had a lot of time to build it up, after all.

Maybe after spending two years of life abroad, I’ve realized how much I appreciate and love where I’m from in sunny laid-back California, but perhaps I’ve been away long enough to sugarcoat it as well. I guess I won’t really know until I’m physically back home.

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Most people dread the thought of having to go home after an extended time abroad, but I guess the difference is that I’m choosing to.

Just imagining seeing the look on my mom’s face when we see each other again, walking the dogs and playing guitar with my dad, going out for Thai food with my stepmom, drinking a beer with my brother, and laughing at another inside joke with my sister while devouring delicious Mexican food. I can’t help but get the feels.

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I guess those thoughts make me think I’m not building it up in the least, that it’ll be just as good as I think it’ll be, as comforting as a steaming plate of mom’s homemade enchiladas.

The reason for this post is to emphasize how important home is to me, and how honored I feel to be able to write about it for you readers as it’s something clearly very dear to my heart.

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Regardless if you’ve never wanted to visit the States, I hope my writings about Hawaii, California, Oregon, and American culture in general will touch you in some way that’ll make you keep coming back.

I’ll be back to the Northern Hemisphere in a month’s time, full of new adventures, plans, and experiences. You can bet I have a lot of further travels planned along the way to keep things interesting.

Near our apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

2014: a year of growth

“I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world” – Mary Anne Radmacher

2013, to be sure, was a year to remember. I was constantly doing things and traveling, it was my first year of living abroad and everything was new and exciting.

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2014 was a bit more sedated, focused on slow travel and settling down in one place for awhile.

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2013 was lively and full of new experiences, but I felt burnt out towards the end of it, with so much traveling and the need to start over constantly in new places. 2014, although a nice change from the chaos of the previous year, was mainly a year of growth.

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This year I finally realized how much I miss home and how ready I am to go back, at least for a little while. This year I had a lot of random misfortunes that made me find my humility again and realize that no matter how much you plan, you can never account for aspects that are simply out of your control.

This year I moved up to management in the bar world, worked full-time at one job instead of a couple of part-time jobs at the same time, and learned that I don’t function well with a high level of stress in the workplace.

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I also realized that I’m not quite as ready as I thought I was to settle down right now. After finishing up my time in Sydney, and a jaunt up the East Coast of Australia at the start of this year, I moved to Wellington in April and have been living here ever since.

I was only able to take one trip since I’ve moved to New Zealand, and that trip to Taupo has been the highlight of my time here.

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After jumping head first into the life of a traveler and expat, this year was a time of finding my footing again, a year to ground myself, and tackle whatever I could with what grace I had left to muster.

This year I fell in love. After leaving behind a bruised heart in San Diego, I wasn’t wanting anything of substance for a long time, by the time I arrived in New Zealand I had even convinced myself that I’m better off alone. I saw myself as a better person, friend, and more willing to step outside my comfort zone when I didn’t have anyone else to take into account besides myself.

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Well, somehow I let my guard down along the way and now I find myself living with a boyfriend for the first time, and spending a lot of time with someone else.

It has truly been a year of growth. As someone who is most productive as a loner, it has been a process trying to find a balance in my life between my relationships that I hold dear and my passionate creativity that makes me who I am.

2014, you haven’t always been easy, but I’ve learned a lot from you.

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Here’s my year in review:

January – Byron Bay, Sydney

January started out with a bang, ringing in the new year with my Canadian best friend, dancing to The Roots playing at Falls Fest in Byron Bay. It only seemed to get better from there with the amount of friends and new relationships I made in the month.

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It was about the halfway mark for my time living in Sydney, not too close to the inevitable end date when my visa ended, but enough time under my belt to make me feel really comfortable and happy living in sunny Sydney.

Although I had to get used to humidity, it was almost perfect weather every day in Sydney, with the occasional summer lightning storm.

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I took advantage of all the time off I could with taking a day trip to Manly, and an overnight trip a bit further up north in New South Wales, to see Newcastle and Terrigal.

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I celebrated Australia Day for the first time, and really took the time to explore Aussie culture and the beautiful nature on hand in and around Sydney. I took advantage of the company when a couple of my friends from back home came to visit me in Sydney, and spent a day walking around the Blue Mountains with them.

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“One aspect I’ve grown to love about Sydney is the amount of coastal and scenic walks at your disposal in various neighborhoods. The Bondi to Coogee walk is still a favorite activity of mine. Even though I’ve been here for three months, I still love going out there to write or just enjoy the views.” – Postcard from Manly Scenic Walk

February – Sydney

In February I delved even more into finding the best hiking trails and historical treasures on my days off. This included going to the creepy Cockatoo Island, which used to be a convict prison, and learning more about the rich convict history in Australia. I also spent a day checking out the gorgeous Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park a little ways from the city, and got lost while bushwalking in The Royal National Park.

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“I’m ready for a slightly slower pace and a smaller city to while away my days for the time being. I think it’s easier in a big city to lose the essence of why we’re here to begin with, to enjoy life in the simple yet beautiful ways, withholding judgement as to what that means for some and what it could mean for others.” – Adventures in NSW: Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park

March – Sydney, East Coast Australia

My last month in Sydney was a bittersweet one. On one hand I knew I didn’t want to stay in Sydney longterm, but I also wasn’t quite ready to leave yet either.

I found myself wrapping up a romance that was harder to say goodbye to than I thought it would be. I went to my first show at the Sydney Opera House, seeing Yo La Tengo on one of my last nights in the city, and I found it to be the perfect way to say goodbye to my life in Sydney.

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I took off on my own after settling down in Sydney for the last 5 months, and bussed up the East Coast of Australia, all the way up to Cairns. I couchsurfed, stayed in hostels, and tried to sleep on overnight buses as best I could.

I fulfilled my lifelong dream of scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, I was able to hold a koala and feed a kangaroo, and I tried crocodile, emu, and barracuda for the first time at a traditional Aussie barbie for my last night in the country.

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I left Australia not really knowing what to expect in New Zealand, and not thinking I would spend more than a couple months in the Kiwi capital of Wellington.

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“I know I’m not ready to settle. I’m inspired or not inspired by so many things pulling me in every direction. I think I can be happy everywhere and nowhere at the same time. It’s the delusions of choice my generation and nationality has given to me. It’s the fate of a Gemini and the indecisive spirt I’ve always relied on. I get flashes of the past more often these days, wondering if there’s meaning behind it or if it’s simply the necessary romantics of the road.” – Random musings over an iced lemon croissant

April – Wellington

My first month in New Zealand was filled with trying to start over and get everything sorted for my new life in Kiwi land. I found a job at a craft beer bar my first week in the city, and it only took me a few weeks more to find a cozy little house in the suburb of Newtown to move into.

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I made a good few friends from the hostel I was staying at for my first month, and that was how I first explored all there was to see around Wellington: the waterfront, the cable car and lookout, the botanical gardens, and the first glimpse at my spot in Welly, Mt. Vic.

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The biggest transition for me to get used to was the weather. Coming from a summer in Sydney, it was quite a change when I didn’t see sunlight for the first week and a half I was in Welly, and even then I only had about 2 nice days of weather to enjoy out of my whole first month I was there.

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“Luckily, with the amount of times I have started over in new places this year, I have it down to an art on how to settle into a new city right away. The weather is much much colder than what I’m used to in Australia, I don’t think I’ve even had to wear pants in the last 6 months, but they have Tim Tams here so I think I’ll be just fine.” – My first 36 hours in Wellington

May – Wellington

I used the month of May to settle more into my new life in Wellington, and my new job at The Bruhaus. I went through management training and received my duty manager’s certificate.

I turned 24 and had one of the better birthdays I’ve had abroad with a lot of new friends to spend it with.

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I explored more of my own backyard, and realized with glee just how many hiking trails and beautiful vistas there are to find around the outskirts of Wellington. I went to a lot of bays and beaches around the city, which I think was due to me starting to become genuinely homesick for the beaches back home in California.

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“I’m a fan of simple aspects that happen every day, I call them daily doses of beauty. In my 23rd year, one of my favorite things was to watch the sunset and/or sunrise in every new place I traveled. Each one containing the same structure, but holding a unique awesomeness that never seemed to fade even with how many I witnessed last year.” – Take a moment to enjoy it

June – Wellington

This month was all about work, I stepped up and dived into management head on, there was a noticeable increase in stressful days at the bar. It was also the start of winter, so the weather had grown cold and blustery real quick. Luckily I had recently bought myself a onesie, so I used the weather as an excuse to curl up and read a lot of good books throughout the month.

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I grew closer to my coworkers, and said goodbye to some that were going their own way. I became used to my life in Wellington, I had my own room, a full-time job, and even a guitar and ukulele to keep me happy when I wasn’t working.

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“I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter where you decide to go in New Zealand, you will be rewarded with awesome views and stunning scenery. I’m partial to coastal views especially because of where I grew up, so I’ve recently been drawn to day trips that usually have the word “bay” in them. Luckily with Wellington’s location, you’re spoiled for choice.” – A journey from bay to bay

July – Wellington

July was a month of not a whole lot, to be completely honest. It was the middle of winter now, and I was still saving up like crazy for my travels in the summer.

I celebrated 4th of July for the 3rd time abroad, and decked out the whole bar with American paraphernalia, and I was pleasantly surprised to find my coworkers just as into dressing up as I was. It was also a coworkers birthday on July 5th, so we had quite the epic night.

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Even though the weather wasn’t great, I used my time to explore more of the Wellington region, and went to craft beer classes for funsies. I got together a group of friends and we checked out the quirky mini-golf and paintball industrial playground that is Carlucci Land.

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“That homesickness creeps in sometimes, especially on cold nights like tonight. I think back to those warm San Diego nights, exploring beautiful beaches and eating burritos under the moonlight, swinging on a playground, laughing, trying to pick out constellations on our smartphones, and unaware of where a year and a half later would lead me, and where my heart would be.” – Walkabout: Oriental Bay edition

August – Wellington, Taupo

August was a turning point for my time in New Zealand. On the 1st, me and a group of other coworkers and friends went to a Katchafire concert at a local venue. During the concert, my coworker leaned over and decided to kiss me, and really, the rest was history from there.

My coworker’s name of course was Kendall, my best friend in New Zealand at the time, and a guy who would become my boyfriend in October. That was the start to our romance, and one that has been the highlight to my time abroad.

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August was also the first time I was able to get out of Wellington properly. Me, Kendall, and another coworker, Mats, decided to take a weekend trip to Taupo, and it ended up being a great time in the little mountain town up north.

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We hiked the Tongariro Crossing in the snow with ice axes and crampons, bathed in natural hot springs, and I jumped out of a plane – did I mention, Taupo is considered the skydiving capital of the world? Needless to say, it was a ridiculously good trip, and a weekend that is still one of my favorites of all time in New Zealand.

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The rest of the month was filled up with attending festivals and conventions around Wellington, including the craft beer convention called Beervana, and the stellar Lux: Festival of Lights.

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“In almost a year and a half now, I’ve been blessed with witnessing some of the best street art around this side of the world. I don’t know what it is about cities in the Southern Hemisphere, but there are so many that produce intriguing and talented street artists.” – A look at Taupo through street art

September – Wellington

September was when some of my luck began to change. I severely injured my achilles heel during night adventuring at Mt. Vic with a few of the guys, and it’s an injury that would give me pain and cost me quite a bit of money for the next few months.

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I spent a decent amount of time off work because of my injury, and that’s when I started putting more energy into this blog, and realized that it’s an endeavor I’d like to monetize eventually.

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“These are the adventures that keep me traveling, a little off the radar, a little wacky and random, and a whole lot of awesome.” – Carlucci Land, the industrial fantasy playground of Wellington

October – Wellington

At the start of October, Kendall and I decided to take our romance to a relationship, and we spent a hell of a lot of time together, simply happy in each other’s company.

Halloween was one of the best I’ve had in years. I somehow managed to convince everyone at work to dress up in 1920s bartender zombie wear and makeup that scared more than a few customers.

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Kendall and I also went to a concert later that night, decked out in our zombie get-ups, and we were hilariously the only ones in the building dressed up for Halloween since it’s not so big of a holiday over here, but hey, at least we got a shout out from the band.

We also endured gale force winds on a daily basis as per usual for Wellington, and I realized that I’ll probably never get used to that much wind in my life.

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“If Wellington as a city was a character in the Captain Planet crew, it would most definitely be Linka, the planeteer that possesses the power of wind.” – A hike to the Brooklyn Wind Turbine in Windy Welly

November – Wellington

In November I bought the first car I’ve every owned for my upcoming travels around New Zealand at the end of December and the start of January. Within two weeks, that car was totaled by a drunk driver, and I’m still currently in the long process of waiting to be reimbursed for her reckless decision.

In the short life span of that car, I managed to take a day trip to Cape Palliser to test out my skills of driving on the opposite side of the road, and to see a beautiful place that can only be accessed by car.

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I entered into a beer tasting competition (can you sense a theme here with craft beer?) with a few other friends, and we made it to the top 5 in the competition, and even won a free imperial pint glass for having the best name: “I thought this was a wine tasting…”

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I celebrated Guy Fawkes Day for the first time, a holiday I didn’t even know about until I moved to New Zealand. For the festivities, I witnessed some of the best fireworks I’ve seen in long time, and had some classy drinks with new and old friends over a good view of the harbor.

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I also put on a proper American Thanksgiving for all of my Kiwi friends and made them personalized pumpkin pies and turkey & cranberry sandwiches.

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I went back to exploring more of the Wellington coastline with walking out to the Red Rocks Reserve and getting up close and personal with some male fur seals.

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“I love this area of the Wellington coastline, looking out towards the South Island, it always promises grand views and many bays, no matter what the weather may do that day. It’s also a coastal walk that’s loved by locals and travelers alike, so I’m happy I was finally able to tick it off the list” – Red Rocks and Seals, Oh My!

December – Wellington, Coromandel Peninsula, Rotorua

December has basically been a whole lot of getting ready for summer travels around New Zealand. I managed to squeeze together enough money to buy another car, and my friend from back home is about to get on a plane to come visit me. Everything is finally coming together and I couldn’t be more ecstatic.

I celebrated my first Kiwi Christmas, and actually had a great holiday with the people I was able to share it with.

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For the remainder of December, I’ll be making the long drive up to the Coromandel Peninsula to check out the famous Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach, and driving through Rotorua and Hobbiton on my way back to Wellington for New Year’s Eve.

I’ll be ringing in the New Year in Wellington, and immediately from the 1st of January will be on the road for a couple of weeks. I’d say it’s a good vibe for 2015 if I’m starting out with travel from the beginning.

“And it’s important to note that I’m still incredibly grateful that my life has lead me here. For the friends I’ve made, the relationships I’ve created, and the new culture I’ve grown fond of, I don’t regret moving here for a moment.” – Walkabout: Paraparmumu Edition


I don’t have any idea what type of year 2015 will be, but I already have a lot of exciting plans for the upcoming year so I’ll take that as a good sign.

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So far for 2015, January will be filled with a South Island road trip with one of my best friends from home, February will consist of the remaining travels I have around New Zealand’s North Island, and March will be my last month in the South Pacific.

From March I’ll be traveling to Hawaii, California, and Oregon on an epic West Coast road trip that will end with living in Portland, Oregon for a little while.

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I’ll be posting my goals for the upcoming year in a follow up post, but let’s just say I think I’m well set-up for a good 2015, and a return to my adventurous tendencies.

Hope you all had a great 2014, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

xo

The Atlas Heart