Tag archive for "New Zealand"

12 Photos for my One Year Instagram Anniversary

Other, Photography

12 Photos for my One Year Instagram Anniversary

6 Comments 05 July 2013

I was really late on the whole Instgram thing. I haven’t had a smart phone since 2009 and I still don’t, but in June of 2012 I treated myself to an iPod Touch and one of the very first things I did upon purchasing it was download Instagram.

I love everything about the app.

I love the filters. I like taking photos of all my food. I like seeing what everyone else is doing around the world. I love receiving likes from strangers. Plus, I like that it encourages me to take more photos. I’ll post pretty much anything and everything, but I do have one rule to my Instagram account that I take very seriously. I only post photos taken with my iPod. No SLR or point and shoot photos. That be cheating!

It’s hard to believe I celebrated my one year anniversary recently. In that year I’ve taken over 600 photos in New Zealand, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, USA, Canada and England. #landscapes #selfies #foodporn #fishporn #doglove – You name it, I’ve shot it. So I thought it be fun to have a look back at my 12 favorite photos in my first year of Instagramming.

Italian Renaissance Gardens Hamilton New Zealand

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

12. Italian Renaissance Garden – Hamilton Gardens, New Zealand

This was my first hardcore Instagram day and I think I probably lost all my followers during it, because all I did was take photos of gardens and flowers. Hamilton Gardens is a stunning spot to wander around on a nice day. They have gardens from all over the world. I spent an afternoon there in June 2012 waiting for my visa extension approval.

Mount Maunganui New Zealand

11. The Mount from the top of it. – Mount Maunganui, New Zealand

Ric and I lived in Mount Maunganui for about seven months. In the off-season, climbing the Mount is one of the only things to do there. So we spent a lot of time up there. It’s a beautiful sight of the seaside town.

Hobbiton New Zealand

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

10. Bilbo Baggin’s house – Hobbiton, New Zealand

This was definitely my favorite tour in New Zealand. It’s the actual film location for the Shire in Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Once a sheep farm, this Hollywood set is open to the public and located in Matamata.

Yantarasri Chiang Mai Thailand

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

9. Terry-cloth robes make me feel like I’ve made it in life. – Chiang Mai, Thailand

Ric and I don’t stay at high-end accommodation often, so I had to get a shot of me on our balcony, looking out to our pool when we stayed at Yantarasri in Chiang Mai. I really wish I had a terry-cloth robe right now :/

Elephant Nature Park Chiang Mai Thailand

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

8. Had the most amazing day with the elephants. Don’t want to leave. – Chiang Mai, Thailand

I’ve written before about my visit to Elephant Nature Park. I really didn’t want to leave this place. It was so peaceful and open. I tried so hard to get a shot like this with my SLR, but for some reason couldn’t do it.

Railay West Sunset Thailand

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

7. Can’t imagine it gets much better than this. Railay, Thailand

This one did not require a filter. After two stints in Thailand that came to about three months altogether, I finally found my perfect Thai beach: Railay. This shot was taken at Railay West Beach, which isn’t the most beautiful at day (that be Pranang Cave Beach), but definitely takes the price at night. There is a bar there that lays out mats on the beach and delivers your drinks to you at sunset. My dad, Ric and I sat there for hours every night we were there.

Changi Golf Course Singapore

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

6. Flying over Changi Golf Club in Singapore.

Ric said his dad told him to look out for this golf course when he flew out to Australia years ago, but he said he didn’t see it. So when we flew from KL to Singapore this past Autumn, I was on the lookout for it. Looks pretty cool from up in the air.

Graffiti Brooklyn NYC

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

5. Graffiti by our Brooklyn pad – Brooklyn, NYC

This was my first visit to Brooklyn and I couldn’t get enough of the street art, like this little gem.

Falling Water Frank Lloyd Wright

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

4. Falling Water by Frank Lloyd Wright – Pennsylvania

I’ve been wanting to visit FLW’s Falling Water for years. It’s about a five-hour drive from where I grew up, but for some reason I just never made it up there. When I came home to meet my dad’s new girlfriend for the first time, I found out we shared a love for all thing FLW, so I took it as a sign that we had to go. Double-date weekend to Western PA and I got this iconic shot of the house.

Liverpool dock

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

3. Reflections at the dock in Liverpool. – UK

Ric and I mainly went to England to visit his family for Christmas, but he wanted to also show me around the north a bit. Though we had both been to Liverpool before (actually on the same day in 2007), we wanted to visit the city again for a day of touring. We spent most of the day at Anfield, then headed to the waterfront. I absolutely adore this photo. Liverpool is such a beautiful city – and it doesn’t quite get the attention it deserves.

Drummer Joshua Tree National Park

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

2. The things you’ll come across in the desert. – Joshua Tree National Park, California

My Jucy Tour of the USA came about very last minute and randomly, but was absolutely incredible. Of all the places I visited during my three week tour of Western USA, Joshua Tree was the one I was looking forward to the most. I have a thing for deserts and heard it was a really funky place. I expected to see some weird things there and I did – like this drummer playing by the side of the road.


Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

1. Striped block in London.- UK

I spent the first half of 2013 in London, which was another random and surprising happening in my year with Instagram. I adore this city and could probably have picked 12 photos to represent this anniversary just from London, but I chose this one to represent my five months here. London has a million and one attractions, but I like to walk around the city and take it in. This was a random street block, somewhere in the city that appealed to me.

So that was my year first year in Instagram. What do you think? If you want to follow a long in real time, follow my photos on Instagram and leave your user name below so I can follow you.

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How to move to New Zealand: five steps

Destinations, Moving Abroad, New Zealand, New Zealand

How to move to New Zealand: five steps

4 Comments 13 June 2013

You’ve taken the plunge.

Despite all your 20-something friends getting married and having babies, plus your parents pressure to find a “real job” and settle down, you’ve decided to leave your home country for one year and move abroad on a working holiday visa.

And what a plunge it is.

New Zealand.

Land of the long white cloud. One of the most scenic and most peaceful places to live on earth. A place where there are more sheep than people and even hobbits are celebrated. For most, it’s the other side of the world. Two large islands floating out in the Pacific. Not far from Australia or Antarctica, you don’t get much more off the map than here.

That can be daunting for people planning to make a home there for the year, but it doesn’t have to be. The truth is that New Zealand is one of the friendliest nations in the world and I’ve found, one of the most accepting of foreign guests. These five steps will help those 18-30 years old move to New Zealand on a working holiday visa.

1.) Start saving

You’ll want to separate your budget into two things for New Zealand, flights and money required on arrival.

I point out flights, because no matter where you are flying from, a one-way ticket to New Zealand is not cheap. Expect to pay about $US1,500 for a one-way ticket. Add $US200 on if you are flying somewhere other than Auckland.

After putting money aside for your flight, the rest of your budget depends on what you expect to do upon arrival in the country.

New Zealand’s immigration website states that people must have a minimum of $NZ4,200 to be eligible for the US Work Holiday Scheme. I’ll be completely honest and say that they don’t verify it. I didn’t have to prove I had those funds before applying, nor at the airport upon arrival.

That said, I really recommend having at least that much. I wasn’t checked, but you might be. Plus that is a good safety net for anyone unsure of when or where they will be finding a job in their new country.

I would recommend no less than $US2,000 to feel secure from the time you arrive until the time you find a job.

People should also consider whether they will be working, soon after arrival or after traveling around a bit. New Zealand can be an expensive country to travel. It has a lot of extreme sports that you would be silly not to try, but it’ll cost you.

Milford Sound

Head to the bottom of the South Island to see Milford Sound. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

2. Apply for a working holiday visa

Just do it! I don’t know why people, and by people I mean me, put this off. Most are happily accepted and if they are not, it’s usually for a very valid reason. You’ll be asked to pay an application fee, which varies depending on where you’re from. When I did it, it was free to US citizens, at the time this post was written it cost $US140, but it can change so click here to see how much it will cost you to apply.

The process is pretty similar for all the countries eligible and it’s very straight forward. You can apply online. To do so, you must fill in all your personal information, including passport number. You must answer questions about your health and your character.

Depending on your answers, you may be asked to submit more information, such as a medical, but usually you won’t be. Just follow the process and be honest.

While on the topic of applying, NZ immigration requires visitors to have travel insurance. If you’re from a country that does not have national healthcare or something corresponding the the New Zealand healthcare system, I highly recommend getting travel insurance. It literally could be a lifesaver.

sunset mount maunganui

Another beautiful sunset in Mount Maunganui. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

3. Book a flight

I mentioned the cost of flights earlier, but there are a few more things to consider when booking a flight to New Zealand.

For starters, don’t buy a return ticket. I’ve done this twice on long term trips and both times I had to pay ridiculous fees to change my ticket. You have no idea where you will be or what you’ll be thinking at the end of your working holiday experience in New Zealand, so save yourself the money and don’t book a return flight. Plus, on a trip like this, it’s better to not have an expiration date.

Remember that with a working holiday visa people are NOT required to have a return ticket to enter New Zealand. Just keep a copy of the visa as flight attendants at the check-in counter almost always ask about this.

The easiest place to arrive is Auckland, but also look into Wellington and Christchurch. Those destinations are usually the next most affordable landing spots. Research and consider where to land seriously as flying and moving around in New Zealand is expensive.

If you are flexible about dates then do some research and find what time of year has the cheapest airfare. I would set a date early, so you have enough time to save and prepare. Some things to consider; seasons (ski season is big in Queenstown, but you’ll want to get there at the start of it), the holidays, obligations at home (housing contracts, etc.) and the amount of time it will really take for you to save up.

Queenstown Air New Zealand

I arrived in Queenstown via Auckland when I first came to New Zealand. Fly Air New Zealand if you can. They’re amazing. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

4. IRD number and bank account

Both an IRD number and bank account are needed to work in New Zealand.

Inland Revenue will supply you with your IRD number. For US citizens, this is similar to a social security number and important for tax purposes. To apply, you must fill out an application and present your passport as well as another form of ID, such as a driver’s license (it can be from overseas). All documents must be verified and photocopied.

This cannot be completed online. You must visit either a post office in New Zealand or Automobile Association Driver Licensing Agent. The post office should have applications available. The process is very quick. You should receive your IRD number within 8-10 days

Setting up a bank account is pretty similar everywhere. Be sure to bring your passport, another form of identification and proof of address.

Proof of address could be the letter your IRD number arrived in or it could just be a note written about by a staff member at your hostel stating that this is the address where you are living at the moment and signed. Don’t stress over how long you’ll be staying at that address. It’s not extremely important, especially if you are applying for an online banking account, which you should be.

Some banks charge a fee for people to hold certain bank accounts. Most places offer online banking accounts, which are free and the best option for temporary visitors only in need of an account to be paid into. I had accounts with both Kiwibank or Westpac. Neither of them charged for online accounts and I actually got a really good interest rate for my savings account with Westpac, earning $NZ12 some months.


Hobbiton was one of my favorite tours in New Zealand. Photo by Bobbi Lee hitchon

5. Find a job

Backpackers or temporary workers will find the most jobs available in hospitality, agriculture, raising money, telemarketing and publicity.

I’ve actually tried all these things while working abroad and suggest hospitality for the most fun, best money and most interesting experience. That said, the jobs available to you depend on where you are located and your experience.

The best source for finding jobs online in New Zealand is Trade Me. You can also find a job just walking around town. Make sure you are prepared with a CV and other things needed. Also, make sure your CV caters to the industry you’re applying for jobs. Don’t present a resume that list your IT experience when applying for a job as a cook. I know this should make sense, but it’s lost on a lot of people.

Most of the New Zealand population are located in its major cities of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Besides a few holiday towns and some heavy farming areas, most of the country is quite rural. I only mention this because it makes finding a job in certain areas a bit more difficult.

It was really easy for me to find work in Wellington. I had about seven interviews after looking for only one day, but I struggled in Blenheim, which is a small town. The jobs offered there were mainly on farms, which usually require you have a car and I didn’t. I use this as an example of things to consider about where to live and work first. A lot of times, the best option may be in a city or a place where people can get around without private transportation. That way you can save up for a car and buy one if you want.

Most places will ask you to commit to six months or a season. So try and get to a place at the start of a season as more jobs will be available and you can fully commit.

I spent a few months working in the kiwifruit industry in Te Puke to get an extension on my working holiday visa. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

I spent a few months working in the kiwifruit industry in Te Puke to get an extension on my working holiday visa. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

By the end of these steps you should be working and holidaying in New Zealand. This experience is so special, because every activity in a new country, even the mundane ones like work, is different from home. It’s a new experience, which is what makes this opportunity so special.

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;) – See more at: http://www.heelsandwheelsonline.com/2013/06/going-back-in-time-at-the-blitz-party/#sthash.nylXurU4.dpuf

Ready to go? Apply for your working holiday visa here NOW! Not interested in New Zealand? Check out How to move to Australia: five steps.

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about 😉

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;) – See more at: http://www.heelsandwheelsonline.com/2013/06/going-back-in-time-at-the-blitz-party/#sthash.nylXurU4.dpuf
Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;) – See more at: http://www.heelsandwheelsonline.com/2012/03/a-day-in-hobbiton/#sthash.WvPTTER6.dpuf
Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;) – See more at: http://www.heelsandwheelsonline.com/2012/03/a-day-in-hobbiton/#sthash.WvPTTER6.dpuf
I lived my dreams in New Zealand

Blog, Destinations, Dispatches from Down Under, New Zealand

I lived my dreams in New Zealand

14 Comments 24 September 2012

As I write this, half my body hangs out the sliding door in my room, being warmed by the sun. It’s Spring in New Zealand and while the grass is always green in this country, you can really feel nature come alive here as the temperature rises.

Big Jet Plane by Angus and Julia Stone is playing, something I always like to listen to when I’m about to go on a big trip. Up until this moment I’ve felt nothing but excitement about visiting Thailand and Malaysia as well as my family in the States and Ric’s in England. But at this moment, it hits me, going there, means leaving here, New Zealand.

My body stiffens up and temples start go tense.

We came, we saw, we created a home and once again it’s time to leave.

I have to say it’s much harder to leave a home made in a foreign country, not because you love the people there more than those of your real homeland or because it’s better, but because you know you might be leaving forever. Ric and I have every intention of coming back, more on that in future posts, but that’s not promised, nothing ever is when your dealing with a home in a place that’s not naturally your own.

I’ve been traveling now for almost three years and have visited and lived in a lot of places, leaving and saying goodbye to people never gets easier.

New Zealand was a completely different experience for me for a lot of reasons. For one, I arrived here with my partner. We made New Zealand our home together and I think there’s a lot of sentiment with all things involving young love. We struggled together when we first arrived and looked after one another throughout our time here. We moved to Wellington together. We played in the Coromandel together. We watched the All Blacks win the Rugby World Cup together. We even put on a Thanksgiving dinner here, together.

Ric and I at the top of Mount Victoria, days before saying goodbye to our first home in New Zealand, Wellington.

I treated New Zealand as more of a home than any other place I’ve ever visited. Prior to coming here I spent a year in Australia, which I can only compare to my childhood. I had no intentions, no responsibilities. I partied and played day and night. While New Zealand had a bit of that here and there, I definitely felt myself grow up here. Maybe it’s because of that, because I treated this place as more of a life than a play date, that it hurts so much to leave.

Maybe there’s just something about this place that feels right, that feels comfortable, that feels…like home. It’s in the kindness of strangers here, the welcome of new friends and the rapture of the land.

New Zealand is the most beautiful place I’ve ever visited. I’ve said that a few times before and I stand by the statement completely. I expected it to be pretty, but not to be in aww of every sight.

Milford Sound is one of the most beautiful places I visited in New Zealand. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

It’s one of the easiest places I’ve been able to settle into over the years and it’s a place that really gives its people the freedom to be creative, live how they want and do things a bit differently from others.

After winning an Oscar for The Muppets, Bret McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords said this about his native New Zealand to the New York Times, “It’s a great place to grow up, you can do whatever you want there. Whereas I think in America, everyone is obsessed with their careers, New Zealand I think you just get to live your dreams.”

Living here for just over a year, I definitely feel that.

Maybe that’s why so many people do end up staying here. It’s definitely why I’m coming back.

So New Zealand, thanks for the sunshine, for sweeping me off my feet and making me feel at home. It’s not goodbye, but till next time.

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What I’m Thinking Friday 14 September

Blog, What I'm thinking

What I’m Thinking Friday 14 September

1 Comment 14 September 2012

This will be my last “What I’m Thinking” post from New Zealand, for now at least. Ric and I leave the country next week to start a six-month holiday that will take us around the world.

So this past week has been filled with mixed emotions for me. I’ve been thinking about all the things we’ll be doing on this vacation, but also about this past year and all the things we’ve done in New Zealand. I’ll write more on this in two posts next week, because I have a winner to announce now.

About a month ago I relaunched Heels and Wheels, premiering a new look on the site and more. To celebrate this, I gave all my readers a chance to win a Jucy road trip in the USA. The contest came to a close this week and the winner is…

Gaz Evans

The winner was selected randomly using the same Rafflecopter application that people used to enter. Thanks to everyone who entered as well as Jucy USA for supplying me with such a sweet prize to give away. I look forward to seeing where Gaz and a friend take their Jucy campervan in the USA. But for now, this is what I’ve been thinking about this past week.

What I’m reading

Our first stop on this vacation is Thailand and I can already taste the Pad Thai. Man vs World’s 5 Amazing Meals You Must Try in Thailand just made my cravings even worse. I love that he wrote this piece and included some great Thai dishes, but I hate that I’m not there yet to try them all.

I’ve visited a few authors’ homes on my travels including that of Edgar Allen Poe, Walt Whitman and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Condé Nast Traveler posted a top-ten list of authors’ homes and museums around the world. These homes are great places to visit for a bit of insight behind some famous works of literature, but also because they’re usually well preserved. It’s the ideal way to step back in time and learn about the history of a place.

Dalene of Hecktic Travels paid homage to European beers and the beer culture of Germany this week. I spent some time in Munich years ago and totally understand where she’s coming from. It’s so neat to walk around the city just after 5 p.m. on sunny days. The beer gardens are packed with people in suits soaking up the weather and enjoying a drink with friends. Prost!

What I’m watching

This video popped up on Travel Talk on Twitter this week and had me cracking up. Bear Grylls has made is out of the jungles of Belize, the Sahara Desert, even an active volcano in Hawaii, but can he survive Girls Gone Wild? Watch to find out.

What I’m Googling

While reading Black Market by James Patterson, Ric asked me to google demitasse, which is a small cup of strong coffee or espresso according to The Free Dictionary.

What I’m seeing

Mount Maunganui has been my home for the last seven months, so I’ve just been trying to take in as much as I can during my last days here, going out for coffees at Cafe Cabana, drinks at Mount Mellick, maybe even climbing the Mount one last time, maybe.

Heart Flat White at Cafe Cabana. Thanks Jay. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

What I’m planning

Six months around the world.

That is all.

Let’s get this trip started!

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What I’m thinking Friday September 7

Blog, What I'm thinking

What I’m thinking Friday September 7

6 Comments 07 September 2012

This week presented a whole new way of travel for me. For the first time, ever I believe, I went away on business for three days. Nothing major, just a trip to Auckland to do a tour review and an interview with a backpacker publication in New Zealand.

The trip made me realize a few things. First, I haven’t really felt like I’ve been working over the past three years, which I guess is good considering that famous quote, “Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”. Contemplating this trip I just kept thinking to myself, “Look at me, all grown up and going away on business.”. When the truth is I’ve done this time and time again in Australia, Asia and New Zealand, but none of it ever felt like work.

In fact, I’ve not felt like I’ve worked at all in the past three years.

My main direction has been freelance writing these past few years, but besides that I’ve done everything from farm to wait tables. Work has been so random and speckled for me that whenever I need to write down my occupation anywhere, I always declare myself a “traveler”.

It gives border control a good chuckle and forces me to still not have to make that dreadful decision about what I want to do for the rest of my life. I’m not sure whether to think I’ve discovered the secret to life or that I simply have no direction, but life is good and rarely dull, so I think I’ll just continue being employed at traveler.

Next, Ric and I have not spent a night away from each other in over a year. We were both shocked by this realization. Like with the never working a day in your life idea above, I guess if you find a person you love as well, you just don’t realize how many days you’ve spent together.

It’s weird, because before I met Ric, I could never sleep if another person was in my bed. I even struggled to sleep with Ric in my bed at the start of our relationship. But that first night alone in so long this week, I was the opposite. Tossing and turning in my own space without my boy to wrap his arms around me and keep me at peace.

And with that, I’m starting to realize that this three-day business trip was somewhat one of self reflection, because the girl who wrote these past few paragraphs is not the girl who left the USA three years ago, single, solo and unemployed. Somewhere along the way I must have grown up a little.

Trying not to make this Friday post too heavy, the last thing this trip made me realize is that I have not seen enough of Auckland. I always just saw myself as more of a Wellington person, but looking out at the harbour today and grabbing a cappacino at a cafe in an old warehouse-like space in an alley way this morning, I realized that I haven’t given Auckland a chance. I’ll be spending two more days there before leaving the country, so I’ll see if the city is a good match.

Obviously, my thoughts this week have been more focused on things offline, but I still managed to do some web surfing (does anybody even use that term anymore?) and here’s what I’m thinking.

What I’m reading

Jo of The GoPro Family wrote a post this week that was a mixture of interesting world knowledge and self reflection. Jo was one of my dive instructors for my dive master training in the Philippines. She recently moved to Mexico with her family. The post talks about the Moken people in Thailand and Burma who live on the water and move from island to island with seasons, like sea gypsies. With her recent move from the Philippines to Mexico, she questions are divers the new sea gypsies.

What is the best beach party you’ve ever been to in the world? Huffington Post rated the top ten party beaches in the world this week. While a a few, like Ibiza, Spain, are a given, there are some other beach parties in there you might not have heard of before. So take off your shoes, grab a bucket and head to one of these sandy spots.

My last recommended read of the week is actually an entire website. Planit NZ launched this past week. Created by Backpacking Matt who is basically a Kiwi at this point, the site is the perfect source for New Zealand travel. If you’re planning a trip to the country, definitely have a look for insider tips and guides. If you’re not planning a trip here, you will be after a quick look through photos on the site.

What I’m watching

This video is way overdue on my weekly recommendations. Hands up if your a fan of Curb Your Enthusiasm or Seinfeld. I think almost any situation in life can be related to Seinfeld and Larry David is just fun to watch in any situation. So when I saw Jerry and Larry reunite for Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, I got very excited.

The series follows Seinfeld and another celebrity for the ride in a classic car and a coffee date. He makes tea drinker Larry David try pancakes, scares the sh*t out of Ricky Gervais driving through NYC in a 1967 Austin Healy 3000 and much more. Start with the first episode with David. I doubt that will be the last you watch.

What I’m Googling

What is the most densely populated city in the world?

I’m actually not going to answer that because my search came back with a lot of different answers. But I did find this article on the most densely populated place on earth, Kowloon Walled City, which was actually destroyed in the 90s. As many as 50,000 residents lived in this six-acre area. The history of how this ungoverned part of Hong Kong came to be is very interesting. The story and photos of life behind the walls is quite sad. It’s definitely worth a read.

What I’m seeing

As I mentioned above, I went away this week to review a tour. The tour took me all over the North Island, from Auckland to Waitomo to Hobbiton and back. The glowworms at Waitomo are pretty incredible, Hobbiton is always a great visit and I can’t wait to get back to Auckland to see more of it.

The Baggins’ home in Hobbiton, New Zealand. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

What I’m planning

Which brings me to my last point. It’s only a week until we leave New Zealand. Our last few days will be spent touring the country’s biggest city, Auckland. We don’t want to spend too much there. What are some free activities in the city?

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Kiwifruit Packing: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Destinations, Moving Abroad, New Zealand, New Zealand

Kiwifruit Packing: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

3 Comments 06 September 2012

One of my favorite things about working while traveling is that you never know what you’ll be doing for work. When you’re on a working holiday visa you work out of necessity and interest more than anything else. Out of your own necessity for money and visa requirements, but also out of an area’s necessity for workers like you.

The Bay of Plenty, where I’m currently residing in New Zealand, got its name because the land here is perfect for farming. In this area of the country you can find avocado orchards, vineyards, even orange trees, but no fruit has left a greater mark here than kiwifruit.

To sum it up, the first kiwifruit seed from China was planted in New Zealand in the early 1900s. Since then the town of Te Puke has become the kiwifruit capital of the world, exporting gold and green kiwifruit to over 70 countries, creating a billion-dollar business for New Zealand. Today, the kiwifruit industry makes up a large portion of the jobs available here from farm work to packing even to exporting, that furry little fruit has created big opportunity for people in the area, including me.

I knew nothing of anything mentioned above before arriving in the Bay of Plenty. What I knew was that I needed to work in New Zealand’s agriculture sector for at least three months to earn a three month extension on my one year working holiday visa for the country.

Looking through job listings online and in newspapers, I soon figured out just how big the kiwifruit industry is here. Like I said above, jobs acquired while traveling come out of necessity to you as well as the area you’re visiting. So in March of this year (the start of Autumn in New Zealand), I became a full-time kiwifruit grader and packer at one of the many pack-houses in the area.

I stayed in the industry for five months, working at three different pack houses. As you can imagine it wasn’t the most glamorous job I’ve had on the road, but like any job, it had its good, bad and ugly side.

The Good

Kiwifruit packhouses mainly offer seasonal work with their busiest time being in Autumn. They keep on a few contracted workers all year, but most of the contracts are not permanent, which may not be so appealing to residents looking for security in the area. But it’s a perfect fit for travelers looking for a no-strings job to save up a bit of money over a few months.

My packhouse employed about 40% foreigners, 30% retirees and another 30% New Zealand students or general workforce. This is more than ideal for travelers. Not only do you meet New Zealanders, but you also meet people from all over the world, learn about different cultures and maybe even pick up a few words in a language foreign to your own. I met people from Chile, Argentina, Germany, France, China, Taiwan, Vanuatu, Tonga and more.

The companionship can make those few months a big party or at least a good laugh, all while saving up quite a bit of money. Though kiwifruit packers only earn minimum wage ($NZD13.50), when the season is in full force, there is plenty of work to go around at least six days a week, usually ten hours a day. If all goes right, you could save up enough for a few months in SE Asia or plan an epic trip around New Zealand.

The Bad

But even the good has its bad. While the idea of having loads of work to save up loads of money is nice, the reality is harsh. Working ten hours a day means you arrive in the dark and leave in the dark, whether working a day or night shift. You’ll spend most of your day on your feet and while the work isn’t hard, standing up for that long does hurt the body. I would come home, back in knots and legs aching, to eat and go straight to bed, only to wake up the next morning still exhausted.

The body takes a beating and so does your social life. Remember all those friends you met and money you made? Well you won’t have any time to take advantage of that. Most pack houses only give one day off a week. While having a few drinks with friends would be nice, a hangover on top of a 60 hour work week is not.

The Ugly

Imagine ten hours of staring at kiwifruits on a conveyor belt or ten hours of placing a plastic sheet then a plastic egg crate into a cardboard box. No matter what job title you have at a kiwifruit packhouse, the work is repetitive and boring. I will say that the way management planned out breaks at my packhouse and the company there made the day go by a lot quicker than I thought it would. Still, you will be looking at the clock and wondering how on earth could it only have been five minutes since you last checked it.

This is all of course if you actually do have ten hours of work a day, six days a week, because the truth is, that none of that is guaranteed. Working a seasonal job in agriculture is dependent on a million variables; weather, disease other sectors, market demand.

Rain is a huge factor. If it rains, farm workers cannot pick fruit, which means no fruit is delivered to the packhouse, which means no work is available for packhouse staff. This past season the disease PSA destroyed millions of dollars worth of plants. I’m not complaining about it, especially because so many people lost their livelihood due to this disease and I just lost hours at a seasonal job, but the reality was that less fruit was available to pack, so less work was available to workers like me.

On top of being a seasonal work, you are also a casual worker, which means you owe the company very little and vice versa. Sure you are not obligated to give the job two weeks notice before leaving and there is always some other able body to take over your job if you need a day off, but all this means you are dispensable. If you miss a few days in a row, there is someone right behind you to take your job and like you don’t need to give two weeks notice, the company doesn’t need to give you that either. The first packhouse I worked for told us the season was over only four days before our last day. Another packhouse only required their staff to give 24 hours notice before their resignation.

One of the retirees I worked with has been returning to the same packhouse for three years. She doesn’t have to work, but said she does a season there to meet new people and learn about a different job.

Every job has its positives as well as its negatives. For me the biggest benefit of working at a kiwifruit packhouse was that I got to stay in New Zealand a little bit longer. Agricultural work, in all forms, is hard, but it’s extremely important. As tedious as some days were, I enjoyed meeting all the different people there as well as learning a bit more about a country I’ve come to love so much.

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What I’m thinking Friday 31 August

Blog, What I'm thinking

What I’m thinking Friday 31 August

2 Comments 02 September 2012

Remember last Friday’s post when I said I quit my job at the kiwifruit packhouse and started my holiday a month early. Well I’m back to working again, but don’t worry there are no fury fruits involved.

This past week I’ve been given a few shifts at the cafe Ric works at, which really isn’t work at all for me. For starters, I love working in hospitality, chatting with locals and continuing my coffee education. Further, I always love working with Ric. We actually met working at a restaurant in Australia over two years ago, so we’re pretty good working together.

This week I even got to join Ric in the kitchen where I made some epic mini carrot cakes with white chocolate ganache and cream cheese icing. It was my first time making carrot cake as well as my first time making anything that would be sold to the public, so I was quite proud.

Hungry? Why wait? But my mini carrot cakes!

Between waiting tables and watching loads of Tom Hardy films and shows this week, I did manage to read a few good articles, watch a video that actually led to the purchase of a new toy, do some exploring and even a bit of planning. Here’s what I’ve been thinking about this week.

What I’m reading

International Beatles Week

Did you realize that August 22-28 is international Beatles week? I’m a big fan of the fab four and had no idea. The best place to celebrate is of course Liverpool, where all the band members are from and came together. The Cavern Club, which is where they first performed, hosts a Beatles festival with various shows and acts throughout the week.

But a band as big as the Beatles has left it’s mark in more places than Liverpool. The Telegraph put together a gallery of Beatles attractions all over the planet. Have you visited any of them?

Coolest working holiday jobs

Anyone who follows my website will know the main reason I’ve been able to travel the world for almost three years is because working holiday visas in Australia and New Zealand have allowed me to work legally while traveling.

I’ve taken on some pretty random jobs while on the road these past few years. I think I’m up to about ten different jobs including everything from waitress to telemarketer to kiwifruit grader. While I’ll admit that not all these jobs were glamorous, all were interesting. Lonely Planet did a very accurate round up of the type of jobs working holiday makers usually take on.

Bangkok Treehouse

Travelfish published a review of the Bangkok Tree House this past week. It looks really interesting and relaxing. Though it’s a bit pricey for Thailand, a standard room costs about $US117, it’s still a bargain for such a unique hotel.

What I’m watching

GoPro posted something about their dive housing on Facebook. I can’t remember exactly what it was, but with it I learned GoPro makes dive housing for their cameras and that I had to have it immediately. Long story short, I bought this housing about twenty minutes later.

This video was shot using the product will help explain why I needed it right away.

What I’m Googling

Where do male platypus deliver their venom from?

Answer: A spur on their hind limbs.

What I’m seeing

The weather is amazing in the Mount at the moment. It feels as though we’ve skipped Spring and gone straight into Summer at times. Ric and I are taking full advantage of it. We even found the motivation to walk up the Mount this Friday.

The view from the top of Mauao. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

What I’m planning

Almost all of our time in SE Asia is going to be pretty much left unplanned, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been researching places to visit in the country like crazy. A dive friend of mine recommended visiting Khao Sok National Park. She says people can stay right on the water and dive off their front porch. By on the water I literally mean on the water, not on a shore next to it. Sounds good to me. Who else has been?

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What I’m thinking Friday 17 August

Blog, What I'm thinking

What I’m thinking Friday 17 August

10 Comments 17 August 2012

It’s been quite some time since I shared my thoughts here. This is mainly because of the ridiculous amount of hours I’ve spent packing kiwifruit the past few months. But I’ve got great news.

I quit!

Yes, after five months of working long hours, six days a week, I’ve managed to save enough to go on holiday a month earlier than expected. Ric and I don’t leave New Zealand for our round-the-world trip (more on that in upcoming posts) until September, so this month of freedom will be spent taking in as much of New Zealand as I can with the time I have left here, sprucing up the website and catching up on old posts, as well as writing for other websites and publications.

I’ve spent the past week focusing on Heels and Wheels. You might have noticed the site’s new look. I’m absolutely in love with it and giving away a Jucy road trip in the USA to celebrate.

So make sure to enter that later, but for now, here’s what I’ve been thinking about this week.

What I’m reading

While on the subject of road trips, Aussie on the Road shared his Top Ten Best Road Trips in the US. He’s spent some time traveling the States recently and he’s definitely picked out some famous routes to travel there.

I’ve been dreaming more and more about road tripping the US lately. My dream: convert an old school bus (magic bus) into a food truck and home, so Ric and I can hit the festival circuit one summer selling enough of his delicious cooking to make it to our next destination.

Sticking to America, one of my favorite traveling couples have returned to US soil recently. After months on the road, Gerard and Kieu of GQTrippin returned home this week. The return came not long after celebrating their blog’s one year anniversay.

I met the couple, along with Jeremy of Travel Freak in Wellington, New Zealand earlier this year. They are lovely and have covered a lot of ground on their trip. Check out the site to learn about their round-the-world adventure.

What I’m watching

Looks like Flipper is stealing Jaws thunder this Shark Week.

While on a tuna fishing trip off Santa Cruz, CA, Mark Peters stuck his GoPro translucent torpedo housing, which he built, to catch all the underwater action. He caught more than just tuna that day.

His video “The Blue” includes a few minutes of uncut footage of a pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins swimming underwater behind the fishing boat. The video will no doubt have you wowing and wanting to see more of these playful creatures.

The Blue from Mark Peters on Vimeo.

Ric doesn’t believe it’s real and after reading this post, I think a few other people don’t as well. What do you think?

What I’m Googling

While discussing Absinthe over wine last night, I wondered where exactly the green fairy drink came from.

The answer: Canton of Neuchâtel, Switzerland (18th century).

But it really came to be popular in Paris, France in the late 19th and early 20th century. A favorite amongst writers and artists working and obviously playing there at the time, it played a part in the bohemian movement.

What I’ m seeing

I found a Donut Factory in the Mount. Located at 58 Newton Street, it’s probably a good thing I didn’t find it when I first arrived here. You can buy fresh mini or large donuts there real cheap. I paid $0.80 for a large sugar and cinnamon donut.

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

What I’m planning

I am planning a lot at the moment. As I said earlier I’ll write about our plans in future posts, but I’ll share just a small bit of it now.

We’ll be spending a few days exploring Auckland before leaving New Zealand. I’ve only visited a friend there once and spent most of that visit catching up, drinking wine and watching the Super Bowl. This trip we’ll be exploring the city a bit more.

How would you spend 24 hours in Auckland?

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Hump day photo: Franz Josef Glacier

Destinations, New Zealand, Other, Photography

Hump day photo: Franz Josef Glacier

4 Comments 16 August 2012

It’s nothing I thought I would ever see in person, let alone walk on; a massive glacier, edged between mountains, rolling onto land. It was in Franz Josef New Zealand that I toured my first glacier.

Franz Josef Glacier is the world’s steepest and fastest flowing commercially-guided glacier. Located on the West Coast of the South Island, the town of Franz Josef is completely dedicated to the glacier. We visited in January and opted for a half day ice walk up the glacier with Franz Josef Glacier Guides.

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

This photo, which was taken with my GoPro, is looking up at the glacier from close to the bottom of it.

The size of the glacier is what stunned me most. We walked up it from the ground, but people actually take a helicopter to the top of it to visit a more untouched piece of ice. When helicopters are involved to reach the top of something, it must be massive.

This was by far the most interesting tour I did in the South Island and it’s well-worth a stop on any visit to the country.

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Capture the Colour: Australia and New Zealand

Australia, Blog, Destinations, New Zealand, Online Goodies, Other

Capture the Colour: Australia and New Zealand

22 Comments 08 August 2012

Red and blue powder thrown at Holi in India, vibrant green forest of the Amazon in Brazil and even those purple mountain majesties in the USA; the colors of a land really stand out when traveling.

That’s why, I’m very excited to not be nominated once, but three times to enter Travel Supermarket’s Capture the Colour competition. Thanks to Pack Your Passport, A Pair of Boots and a Backpack and The World is Waiting for nominating me.

A contest started by fellow travel bloggers, to enter, bloggers must write a post including photos that show off the colours red, blue, yellow, green and white. The winner of each individual colour will receive a 32GB iPad and the overall winner will receive £2,000 towards their travels.

Though it kills my American self and spell check to have to spell “color” with a “u” for an entire post, here’s a look back on my colourful travels in Australia and New Zealand.


Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

This is my most recent colourful shot. It was taken during a boat ride around Tauranga Harbour on the North Island in New Zealand. New Zealand is well-known for it’s interesting skies. After all, the Maoris named it Aotearoa, “land of the long white cloud”. I’ve seen a lot of colourful sunsets in this country, but the sky was especially on fire this night. The fact that we were in a boat reminded me of the old saying “Red sky at night; sailors delight, Red sky at morning; sailors take warning.”.

We were lucky it wasn’t morning.


Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

From taking photos of the sky, to taking photos while in the sky, my yellow submission was taken during a hot air balloon ride over the Atherton Tablelands in Australia. This was one of many many firsts for me on that trip. We arrived at the launch site at about 6 a.m. and were in the air for sunrise. This photo was taken looking up at our yellow balloon from inside the basket. I can still feel the fire from the torch warming my face and rising sun warming my back.


Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

I’m sure with this photo you’re thinking, “How is the water that colour?” A mixture of fine glacial rock flour, clear glacier water and sun’s reflection produces the baby blue colour that fills waterways in this region of New Zealand. This photo was taken on the way from Queenstown to Lake Tekapo at a road-side lookout point for Mt. Cook (centered), which is New Zealand’s tallest mountain, on Lake Pukaki. Blue just absorbs everything it this shot: the water, sky and mountains.

While the photo may give you chills, it was actually taken in Summer. The weather was warm. The water was not.


Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

I had a slight obsession with fan palms in Australia. I had never seen them like they are in the rain forest of Cape Tribulation, massive green palms towering meters above. Something about the way they lit up as the sun shone through affected me deeply. These trees stand tall in an already large forest, almost protecting everything below from the outside world, which an ancient forest like this needs. By the end of the day, my neck was actually aching from looking up for so long. I tried so many times to capture this shot and this is my favorite attempt.


Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Maybe it’s cliche to use snow for my white image, but this snow is somewhat special to me. We have snowy winters in New Jersey, but for the two years prior to arriving in New Zealand last July (Winter), I had been chasing Summer in Australia, SE Asia and the USA. So to see what is a common Christmas symbol for the first time in two years was meaningful for me.

Plus it was the first real snow for Queenstown that year and it happened the day after I arrived in the country for the very first time. We spent the day driving half the island, taking in its beauty. We even had to rent tire chains, just in case. It was also my first time photographing with a GoPro. I love the South Island in the Summer, but it’s really breathtaking to see the way the mountains light up in the Winter.

Now that you’ve read about my colourful adventures-it’s your turn. Here are my nominations for Capture the Colour:

Sweet Dea’s Adventures

The Mellyboo Project

Canuckiwi Kate

Jandal Road

Today, I’m Bobbi

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