6 ways to travel for FREE in 2015

042a474f28d271e2587e799bea68b6aa

Are you broke, restless and ready for the experience of a lifetime?

Perhaps you are a fresh grad thirsty for a challenge or maybe you are simply sick-to-death of your soul destroying job and want to do something wild with your life, before you wake up one day with 4 kids, 2 dogs, 6 cats & a mortgage!

If you are in need of some ideas to make this year particularly extraordinary have a squiz through some of the below options and get planning TODAY.

1. Volunteer abroad

Pick an organization or political issue that means something to you and get Googling! Most volunteer programmes cover your expenses & accommodation in exchange for your services; they are also very flexible so you can stay as long as you like.

Volunteering will throw you from your comfort zone while experiencing a thrilling new part of the world. You will meet some astonishing likeminded humans, not to mention volunteer experience is extremely rewarding and compliments your CV in a big way! Would you hire the grad who spent their summer watching Grey’s Anatomy on the couch or the inspiring young lass/lad who just saved 10,000 sea turtles from an untimely death in Costa Rica?

Some popular organizations are below (just to name a few, there are literally HUNDREDS of choices)

  • American hiking society – build new trails all over the USA! If you are obsessed with nature, wild life and the great outdoors this adventure has your name on it! Make the national parks of the US your home until further notice. See ya later office chair!
  • One World 365 – Ignite your inner wanderlust and choose from over 200 meaningful travel opportunities in literally any industry you want!
  • A21 – Help rehabilitate survivors of human trafficking. The A21 Campaign has teams in Greece, the UK, the US, South Africa, Thailand & Australia (just to name a few!).
  • United planet – Improve the lives of children living in orphanages worldwide.
  • Go Eco – help save endangered wild animals and work on conservation projects. Let your inner greeny shine!
  • Habitat for humanity – help build homes for people with poor housing conditions in the beautiful New Zealand
  • WWOFF – World Wide opportunities on organic farms – perfect for between travelling, give back to the country you are visiting while getting to know a local family.
  • Camp America – teach kids an awesome new skill while basking in the American summer! From sailing to horse riding, Camp America pays you enough to cover your flights, visa, insurance and a bit of free travel afterwards!

tumblr_mecf1tXAdz1qiwgy4o1_500

tumblr_lqnoqkeFDg1qddlc4o1_1280

2. Nanny abroad

Au Pair agencies are becoming exceedingly popular as a safe and swift way to get young people overseas. Register to an online agency such as Au Pair link and make your profile jump off the page. Make sure to upload friendly photos of yourself interacting with your own family and build on your experience by offering to babysit children in your neighbourhood. The more references and experience the better with this industry as the host family needs to completely trust the Au Pair they select. Nannying abroad can be a short term summer stint or a full time 6 months or annual commitment. Most positions are for live in nannies so you will earn a small wage and have virtually no expenses. Bonuses include: meeting other Au Pairs in your area. Your agency places significant emphasis on social bonding to ensure your happiness abroad. Another bonus is travelling with the host family to their favourite holiday spots and picking up the local language. By the end of your time working as an Au Pair you will have a second family which will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside until the next adventure.

8d468c43bf7f7fd11437d1765036b13d

3. Study abroad

Almost all Universities have exchange programmes for undergrad degrees so jump on their websites and key in partner universities to reveal your DREAM SCHOOL! Auckland University have an exceptional programme called 360 Auckland Abroad which allows students to go on exchange at any time during their studies so if you missed the boat during your bachelors it’s not too late! (Yes I’m talking honours and grad diplomas!). The list of partner schools is beyond impressive; you can get a $50,000+ Ivy League education and pay Auckland prices! There are also guaranteed scholarships available covering your flights, insurance & visa! Why wouldn’t you make the most of that? Perhaps you want to compliment your undergraduate degree by completing honours or maybe you want to explore a new hobby such as music, acting or another language. Study abroad is a once in a life time opportunity where you will live, learn and meet a bunch of life-long friends & experience a new style of college life. Bonus – New Zealand students are still eligible to get the student allowance while overseas so this adventure is partially funded! More often than not your expenses abroad are cheaper than in Auckland unless you are living with your parents. Auckland ranks close to Manhattan with living costs so wouldn’t you rather be in New York??

da5896a889c128a011286ddf8069741e

location02

4. House sit or house swap

If you have a small amount of money put away (which could cover your spending money) house sitting is a great option to give yourself a retreat somewhere exotic rent free! Like landing a job as an Au Pair you will need an eye-catching profile so hosts can trust you with their home. Websites such as mindmyhouse.com are perfect as you can select where in the world you want to experience and check out the homes available. If you love animals there are far more jobs available for those willing to animal sit! Look after some huskies in the Canadian mountains or bask in the sun with a house cat in Paris! If you have your own place back home then house swapping is a good option. Sites like Air BNB and home exchange.com are well established for these types of swaps.

fd158682126b1bcf477b202ece85ed58

1b51063ff8b29895f24ca680621dbada

5. Work on a yacht or cruise ship

Crewing a yacht is an awesome opportunity to live alongside the rich and the fabulous while meeting a bunch of new friends and saying bon voyage to the real world! The views, the unique destinations and the people you meet – this is guaranteed to be a life changer! Working on a cruise ship is also a mind blowing experience (according to the many crew I have had the pleasure of meeting). You can delve into an array of different positions on a cruise ship including beauty therapy, hospitality, admin, retail & entertainment. Bonus: if you are in retail and are selling alcohol you can leave the ship and explore whenever you are in port. This is because the alcohol laws differ per country so most ships tend to avoid selling when in port. This means you get to travel for free with the passengers! Jump on cruisejobfinder.com TODAY!

9943258af1e9252aa9c8b53f50c2f495

6. Return a motor home to its home location

Larger countries such as the US & Australia are often in need of ‘time rich’ travellers to return their motor vehicles back to their home base. This earns you a free luxury motor home for the road trip of a life time! Try and work out a reasonable time frame for the journey so you can stop several times along the way and make the most of the scenery. Surfing trip from San Francisco to San Diego anyone? Kea is a company in Australia & New Zealand which offers this idyllic escape.

So what are you waiting for?

315f3b9fe16923b7b81701978cbc9be6

80df4ef3217750b7eedb9e4d96cec97a

550cc7dc7fa52a3ad67f48e061a6da1f

A Southern state of mind

10513358_10152712618068700_1936831917041095448_n

Americans often refer to “the South” as if it’s a different planet to the rest of America.
After visiting New Orleans, Savannah, Charleston & Wilmington I finally understood what they meant by this. From the Victorian houses, to the food, to the people – the southern states of America are unique and delightful to visit.

New Orleans, Louisiana was our first destination of the South. We flew in at night and realized our bags were missing, we found out they were on the next plane so we naturally headed to the pub. The family behind us were having an absolute freak out. This made me aware of how I am a better version of myself when travelling. I’m pretty sure stressed-out working Joanna would have been panicking about the delay but it really wasn’t a big deal.

After our bags arrived we made our way to our cute cottage in Metairie. We immediately hit it off with the cottage owners, Debbie & Diane who lived in front of us. They took us to an Authentic New Orleans Jazz night & were rather helpful and kind during our visit. I fell in love with the French Quarter. Never have I seen such beautiful buildings of all shades of colour. The people of NOLA were all so proud of their city, often saying they would never ever leave. We don’t have the same attitude or home pride back home; people my age make jokes about how their home town is a hole of sorts. It was a refreshing change.

During my time in Metairie I was leant an old bike which I would use in the evenings to explore the local neighbourhoods. The lawns were all groomed to perfection & the houses were all so sweet with their gorgeous French shutters & lanterns outside the front doors. I would wonder what the lives of the people were like, who lived behind the perfectly painted doors. Note: the house on the bottom right is the mansion featured in American Horror Story Coven!

10527440_10152498584593700_1209007683633139667_n

Scott & I loved New Orleans so much we extended our stay by doing some handy work for our hosts. Some highlights of our time here included: exploring the French Quarter & the Historic District, walking around with a drink in hand (legally) on the classic & chaotic Bourbon Street!, visiting Oak Ally Plantation & attending an obligatory swamp tour (where we saw at least 100 alligators!). The only disappointment that occurred in New Orleans was my absolute fail of an attempt to break into the abandoned 6 Flags theme park. I don’t want to talk about it but I will say that I will be trying this again very soon and I will not fail again.

Infrequent-diversion-abandoned-Six-Flags-New-Orleans

Savannah, Georgia was another beautiful southern city. We arrived here after a long drive from Miami, Florida. I was delighted with our room. It was the first Inn-style accommodation I had experienced & the rooms were very old fashioned. I felt like a cast member from Downtown Abbey as we entered the adorable lobby & checked in. The name of the hotel was “the Planters Inn” and Google tells me its a popular honey moon choice! thanks to Hotwire we paid $40 each! The staff were overly nice & offered a complimentary wine & cheese hour every evening at 5pm. This wine & cheese hour was nothing like your typical hotel continental breakfast (see Key & Peele video, thank me later). This wine & cheese hour was amazing! There was a lady serving 5 types of wine, there were also several options of cheese cut into cubes, a big array of crackers & fresh berries. I went back for seconds & thirds and fourths while Scott cleaned out his wallet. Sorry Scott I really do love cheese.

We went out drinking on our first night in Savannah. We went to a rooftop bar at the Bohemian hotel which had a stunning view of the city & river. We met some friends and partied till about 4am. My walk home afterwards was so peaceful. The summer nights in Savannah are so warm & there is barely ever wind. It feels almost unrealistically comfortable to be outdoors compared with New Zealand. Savannah is famous for its 22 town squares. Think Spanish moss, old looming oak trees & cobblestone paths. These parks were stunning & the houses surrounding them were to die for. I left Savannah wishing I could move there someday.

savannah-georgia-home

river-street-night

Our next stop was Charleston, South Carolina. We left Savannah at 5am on a morning grey hound; I jumped on the bus & grabbed a window seat, plugged into my iPod & selected Midnight River for the drive. We arrived in Charleston 2 hours later & rode a cab into the city. At this point in the trip we had been travelling long enough now that it has become a lifestyle and not a holiday. It felt like it was becoming somewhat of an addiction for me. The excitement of exploring a new city, laying your eyes on sights you have never seen before, the feeling of swiping your hotel card in the door & wondering what type of room you would see. Our accommodation in Charleston was very similar to Savannahs. These cute little inns were my favourite type of accommodation throughout the trip. They are so well decorated & personal. They felt like home. This Inn was called Fulton Lane Inn & offered the same wine & cheese hour to my delight.

60685_10152541737833700_3953143150722550219_n

The first thing we needed to do in Charleston was washing. This was the main hassle with travelling – the mission that is finding a Laundromat when you need one. The closest one was 2kms away & right next to The College of Charleston. This is where my curiosity with sororities & fraternities was brought back in full swing. As we walked to the Laundromat we came across several sorority houses full of college girls singing some sort of anthem. This is a very unusual culture from a Kiwi’s point of view. As I watched them sing I felt both embarrassed & intrigued at the same time. I secretly wanted to be part of it. I watch too many American movies. My biggest regret in life so far is not taking the opportunity to do a semester abroad while at University. I got as far as making an appointment with the exchange advisor at the University of Waikato & gave up after he was rude & unhelpful. Regret.

I spent some time wandering solo in Charleston. Scott was fascinated in old army aircraft carriers & war ships. I saw one & although it was great I didn’t wish to repeat the experience. While Scott checked out more of these I spent way too much money at Urban Outfitters (my favourite store in the states & yes they ship to New Zealand!!).

Other highlights of Charleston included a visit to the famous markets, finding cute places to eat & drink; walking the beautiful cobblestones streets & dolphin watching at the water front. Charleston was my favourite place. I would move there in a heartbeat. It was simply beautiful & I have had at least 5 dreams of being back there since I left, one of those times Britney Spears & Tina Fey were there too.

10514544_10152541737978700_1180317201782363613_n

10583843_10152541737928700_1083358381040716716_n

Our last Southern stop was Wilmington in North Carolina. We left Charleston by bus and our friend Jill picked us up on the other end. We mainly chose to visit Wilmington to spend time with Jill & meet her boyfriend Ryan. Jill was an exchange student at the University of Waikato and she was always a pleasure to be around. We had a fantastic week in Wilmington! We were introduced to Jill’s group of friends who were all loads of fun & lived close by. I was very jealous of their lifestyle, living right by the ocean with all their friends in the same neighbourhood. Bliss. I tried my hand at paddle boarding, spent lots of time at the beach, went out dancing in Wrightsville beach, explored downtown Wilmington & visited Brook’s house (from One Tree Hill). Our week in Wilmington was lovely. We were sad to leave.

If you are planning on visiting America, I do urge you to visit the South! It really was completely different to any other part of the states and I loved every minute!!

10501801_10152547288158700_6050899702765536963_n

9284_10152482592993700_948611523308619597_n

40828_10152498565253700_7395539364497131749_n

603159_10152481657718700_632683890952039326_n

1381359_10152541738083700_1156571280067767786_n

1908056_10152537562203700_3495057966218414415_n

10410754_10152481657273700_8871937234299871311_n

10417677_10152481655023700_4265597075780177347_n

10432956_10152481656958700_8680467852118722030_n

10465489_10152481655543700_5544803906214490080_o

10494591_10152481657588700_8625443567366681254_n

10517659_10152481654978700_5785011622301736941_o

10523832_10152481656678700_7058343856806121872_n

10525723_10152481656338700_360576738349237085_n

10547669_10152487539203700_5394131478793806509_n

10559775_10152533011953700_2803832276747381240_n

10570517_10152531041883700_4274301177041229363_n

10574336_10152481655428700_2187421301173412748_n

10600443_10152541737918700_3667364983064812150_n

10603442_10152541738198700_8174839367924124407_n

Best of the beaches

original

Dreaming of ditching your office chair for your beach towel?

Scott & I spent a good portion of our trip frolicking in the ocean. These were our top 5 beaches throughout North America & Mexico.

The perfect time to visit these destinations is during the American Summer which is June-August (when down under is looking particularly miserable).

1. Cancun, Mexico.

The beauty of Cancun is how affordable it is to fly there from anywhere in North America. We booked a flight from Montreal the night before for $200. After speaking to some tourists in Cancun we soon found out that our flights were 4 times the price of theirs & we thought we got a bargain!

Cancun is a young city at only 45 years old- it was specifically built for tourists so on one hand you are not experiencing authentic Mexico here by any stretch of the imagination (unless you take the bus out of town to Walmart). The up side of this is that you are safe, for the most part.

Cancun boasts some ridiculously cheap accommodation deals including all-inclusive deals (Room+ unlimited food/drinks). The beaches of Cancun are stunning. I have never seen such white sand & blue water. The resorts all have several pools, pool bars & are right on the beach.

The nightlife in Cancun is wonderfully entertaining.  You can go out any night of the week and find yourself a good time. Coco Bongo is Cancun’s signature nightlife attraction giving Las Vegas a run for its money! Entry to Coco costs $75pp and includes a fantastic show with professional dancers & an open bar all night long. It’s well worth the ticket price! You can pay $150 and go VIP however the VIP experience does not double the value like the ticket price suggests. VIP gets you a seat but you are really not there to sit around. You also get more attention from your waiter in the VIP section; however, Scott soon learnt that a generous tip to start the night will earn yourself a personal waiter as well. I was so enthusiastic about this club that I applied to be a background dancer & got all the way to the manager’s office for my final interview before sobering up….

The activities in Cancun are cut-price and carefree compared with the Western world, this is not nearly as safe but the thrill is at an all time high when you can simply hire a speedboat and boost off to explore a coral reef with no long-winded safety demonstration, age or licence check. Life jackets optional! Just be careful you are paying the right price for these activities by hustling the street workers. The hotel concierges cannot be trusted.

10423875_10152479619358700_7671455535485383668_n

10397254_10152462502303700_4545399994003381612_o

10452964_10152458803963700_2532815350122431657_o

2. South Beach Miami, Florida.

South Beach Miami is an ideal holiday spot for every type of vacation. The beach is gorgeous; there is a wide variety of shops along Lincoln Road Mall which is surrounded with palm trees & stays open late! Lincoln also boasts fancy restaurants and live music. Miami’s nightlife is rated second in America to Vegas. The clubs are MASSIVE. You do however need a full wallet for a night out in South Beach. Door charge & drinks are pricy! Bottle service & booths are the price of a new car. We booked an Air BNB condo right around the corner from Lincoln Road Mall & had the best time in this location. Miami is also central for travellers to do day trips to Key West (which we did) or snap up cheap last minute cruises to the Bahamas (next time!!).

South beach Miami 2

Miami South beach

South beach Miami

10547160_10152182695661104_4524379985151980428_o

 3. Santa Monica Beach & Venice Beach, California.

The sunshine state is a palpable winner for dreamy beaches with close to 300 days of sunshine annually. Santa Monica Beach & Venice Beach are conveniently next-door neighbours, both with extra entertainment in the form of Santa Monica Pier & Venice Beach boardwalk.

There is something for everyone in Santa Monica & Venice, from quirky cafes & street theatre to bright sunbathing loungers to the famous side walk which is perfect for running, biking & rollerblading. I could spend my life here!

Santa_monica_beach_dehk

10369586_10152394573853700_8513864162921508555_n

venice-beach-sign-sunsetreadmeansblog--venice-ix52qsc7

4. Newport Beach, California.

Which 90’s kid didn’t watch the OC? I had been dreaming of visiting the shores of Newport since the shows debut back in 2003. Newport had a far less commercial feel to it than I anticipated; in fact it had a small-town vibe with rustic milk shake bars and burger joints run by locals on the beach front. The water was clean & the beach was peaceful. Newport Beach is super close to Huntington Beach so you can spend a day beach hoping between the two. Buses travel along the Pacific Coast Highway daily so it’s an easily accessible day out of LA. Take a book & a picnic basket and unwind in true Californian paradise.

newport-beach-ocean-front-h_720Newport Beach

 5. Wrightsville Beach Wilmington, North Carolina.

Wrightsville beach is home to some incredible friends of ours so it was an obvious choice to spend a week here. The beach is beautiful, the best beach I visited on the East Coast. The houses are quaint and the people of Wrightsville Beach were the happiest I experienced throughout my entire trip through America. This place is relaxed & idyllic. I was sad to leave.

The shops & cafes in Wrightsville beach have a unique, local vibe to them as Wilmington is not a typical tourist destination. Wrightsville beach felt theraputic for our tired city souls.

Wrightsville-beach

bluewater_wrightsville

10629667_10152548910413700_994656968846077638_nwrightsville-beach-pier-e-r-smith

10 truths of being a flight attendant

jvWjaRb3xZkQXCHzPw21itDhqqy

Airline walk-in days are never short of interest as apprehensive men and woman come together from all walks of life to try their hand at the much anticipated role of the flight attendant.

The sixties glamour surrounding flight attending died and went to heaven a long time ago; however, this doesn’t seem to sway the hype and hysteria surrounding the life of a trolley dolly. After telling someone you are a flight attendant people’s eyes light up and the questions begin: Do you get to travel the world? What airline do you work for? Do you and your friends fly free? Oooooooh I love the uniform!

I worked as a flight attendant for one year and this is what I learnt.

1. It’s not as easy breezy covergirl as one would think

To say I severely underestimated the weight and importance of the role would be an understatement. Before being accepted into a training programme, newbie flight attendants must successfully complete several interviews, comprehensive first-aid training, swimming, medical, health and drug tests and a full on background & reference clearance.

During the training there are roughly 14 exams, a ton of home work, multiple physical challenges including: swimming lengths in heavy overalls, swiftly getting in and out of massive life rafts, blowing up lifejackets in 10ft deep freezing cold water, completing time pressure tasks in a burning down plane, daily verbal tests in front of your class mates and yes – the ever so exciting task of escaping the aircraft via the larger-than-life INFLATABLE SLIDE. All of these tests are done back to back, against the clock, in order to prepare another fresh-faced group of flight attendants for the worst case scenarios they all hope like hell will never happen.

After graduation day when you are finally rewarded your wings you can relax for about 24 hours and then come the hideous line checks. Your first few days in the sky are gruelling. Getting used to your new work place (a tiny steel tube) is one thing, the in-flight testing is another and it takes place all day (8-15 hour shifts).

After the first month, the life of a flight attendant becomes drastically more simple & pleasurable; however, there are spot tests before every single flight and it may well be 3am so you really do need to be self motivated. The roster doesn’t care for your social life, nor your beauty sleep. You will arrive at work groomed to perfection or be sent home. After each flight you are also graded on your performance.

view-from-the-top-4

2. You do not get to travel the world how one would like

You certainly do start from the bottom in this role. New recruits will begin by operating domestic or nearby routes unless they get super lucky and the airline is recruiting mid/long haul off the street. In my case I wasn’t so blessed & my flights were predominantly to Australia and the Pacific Islands. For the most part we would fly straight there & back meaning the only selfie opportunity is with the tarmac not the palm trees.  The staff trips are usually very brief; arriving late at night and leaving at the crack of dawn so you do not get to see the cities. If you hang in there and progress to mid or long haul there are many more perks & much longer trips and you will always be in a 4 star hotel with your own room. I really do recommend hanging in there until you are promoted as the staff satisfaction rate sky rockets after this.

3. Your social life takes a beating in this industry

The downfall of this role is missing out on some pretty pivotal social moments. Most of your friends will have weekends & public holidays off meaning engagement parties, weddings, birthday parties, Christmas, New Years etc will all be out of the question for you (or at the very least difficult to attend). The flip side to this is having blissful flatmate-free time during the week & shopping at non-peak times.

You and your entourage do not fly free. Each airline is different but they are all businesses not wish factories. You will however earn staff travel after at least a year’s commitment but sometimes the airlines public sales are better. You are also on standby, meaning you and your family could get seriously mucked around at the airport.

MwMG1rYTpnId2V7Dc7z1nSZumE1NObVj_640x360_54020163852

4. You will make life long friends in this role

The people you train with become your family; they develop into so much more than just work mates. They unconditionally support you during your training. The sense of friendship in the aviation school is really uplifting and motivating. The trainers are helpful & inspirational.

Once you are out working the people you work with are always an interesting mix. If you hate them, get over it you probably won’t fly with them again for months. If you love them, great! Make plans to see each other again. Some days you will start the day as lethargic strangers and leave the airport bouncing off the walls as if you have been friends forever! (Major highlight of the job!). Most flight attendants are very charismatic, confident and downright hilarious! This role does attract the sexy people. Have you seen my friend Laura Donaldson?

5. You will have a love/hate relationship with the passengers

The passengers can be a headache but they can also make your day. Travellers are excited for the most part & it’s rewarding to chat to them and exchange travel stories and advice. Passengers are always intrigued with flight attendants and can be really fun to mingle with. Other times they treat you like a brainless waitress, holding you solely responsible for any slight delay. The worst type of passenger treats you like their mother by ignoring your polite requests concerning their safety. The saving grace here is that the flight attendant is in control of the passengers experience in the air. Mysterious TV screen breakdowns are not really very mysterious at all.

6. Flight attendants do not simply go to sleep

Your shifts will be all over the show so say goodbye to your body clock & routine. The roster is 24 hours and no two rosters are the same. Sometimes you will work all through the night & other times it will be just like a normal 9-5 working day. Not to mention different time zones. Get used to sleeping during the day & taking unplanned naps in public places….

tumblr_lsyx5w7YTp1qksf48o1_500_large

7. Flight attending is good for staying in shape (as long as you don’t binge on the crew meals)

Ever noticed that flight attendants are always strutting through the airports? This is because they are always in a hurry. Flight attendants have limited turnaround time to prepare the plane for new passengers and need as much time as they can get, thus strutting through airports in a rather uptight manner. Same goes for home time. The struggle is real with power walking from plane to car park! You also don’t have breaks in the normal sense of the word so 99% of the day is spent rushing around on your feet like a crazy person. The upside? Skinny skinny skinny. Kate Moss. skinny.

8. You will complain about being a flight attendant but cringe at the thought of quitting and going back to the ‘real world’

Flight attendants love a good galley gossip. There is always something to whinge about when you are a number among hundreds of other flight attendants; however as a flight attendant, you do have a union who totally has your back & it’s not all bad. Most flight attendants would feel like a fish out of water in a mundane 9-5 office job so they really just complain because they love a good sulking session. You are never bored or restless as a flight attendant, the days pass in a whimsical coffee-charged blur. It really is so much more fun than an office job.

05

9. The pay could and should be better

Different airlines offer different salaries, tour of duty hours, check in allowances & perks; however I still believe this role is severely underpaid for the level or commitment, sacrifice and training involved not to mention the exhaustion level. Those sassy sixties flight attendants were paid a small fortune due to the exclusivity and expense of flying. Sadly this is a thing of the past. This being said, it’s not a job people do for the money so this separates the miserable & non-committed pretty quickly.

10. The duty free is awesome & so is walking around the airport in your uniform

Two words: Victoria’s Secret. Having access to duty free products on a regular basis is a massive advantage for a hostey. Spirits & cigarettes are a fraction of the price in Rarotonga, you can nab some pure Fiji products in the Fiji airport & buy as much perfume, Mac & Ecoya candles as you like. This comes in rather handy for Christmas presents! I can only imagine the long haul duty free favourites! Plus walking through the airport with your suitcase & girlfriends in tow does feel a little bit sexy.

look_azafata

Photo credits: photos are from 2003 film View from the top & 2002 film Catch me if you can

Welcome to New York.

tumblr_lz7asxhjoP1rp4e81o1_500_large

New York City was my most anticipated destination, so it didn’t come as a surprise when it turned out to be one of my favourite cities. The infectious hype surrounding New York doesn’t fail to demand the attention of most travellers. From the amount of classic films set in New York, to the fashion & glamour, to the money & wealth – New York’s infamous sky line has been printed in my dreams since I was old enough to understand grown up movies. The constant busy rush of this notorious metropolitan doesn’t allow for a sleepy dull moment as each area boasts its own unique attractions.

It’s early Thursday morning and Scott and I are busy packing up our LA apartment. We still have 5 hours till our flight but we are up early because I am as excited as a small child on Christmas morning & Scott’s up because he’s one of those outlandish morning people who literally jump out of bed the very moment they wake up. I don’t get it. We make our way out to Hollywood Boulevard with our backpacks where our shuttle is due to pick us up. The shuttle company messages me several times changing our pick up time, this resulted in many trips in and out of the closest Starbucks as I begin to hit the wall from the early start.

Finally the shuttle arrives and we are on our way to LAX. Upon arrival at the airport we check in our bags and make our way through customs. Once we are finally in the air I scroll through the movie list and settle on Spider Man (there wasn’t anything better in case you’re judging). We fly into New York five hours later and it’s already 10pm as New York is 3 hours ahead of LA. The view of the lights flying in brings back this morning’s excitement as we land at JFK. My geeky smile lasts most of the night. Are we really in New York!?!?

We get lucky and manage to jump on the last bus of the evening saving us a good $30. It drops us off a few blocks away from our hotel in Midtown. After checking in we realize we are both ravenous and head into town to find food. We accidentally stumble across Times Square and by this time its past Midnight. The perfect time to visit Times Square is late at night as it’s simply a ridiculous Zoo of tourists during the day.

The first few days in New York were spent cracking into the touristy stuff which I secretly wanted to get over & done with. Do you ever feel like you have already been somewhere, simply due to the flood of photos pouring into the Facebook news-feed from popular tourist spots? I was eager to experience authentic New York with some bona fide locals; however, these hot spots are famous for a reason so it would be regretful to avoid them. Plus your mother would be very disappointed to see your photos of drunken shenanigans over striking a pose with lady liberty! Firstly we checked out the Museum of Natural History which was great but nothing I hadn’t seen before in other famous history museums. The Metropolitan museum on the other hand was OUTSTANDING!! If you only have time for one Museum in New York – pick the Met.

We also borrowed bikes and spent a sunny afternoon riding around central park which was charming. After 2 nights in mid town we headed to Brooklyn and stayed at New York Loft Hostel for 7 nights. Our hostel had a cute outdoor area with plenty of loungers, BBQ tables and glistening fairy lights. We immediately made friends here with people from various parts of the world. The rooms were gross and you need to accept that you will be one with your nasty shower curtain for the duration of your stay, but it is a backpackers so I decided to get over myself.

On the first day just after check in someone went into my room and stole $240 cash while I was enjoying a few beverages downstairs. I am pretty sure it was housekeeping as they showed up at strange times out of uniform & empty handed. So at the end of the day I wouldn’t recommend you stay in New York Loft Hostel in Brooklyn. It was also the most expensive accommodation of our whole trip at $75pp per night!! This booking was made before hotwire was recommended by a new friend from this very hostel.

Brooklyn is famous for a suburb called Williamsburg, an exceptionally hipster neighbourhood which was interesting to explore and people watch. We checked out the local areas and had some fine food in tiny restaurants with sweet soundtracks from 2010 (one of my favourite uni years). Our area back at the hostel was full of interesting places to eat as well .The restaurant across the road (Tutus) had really good burgers and freshly cut potato chips served on wooden chopping boards. The corner store sold all organic products so this became the regular breakfast joint!

Getting used to the Subway was fun. If you don’t mind dirty underground environments full of rats and drug addicts, it’s all rather interesting. Riding the subway is very efficient and I enjoyed popping up in a completely different area of the city within a few short minutes. On the fourth of July Kate and I discovered that the infringement fine for drinking on the subway was only $50 which isn’t at all unaffordable if you need to have a few bevies on the way to a gig. You can purchase a subway pass for $30 per week for unlimited rides. We found this well worth it as the subway was our only mode of transport in New York. You soon figure out the metro map is actually very simple after you end up in the Bronx a few times. This puts the pressure on to pay attention and listen out for your stop or cop the consequences of getting cosy with the undesirables.

This one time, Scott & I jumped out in the wrong part of town and instead of getting back on the subway I was distracted by the famous Juniors cheese cake restaurant across the road and insisted we must try it. My favourite blogger – Adventurous Kate had spoken of this spot in her blog and apparently the cheesecake is not to be beaten. Scott & I settle into a classic American booth and sure enough the cheesecake is to die for. On our way out the door we got lost and wound up caught in a torrential downpour. It was actually like the sky was falling. I have never experienced such hefty raindrops before! Let alone the deafening thunder & lightening. Within seconds we were both drenched and up to our ankles in flood water. We took shelter under a nearby awning but the rain simply wasn’t giving up so we made our way back to the Subway with no shoes on in true New York homeless fashion. On the way home we got lost AGAIN and this whole ordeal took the better part of 3 hours to resolve due to the fact the subways all shut down after the storm flooded the undergrounds. To make matters worse the blue dye from my top has discoloured my fingers and fellow subway travellers were looking at me as if I needed urgent medical attention. Not our finest moment.

I could write forever about New York but nobody likes a never-ending blog post so I must conclude by saying you must visit New York at least once in your life & you must stay for at least 10 days to truly experience what this city has to offer. Without delving into too much detail, the below were my much-loved parts of this leg of the trip which also included a weekend in New Jersey!

Yankees game with Kate, Scott & a sexy Australian solicitor who’s name escapes me

Meeting some lesbian lovers, one of which worked for a lesbian magazine!

4th of July with Kate dispite violent weather & annoyances

4th of July family & friends party with James

Visiting the top of the rock building

9/11 memorial

Shopping (go figure)

Meeting new friends

Walking across the Brooklyn bridge

Our last night in SoHo

Experiencing all of this with Scott. The best travel companion!

Until next time readers!

– Jo

10259290_10152441422888700_9152573054532785450_o 10373104_10152439535993700_3379260969342303346_o 10379490_10152437148678700_3151528710532666603_o 10386951_10152437149303700_2211894416815265953_o 10428224_10152443648393700_3802560221612154417_o 10446086_10152439535928700_9115901473488801258_o 10468496_10152462541708700_3760927521999052367_o 10482862_10152437164458700_8464492023925903567_o 10505093_10152437142808700_7856671103967023468_o 10507138_10152437149208700_4166305679821545647_o 10517304_10152441422893700_4713728616293864989_o

6 ways to travel America luxuriously on a budget

taylorswift2_w1

Photo credit: The love of my life – Taylor Swift in Glamour Magazine October 2012.

The main hesitation that holds us back from travelling the world is the assumption that one needs a small fortune. This is simply not true.

My trip deviated from the original plan ridiculously & ended up like this:

100 nights

3 countries

30 cities

20 states

15 road trips

9 flights

15  4 star hotels

2 weeks staying with friends

1 island resort

3 backpackers

3 Air BNB home rentals

65 Restaurants

6 grocery shops

drinking like a pirate… most nights

buying new outfits once a week

Making new friends almost every day

& Countless crazy adventures.

All for $100 per day $700 per week.

To put this into perspective; proceeding this trip I had $450 worth of weekly bills & expenses living in Auckland city & working every day.

Fast forward to today – I have been back in the motherland for two weeks now & I am already back to the daily grind.
I have my old job back, my old coffee cup back & my old day dreams back of escaping to somewhere new and exciting.  At the same time I am very happy to be back with my friends & family and very grateful to be getting paid again for the first time since May.

I wrote a pre-travel article about tips for saving money for travel which is perhaps the most fundamental skill to learn; however, it’s just as imperative to make the most of your expenditure. With the below few tips you can travel like a diva without burning through your cash too quickly.

1.Book accommodation at the last minute through hotwire.com

This took a little getting used to for me as I like to be super prepared and have accommodation booked for at least a week in advance. I quickly learnt this wasn’t saving me any money.

The best thing to do with a multi-stop trip is to wait until the very last minute to ensure the cheapest rates on Hotwire.com. You need to wait until you arrive in the city or are close by for the best rates. Hotwire can track your location and will take advantage if they can see you are still in your home country or your dates are too far in the future. Technology is so stalky these days.

2. Split meals

You have most likely heard this one before. The portion sizes in New Zealand are considered pretty small compared with the rest of the world. Splitting meals is still more than enough food.  Choosing a local beer/wine/cider on tap can also save you money as the vodka drinks at the bar are very expensive considering that spirits can be brought for under $10 at the local supermarket.

3. Stay in accommodation with kitchen facilities for longer stays

Hotwire is perfect for short term stays but the hotels don’t usually boast kitchen facilities. Air BNB is another site we used where people rent their homes to the public. We used Air BNB a handful of times mainly to have more space and have our own kitchen. Groceries are less expensive in the US so we found that having a kitchen saved us a ton! Not to mention I was missing my own cooking. Another bonus with this type of accommodation is experiencing what it’s like to live in a residential area, have neighbours and experience authentic living specific to the country you are visiting. My favourite Air BNB find was in New Orleans. We rented a cottage for $80NZD per night and got along really well with the hosts who lived in front of us. They offered us rides, bikes to use, dogs to play with & a really fun Southern experience. We also scored a few free nights by cooking for them & making new hand rails for their deck.

10530819_10152468404733700_6476432989024170192_n

4. Stay with friends, house sit or couch surf

Some of our best times in the US were definitely with our friends. It is awesome to be around a big group of people your age again and Americans are beyond hospitable! House sitting can also be a good idea if you are looking to stay somewhere a while. Usually it’s free accommodation in exchange for looking after someone’s home or pet. Making a profile online is free or a small one off fee. Some good sites are mindmyhouse.com & trustedhousesitters.com. Scott & I didn’t utilize house sitting this trip because we had so many cities to see in 4 short months but I will certainly be doing this someday soon! Couchsurfing.com can introduce you to some interesting characters and is perfect for gaining a locals perspective. We were very lucky to have lovely friends in the US to stay with.

10551588_10152548910413700_994656968846077638_o

10322637_10152556547203700_5811753011589451140_n

10560486_10152578973288700_432536058148337783_o

5. Be aware of the hustlers

During my 4 months in the US I went from an idiot to an asshole when it came to the service industry. You will find out pretty quickly that countries like America & Mexico are shamelessly all about your money.  Tipping is not an optional gratitutity you must tip the minimum and if the server is good a larger tip is encouraged. The service level is very different to back home & they simply get away with being rude because they are not paid more than a couple of bucks by their employer. It’s unfortunate that the system is set up that most people end up giving everyone a mediocre tip instead of good tips for good performers and low tips for under performers.

Another major hustle is when people try to sell you tourist attractions for ridiculous prices. In Cancun we assumed we could trust our hotel concierge over the in-your-face street workers but it turned out our hotel was charging up to 5 times the price for the same tours & attractions.

6. Don’t waste money on cabs. Utilize the bus, train, plane & rental car

We tried a bit of everything when getting around America. From budget airlines to grey hound buses to luxury rental cars. Megabus.com was probably the best value for money boasting free wifi and power cables; however they don’t drive everywhere so cannot be your only way around. Mega buses start at $1 per person. For long drives across the country we would hire a car and this was always cheaper than a flight especially if you are not affected by the under 25 fee which we sadly were. The flights in the US are cheap if you book far in advance but they are expensive when left to the last minute so not ideal for last minute travellers.

road trip

Well thats about enough rambling from me! remember you are living the dream so make the most of it while you’re young & wild & free. I shall leave you with a quote from the very sexy Leo Dicaprio ❤

leotravelquote

 

 

 

 

Blues, brews & intense dance moves in Montreal: Part 2 of 2

tumblr_m2kiziXBxf1r1nfts

The first part of this entry was titled: An unlucky day in Montreal. The night which followed was quite the opposite.

As I finished my jug of cider my head began to feel foggy. I knew I had to go back to the hotel, make nice with Scott and call it a day, but somehow that didn’t happen. I ended up walking 4 blocks to the nearest ATM to withdraw some cash to spend at the hole-in-the-wall pub. I never did take note of its real name. I decided I would go back for another drink and some dinner before heading back to the hotel.

I passed by the local CVS pharmacy and purchased a cherry red lip stick. The only thing I could really do to freshen up in case I was to end up out dancing. I slipped back into the bar and strolled on up to the bar tender. I ordered another cider and asked the girl next to me what she recommended eating. She introduced herself as Alexia & said she was eating the best thing she had tried on the menu, the veggie burger. I went ahead and ordered one & told her a locals choice is usually the best. In this case it wasn’t.

I sat down next to Alexia and we got to talking. She spoke french but could speak enough English to hold a conversation with me. We discussed the places we have traveled to and the places we wanted to go. She also told me she used to work for Cirque Du Soleil as a performer. She was interesting & carefree. It was also nice to have some female company for the first time in a while. I realized how much I was missing my friends in this moment.

Our group at the bar began to multiply as Alexis’s group of friends began to show up. Everyone was gathering for a gig down the road by up & coming Canadian blues band: The Conor Gains Band. Conor & his fellow band members were also drinking with us. I liked them instantly as they were not pretentious nor arrogant. They were well-mannered & they dressed like hippies.

We all hit it off & talked and talked until it was time for the gig at midnight. We walked through the streets in the pouring rain making our way to Jojo a Bistro where the band were set to play. The boys swung from the sheltered pipes as if they were monkey bars & sang the Canadian national anthem loudly. Everyone spoke French for the most part, but it didn’t seem to matter as we mainly communicated with body language and smiles.

We arrived at the pub and danced, watched the band and continued to drink unusual concoctions with foreign names. There was one girl in the group called Desi from Chicago who I enjoyed silly dancing with.

By 1am I began to sober up slightly & felt a pang of guilt as I worried Scott may be concerned of my whereabouts. I had sent him a Facebook message to let him know I was safe & just around the corner, but my phone died straight after this. I ran home in a rain and bumped into Scott in the hotel lobby. He was on a food mission so I joined him. I realized then & there that I was starving as the veggie burger didn’t quite hit the spot. I downed a Big Mac and we stumbled home together, both in pretty good spirits.

This unusual night out in Montreal taught me 3 things.

1. If you are dating a Taurus its always best to give them a few hours to cool off after an argument.

2. Its not as scary as I thought to go out alone in a big city & make new friends.

3. You don’t necessarily need to speak the same language to connect. In saying this, said people need to be polite & charming. I have had my fair share of mani-pedi’s with not a word of English spoken, this is just plain rude.

Montreal_skyline_night