Karikari Beach, Northland

Why I love work travel and won’t quit my day job

Today was a bit of a jolt back to reality with a fairly an early start to fly to Whangarei for work. Bye, bye grey windy Wellington day. I’m heading north of Auckland to Whangarei and hopefully a sunny 28 degrees.
Travelling is one of the highlights of my job and I have been lucky that quite a few of my roles over the years have included quite a bit of domestic travel. Here are some of the reasons I love travelling for work and I won’t quit my job to travel the world full time.

Travelling for work gives you inspiration

I love travelling for work especially if I can fly. Flying is inspiring. I always have my notebook handy as this is when I can think, write and try solve the problems of the world. My best ideas and strategies have their origins on flights.
West wing quote - inspiration for work travel
Sometimes I talk to the person next to me. Usually on the way home. Generally I find that in the morning the business crowd is busy reading, preparing for the day ahead of them. On the way home in the evening, the suits are more talkative, more relaxed. I often get to meet new people, swap business cards and occasionally that has been the beginning of a productive working relationship. I wouldn’t have had that opportunity to make those connections if I was stuck behind a desk everyday.

You get to visit new places that aren’t on your bucket list

Work trips are how I have seen some of New Zealand’s more underrated destinations. My very first work trip, many years ago now, was to Invercargill at the very bottom of the South Island. Invercargill isn’t really a tourist destination. It’s more the hopping off point to Stewart Island and one of New Zealand’s Great Walks (which we did 2 years ago and I highly recommend!). I got mocked when I said I was going to Invercargill but it was kind of fun and I still remember it fondly. In fact a couple of years ago we saw cheap Grabaseat fares and did have a weekend away in Invercargill. It included plenty of Bluff oysters (the world’s best oyster).
Since then it feels like I have been to the 4 corners of New Zealand for work. I regularly go to Northland (often as far north as Kaitaia), the East Cape, and Taranaki as well as many points in between. I even went to Kaikoura soon after the earthquake late last year.
Kaikoura landslide
One of the many landslides after the Kaikoura Earthquake November 2016. Fortunately the road south has been cleared and you can drive into Kaikoura

New Zealand is a stunning country. I have seen it first hand whether travelling for work driving around the East Cape from Whakatane to Ruatoria via Opotiki or flying over the Cook Strait to Nelson.

Tikitiki Church with strong Maori influence and design
Tikitiki Church on the East Cape – I never would have known to stop by and see its beauty and Maori influence had I not driven past for work

The nature of your interactions are different when you’re working

When your working you definitely see different things and have a different lens than when travelling for pleasure. I am meeting community leaders. I meet people who are passionate about their community. They are real and I have to establish a relationship with them rather than a well-meaning but transient encounter that I find is the nature of many of my interactions when I’m travelling. It is nice to have a cup of tea (which is common after a meeting on a marae) or wine after a meeting, even if the meeting has been a bit heated (the nature of my jobs over the years means I have been to quite a few heated meetings). We can relax. I hear what is good, what is bad and what is front and centre of the places I might otherwise drive though, blink and miss completely.
That is the advantage of working and travelling. You get the best of both worlds. Meeting new people and building lasting friendships. New Zealand is so small, and Wellington even smaller and relationships matter. It is a rare day that I don’t recognise anyone in the airline lounge. I love the anonymity of travelling to a new place and a big city like New York. But I love the fact my local coffee shop, Mojo Orgins on Lambton Quay, know me. I get a kick out of saying hi to lots of people who are also getting coffee there each morning. It reminds me that I am part of a system. A cog that is reliant on the people around them and that we are working towards something bigger, together. This is one of the reasons I could never quit my job and travel full time.

Day trips for work are much better than staying over night

Day trips are my favourite. There is something glamorous about flying just with a handbag, bypassing the check-in and heading straight to the Koru (Air NZ lounge). I manage to fit my laptop, papers and books into my handbag. Sorry makeup you have to stay behind. I also love heading straight out of the airport without waiting round for my bag or dragging along my carry on bag. A professional woman on a mission and you better watch out!
I dislike staying the night away. I generally find it difficult to sleep in hotels and new beds. The bed is hard, the air is dry and my mind can’t stop thinking about all the events of the day and upcoming events for the next day. The days are long and you have to be alert or ‘on show’ for longer. As a bit of an introvert I find that it exhausting. Being able to go home and collapse into my own bed is comforting. I can turn off sooner and wake up refreshed for the next working day.
Today I am heading to Whangarei which is about 800 km from Wellington. This means two, hopefully productive, flights. Wellington to Auckland then a short break in the Auckland Regional Koru lounge before a 40 minute flight to Whangarei. Because New Zealand is a pretty small country you can get to most places within ~2 hours of flying. I will be home this evening and back to the office tomorrow.
Travelling for work requires spending plenty of time in airline lounges
Travelling for work generally requires spending plenty of time in airline lounges. At least the Auckland Regional Koru has good art work

Sometimes I do daydream about giving it all up…

I won’t lie, the other day I suggested to my husband that we should quit our jobs and sell our house and find a little bolthole somewhere. Occasionally when I am travelling, especially overseas, I daydream about never going back to New Zealand. Then I remember I quite like my work. While I don’t get to travel internationally, that is what weekends and annual leave is for. I think I found a pretty good balance and that is why I won’t quit my job to travel the world.

I would love to hear what your motivation for working and travelling is, and how you find balance between working and travelling.

 

There are plenty of reasons not to quit work to travel the world

 

South America Part 1 Montevideo

Sometimes you manage to go to a place before the crowds discover it. It is like you have discovered gold. You can feel when a city is on the cusp of becoming super popular. That is exactly what I found with Montevideo.

Montevideo, capital of Uruguay, is a sweet, little liberal city. If you are in Buenos Aires I recommend you make the trip across Rio de La Plata to Montevideo. Here’s why…

It is socially liberal and safe

South America sometimes gets a bad rap  for being Catholic and therefore socially conservative. Uruguay flies in the face of those assumptions.

In 2013 the Economist named Uruguay as its country of the year. It has legalised gay marriage and marijuana.

I don’t know what it is but you can tell when a city is free and liberal rather than under totalitarian rule. I felt safe and I felt wecolme. We had no problems walking home in the dark and everyone was wonderfully friendly.

Plaza Independencia

Stunning architecture

Montevideo is going through a bit of revitalisation. Yes, many of the buildings are rough but there are plenty of examples of investment in the old buildings. We spent most of our time in the old district near the port. We stayed in a charming renovated Art Deco hotel, Don Boutique (stay there – it’s lovely and was one of the cheapest hotels we stayed in during our 5 week trip). There are plenty of squares/plazas and pedestrian-only streets to wander and take in the history.

The pretty streets of Montevideo

Wine is cheap!

Across the road from Don Boutique is Mercado del Puerto. This is a fairly large market of mostly BBQ (parilla). This was well worth a look and as long as you’re not a vegetarian. But I wouldn’t eat there again. The steak was excellent value if you only consider the price per kg. It was fatty, over cooked and underwhelming. As we ventured away from the port area and beyond the plaza we discovered cafes and bars that would have been more to our liking.

Mercado del Puerto

We had lots of fun drinking. Down by the water we came across Cafe La Ronda. This is a rustic, tiny bar with plenty of tables out the front. We joined the after work crowd who were enjoying beers and pizzas. The pizzas looked and smelt pretty good. We just drank wine which was cheaper than coffee. Here we watched the sunset and congratulated ourselves for giving Montevideo a go but wishing we had scheduled more than one night.

The sunset from Cafe La Ronda

When we got back to the hotel we decided to check out the roof top bar. It was quiet with just one other table enjoying cheap (but decent!) Brazilian bubbles.  Eventually we got talking to the other table. It was the owner of the hotel and some mates including a rugby-mad South African expat. We had a hell of a lot of fun that night and it cemented our view that we must come back to Uruguay, spend more time exploring Montevideo, and go to the coast.

Getting to Montevideo

We caught the Buquebas fast ferry from Buenos Aires. It took just over 2 hours. We travelled in economy and it was comfortable enough. Just beware when booking to go through the Uruguay Buquebas website. We found that it was a lot cheaper than the Argentina website. 

When  people ask me about highlights from our South America I always talk about Montevideo. It was a fantastic find and I can’t wait to go back.

 

Preview: 5 weeks in South America

A year ago I was an ocean away, the Pacific Ocean, in South America. We spent 5 weeks crossing the continent. We saw new things. We met interesting people. We had some preconceptions challenged.

We visited Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Mendoza, Santiago, Bogota, Cuba, Lima, La Paz, Puno, Cusco and Machu Picchu, Rio de Janeiro, Iguazu Falls. Planes, ferries, trains and buses, we took them all.

Over the next couple of months I’ll write posts highlighting some of the sites. I’ll include some guides. Guides to what you can’t miss and some tips so you don’t make the same mistakes we did.

If you are interested in going to South America then stay tuned. If you have been to South America and want to compare notes then stay tuned…

Ohope the quintessential Kiwi beach

Ohope one of NZ's favourite beaches

Many of my posts will be about New Zealand locations. These are the places I escape to during the weekend. It is a rare month when I don’t get out of Wellington at least once. Some of the places are well known tourist destinations: Queenstown, Auckland and Christchurch etc. Others are lesser known internationally but are favourites among Kiwis. This post about Ohope is an example of the latter.

For many New Zealanders, especially from the North Island, they can recall a childhood memory from Ohope. Ohope often tops polls for New Zealand’s favourite beach. Why is this? Why do generations of Kiwis make the journey over the hill?

I think there are 6 reasons why Ohope is the quintessential Kiwi beach and why regardless of where you’re from you must visit Ohope.

1. Safe but fun surf

The main attraction in Ohope is the long surf beach. The sand isn’t white. It’s grey and hot. Once you have slightly burnt your feet making it to the water you are rewarded by the refreshing surf. It’s not massive. Enough for a novice body boarder or surfer. The surf is enough to be pushed over by the waves. To roll over in the waves and find your way to the surface all ready for the next wave. It’s really, really fun!

2. Port Ohope

When you get sick of swimming in the surf you can literally cross the road and swim in Ohiwa Harbour. It’s a lovely calm harbour. You can swim, fish but my favourite thing is to hire kayaks and explore the islands around the harbour. It’s a safe place to swim and jump off the wharf.

Port Ohope
Port Ohope a quiet alternative to the surf beach

3. Oysters

Okay this isn’t the most important thing when you’re a kid but it can be when you get to my age (early 30s). Whenever I can, I venture around the harbour to the Ohiwa Oyster Farm. This unassuming building on the side of the road has fantastic oysters and a stunning view. The chips aren’t the best in the world but the fish is fresh and the battered oysters ($1 each) are amazing.

Don’t let the basic appearance put you off

 

Check out that view

4. The campground

The Top 10 Holiday Park http://www.ohopebeach.co.nz is a kiwi icon. It is has everything you can think of. Tent sites, budget cabins, beautiful apartments, a pool (complete with a slide) and plenty of activities for the kids. I barely remember seeing my family when we stayed there as kids. There was so much to keep us occupied and prevent my brother and me from fighting. I even got married there. How’s that for an endorsement? We stayed in the apartments and pretty much all of guests stayed at campground is various accommodation according to their budget. We had so much fun visiting everyone the night before drinking and catching up with everyone. It was a fabulous day and it was a perfect, casual day.

Wedding guests enjoy the sun

5. It’s beautiful with so many kiwi icons

Crimson pohutukawa flowers (NZ Christmas trees) cling to the cliffs above Westend. The water is clean and clear. From the beach you can see an active volcano (how NZ is that?). White Island is an active volcano you can visit. Plus the water has been known to glow at night

6. It’s actually pretty quiet

Even at the height of summer you can still find a place on the beach. You can spread out on your towels and still have at least 5m between you and your neighbours. There’s no one charging you for a spot or trying to sell you anything.

A quiet perfect beach

My favourite time to go to Ohope is February. Kids are back at school so it’s a little quieter. The weather is settled. Surf, fishing, oysters and ice cream. That’s my perfect beach holiday. So make sure you go and experience it for yourself!

What do you think makes a perfect beach? Does Ohope fit your ideal beach?

Just what the world needs – another travel blog

Why start a blog

Three reasons
  1.  Record of where we’ve been, what we’ve done and what we learnt along the way. While photos are great reminders it is good to record the stories too.
  2. I don’t want to be afraid of a blank sheet of paper (or the white page on the screen). I do a lot of writing for work but I want to get better so why not force myself to be creative regularly and write about something I enjoy.
  3. A blog is something I always mean to start before a big trip but I always had an excuse not to. Namely nobody will read and nobody will care. I toiled with the idea of making this private, a journal, instead. Perhaps someone might find inspiration from the posts, go somewhere different or learn something. Maybe you might find that you can take 2 weeks off work and manage to fit in

I suspect this blog will evolve and develop its own personality as I write more.

In the meantime here are 8 things you should know about the person behind the blog.

  1. I am a Kiwi and live and work in Wellington, New Zealand.
  2. I work full time for a government department (here comes the disclaimer- my views are my own). That means most of my travel is done on weekends and by taking leave like most of you. That’s why I’m a part time tourist (hey that’s the name of the blog).
  3. Despite point 2 above we travel a fair amount. In the past year we managed to go to 11 countries and travel a far bit around NZ.
  4. Who’s we? My husband Andrew and me. Andrew is the super organised bit camera shy one.
  5. I’m not a thrill-seeking adrenaline junkie. I like drinking champagne inside planes not jumping out of them.
  6. I am a bit of an introvert. This may (or may not) lead to a slightly different take on places to many other travel blogs.
  7. Nice things matter to me. I have graduated from backpacking to king sized beds in the hotel chains I used to mock. We try fly business when we can but try do it on the cheap.
  8. I only take a carry on bag. I think is filled with dresses and my attempts to be a glamorous Part Time Tourist.

 

So that’s my introduction. Now the real fun begins.