Monday: Paihia Paradise.


Well, gang, it’s official. Kathleen and I have been in New Zealand for one full week now. I’m glad the time hasn’t gone by too quickly; the days have been going by at a pretty slow pace – which is great. We’ve been filling up our days with loads of things to do and seeing a lot of the country. Only one week in and I’m certainly in love with this place already.

Last Saturday we bid adieu to Auckland and snagged a bus up to the Paihia region of the Bay of Islands.


Continue reading

Friday: Auckland Zoo & Sky Tower.

Day four in Auckland. Status update: very cold, but very happy.


Good news! They’re hiring!

Not too much to report on, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a busy two days since my last entry.

Yesterday Kathleen and I decided to go to the Auckland Zoo, seeing as we heard it was well worth the visit. As you might remember, we visited the Domain the day before yesterday, and in doing so we walked all the way there and all the way back. This, unfortunately, made us cocky. Oh, we can walk a measly mile to a park, eh? Well what’s stopping us from walking three miles to a zoo? Absolutely nothing!

As we were walking to the zoo on Thursday morning, following our Google map directions to a tee, we began remarking on how amazingly awesome we were at not getting lost. We had gotten this finding-our-way thing down to a science. We were personified GPS’s. Basically, we were the tits.

Then we got lost.

… For two hours.

We finally found the zoo, after having to stop and ask for directions on two separate occasions (once in a McDonalds and again in a bank). Let me be clear that this was not entirely our fault. Google maps told us to take a left when we were supposed to turn right, which led to us walking for a stupid long time in the wrong direction, and after walking for over a mile we quickly grew suspicious that the directions were lying to us. We looped back around, asked for the correct route, and set about attempting to find our way. There was also a part where we ended up in a park and it was filled with black swans. Their eyes were red. I’m pretty sure they were the spawn of Satan.


Spawn of Satan? More like swan of Satan.

But we got there, and it really was an excellent zoo. Very much worth getting lost for a crazy amount of time. I’d talk about our time at the zoo in depth, but I feel like if you’ve ever been to a zoo then you can probably figure out what our day consisted of. But here are some pictures to enlighten you.



They like to move it move it.



Oh hai most adorable creature to ever exist on this planet, ie. the meerkat.


Ah yes, the sign that 100% of the children in this exhibit ignored.


This dude definitely got devoured by that hippo. (But not really.)




Kathleen and I also went out for drinks last night. We originally intended on going to a pub crawl that our YHA hostel was promoting, but upon getting to the starting bar we noticed the event looked pretty dead. So we went to another bar, ordered a cocktail, realized our cocktails had no alcohol in them and that we were basically drinking out of sippy cups, then went back to the first bar again. Still pretty dead. Deciding to ditch it, we ended up at another bar where the bartender reminded me of a balding, Kiwi James Nesbitt. We drank our drinks while watching a darts competition on TV. (GO TEAM HAMILTON.)


He sure looks happy for a guy who’s only real accomplishment in life is throwing pointy colorful sticks at a round board.

As for today… well, there’s not much really worth writing about today. We got up, had a late breakfast, and then ran a bunch of errands (buying Kathleen new jeans, buying more Mrs. Higgins cookies, looking into sim cards, buying ziplock bags, etc.). We decided to give ourselves a break, considering the amount of walking we’ve done in the last several days. We kind of deserve it.

I guess we did go up the Sky Tower, which was pretty awesome. It’s sort of the Kiwi version of the Space Needle.


We could see all of Auckland.


And here are some random highlights from the last two days:

  • We witnessed a young Asian girl face plant onto a huge Justin Bieber poster on the side of a building.
  • We also witnessed an incredibly drunk woman fall flat on her back at nine in the morning on the side of the road.
  • We saw another elderly woman riding a razor scooter. Apparently this is a common occurrence?
  • We’ve seen four transvestites! Success!
  • Our YHA Auckland hostel roommates have consisted of three German girls and two girls named Karen. Basically, a full house.
  • Tonight we had alcohol served to us from a teapot.

We take off for the Bay of Islands early tomorrow morning, which I’m sure you’ll all hear about next Monday. Until next time!

JGask out.

PS. Quick notice: I’m postponing Fan Girl Fridays until further notice. This had been on my mind for a bit, but became conclusive after I spent an hour typing up today’s entry only to have my computer accidentally delete the majority of it. I see that as a sign. FGF will probably resume once my travels slow down a bit and I have less traveling to report on.

Wednesday: Ogling Auckland.

When we last left our heroes, Kathleen and Julia were anxiously waiting to board their flight to New Zealand. Thirteen cheddar cheese packets. four Milano cookies, and six hours later, the girls headed to their gate.

We did have a bit of a scare at this point. Y’see, Kathleen didn’t print out her holiday-work visa prior to our travels, but both of us had figured this would be okay because we assumed our visas were electronically connected to our passports. Makes sense, right? However, some guy working at the San Fransisco airport, who from this point on will be referred to as Liarface McGee, told us that there was a very likely chance Kathleen could be sent back to the USA due to not having a physical copy of her visa. Thinking Liarface McGee was accurate in saying this, we were put in a bit of a panic. We did our best to gather up all her necessary information, even signing onto her visa account on my phone and screenshoting her visa just in case. After doing all we could, we boarded the plane, praying to the universe that she would be allowed into the country. (Spoiler alert: she was allowed into the country)

Still a little shaken by this (totally false) information from Liarface McGee – Kathleen worrying about being sent home prematurely while I freaked out about the thought of being in New Zealand on my own – we boarded our flight.


Continue reading

Monday: The Adventure Begins.

First and foremost, no, I am not confused. I realize that today is not a Monday, despite what my entry’s title suggests. However, there’s going to be a bit of a schedule change from this point onward. While it might not be Monday in the States, it is Monday over in New Zealand already (because they live in the future). From now on I’m going to be writing on Mon/Wed/Fri on New Zealand’s time, which means Sun/Tues/Thurs for you folks in the USA. Just so you’re aware!

So where am I currently? Why, sitting in the United Airlines Miles Club (courtesy of Kathleen’s parents’ membership).

That’s right. Today is the day, folks. I blew the popsicle stand that is the USA and am on my way to New Zealand! I have the amazing Kathleen keeping me company (and she’s right now fetching me booze – what more in a friend could you ask for?), and we’re about a third of the way through our journey to Auckland right now.

But let’s backtrack for a quick moment. The last couple days have been a smorgasbord of pretty much nothing but packing.


I have always been terrible at packing. I’m the one who brings a twenty pound dufflebag when she goes home for the weekend. The one who packs skimpy dresses, puffy coats, rain boots, and swimsuits for the same trip because you never know. The one who justifies bringing five books on a seven day excursion. I like to think I’m not the most materialistic person on the planet, and I don’t think I am by any means, but man, packing for this trip was rough. Leaving behind my apricot facial scrub, my favorite pair of black boots, and my array of headbands and sunglasses was a challenge – and while I realize that sounds a little strange, I’ve never done anything like this. Whenever I’ve packed in the past I’ve always known I was coming back soon, so I could give myself a little leeway for packing things I’m used to always having. But this time I wasn’t packing for some week long trip. I was packing for a year, and there just wasn’t room for a lot of the things I wanted (or, at least, I thought I wanted) to bring. So I had to learn to make sacrifices.


I miss you already, things.

So packing has been the main ordeal of my last several days, not to mention replacing my Lenovo ultrabook for a third time due to two separate webcam issues. There were also several other things to get done, like print out all my important documents, go buy the last necessary essentials, move my music and videos onto my new laptop, meet up with a few last minute people, type up a few things, clean my room, do laundry, etc. etc. etc. Basically, there was a lot on my plate, which led to me having a somewhat stressed last day in the States.

Here’s a progression of my emotions yesterday:


Holy crap, I just realized I have a lot to get done today.


Holy crap, I have SO MUCH TO GET DONE TODAY.






This is the face of a girl who is 500% done.

But, after all the stress, anxiety, and feeling like I was going to vomit at two o’clock in the morning due to said stress and anxiety, I managed to make it to the big day.


Crazy excited – heavy on the crazy.

I woke up bright and early this morning, after having several kind of nightmares about over packing and having to chuck my laptop into a trash bin (yeah, I would have nightmares like that, right?). Dad made us pancakes, and there is no better send off than pancakes. We then left kind of late, or at least later than intended, but we didn’t have any seriously long lines to deal with at the PDX airport so it all worked out well. I’m surprised to say that there were no tears on my part this morning. I was too busy getting last minute things done before we left and worrying in the car about making it on time. Plus my dad kept dancing and flashing me the Live Long & Prosper signs in the airport lobby, which makes it pretty hard to cry.

We met Kathleen and her parents at the airport, and upon seeing each other the two of us immediately began to spazz out about the trip. Honestly, I’m so glad I have this lady traveling with me.


Awesome Kathleen is awesome.

First we caught our two and a half hour flight from PDX to LA, inside of the smallest airplane I think I’ve ever been in.


The flight was fairly uneventful. We spent the majority of our time making fun of the Skymall catalog (namely all the pillows and spanx-like products) and glancing over my Entertainment Weekly. I also ended up watching The Office near the end as well. The flight felt like it dragged at the time, but it went by pretty fast in retrospect.

Next stop was in the LAX airport for a classy lunch.


Carl’s Jr., I wish I knew how to quit you.

Since then we’ve had our LA flight to San Fransisco, in which I watched the Leslie/Ben wedding episode of Parks and Recreation and made the dude sitting next to me super uncomfortable from the immense amount of tears leaking from my eyes. United Airlines should know better than to show that episode on a flight. It’s impossible not to tear up during it. And now, as I already said, Kathleen and I are in the United Club in the San Fran airport. It’s super snazzy and we’re both currently sipping delicious cranberry vodkas, and probably annoying all the older men in suits sitting around us.

We’ll be getting into Auckland in about seventeen hours, so you’ll all be getting your first taste of New Zealand this upcoming Wednesday (ie. Tuesday for you). I can’t even begin to fathom what it’s going to be like.

I’ve spent quite a lot of time contemplating and contemplating and endlessly contemplating this journey. What’s it going to be like over there? What are we going to experience? Who are we going to meet? Where will this lead? What should I expect to take away from this?

And honestly? I have no idea what this trip has in store…

But I bet it’s going to be awesome.

JGask out.


Fan Girl Friday: Eight Favorite Disney Soundtracks.

In preparation for this trip, I’ve been reminded of the following items:

  1. Pre-travel stresses me the hell out (which results in stress eating and stress crying).
  2. I always say I’m not going to save things to do till the last minute, but I always do anyway.
  3. I am the worst at packing.

“I can totally fit all of that into my backpack,” she said delusionally.

But my last week here in the States – with the exception a mega stress eating/crying breakdown yesterday – has been a good one. I’ve gotten the chance to spend some time with my family, I’ve seen a slew of friends (and am seeing even more tonight), I got a lot of prep work for my travels out of the way, and I got to go to the beach this Wednesday. All in all, not a bad way to spend your last week before taking off traveling for an entire year.


I didn’t like the way he was looking at me.

Anyway, for this week’s Fan Girl Friday, I thought I’d do another simple list. This week I’m gonna focus on eight of my favorite Disney soundtracks. All of them should really be a give in, but it was fun to write up nonetheless. Enjoy!

Continue reading

Wednesday: Travel Mix Tape

Today I’m off traversing the beaches of Cannon and Seaside with two of my best friends, so I thought for this Wednesday’s entry I’d share something I’ve been compiling for the last several months.

I love putting playlists together for myself for occasions, certain moods, crushes, fandoms, other people, you name it. My New Zealand playlist, which I started up in February, was at one point 40+ songs long. I just couldn’t stop adding to it; everything made me think of this trip. I’ve since narrowed it down, although not all make it onto this playlist I’m sharing with you.

I chose songs that I thought summed up this experience thus far. Songs about living in the moment (Remember This), appreciating life (Amy aka Spent Gladiator 1), traveling somewhere new (The Trail We Blaze), and becoming the person I’ve always wanted to be (Waiting for My Real Life to Begin). It’s just a slew of songs that mean something special to me. It’s a random array, ranging from showtunes to The Mountain Goats, Bruce Springsteen to Disney. Perhaps I’ll do more mix tapes in the future. We shall see.

JGask out.


i. Remember This (Kerrigan & Lowdermilk) || ii. Young Glass (Hey Rosetta!)
|| iii. Wig In a Box/Wicked Little Town (Hedwig) || iv. All This Joy (Matt Singer)
|| v. Follow Me (Fraggle Rock) || vi. Thank You (Alanis Morissette) || vii. Born to
Run (Bruce Springsteen) || viii. The Trail We Blaze (The Road to El Dorado (Elton
John) || ix. Status Quo (Starship) || x. Son of Man (Tarzan) || xi. All That’s Known
(Spring Awakening) || xii. Old Crow Black Night Stand Still (Hey Rosetta!) || xiii.
Amy aka Spent Gladiator 1 (The Mountain Goats) || xiv. Landslide (Fleetwood Mac)
|| xv. Touch the Sky (Brave) || xvi. My Heart Is Split (Kerrigan & Lowdermilk) ||
xvii. Love Love Love (The Mountain Goats) || xviii. The Greatest Adventure (The
) || xix. Go The Distance (Hercules) || xx. Finale B (RENT) || xxi. Yer Spring
(Hey Rosetta!) || xxii. Waiting for My Real Life to Begin (Colin Hay) || xxiii. Twenty-
Something (Kerrigan & Lowdermilk)

[download] ~~*~~ [listen]

Continue reading

Monday: A Bit of Travel Poetry.

Well guys, we’re down to the wire. Six days until take off.


Subtly taking pictures of myself in the Woodstock library. Classy.

Today I initially planned on writing about why I chose to travel to New Zealand for a year, until I realized that I had pretty much covered that in my entry last Wednesday. Whoops. Got a bit ahead of myself there.

I then contemplated writing about the process of getting ready for New Zealand, or maybe what I’ve been up to since I got back to Portland. None of that really seemed interesting to me though. Oh being back in Portland has been fun, what with LeakyCon and garage sales and catching up with friends, but I figured it’s not of much interest to anyone but myself. As for prepping for this trip, well, I might write something along those lines later on, but I’ll probably wait until I’ve actually done a bit of traveling first. I also don’t really have anything of interest to contemplatively write about today. I’m actually pretty brain dead at the moment. I just emailed my college adviser the final draft of my Theatre Arts capstone, ie. the last college paper I ever have to write. While I’m overjoyed, I am also exhausted. I’d take an impromptu nap right now except, y’know, doing so in a public library filled with children probably wouldn’t be the best idea.

So instead, I thought I might share some poetry.

This is a series of poems I’ve been working on since the start of the year. The title of each poem represents how many more months I have left to go until I leave for New Zealand. Each one reflects what was happening in my life during the time I wrote it, as well as what was going on in my mind in relation to this upcoming trip. They’re not my best work, but I still like how most of them turned out. I hope you do as well.

I realize poetry isn’t the most interesting thing to share on a blog mostly dedicated to travels, but writing poetry has become such a big part of my life over the last couple years that it was bound to happen at some point anyway. Might as well make it now.

Continue reading

Fan Girl Friday: Five Fictional Places I’d Never Want to Live.

Hello and welcome to my first Fan Girl Friday!

Basically the general gist of Fan Girl Fridays will be I’ll share a list of my favorite (or, in this week’s case, least favorite) geeky things, go on a rant about this or that, pontificate about television, maybe share some .gifs or awesome pictures, all that good stuff.

I wanted to spend this first Fan Girl Friday talking about my top ten obsessions of all time; however, I just got done with a long day of garage sale-ing over at my cousins house. Despite the fact that I spent the majority of the day sitting on my butt, rereading The Princess Bride. and eating all the food my cousin kept offering me, I’m exhausted. Probably has to do with haggling with strangers and interacting with my cousin’s five year old how-are-you-so-full-of-energy-at-this-time-in-the-morning daughter all day long.

Due to this, my first Fan Girl Friday is going to sort of be a cheat. I’m taking a list I posted over at my old blog a while back and just using it (with a tweak here and there). Hopefully I’ll be a little more motivated (and prepared) in the future.

Continue reading

Wednesday: I’m Going on an Adventure!

Hello, and welcome back to the second installment of my blog introduction (part two: THE RECKONING). We got all my personal intro stuff out of the way in my first entry, but this time I thought I’d focus more pointedly on this blog’s purpose and what you should expect from it. Of course, it’s subject to change once I get it off the ground running, but this is the direction I’m hoping to take this blog in.

I’m looking to write entries three times a week on here (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday). Basically, this blog will be used to talk about stuff, muse about stuff, and geek out about stuff. Pretty straight forward, right? However, there is one teeny tiny eensey weensey little thing I’m also planning on using this blog for. What thing is it, you ask? Well…

To document my travels in New Zealand.


I’ve known for the last three years that, upon graduating college, I’d like to travel somewhere outside of the United States – I just never knew where. I contemplated returning to Italy, or maybe even the UK, but something about backpacking through parts of Europe didn’t strike me as something I wanted to do on my own. It wasn’t until last December when the idea of traveling to New Zealand came to me. At first I thought I’d just go for a couple weeks and see one of the islands. Then a couple weeks turned into a month, which quickly turned into three months. Then, before I knew it, I was calling my dad at ten o’clock at night to ask if I was crazy in wanting to spend an entire year away in a country I’d never been to before. Lucky for me, I have a pretty stellar dad who encouraged me to pursue my wanderlust.

So here I am. Eleven days away from take off and prepping to leave. It’s a strange feeling, knowing I won’t be back in Portland for probably twelve months; a feeling I’m sure I’ll be writing a lot about once I’m over there. I’ve got my plane ticket, my brand new backpack, and my passport. All that’s really left is the packing part, then I’m all set.

As luck would have it, I won’t be traveling to New Zealand on my own. My good friend Kathleen (seen in the picture below) will be keeping me company. I asked her back in December if she wanted to come with me on my post-college travels, but she turned down my offer. She had just studied abroad in Australia and wasn’t sure she wanted to head back to that part of the world. Then, on January 4th, I got a message from her asking, “So are you still looking for a NZ travel buddy? Because I might know someone interested…” We’ve been geeking out about traveling together ever since. Kathleen’s only going to be with me for the first two months, so she’ll no doubt pop up many a time in my entries.

She’s also one of the few people I figure I can travel with and wont smother in their sleep. So. That’s a plus.


I have no idea why we were under this table.

So why did I choose New Zealand?

This is normally the portion of the conversation where people chime in with, “Oh. You’re going because of Lord of the Rings, right?” and give me that not-trying-to-judge-you-but-secretly-judging-you-anyway look.

Actually, no. I’m not going because of Lord of the Rings. New Zealand is a place I’ve wanted to travel to for over ten years now, but never really thought I’d have the chance to visit. It’s so far away and off in its own world almost. When I realized that New Zealand was a travel option, it all just clicked. I knew that was where I wanted to go.

For starters, have you ever seen a picture of New Zealand? It’s breathtaking. Everyone I’ve talked to who’s visited and/or lived in New Zealand has confirmed that it’s one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Although we’re heading over in winter, I’m so looking forward to the summer spent there and plan on doing a lot of hiking and outdoorsy things (despite the fact I’m one of the least outdoorsy people imaginable).


I also can’t lie, the fact that English is the native tongue was kind of a huge factor. I tend to make an ass of myself when it comes to interacting with people who speak other languages. I once got separated from my family in Rome and had to take the metro by myself, and ended up crying in public because I couldn’t find anyone who spoke English to help me. I figure I’m going to be getting lost at least a couple times in New Zealand and do not care for a repeat of that incident.

Plus it’s been stated time and time and time and, yes, time again that New Zealand is one of the safest places in the world to travel, if not the safest place. Last year it was reported that crime in New Zealand was at an all time low for crying out loud. As someone who’s going to spend the majority of her time traveling by herself, I like those odds. Not to mention I’ve heard how all the Maoris and Kiwis there are extremely friendly to tourists.


Oops. Wrong Kiwi.

And, okay, fine, Peter Jackson’s film adaptions of Tolkien’s work did somewhat factor into my decision. I mean, I don’t think I would have known New Zealand existed when I was eleven if it weren’t for Fellowship of the Ring. Not to mention it was the release of the first Hobbit film in December that made me realize that New Zealand was a travel option, and a great one at that. So while the Rings and Hobbit films may not be the number one factor in my choice of travel, you can bet your ass I will be weeping in front of Bag End at some point in my journey.


I feel bad for everyone else who’ll be on this tour with me already.

The purpose of this blog seems pretty straight forward after listing all of that off. I’m hoping to record, not all, but most of my travels on this blog, in hopefully an entertaining manner. This blog started as an idea for keeping family and friends updated with what I was up to. Also, end game, I’m really hoping to write a book about my first year being graduated from college, focusing heavily on my New Zealand travels. Hopefully this blog will help me in doing so.


The ratio of sheep to people in NZ is 7 to 1. Guys, I am going to steal so many sheep.

But I am hoping this blog lasts me longer than New Zealand. I’d like it to be the blog I write on once I’m back in the States and start focusing on non-travel things. I’m sure there will even be days in New Zealand where I don’t focus much on travels and, instead, rant about this or that.

I’m also going to be doing a little thing called Fan Girl Fridays, where I’ll share lists of geeky things I love/hate and rant about television/movies/books and such. While focusing on my life post-college is grand, I do need a geek-outlet of sorts to ramble. (I may eventually begin to incorporate vlogs into my blogging somewhere down the line, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.)


The Lizzie Bennet Diaries cast and myself make for some kick ass dinosaurs.

Traveling to New Zealand is, without a doubt, the biggest leap into the dark I’ve ever made. I’ve never done anything so bold. Truth be told, I’m not a brave person. I like my comfort; my sense of routine. As much as I tried to deny it when I was younger, I’ve come to accept the fact that I’m not spontaneous. In that right, I’m very much like a hobbit. I like my home life, my food, and my ale. I like kicking up my big feet and relaxing without a care in the world. The idea of getting up and running off somewhere new is just as much tempting as it is intimidating. It’s something I thought I’d only ever dream about, not pursue. As the days get closer to my flight, the more nervous I become. Change is, after all, a pretty scary thing. However, a while ago someone wrote something to me, and I’ve found myself going back to it time and time again in the last couple weeks:

“You beautiful, beautiful person. Change scares the best of us. I assure you it does. But when faced with the fear of change you must always ask yourself, “Am I going to control this fear, or is this fear going to control me?” Because either way, life will move forward, and change will happen. The only thing you have control over is how you react to it. You are strong. You are genuine. You are creative. And you, my dear, are capable of great things. Don’t let fear of change stop you from living.”

So I’m not going to let fear get the better of me. I’m seizing my atlas, swinging on my pack, and running head on into this adventure. I’m pulling a Bilbo Baggins. I’m doing what’s unexpected of me and taking that leap. I’m going to embrace the change. As Bilbo would say:

I’m going on a adventure.

JGask out.