Located in the center of New Zealand’s North Island is a mountain that has been famous with climbers and trekkers for years, Mount Ngauruhoe. It become infamous after the release of the Lord of the Rings trilogy that used the mountain as Mordor’s Mt. Doom. It is an impressive active volcano that has erupted 45 times in the 20th century, most recently in 1974. It makes for a very photogenic subject and I hope you enjoy.
Glamping? Agnes Water Beach? We had never heard of either of these things, but after “glamping” at Agnes Water Beach for 4 nights, we’re glad we did.
Towards the end of our 6-week housesit in the Australian town of Toowoomba, we had still not decided where we would go afterwards. We were relatively close to Fraser Island and had been looking at options to see it. The prices for a day tour of the island for the three of us would cost $400, or more. In looking at cheaper options we decided that maybe we should rent a 4-wheel drive vehicle and some camping gear and explore Fraser Island ourselves. We contacted a few companies about this option and were getting quotes of $1000 for 4 nights, which was two-thirds of our entire monthly budget. And then it happened. We received a sign from the travel gods.
As we were busy surfing the Internet looking at places to explore on a budget in Queensland, and not having any luck, I decided to turn on the TV. I started flipping through the channels, and for some reason, some completely random reason, I stopped on a fishing show. I HATE fishing shows! Anyways, we continued our research on the Internet while discussing possibilities. We had just decided that after 6 weeks of being landlocked in Toowoomba, it would be nice to be at a beach for a few days, even if it wasn’t Fraser Island. And then it happened. Just as we were convinced that we would blow our budget and end up in some dive motel nowhere near anything nice, a miracle happened.
While we discussed options the fishing show ended and an Australian travel show came on. The show was featuring glamping at Agnes Water Beach Holiday Park near the Town of 1770. Glamping, as it turns out, is staying in a large safari tent on stilts overlooking the ocean. The safari tent is anything but primitive and is truly glamorous, hence the term glamping. The tents are equipped with electricity, fully stocked kitchen, BBQ grill, and soft beds. But the thing that sets these tents apart from regular tent camping is that these also had an ensuite bathroom with hot showers and flush toilets. It even had a flat panel TV with SkyTV. We immediately went to their website and looked at the prices. They were offering a web special of 4 nights for the price of 3 and they just so happened to have a tent available the nights we wanted. And just like that, we knew where we were going. We booked the 4-night special.
As the homeowners arrived back home after their holiday, we headed down to the car rental agency and picked up a rental car. Driving from Toowoomba to Agnes Water took 7 hours and was through a whole lot of nothing. We pulled into the caravan park in the dark and found our key waiting for us on the wall outside the reception building. Surprisingly, the campground was nearly full and we were glad we made a reservation in advance. We found our tent and unloaded our gear. The tent truly was glamorous!
The caravan park sits right on the beach and is within easy walking distance to the small town of Agnes Water. We spent our days enjoying the beach and warm water. We rented surfboards and had fun playing in the surf. Our daughter enjoyed playing with the neighbor kids and we could never get enough of the fantastic view of the ocean from our private deck. And one of the days we felt adventurous and even traveled the few kilometers up the road to the Town of 1770 where Captain Cook made a landing there in, you guessed it, the year 1770.
So that was our experience with glamping and we would love to do more of it. We just wish more campgrounds offered this sort of thing. If you find yourself in Queensland wondering where to stay, we highly recommend checking out this place. And if you have your own caravan, it’s even cheaper.
After 6 years of saving for our family’s round the world (RTW) adventure, we had a fat bank account, shiny new travel gear, and an eagerness to explore the world. Two years and 26 countries later, our bank account is empty, our clothing (what little we have left) is in rags, and we have so many memories that it is mind numbing just thinking about the experiences we have had while traveling and visiting so many places. Traveling non-stop around the world for 2 years has been a riches to rags story and the journey is quickly coming to an end. As for our eagerness to continue traveling, I will get to that in a little bit.
We are currently in Christchurch, New Zealand, one of the most expensive countries we have visited on our travels. The only reason we can afford staying here is that we were fortunate enough to score a housesitting gig for 6 weeks. We are taking care of two lovely little dogs and a nice old house that survived the earthquake, unlike so many others. If it weren’t for this housesit, we would already be back in the United States looking to resettle and trying to find ways to earn an income again.
Before leaving to travel full-time our plan was to scout the world and find a new home. Someplace outside the United States that would offer us a unique once in a lifetime experience of living in a different country. Our initial thoughts were someplace warm and tropical. But after experiencing 6 months of SE Asia’s heat and humidity, we realized that we really do like seasons and cannot possibly live in a place that is eternally miserable. Miserable sometimes, yes, but not all of the time. What we really wanted was someplace new to explore with a different culture.
The biggest hurdle of looking at immigrating to another country is obtaining a residency visa. This really narrowed down the search to countries that had a high need for our skills. We absolutely love Europe, but so does everyone else. The only way we were going to get into Europe would be through a large corporate sponsored visa, which didn’t look promising. In all of the countries in the European Union, only Sweden seems to be open to immigrants. The only caveat is that you must learn Swedish and be able to drive on packed snow and ice for 10 months of the year. I can do the driving part, but learning Swedish is much harder than it sounds and would take years to be even a little bit proficient.
In looking at other countries, we found that Australia has (or had) a high need for nurses. Since Kerri is a nurse, this seemed really promising. But after a lot of research, Australia would not be right for us. Too hot, too dry, and too many poisonous critters. But the deal breaker was the cost of living. We would never be able to purchase a house, unless we wanted to live in a shack in the Outback.
But just to the right of Australia is New Zealand. A beautiful country, not too hot, not too cold, we speak the language, and they are in desperate need of people with an engineering background to help with the Christchurch Rebuild after the devastating earthquakes. It just so happens that I have a degree in Civil Engineering and 13 years experience working in that field. After a little research, New Zealand looked very promising. So last January I updated my resume and sent it out to a few companies and agencies involved in the rebuild. I got a reply back from a recruiter that wanted to discuss a job with me. The discussion turned out to be an actual interview and before I knew it, I had passed the first stage of the interviewing process for a position with the Christchurch City Council. After looking all over the Thai island of Koh Phangan for a dress shirt and tie, which makes for another interesting story, I had a second interview via Skype and nailed it. The recruiter started discussing the process for obtaining the visas and school options for my daughter. It was looking so promising, but felt so strange.
If I were offered the position I would have to be in New Zealand in July to start work, which meant we would be cutting our RTW trip short by a few months. But for the chance of getting a residency visa for New Zealand and the option of a permanent residency visa after only 2 or 3 years of work, it sounded very promising. But I was torn. We had discussed business opportunities since leaving and we were really excited to have a go at owning our own business. This would delay our plans by at least 3 years when we could get a permanent residency visa. The other problem would be that we would spend all of our vacation time (and money) visiting family back in the United States.
After a third and final interview via Skype while we were in Cambodia, this time with the Christchurch City Council, everything seemed to be going great and I was just waiting for an offer. I had provided them references and we had even discussed a salary. But the offer never came. I contacted the recruiter and he informed me that the council decided to not pursue my application. I was bummed. I was annoyed. It was a sign.
Even though the position did not work out, there were still plenty of companies desperate to hire people with my experience. All I had to do was to apply. But during the interviewing process with Christchurch City Council I had some great discussions internally, and externally with the wife and daughter. While they were interviewing me for the position, I was interviewing myself for life 2.0. What do I want out of life? What is best for our family? Where do we see ourselves in 5 years? In 10 years? In 20 years? How do we get there.
The answer was that we wanted the freedom to continue having adventures. Yes, we are still eager to continue traveling. We wanted to explore more of Europe, and New Zealand is about as far as you can get from there. There were so many places that we have yet to visit and being tied to a job halfway around the world is not the way to get there. We also wanted to be close enough to family that a relatively quick plane ride was all that was needed to see them. And just like that, we figured it out. We knew were we should resettle.
Besides figuring out where we were going to resettle, we have also come up with a solid plan for not just one, but two business start-ups with additional business options later on. We have traveled around the world without earning money and just living off our savings. This has worked for this trip, but we would like to be able to have money coming in for future long-term travel. The best way to do this is to have a business that you can run from anywhere in the world. We think we have come up with the perfect business that will give us the money and freedom to continue traveling. We will discuss where we have decided to resettle and our business plans at a later time.
We have really enjoyed our time in New Zealand and we could see ourselves living here. It could have been a good life, but not the one we want. There are many paths in life and finding the right one is always a hard choice. Hopefully the location we chose for resettling will be all that we hope it is and that our businesses actually earn us enough money to live and travel on.
Even though our trip is almost at its end and we are broke and wearing rags, it has been a fantastic 2 years. We are now poor financially, but rich with the new friendships and memories we have made along the way. Our future looks promising, but only time will tell. I think the most important thing I have learned these past 2 years is to not give up on your dreams. If you want to travel around the world, set a departure date and start planning now. If you want to start a business, do it now. But whatever you do, never have regrets and live life the way you want!
This blog will be about koalas. First we need to talk about the Koala Hospital. The Koala Hospital is located in Port Macquarie, Australia. They are the only sanctuary that just focuses on koalas. The Koala Hospital rescues injured koalas from around Australia and tries to release them back into the wild. The Koala Hospital currently has 4 joeys which were going to be released a week after our visit. A joey is what you call a baby koala. The Koala Hospital was established in 1973.
At the Koala Hospital, they had a rare albino koala called Mickey who got released in a secret place. They had 24-hour security for the albino when he was at the Koala Hospital. They currently have a koala named Barry. Barry has a curved spine, so it is hard for him to climb trees. So that means he can’t be released in the wild. You can buy the stuffed animal Barry. People have taken pictures of Barry around the world and sent photos to the Koala Hospital. Barry has been to the Pyramids of Giza and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I really liked seeing the Koala Hospital.
Koalas are found on the west cost of Australia. The koalas are on the edge of being endangered. In about 100 years koalas could be extinct. Koalas are dying out because of lost of habitat. Out of 600 types of eucalyptus trees koalas only eat 6 or 8 types of eucalyptus trees. Koalas do make sounds. It sounds like a mix of a bark and a huge belch. Only males make this noise. The sound is used as a mating call to impress the females and to tell the other male koalas to stay back from his territory. The females make horrible screeching sounds. Koalas do not really drink water. They get most of there water from eucalyptus leaves. If you see a koala drinking water it means it is sick and you should call some one for help who knows how to handle sick koalas.
Facts about Koalas
- Koalas have 2 thumbs on each hand.
- Koalas are not bears. They are marsupials.
- Koalas are native to only Australia.
- Koalas are related to wombats.
- It is illegal to keep koalas as pets.
What you can do to help the Koalas
- If you live in western Australia plant a eucalyptus tree that Koalas will eat. There are eucalyptus saplings at the Koala Hospital that you can buy.
- Drive slowly at koala crossings especially at night, because koalas are really active at night.
- Keep your dogs and cats inside at night. If dogs are not allowed inside tie them up at night.
- If you have a pool, tie rope to the edge of the pool. Koalas can swim, but if there is no way out will they drown.
- Support the Koala Hospital
- Recycle. It will help prevent habitat loss around the world.
Now you know all about Koalas and how to help them.
For the month of September, we were in Australia. We finished our stay on a family owned permaculture farm in Casino, spent one night in Surfer’s Paradise, and then drove up to Toowoomba for a 6 week housesit. While in Toowoomba, we celebrated Sydney’s 10th birthday and made some good friends.
As I have mentioned before in our previous budget for August, our three-month long stay in Australia has been filled with ups and downs. On the positive side, we have made some good friends along the way, which has made each place we have visited feel a little like a home and the wildlife of Australia is truly fascinating. But we have also found that anything remotely connected to tourism is insanely expensive. This has really limited some of the activities we would have liked to have done, but we felt like we couldn’t justify spending the money. For example, after our housesit in Toowoomba we had thought about seeing Fraser Island, but it just was way too expensive for us.
So how did we do during our second month of being in Australia? Excitingly we had our cheapest month so far on our around the world adventure. We spent a total of $1501.92. This works out to $50.06 per day or $16.69 per person per day. Through the month of September $1 USD equaled approximately $1.13 AUD.
We spent a total of $785.36 on food. Further broken down, we spent $662.23 on groceries and $123.13 on dining out. A couple factors helped keep our food costs down for the month of September. For six days of the month, we were doing a HelpX opportunity on a permaculture farm in Casino where we helped out in exchange for food and accommodations. We also really tried to avoid eating out to minimize food costs. Australia is definitely one of the most expensive places we have encountered on our around the world adventure for eating out. Admittedly we did splurge and go out for Chinese food for Sydney’s birthday.
Fortunately groceries are significantly cheaper versus eating out. Before we had arrived in Australia, we had been told by fellow travelers that the place to shop for groceries was at Aldi. After comparing prices at other supermarkets such as Coles or Woolworths, we concur. Aldi does not have a lot of options, but definitely has enough options to do the majority of your shopping there and will help you save money.
Our next biggest expenditure for the month was for transportation. We spent a total of $425.43. We rented a car for 13 days to drive up from Sydney to Toowoomba for our house sit. The vehicle rental fell between the budget months of August and September, so it has been divided between the two. September’s portion of the car rental was $281.58. One thing that we learned from our experience about renting a car in Australia is be aware of potentially hefty one-way fees. We paid a shocking $200 in way one-way fees to pick up the car in Sydney and drop it off in Toowoomba.
During our house sit in Toowomba, the owner was generous enough to let us use her car. However we found Toowoomba to be a very walkable city, so we walked most places. This helped us save money. Most of the fuel cost reflected in September’s budget was for getting from Casino to Toowoomba. Our fuel costs for the month were $126.09. On average fuel cost about $1.50 AUD per liter or $1.33 USD. This works out to be about $5.03 per gallon. This is not the most expensive fuel we have encountered on our adventure, but is still more than in the US. We also had the miscellaneous cost for parking and tolls for a total of $14.02.
Our expenditures for lodging were $136.38. This was for the one night stay in Surfer’s Paradise and for internet while at the hotel. Lodging in Australia is definitely not cheap with most accommodations for a family are $100+ per night. To help us keep on budget while in Australia, we have had to be creative. We did this several ways.
During our gap between our house sit in Melbourne and Toowoomba, we decided to try out HelpX. For little over a week, we helped out on a permaculture farm near Casino, Australia in exchange for food and accommodation. During the week, we learned a little about the principles of permaculture, planted things, built things, and made new friends. Overall our experience was very positive. HelpX has opportunities worldwide and offers a wide range of experiences from helping design websites, to childcare, to helping out on a permaculture farms.
Another way we found to help keep our lodging costs down was housesitting. We were lucky and secured a house sit for 6 weeks in Toowoomba through Trusted Housesitters. Although Toowoomba was definitely off the beaten path, we had a nice stay. We enjoyed taking care of the four cute furry friends and some chooks (chickens). Thanks to my daughter’s outgoing nature, we were also able to connect with some other homeschooling families and one family especially really took us in and made Toowoomba feel a little like home. It was very sad to say goodbye to Toowoomba and Bernadette and family.
Like I mentioned, housesitting is a great way to keep costs down. However, it is very competitive. My advice to you if you are interested in doing housesitting apply as soon as the position is posted and just keep on applying. Don’t get frustrated if you don’t hear back from people. The right house sit will come along. We have talked to several people who have said that they received hundreds of applications when they posted their house sit opportunity. Also, on average for each house sit we have done we have had to apply to 20 to 30 opportunities. Here’s a tip, before leaving try do some house sitting in your local area to build up those references.
Our next biggest expenditure for the month of September was for miscellaneous items for a total of $86.76. This included for 2 books, a haircut, adapter plug, hat for Kerri, some small birthday gifts of Sydney, and party supplies. Sadly, I lost my beautiful Italian sun hat, but was able to find a replacement. A sun hat for me is one of my must have objects while traveling. While in Toowoomba, we also celebrated Sydney’s birthday. We bought Sydney some small gifts and were fortunate enough to invite our new friends over for birthday party for Sydney. We had fun playing pin the tail on the horse, eating cake, and even made octopus piñatas.
We spent a total of $66.99 on entertainment. This included going to a homeschooling gym class at the PCYC in Toowoomba, seeing the Equine horse show, horse riding and doing a “fossil dig” at the mall. During our month we were very fortunate to be invited to a homeschooling gym class and the opportunity to meet up with several families. Sydney had a blast. Sydney requested for her birthday to go see the Equine Show in Toowoomba. During the show she was able to learn a little about how to take care of a horse, the different breeds and also see the different styles of horse riding. While in Toowoomba, we were able to locate some really cheap horse riding group classes for Sydney at $30 AUD for 2 hours of riding.
One nice thing about Australia is that most National Parks are free and most cities have some phenomenal parks with BBQ’s and play areas for kids. We found this especially true for Toowoomba and we really enjoyed the parks around the city. We were fortunate enough to be in Toowoomba for the Carnival of Flowers and all the parks were beautiful with all the flowers blooming.
- Try to drop off the car at the same place as pick up as one way fees can be hefty
- Housesitting is a great way to help keep costs down. Just keep in mind it is very competitive. Apply early and be prepared to apply to lots of opportunities before getting selected.
- HelpX is another great way to help keep costs down. This is by far less competitive and has opportunities worldwide.
- Most of the National Parks are free. Save money by getting out and enjoying nature and perhaps even get a glimpse some of the iconic animals of Australia.
- Shop Aldi, it will save you money on groceries.
Australia has been full of ups and downs, but we are so glad that we had the opportunity to spend 3 months in the country. We have made some good friends along the way, experienced a bit of Australia of the beaten path, and seen some really cool animals.