Posts Tagged New Zealand

It Will Come

Bethlehem University

Bethlehem University in the Holy Land

Recently, I attend a viewing of a documentary called “Across the Divide.”  The film tells the story of students attending Bethlehem University in the Middle East.  It’s a Catholic school run by the De La Salle Christian brothers in a place where Christians are a minority and their movement is restricted.

The film project began when Salt + Light offered to create a promotional video for Bethlehem University.  But while the film crew was on campus for a 3 or 4 day shoot, university administrators got a call informing them that one of their female students had been detained at an Israeli checkpoint.  The tense situation turned a promo video into a filmmaker’s dream, and a documentary was born.

The documentary does a good job of representing the views of both Palestinians and Israelis.  But it left me feeling less than hopeful about peace for the Middle East.

Brother Peter Bray

Brother Peter Bray, Vice Chancellor and CEO of Bethlehem University

Brother Peter Bray, the Vice Chancellor and CEO of Bethlehem University who spoke throughout the film, was also present at the Washington, DC viewing.  He’s from New Zealand and has a charming Kiwi accent that I fell in love with while training for BodyFlow and traveling around his homeland last year.

After viewing “Across the Divide,” Peter Bray addressed the crowd.  Even though I was named after a saint, I’m not religious.  But I’ve heard my fair share of sermons, and this guy was compelling.

His moving message was that peace between the Palestinians and Israelis will come.  He can’t visualize how peace can happen or how to get there, but he knows it will come.  On its own, that message sounds like hokey misdirected hope and faith.

But he went on to cite the examples of Ireland, South Africa, and Germany — other countries with massive conflicts in the past that have peace today.  At the times of the conflicts in those countries, peace didn’t seem possible.  And yet, it arrived.

These concrete examples appealed to me as a person of fact and reason, rather than faith.  His speech also made me think about my situation and how I can’t visualize my future.  I’m still waiting for my vision.  But if Peter Bray, who lives and works amidst the violence and chaos in the Middle East, is sure that peace will come, shouldn’t I have some hope that my path will come?

  • Have the words of an inspirational speaker convinced you of something that seems farfetched?
  • Do you think peace in the Middle East is possible?
  • Are you a person of faith or reason?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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What Does World Travel Cost?

People often wonder how much it costs to travel around the world.  The answer is whatever you want!

There are people who enjoy camping, while others will only stay at 5-star resorts.  I fall somewhere in between.  I enjoy my creature comforts, but I’m not over the top (unless you want to bankroll my next trip and then I’ll go all out).

On our 30/40 World Tour, we didn’t camp or stay in dorm-style hostels.  We always stayed in private rooms and almost always had private bathrooms, except when it wasn’t an option on group tours like our “sailing” safari in Fiji and bus tour through Australia.  We stayed in a range of hotels from the $13 internet special to a 4.5 star resort with more staff than guests.  We even stayed for free with familybrand new friends, and while volunteering.

For the most part, we didn’t rough it and our final price tag shows it.  Our 10 week around-the-world tour of 8 countries ran us $25K.  To top it off, we were still maintaining mortgages, car payments, and utilities at home.  Although we did cancel phone, cable, and internet service during our time away.  While taking on all these expenses, I was on a 3-month Leave of Absence from work and had no income.  So the trip was not an inexpensive proposition.


The biggest chunk of money was spent on flights — $4K/person.  It may sound like a lot of money for flights, but when I priced out a couple of different RTW (Round the World) airline tickets, they were $6K/person.  Plus, those RTW tickets did not allow some of the exotic locales we visited due to number of hops or milage constraints.  I was quite pleased with our individually booked flights because we almost always flew direct, and were able to use a week-long layover (included in the price of our ticket) to visit New Caledonia.  Our flights ranged from $137 to $946 per person.

Flight Costs

The cost of each flight purchased for the 30/40 World Tour

Expense Categories

I was curious to see how we allotted our money across various categories while traveling.  As mentioned above, our biggest expense by far was transportation including flights, car rentals, trains, airport shuttles, ferries, and subway rides.  I separated out the transportation (sailing and bus tour) where accommodations and meals were also included.

Expense Categories

All expenses by category on the 30/40 World Tour

Our next biggest expenditure categories were accommodations and food.  Some of our accommodations in Fiji and Mauritius included meals, and are categorized in the Lodging with meals category.  Food and shelter seem like reasonable expenses.  We had to meet our basic needs!

After transportation, lodging, and food, our next largest category was cash.  Oh what a black hole of undocumented expenditures!  Cash was withdrawn from ATMs in country and probably spent on food, taxis, and other cash-only vendors.  We never converted cash to a new currency, so I always tried to withdraw a small amount and spend it all before leaving the country.  It may sound a bit gauche, but in New Caledonia I used my leftover cash and coins to pay our hotel bill and charged the remainder.  The clerk was super nice about it, even though I was being a hobo.

We only spent 2% on entertainment, which included all the theater performances and a museum.  Gas was for our rental cars in New Zealand.  Goods consisted of toiletries that we purchased as we ran out (since we could only carry 3 oz. of each), a few gadgets (universal travel adapter and auxiliary cable for the rental car), sunglasses (after I left my mine in a hotel room), and a cute hat.  Our other expenditures were for internet, laundry, and spa services.

Expenses by Country

So where in the world did we spend $25K?  As you can see in the chart below, we spent most of it on flights.  But the country where we spent the most money was New Zealand.  That’s not surprising since we spent the most time there — 3 weeks.  We were only in the US for half a day and in the UAE for less than 2 days, so those bars look pretty small in comparison.

We also had almost no expenses in UAE and Germany since we stayed with Sir Expat and my cousins.  They were super generous and treated us to everything! So those countries skew low.  Spain is also lower than normal since our lodging and meals were covered for a week during VaughanTown.

Country Expenses by Category

Total expenses in each country in various categories

To try to normalize the data a bit, the chart below shows the cost per night in each country.  Again, this is skewed by staying with relatives, so don’t think UAE and Germany are inexpensive places to visit.  They certainly are not …unless you know people!

Remember that we also stayed in a range of lodging styles, so the chart below isn’t meant to compare similar living expenses in each country.  It’s merely a representation of what we spent while experiencing life on islands without electricity to splurge hotels like Sofitel when we needed to recover.  Our food also ran the gamut from quick sandwiches to extravagant sit down meals throughout the trip.

When splurging, one of Mr. HalfFull’s favorite phrases is, “How can we afford NOT to do it?”  Often when you’re far from home, it’s wise to take advantage of the chance to experience things that may seem pricey because the opportunity is fleeting.

Another factor is the strength of the US Dollar versus local currency.  All amounts in this post are in US Dollars.  While we were traveling, the US Dollar was stronger than the New Zealand Dollar.  But our American currency was weaker than the Australian Dollar and Euro, which made things seem more expensive for us.

Average Country Cost

Average cost per night in each country

Credit Card Fees

Before we left home, I called my credit card companies to uncover their foreign transaction fees.  Visa and MasterCard always charge 1%, but your card issuer (Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, Citi, USAA, etc.) can charge an additional percentage.  So my USAA card was only 1% because USAA does not charge an additional fee, but one of my other credit cards ended up being 3%.  While my credit card foreign transaction fees ranged from 1% to 3%, I discovered that my bank debit card did not charge a fee.

It makes me a bit nervous to use a debit card, especially while traveling, since it taps into my actual bank account and doesn’t give me time to review or dispute charges.  But no transaction fee sealed the deal.  We used my debit card throughout the trip for ATM withdrawals and purchases.  But we still used credit cards on sites like that process in US Dollars so foreign transaction fees were not an issue.

Tracking Expenses

Before our trip, I had always used an old-fashioned paper checkbook register.  This matched nicely with my old-fashioned paper planner.  Although I’m far from being on the bleeding edge, I have always embraced technology.  But I was still attached to these paper relics.

My work environment necessitated a paper planner.  I also occasionally write paper checks to businesses that don’t accept credit cards.  Since I no longer have duplicate checks, it made sense to record those checks in the checkbook register at the time of the check writing.  It also forced me to practice simple math, which we rarely do anymore.  Hopefully, this will save me from embarrassment the next time a 6-year-old tries to stump me with a rapid-fire addition or subtraction problem!

But the paper method drove me crazy on the 30/40 World Tour.  It just wasn’t practical.

As I mentioned earlier, I was very worried about using a debit card linked to my bank account.  What if there wasn’t enough money to cover an automatic mortgage payment?  Questions like that made me nervous and drove me to spend a lot of time tracking receipts in my paper register.  The problem was that currencies fluctuate.  All my receipts were in local currency, but my bank account was in US Dollars.  So I had to estimate the USD amount to track in my register.

But I never knew when the transaction would clear, meaning that the USD amount could change from day-to-day.  Granted, we didn’t visit any places with highly volatile currencies, but I’m a perfectionist who balances her checkbook to the penny.  Pretty close just doesn’t cut it for me.

Trying to keep track of all that on paper with a running balance was a mess.  So I moved to an electronic register — a spreadsheet.  The spreadsheet allowed me to track currency fluctuations easily and was much easier to maintain since I could move pending rows and know the true balance at any time.

I still use the spreadsheet today, so I no longer practice simple math.  Keep your 6-year-olds away from me! =)


We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves on our trip and experienced a range of living styles from staying on an island where toilets only flushed at high tide to a boutique hotel with flower petals on our bed.  You can always spend less, but life is about choices.  We were constantly reminded that you get what you pay for.

  • What country was most expensive in your travels?
  • What do you splurge on while traveling?
  • Do you subscribe to Mr. HalfFull’s philosophy on splurging?
  • Do you use any antiquated tracking systems in our world of technology?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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Motorbikes Around the World

I started riding motorcycles in 2006, back when Mr. HalfFull and I were single neighbors.  He would often see me practicing in the parking lot, and thought that my motorcycle phase wouldn’t last long.

Boy was he wrong.

Old Rag

Ms. HalfEmpty rides her Ninja with Old Rag Mountain in the distance and Mr. HalfFull’s antique BMW on the side of the road during their honeymoon

Just Married on Skyline Drive

Mr. HalfFull shows off his “Just Married” helmet along Skyline Drive

He joined me with his own motorcycle license in 2009.  We even spent our honeymoon riding throughout the curvy mountain roads and fall foliage of Virginia on our red motorcycles with red helmets.

Basically, I created a monster.  Mr. HalfFull had no interest in motorcycles until he saw me riding, and now he’s completely addicted.

In fact, he’s on his 3rd motorcycle in as many years.  His first 2 motorcycles were red, and we matched nicely.  But he just got a new orange one this summer.  What a show off! =)

While we were on our 30/40 World Tour, we did not ride motorcycles.  But Mr. HalfFull would often ogle over them and snap photos as we traveled around the world.

Mr. HalfFull thought it was super cool that the postal workers in New Zealand use motorcycles to deliver the mail in both rural and urban areas.

NZ Postal Worker

NZ Postal Worker between Napier and Taupo

Postal Motorcycle in Auckland

Ms. HalfEmpty with a postal motorcycle on the sidewalk in downtown Auckland

Police Moto in Sydney

Motorcycle policeman in Sydney on a sport bike — not your typical American police moto!

Honda Cafe Racer in Manly

While spending the day at Manly beach (near Sydney, Australia), Mr. HalfFull was mesmerized by this Honda café racer waiting at a stop light.

Motorcycle at the beach in Mauritius

People drove their motorcycles right up to the edge of the beach in Mauritius

Motos @ Palau de la Musica Catalana

Motorcycles and mopeds were a common site in Barcelona, as seen here outside the Palau de la Musica Catalana.

Moto in Madrid

After visiting the Egyptian Temple in Madrid, Mr. HalfFull spotted this beauty walking back to the subway.  He spent a great deal of time walking around it and telling me about the features.

I enjoy riding as long as the roads are interesting and the ride isn’t too long.  I also appreciate beautiful motorcycles, but I don’t really care about the specs or customizing my own bike.  Mr. HalfFull and I are just different breeds…in more ways than one!

  • What activity did someone take up after watching you?
  • Have you ever inadvertently created a monster?
  • What catches your eye and demands photos when you travel?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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Coffee Around the World

Mr. HalfFull got his photo op around the world. Now it’s time for mine.

If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you know I drink coffee.  In fact, when I ventured around the world on the 30/40 World Tour:  Quest for Passion, I found that my passions are coffee and napping.  I learned this through various opportunities to enjoy them and be deprived of them.  Undoubtedly, coffee and napping are essential to my life.  Deep, I know.

Let’s take a photo tour of my coffee encounters around the world…

Capitol Grounds lattes

I was armed with a latte from Capitol Grounds on my very first flight out of Washington, DC.

Fiji, our first country on the 30/40 World Tour, was not coffee aficionado friendly.  At our first coffee stop, they tried to tell me that Coke was just like coffee!

Ms. HalfEmpty eats breakfast

Much of my time in Fiji was spent on primitive islands with instant coffee.  Quelle horreur!

I didn’t get real coffee until our final night in Fiji when we checked into Sofitel and I had an amazing cappuccino.

My coffee experience in New Zealand was the complete opposite of Fiji. New Zealand has the most coffee roasters per capita of any country in the world.  They take their coffee culture very seriously; even gas stations have espresso machines with baristas, and no one serves drip coffee.

Coffee @ Mecca Stonehouse

My first full day in New Zealand included a latte (and internet time) at Mecca Stonehouse in Mission Bay outside Auckland.

Blogging in Paihia

I seem to always have coffee while on the netbook, including here at Paihia wharf.

Volcanic Latte

We learned that coffee drinks come from volcanoes at the museum in New Plymouth.

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

I even had a coffee in hand outside the Te Papa Museum in Wellington.

Circa Theater

Later that same day when we went to see a show at Circa Theater, just across from the museum, I had another coffee.  Zoom to see me drinking it.

New Zealand was perhaps the best coffee country on the 30/40 World Tour, but the French-speaking countries like New Caledonia weren’t bad either.

Café Malongo in Nouméa

While waiting in line at Café Malongo in Nouméa, I considered my espresso order.

Change in Nouméa

After using bills to buy coffee, we count our change in Nouméa.

Coffee at Le Surf Hotel

Once again enjoying coffee with a side of internet at our hotel in New Caledonia.

Coffee School

When we reached Sydney, Australia, I considered joining coffee school, but decided I didn’t have enough time.

Australian Parliament

I brought a cup of joe with me to the Australian Parliament Building in Canberra.  They wouldn’t let me bring it inside, but I had no problem devouring it quickly!

Phamish in St. Kilda

The coffee drink and coffee netbook seemed to pair well at a restaurant called Phamish in St. Kilda, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia.

Heidelberg Train Station

After visiting our new Australian friends in Heidelberg (another suburb of Melbourne), I waited for the train with coffee in hand.

Latte Art in Melbourne

Loving the latte art at a café in Melbourne before our flight to Mauritius.

Turkish Coffee in Dubai

Enjoying turkish coffee in Dubai with Sir Expat

Coffee in German Biergarten

Coffee in a German biergarten on Lake Starnberg with my cousins. Yes, I know you usually drink beer in a biergarten, but we had done plenty of that the night before!  Don’t I look just like a beermaid, but with coffee and less cleavage?

Coffee @ Marianplatz

Any time of day is a good time for coffee — even late night at Marianplatz in Munich.

Lunch @ Barcelo Sants

A cappuccino complemented my 3rd course of lunch nicely at our hotel in Barcelona, Spain.

  • Do you try to limit your coffee intake?
  • What things/actions are essential to your life?
  • Do you have any coffee location recommendations for me?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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Bummin’ It In Mauritius

Mauritius beach

Belle Mare

Water, volcanic rock, sand, and grass meet in Belle Mare

Mauritius was beautiful. Of the entire 30/40 World Tour, this was our most relaxing stop.

Our hotel was right on the beach in Belle Mare.  Even though we had already been to beaches on the 30/40 World Tour, as my feet sunk into the sand in Belle Mare, I remember thinking the sand was so soft.

La Palmeraie

La Palmeraie bar area and overflowing pool

In fact, our entire stay made us a bit soft. I think there were probably more employees than guests at the hotel since it was the off-season. Our breakfasts and dinners were included, and we had an assortment of goodies to taste daily. When returning to my seat from the buffet, a member of the staff would often intercept me to grab my plate so I could walk unencumbered. How’s that for soft?

New Zealand Butter

Mr. HalfFull holds New Zealand butter against the backdrop of the gorgeous beach

Speaking of food, remember how we told you that dairy was a big deal in New Zealand?  Well it’s such a big deal that they had New Zealand butter in Mauritius!

There was often entertainment during/after dinner. One night, the band played, “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”  I’m starting to wonder if that is the first song that all non-native English speakers who work in hospitality learn.   We heard the song in Fiji too!  It’s kind of ridiculous to hear a song about West Virginia while in Africa. It reminded me of the days when Mr. HalfFull and I were driving to West Virginia from our home in Virginia, and my dearest husband played (and sang) that song 10 times before I got a reprieve.

La Palmeraie

View of our Moroccan-inspired hotel from the beach

While in Mauritius, we spent much of our time lounging, but also ventured out to snorkel via a glass bottom boat, swim, paddle boat, and play volleyball.  One day we even decided to do the group fitness class on the beach. Mr. HalfFull and I constituted 2/3 of the participants. The instructor was a wiry man who was all abs and muscles. Needless to say, we were pretty sore afterward.

What’s the best way to recover from soreness?  Massage!  I love massages, so we decided to indulge in a couples massage at the resort spa.  It started out with a bath of coconut milk and lemongrass.  It smelled wonderful, but made us a bit leery that perhaps we were getting prepped for the grill and not a massage!

Thankfully, the massages did occur.  I was very glad that Mr. HalfFull and I were in the same room.  There was virtually no draping as is customary in the US, and the strokes did not neglect the inner thighs or breasts.  I was surprised!  Did she really just go there?!?

Christian Shrine

Christian shrine along the beach

Hindu Shrine on Beach

Hindu temple on the beach surrounded by offerings placed on the volcanic rock

We also took lots of walks along the beach and discovered various religious shrines — Hindu and Christian.  We also saw local boys playing a game of pétanque on the beach.  This time it wasn’t men on their lunch break.  We witnessed the smallest boy throw the winning shot.  Immediately, all the older boys went over to verify the proximity of his ball, while the little ones jumped up and down with excitement.

Arsha Vidya Ashram

Arsha Vidya Ashram along the beach


Boys playing pétanque on the beach

One evening, I inadvertently created a security incident at the hotel.  We were down at dinner when a manager came to tell Mr. HalfFull that there was a security problem in our room.  We had no idea what happened.  It turns out that I had left the safe open when we went to dinner, and the maid had entered our room to turn down our bed.  She noticed the open safe and alerted the security guard.  By the time Mr. HalfFull got there our room was being guarded by security and they asked him to verify that nothing was stolen.  It turned into a huge incident.  Oops!

Mauritius Taxi

Ms. HalfEmpty on the taxi ride to the airport

After our week of relaxation, it was time to head back to the airport en-route to Dubai.  Check back to hear about our adventures in the United Arab Emirates.

  • Where was your most relaxing vacation?
  • In what country have you heard, “Take Me Home, Country Roads?”
  • Do you exercise on vacation?
  • Have you had a massage that made you uncomfortable?
  • Have you ever left a hotel safe open?  Did the staff alert you?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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Cannons Around the World

As you all know from the title of our 30/40 World Tour, Mr. HalfFull is 10 years older than me.  Some might think that 10 years is a big age difference, and assume that Mr. HalfFull’s 10 extra years of maturity might be overwhelming to his young, beautiful, perhaps naïve bride.

Do you remember what they say about assumptions?

My husband may be more mature in age, but in behavior he is not.  This became readily apparent as we traveled around the world and he begged me to take his photo EVERY SINGLE TIME he saw a cannon.  Please refer to the “maturity” evidence below…

Palisades Park Cannon

Even on our layover in Santa Monica en route to Fiji, Mr. HalfFull found his pose.

New Zealand Cannon

Mr. HalfFull found another cannon to demonstrate his manliness in New Zealand.

New Caledonia Cannon

New Caledonia provided Mr. HalfFull yet another opportunity to display his maturity.

Sydney Cannon

This cannon outside our hotel in Sydney, Australia thwarted Mr. HalfFull with a fence!

Canberra Cannon

But in the end, Australia did not emerge scot-free, as Mr. HalfFull found a suitable cannon in Canberra.

It looks like his cannons got progressively bigger. Along with his ego?

  • Do you consider a 10 year age difference large?
  • Are you surprised when the younger person in a couple is more mature?
  • Is your husband as mature as mine?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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Disturbances in Paradise

Finding a place to stay is one of the most important and constant concerns while traveling.  After being on the move and changing accommodations every night at times in New Zealand, I was ready to relax in a single place during my week in Nouméa.  Sometimes you just want to unpack all three pairs of underwear (…or maybe I would be wearing one)!

Noumea 5-star hotel

Ms. HalfEmpty crashing the 5-star resort

While in New Zealand, we used Skype to call our travel agent in DC and discuss lodging options for our next country, New Caledonia.  He gave us three options — least expensive in the city, and the other two in the beach area.  The most expensive one was double the price of the cheapest and was a 5-star resort.

After researching them for ourselves online and reading reviews, we opted for the middle priced hotel, which seemed like a great deal.  What we didn’t know while booking was that the hotel was under construction.  Perhaps that’s why the rate was so reasonable.

Le Surf show

Ms. HalfEmpty enjoys dinner and a show in the pool area of our hotel.

The construction noise wasn’t too bothersome because we were usually out during the day.  But the construction workers were adjacent to the pool area, which always made me feel watched if I decided to lounge there.

Le Surf statue

Ms. HalfEmpty analyzes a statue in our hotel. Is this typical New Caledonian art?

I’m not sure if it was related to the construction or not, but during our first night the electricity went out.  Not once, but twice.  Each time I called the front desk and tried to explain in French that we didn’t have electricity.  Eventually, we went to sleep because it was dark, so there wasn’t much else to do.

At 11 PM, the front desk called the room and woke us up to ask if we wanted to change rooms.  I said we would change rooms in the morning because it wasn’t practical to pack in the dark.  (Of course, they didn’t offer to bring us flashlights.)  But they informed me that the person who could fix the electricity would be there in the morning so there was no reason to switch rooms the next day.

Actually, there was reason.  That wasn’t the only night the power went out.  Eventually, we learned that we couldn’t have the air conditioning and the TV on at the same time in our room.  That discovery was a process of trial and error throughout the week.  But the maddening thing was that our room was above the red neon casino.  That place was rocking all night every night.  Why didn’t their power ever go out?

Casino Royal

The brightly lit casino entrance directly below our hotel room.

We could look out the window of our room and see the lights of the casino and feel the bass underfoot.  The parking situation for that place was crazy.  We didn’t rent a car so it wasn’t a problem for us, but it was quite a sight to see.  Cars were double and triple parked in the tiny parking lot.  Plus, the road out front had two lanes in each direction during the day, but at night the center lanes became a parking lot with double parked cars.

Le Surf statue

Mr. HalfFull is impressed by the defined derrière on a statue in our hotel.

The other really fun thing about this hotel was our next door neighbor.  There was a group of three teenage boys, who each had their own hotel room.  The one right next to us would often play his guitar out on the balcony.  This wasn’t a problem when we had electricity overnight.  But when it went out, we would have to open our balcony door for air circulation and were awoken at 2 or 3 AM by electric guitar.

Through repeated banging on the door of the room next to ours, we learned that our next door neighbor was named Séamus.  The noise went something like this:  knock, knock, knock, BANG, BANG, BANG, “Come on Séamus, we have to go!!!” BANG, BANG, “What are you doing?!?” BANG, BANG, BANG, “We’re going to be late!”  There were various expletives scattered throughout those words, but you get the gist.

Tattoo area

The night of the show, they set up a makeshift tattoo parlor in the basement of our hotel. Scary!  (I think Séamus' friend got a tattoo.)

Between the banging and the guitar playing in the middle of the night, I was fed up.  So one night after they had gone out to party, I left a note addressed to “Séamus and Friends” about being considerate of their neighbors.  I actually heard him discover this note and read it aloud in the middle of the night.  The noise level did not change.

One night when the electricity was out and our balcony door was open, Séamus brought home some girls who were out on the balcony with him.  Ironically, I heard him lecture one of the girls on being nice.  I think he actually said, “You have to treat others the way you want to be treated,” with his obnoxious accent.  I just about fell on the floor.  Finally, Séamus had met his annoying match …and I felt rather half full about it.

  • Have you booked an accommodation that varied greatly from your expectations?
  • Would you change rooms in the dark if the electricity went out?
  • How do you deal with noise disturbances while traveling?
  • Would you leave a note on a neighbor’s hotel room door?
  • Was it wrong of me to feel half full about Séamus’ unfun night?


Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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Stalking a Star

When I first rode into Auckland, I saw a giant window depicting Les Mills programs on the wall of a building. Had I found my mothership?

For the uninitiated, Les Mills is a Kiwi who started a fitness empire. It originated with physical gyms in Auckland, but the group exercise classes have spread all over the world. It includes classes like BODYPUMP™BODYSTEP™BODYCOMBAT™BODYATTACK™BODYJAM™, and BODYFLOW®, among others. That’s a lot of body! I think they ran out of body names, so they started naming classes things like RPM™ and SH’BAM™.

Back home in the US, I am a certified BODYFLOW® instructor. Each quarter, instructors receive a DVD with the latest release of the program, which includes new music and choreography. Those DVDs are actually filmed in Auckland, so perhaps I could stalk meet the BODYFLOW® stars during my 30/40 World Tour!

There was so much to do and plan while in Auckland, that stalking wasn’t at the top of my priority list. But I knew we would be returning to Auckland for our flight, so I would have a second chance later.

Les Mills Britomart

Ms. HalfEmpty gets her BODYFLOW® on with the wall outside the new Les Mills Britomart gym in Auckland, NZ

While back in Auckland at the end of my three weeks in New Zealand, I realized that I had not completed my stalking. I returned to the giant wall of Les Mills characters and went inside only to learn that there are multiple locations in Auckland. This was the newest location, not the original location where they film the DVDs and where my stars teach.

But I was in luck because Dr. Dave from the DVDs was teaching that night (my last night in New Zealand). Unfortunately, the class was at the same time as the play we planned to attend. Bummer!

So there was no way I could take Dr. Dave’s class and use my play tickets. But I could still stalk him after class!

After the play, Mr. HalfFull and I darted over to the gym to observe the tail end of Dr. Dave’s class. Watching people during relaxation and meditation is way more creepy and akin to stalking than meeting! So my plan was working out nicely.

Dr. Dave Bows Down

Dr. Dave bows down to Ms. HalfEmpty

At the conclusion of the BODYFLOW® class, I finally spoke to Dr. Dave. He let me wear his microphone and stand on the very high stage. Dave even bowed down to me! How ridiculous is that??? He was super gracious and even informed me that they don’t use the word “jade,” Kiwis prefer “green stone” (even if it’s more white than green).

Les Mills Auckland Studio

A trainer shows Ms. HalfEmpty the upstairs studio where the DVDs are filmed

Before leaving the gym, I also got to see the studio where they film all the DVDs. It was huge!

What a neat half full experience to conclude my Kiwi adventure.

  • Do you enjoy group fitness classes?
  • Have you tried to meet someone famous to you while traveling?
  • Have you visited a place in person that you had previously only seen on video?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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What’s in a Name?

What’s in a name?  Apparently, not much.  In the South Pacific, we found that the presence of a sign was more important than a name to put on said sign.

Local No Name Apples

Mr. HalfFull selects some Local No Name apples in New Zealand

Kiwi No Name

While driving through New Zealand, we would often stop at roadside fruit stands.  Being on the move and eating out for every meal doesn’t usually provide much fruit in the diet.  So apples in the car was a delicious and healthy seasonal snack.  At one fruit stand, we decided to try the Local No Name apples.  They were perhaps the best apples we had in all of New Zealand — sweet, crunchy, delicious!

No Name

Ms. HalfEmpty puzzles over the sign for No Name in New South Wales, Australia

Aussie No Name

In Australia, we found another more permanent No Name sign during our bus safari from Sydney to Melbourne.  We were on a road that requires a special license — a curvy, narrow, dirt road through mountains with no guard rails.  I don’t think we saw another car, which was fortunate because I was worried about the possibility of a head-on collision with the bus around a blind curve.

We did see a few signs along the road with names of the forests and one marking our entrance into Victoria province.  But I still found it odd that they erected a permanent park sign without first deciding on a name.

  • Do you think names are important?
  • Have you seen No Name signs?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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Waterfalls Inside the Ferry

While in New Zealand, Mr. HalfFull and I drove around much of the North Island.  It was gorgeous, but everyone kept telling us about the beauty of the South Island.  However, we visited New Zealand during their winter season and realized that our gear may not be appropriate for traveling closer to the Antarctic.  But we still wanted to visit the South Island, even if we only saw a small part.

Ferry in Wellington

Mr. HalfFull prepares to embark with his duffel in Wellington.

The most common form of transportation between the two islands is ferry boat.  These massive ships even have a parking deck reserved for tractor-trailers transporting goods between the islands.  We also saw a number of passenger vehicles on the ferry, but most rental car companies do not allow it.  So it was just us and our duffels.

Peace, Perfect Peace

Ms. HalfEmpty found “Peace, Perfect Peace” on a memorial in Picton.

The ferry ride to the South Island was fairly peaceful.  I didn’t see anyone turn green and/or run to the bathroom.  After arriving on the South Island, we spent a few days in the quaint port town of Picton, where I did not find my passion, but I did find “Peace, Perfect Peace.”

The return trip, however, was not so calm.  I think that if the trips had been reversed, I would have flown back to the North Island rather than endure another ferry ride.  Ferries seem so charming and romantic until you are tossed around inside the ship like tiny plastic figurines.  It was truly horrible.

Picton Ferry Terminal

Ms. HalfEmpty purchased internet time to keep her occupied in the Picton Ferry Terminal.

We woke up early that morning for our return ferry, bundled up, checked out of our hotel, and walked to the ferry terminal only to find that our boat was 2 hours delayed.  The ferry company claimed that the conditions were poor.  But we heard from others that the ferry wasn’t full, so they made a business decision to combine multiple departure times into one ship full of passengers and cargo.  I didn’t really know what to believe, but I was feeling rather half empty since I had left my warm cozy bed to be there early.  Plus the café wasn’t even open to supply me with coffee as I waited!

Hours later, we boarded the ship.  As we passed through the Marlborough Sound, the conditions seemed fine to me.  What was the weather delay all about?  I soon discovered that the seas got much rougher as we headed into more open waters.  We were on the uppermost deck inside a huge ferry with 9 decks and the waves were crashing against the windows in a sea of white.  It was as if we were on an airplane flying through turbulent clouds.


Gentle wake behind the ferry boat was not what we experienced on the return trip.

I went to the food court to find a soda to settle my stomach.  But I could barely stand.  The ship was tossing me as I tried to stand my ground like a surfer in a wide bent leg stance with arms outstretched.  I had to leave without buying anything because I couldn’t hold still long enough to read the labels and grab something without vomiting.  I thought it would be poor form to do so in the middle of the food court, so I returned to my seat.

Sitting across the aisle was a woman whose face had turned white.  She had obviously been vomiting and looked terrible.  The crew came around with ice chips for us to suck on, but that didn’t help.  Soon I couldn’t take it anymore and joined the other woman in the bathroom where I produced my own triple vomit waterfall.  Still shaking, I returned to my seat.  Apparently, there was a similar waterfall scene in the men’s restroom as well.

When we finally arrived back on the North Island (me, a few pounds of vomit lighter), we picked up our rental car and headed to our next destination.  Unfortunately, the drive was filled with winding, curvy mountain roads that were not kind to my already upset tummy.

I survived, but I’m not sure I want to take another 3 hour ferry ride…ever!

  • How do you react to travel delays?
  • Do you find ferry boats charming and romantic?
  • Have you experienced sea sickness?
  • Would you rather fly or ferry?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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