Wednesday, December 15th, 2010
@ The Wavehaven
The original purpose of my blog was to write about my efforts to live simply, with low spending and higher self-sufficiency. Since it's been pretty quiet around here and we've been good and settled here in Oakura for quite a while, I thought I'd do a post on how we've been trying to engage in these simple living goals while traveling, and particularly while living here. (I was intending to intersperse a few photos, but that function is not working at the moment, so I apologize for the giant chunk of text).
Ultimately, the point of our travels here is to see and experience as much of another country and culture as possible, which does lend itself to a lot of spending, and we knew that going into this trip. We have spent a lot of money getting here and since we've arrived, but in the end, I can't think of anything we've done that wasn't worth the money. In terms of touristy or expensive things, our list includes our trip to White Island, hiking the Tongariro Crossing, cruising Lake Taupo on Barbary, soaking in thermal pools, and several visits to museums and thermal areas. Matt and I have agreed that every one of those experiences was worth what we paid, and we feel that we've done a good job with our research and making sure we get the most for our money. When we went to White Island, Lyn & Kate were able to give us a 10% discount through their tour company, the Tongariro Crossing only cost us $40 per person (simply transportation to and from), and in retrospect I would have gladly paid much more than that for the experience we had. We've simply gotten lucky too- the day we went to White Island and the day we hiked the Tongariro were stunningly clear and beautiful, and when we went out on Lake Taupo, we were the only people on the cruise so got a really unique experience that was fully worth what we spent.
Since arriving in New Plymouth, our main expenses have been petrol and food. Once settled, we were able to buy groceries to last us for awhile, so we've been buying things like rice, tea, and couscous in bulk, and getting fresh fruit and veg from the local produce stand, which is exponentially cheaper than the supermarket. We do most of our shopping at Pak'n'Save, which allows us to stock up for a pretty cheap price. We buy all the budget brands, which I feel much better about doing in New Zealand than I would in the U.S. In the states, the budget brands tend to have the worst ingredients and be the least local. In New Zealand, almost everything is local, because the country is so small and isolated that imports are relatively rare. And, in general, products here are made with much healthier ingredients than in the U.S. We have yet to find a single product that includes high fructose corn syrup, including Coca-Cola. Everywhere outside the US and Canada, soft drinks are made with cane sugar.
We cook the vast majority of our meals from scratch, which is a pleasure to do because we have such fresh ingredients, a great kitchen, and usually the company of Megan and Nigel or Graham cooking at the same time we are. That's one of the really lovely things about a communal kitchen. In the last month and a half, we estimate we have eaten out about 6 times, plus bought cheap sandwiches a couple times when in town longer than we anticipated. Usually if we know we'll be in town over lunchtime, we pack sandwiches and fruit to take with us, and always have a couple full water bottles in the van. We have only succumbed to fast food once, and the rest of the time chosen locally owned kebab shops, cafes and the like. It is important to us to eat out occasionally to get a taste of this country's foods, and I feel like we've hit a pretty good balance. Unfortunately the coffee here is amazing, and we've had to make an extra effort to not buy a flat white every time we walk by a coffee shop- so enticing!
As for petrol, we live about 15 km from New Plymouth and about 5 km from our favorite surf spots, so a tank of petrol lasts us well over a week, barring a road trip to see a new spot. We go into town (New Plymouth) probably 4 times a week, including Matt driving in to work. We try to combine trips so that if I want time to go to the post office or library or if we need a grocery shop, I go with Matt and do errands while he is at work. Parking is metered in the city centre, so we have figured out where the very closest free longterm parking is to the business district, and always park there and walk the 5 minutes to the town centre.
Unfortunately, we've had to put a fair amount of money into the van to keep it safe and legal. Between the work on an oil leak, the lock system, and door handles when we were in Opotiki, and all the suspension work we had to have done this week to renew the Warrant of Fitness, and the renewal of the registration, we have put over $1,000 into the van since buying it. We are hoping that there will be no need for anything else- both registration and WOF are now good through June 2011, after we sell it and go home. We were lamenting all of these costs when Matt pointed out that if it weren't for Lucy, we would have spent far more on accommodation than we have. We did the calculations, and realized that in our entire time in New Zealand, we have spent less than $120 each on accommodation. We've only paid for 4 nights in hostels, and 4 (cheap!) nights of camping in the 2 1/2 months we've been here. Otherwise, we've freedom camped or worked for accommodation, and we feel pretty good about that!
We've also done our own fixing and repairing, as much as we are able. Matt has done all of our minor surfboard repairs, and when he got a hole in the neck of his wetsuit, he got the supplies and repaired that himself as well. We do our own mending, I trim Matt's hair, etc.
For entertainment, we're pretty well set. We surf, hang out on the beach, I write lots of letters, we read loads of library books, and have TV and loads of DVDs here at the hostel. We play cribbage (we brought a travel board with us), and last night had a great game of Rummikub (which I grew up knowing as "Tiles") with Megan and Nigel, after Megan found a set in a closet here. In terms of paying for entertainment since we've been in New Plymouth, we went to the cinema once to see the new Harry Potter movie, and have bought tickets to see Fat Freddy's Drop (a famous NZ dub band) just after Christmas, here in the village. That's it. (Well, we might go see the new Narnia movie...).
I feel really good about our environmental impact here as well, and that of the whole hostel. All washing is hung out on the line to dry, the dishwasher is run only about once a week, the lights are all on timers so they turn off by themselves after about 25 minutes, and between everyone here we only put out about one large bag of rubbish each week. Matt and I drive so little distance that at the moment I think we have a pretty small carbon footprint. Our recent repairs to the van will also improve our mileage, so there's a plus. We try to buy things without loads of packaging, we reuse plastic bags, and keep as many of the same sustainable habits from our life in Portland as we can.
So that's that, and now we're looking forward to the holidays, which are coming right up. Merv & Michele have invited us to their farm for Christmas, to celebrate in true Kiwi fashion, although Michele said she may not be able to guarantee us a Pavlova! We may spend a night or two there as well, although we are looking forward to spending Boxing Day here at the Haven- it's a much bigger holiday than in the US, and there should be a good party here. An important part of simple living is community, and it feels wonderful to have built a small community here, where we surf and hang out with our friends who live at the Wavehaven, got everyone together to share Thanksgiving dinner, made the effort to connect with a local farm to get that experience, which blossomed into a friendship, and act as informal hosts at the hostel, showing new guests around and trying to make them feel at home. We also are still keeping up with Lyn & Kate, and friends like Jamie & Kate, who we met up on the Coromandel.
And we have another exciting social development to look forward too- we just got word that Matt's sister, Jessa, is officially booked to come visit us for 10 days in January! She will fly into Wellington, where we will pick her up and spend a couple days seeing the sights, then come north to New Plymouth via some rafting or other adventures around Wanganui, and hopefully be able to show her all of our haunts and take her surfing at our local breaks! We're both really excited to have Jessa come visit, and also an excuse to get out of town and go see some other places with her!
With that, I'd better go get some laundry out on the line and see how Matt is doing with his latest surfboard repair- he snapped a fin off while surfing Ahu Ahu yesterday in overhead (6-7 foot) waves with Graham and Jono. Then hopefully we'll get down to the beach for awhile- the surf is still far to big for me, but the sun is out for a day before another 5 or 6 days of rain, so I'll take advantage.