Travel Insurance – Should You Get It? and How We Massively Overspent

As I’ve mentioned before, I still can’t get over the fact that we spent almost $700 on travel insurance, a major part of our budget for SE Asia and still a significant portion of our larger budget for New Zealand. After many hours of research, questions to friends and relatives, and even a poll here on the blog, I’ve come to the disappointing conclusion that we paid WAY too much for our travel insurance. How, you ask? It went something like this:

  1. Travel insurance is complicated.
  2. It’s hard to tell if it’s necessary, but the decision is emotional with respect to peace of mind, for you and possibly your family at home.
  3. It can be quite expensive, especially if you’re not smart about it for cheap trips.
  4. Points 1-3 led me to waste HUNDREDS of dollars purchasing too much insurance.

Here’s what I should’ve done instead and how I’ll buy insurance in the future.

Continue reading Travel Insurance – Should You Get It? and How We Massively Overspent

OGRES Scoring National Parks – Round 2 – Outside the US

Let me just admit it, ranking things and picking bests and worsts is challenging, and addictive, plus it starts some great discussions. After visiting 15 US National Parks last summer, Adam and I came up with the OGRES Score to rank the national parks on the criteria that made for our best experiences and most recommended parks.
Now that we’ve visited and blogged about three more national parks: Mulu National Park in Malaysia and then Tongariro and Abel Tasman National Parks in New Zealand, I thought it would be appropriate to rate those parks against what we saw in the US and see how they stacked up.

You can jump to the recap of the methodology and summary of the old results, and the scores for the new contenders and the final ranking. If you’ve visited some or any of these parks, let me know how you think they compare!

Random note: Just in case anyone is still anxiously awaiting more on travel insurance, I’m expecting to talk about that next week.

Continue reading OGRES Scoring National Parks – Round 2 – Outside the US

Two Weeks in New Zealand and We Spent HOW MUCH?!

After every big chunk of our trip so far, I’ve written a budget summary and it’s time for the numbers on New Zealand. I still find it a little weird to hang out our financial laundry out for the world to see, but I keep writing these posts because I think the numbers are really interesting and I would be thrilled if this inspired someone else to quit their job and hit the road. Whenever I talk about the budget, I always mention that Adam and I are very grateful and feel incredibly fortunate that the pieces all fell into place for this trip, financially and otherwise.

So anyway, I’ve kept track of our total and daily spending on our big trips. I knew New Zealand wasn’t going to be cheap. I was right:

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Compared to our costs of $145 per day on our US Road Trip and $152 per day for SE Asia, this is insane. Continue reading Two Weeks in New Zealand and We Spent HOW MUCH?!

Ten Outdoor Adventures on New Zealand’s North Island

The North Island of New Zealand is relatively small island, but it is packed edge to edge with excitement. We only scratched the surface on our visit. If you are considering a visit now or in the near future and are the adventurous type, here are the adventure highlights from our trip. We roughly followed this ~700 mile route around the island:


We traveled place to place by car, but once we got to a spot, we often borrowed bikes from our airbnb or rented bikes for a day of exploring. Auckland has tons of trails and the Kiwis give out free and helpful maps everywhere.

Once you’re on your bike, there are great waterfront trails all around the city. Keeping to the coast will also help you stay off the giant hills as you move more inland.  Continue reading Ten Outdoor Adventures on New Zealand’s North Island

Hiking The Legendary Tongariro Alpine Crossing

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing on New Zealand’s North Island is considered to be one of the best day hikes in New Zealand, and sometimes even in the world. The ~12 mile trail winds past Mount Ngauruhoe, which acted the part of Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings movies. Although it is one of the most crowded and touristy spots we visited on our trip, it was a stunning and diverse hike past volcanic scenery and alpine lakes. If the weather cooperates, you’ll get dramatic views of the mountains and the surrounding countryside as you head up and down the pass.

The Alpine Crossing was my favorite hike in New Zealand and it’s tied with biking to wineries for my favorite adventure of the trip. I especially enjoyed not sweating SE Asia-style and revisiting hiking eats like ham and cheese sandwiches with a side of peanut M&Ms.

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Panoramics make feet funny. Do these trail runners make Adam look fat?

This post has info on: The Park and The Volcanoes, Hike Logistics and Three Annoyances, my thoughts on gear and safety, the tale of our adventure and my final summary recommendations. Continue reading Hiking The Legendary Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Abel Tasman National Park – New Zealand

During our time in New Zealand, in addition to biking and drinking wine, we hiked through two very different National Parks, Abel Tasman on the South Island and Tongariro on the North Island.

Abel Tasman park is most famous for its beaches, and the Coastal Trail is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, a set of nine very scenic, popular and well-maintained hiking routes. This is the park you should visit if you want stunningly beautiful beach scenery and moderately difficult hiking, as long as you’re not afraid to travel to the other side of the world to get there. Continue reading Abel Tasman National Park – New Zealand

Minimalist Packing Results after 4 Months in SE Asia and New Zealand

After nine months of traveling, I realize that I always want to pack more than I need. I get hung up on “just in case”. I’m sure my bag will always be bigger than Adam’s and this trip was no exception. I did pack light, when Adam and I left on our four month backpacking adventure, his bag was half the size and weight of mine. (Adam’s bag was 15L and 7 pounds, while mine was 33L and closer to 20 pounds.) Surprisingly, even with such a small and carefully curated bag, I had clear must-haves and also quite a few leave-at-homes.

I was originally skeptical that I’d be able to live happily with only a small backpack. I was worried I would be cold, wet, dirty, underdressed or over-exposed for our various adventures. I knew I could purchase more clothes or get a bigger bag, but the process was still stressful. Fortunately, as you’ve probably picked up, packing light worked out perfectly. You can see exactly what’s in my bag and Adam’s bag in these previous posts.

But still, there were quite a few things that I should’ve left at home. Adam’s still largely happy with his packing, except for one unnecessary extra pair of socks. Here’s the full list of things I didn’t need in my bag:  Continue reading Minimalist Packing Results after 4 Months in SE Asia and New Zealand

DIY Biking Winery Tours in New Zealand at Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay

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We saw one or two sheep along the way. I guess they don’t eat grapes.

Our lives are pretty great, but on days when we get to ride bikes and drink wine, life is pretty much perfect. New Zealand has some picturesque places with delicious wines, notably Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay, that beg to be explored via a do-it-yourself (DIY) bike and wine tour. Unlike other US West Coast wine regions we’ve visited, like Napa, Sonoma and Willamette, both of these towns have reasonably downtown priced accommodations within a short bike ride of many wineries.

Biking is my ideal mode of transportation for sightseeing. I find myself more engaged with the scenery plus I’m able to cover a good amount of distance without too much effort. It’s always nice to be active, too. In New Zealand, we were lucky that a few of our AirBNBs had free bikes available for us to borrow. When that wasn’t available, we rented bikes for around $25-35 each for a half day (technically about four hours). Continue reading DIY Biking Winery Tours in New Zealand at Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay