The more things change, the more they stay the same

Saturday, July 3rd

And so my trip has finally come full-circle.

I’m back in Auckland, New Zealand for two days to tie off loose ends and catch a flight back home. I’m even staying at the same hostel I did when I first ventured to this amazing country.

It’s a very bittersweet time of my trip. On one hand, I’m excited to head home and see family and friends that I’ve missed for the past five months. On the other, I’m disappointed to be leaving behind the life I’ve been leading while traveling. I’d have to say I’ve become quite accustomed to it, especially the time spent in Fiji.

If you have any desire to travel to a tropical island, I beg you to consider Fiji. I don’t think I’ve ever met friendlier people in my life. And the island aint to bad itself either.

I left Walu Beach Resort this morning and felt like I was leaving behind dear old friends. My five days spent there were exactly what I was hoping for from my time spent there. There was plenty of time spent on a deck chair by the pool sun-bathing, in hammocks reading and bump, setting and spiking on the sand volleyball court. I did a hike with new found friends Tom and Rosey to the highest peak on Malolo Island for some magnificent views of so many of Fiji’s islands. I went snorkeling around the small cove that Walu Beach is located on. I even got in my first round of golf on a nine-hole course at nearby Plantation Island.

Most of my nights were spent conversing with new comrades over a Fiji Bitter, either at the Rock Bar out on the small peninsula on the edge of the resort or back by under the stars near the main lodge.

On Wednesday night the staff put on a show for their guests that included numerous native dance and song numbers. It was spectacular to witness the culture of these people, performed in such an intimate setting. After the show the rest of the evening was spent partying with the college-aged group of American and Canadian volunteers for their last night at the resort. We had drinks out of coconuts and even partook in the native Fijian drink of Kava. There’s no way you can mistake Kava for anything delicious, it tastes a bit like mop water after cleaning a muddy floor, but it has an interesting affect that numbs your lips, tongue and throat and is supposed to make you feel lethargic. When enjoying this drink it is custom to sit cross-legged with your arms extended straight and resting on your knees. Before excepting a coconut half of Kava you clap once and say “bula,“ then down your drink, hand back the cup and clap three times.

After having my fair share of Kava, I didn’t really feel like I was any more lazy than normal, it’s probably due to the Fiji effect. When you’re in Fiji, you must always remember things are done on Fiji time, which means things get done, when they get done.

Bitter-sweetly I had to leave this wonderful place and head back to the place where this whole thing started. I’m sitting at the Bamber House in the Mt. Eden area of Auckland planning out my last few days. After having forgotten my sunglasses in Fiji and somehow had a few items lost out of my bag during my flight (nothing too important), I’m starting to really longing for the comforts of home. I’m planning on meeting up with my friend Dane for a bit while I’m back in Auckland and then finishing off my loose-ends on Monday when the bank and cell phone store will be open.

It’s been an amazing trip and experience and I’ve met so many friendly people that I hope to someday see again, but for now I’m ready to get back and see the amazing people I left behind for the last five months. So, look America, Joey Keeran is on his way back in a couple of days, it’s just too bad I’ll miss out on the party that is the 4th of July.

Nearly Stateside,
~Joey

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Ni Sa Bula

Tuesday, June 29th

Bula everyone!

It’s been a busy week or so since I last wrote a journal and I probably won’t post this one for a couple of days after it’s been written. I’m disconnected from the outside world as I sit in my beachfront bure in Fiji.

I’ve spent a day relaxing in the sun around the pool and by the beach and have completely fallen in love with the island life, but let’s take a look back a few days and see how we got here.

We left off with my travel day from Byron Bay to Newcastle, quite an adventure. I rolled into Newcastle around 11:30pm and made my way to room at Backpacker by the Beach.  The hostel was nice, but a bit cramped. I explored the depths of what there was to offer in what I think is the third biggest city in New South Wales. I walked down a popular walkway that entertains you with views of the sea to one side and the bay to the other as you head out to Nobby’s Point. I saw some of the historic buildings from the early settlements in the area and I hiked up to the great city views from the obelisk that stands near the city center. Newcastle provided a couple days of good entertainment, but I was really looking forward to my trip to Sydney.

I arrived in Sydney in the afternoon, after spending my last few hours on Greyhound in Australia. After settling in at my new accommodations, West End Backpacker, I spent a couple of days exploring the vastness that is Australia’s biggest and most popular city.
I did some shopping at Paddy’s Market in Chinatown, finding some great deals on souvenirs and a few items for myself. I walked out to Darling Harbor, one of the many coves that break off from Sydney Harbor. At Darling they have set up at the moment an International Fan Fest for the World Cup. A couple of days after initially exploring the area I went back to watch the US team lose to Ghana in extra time. It was a great experience, unfortunately waking up at 4 in the morning didn’t help boost the team to victory.

I spent a good amount of time seeing some of Sydney’s most well know attractions, the Harbor Bridge and the Opera House. Both are iconic images of Sydney and Australia as a whole. They are really amazing to see and while basking in their glory, I was really awe-struck thinking about how so many people know these places, but I was actually standing right in front of them.

On another day out I took the 30 minute ferry ride to Manly, a suburb of Sydney northeast across the harbor. Manly provided some spectacular beaches and some fun little shops and the ferry ride across was worth the trip alone.

I enjoyed some of the night life in Sydney, as expected, and took in a film at the world’s LARGEST IMAX theater. I saw Toy Story 3 in 3-D on an allegedly 18 story-high screen, amongst a crowd of a good couple hundred people. The theater was mind-boggling, the movie was a nice finish in a childhood classic.

With only a week left in my journey I headed out of Australia to Fiji, where I am currently sitting at a quarter to 11pm, sweating while typing because it is so flippin’ hot.

First off I must say, thank you mom and dad for the lovely birthday present, this place is amazing. I am mere seconds from the ocean waters and have a room to myself for the first time in a VERY long time. The resort I’m at (Walu Beach for anyone interested in visiting someday) is very friendly, as demonstrated the night I got here. As I arrived at sunset in the little outboard dingy, I was greeted by a handful of the staff singing a traditional Fijian welcome song.

The resort seems geared towards younger, budget travelers, but they really do a great job of treating their guests with class. There happens to be a large group of college-aged Americans and Canadians staying here as well, so I’ve actually met people who didn’t need an explanation when I told them I was from Oregon.

My first full day was spent lounging around, reading, sun-bathing, sleeping, eating and even a little bit of volleyball. I’m not exactly sure what all I plan on doing here, but I know it’ll be fun, even if it’s just unwinding after travel for so long.

Frying in Fiji,
~Joey

The Sun is Shining and All is Right With the World

Sunday, June 20th

Easterly point in Byron Bay

It’s quite amazing how a little bit of sunshine can make a whole lot of difference. I can’t tell you (well, living in Oregon I’m sure we all know) how nice it is to be back in a warmer climate, wearing shorts, T-shirts, flips-flops and yes, even sun-screen. Heck, I’ve even dusted off my sun glasses.

I’ve spent the last couple of days in Byron Bay, a couple-hours-drive south of Brisbane. It’s a surfing town and for good reason. There are beaches everywhere! Plus, remember all that stuff about flip-flops and sun-screen? Well, I’m wearing all of that during the middle of winter here.

Toga! Toga! Toga!

I took my first Greyhound ride in Australia from Brisbane to the lovely Byron Bay and checked in to Cape Byron Lodge. A relaxing place with a laid back attitude. On my first night in town, I headed out for my first ever toga party! It was a fun time, but I got a few odd glances as I head through town to the venue.

On Saturday I gave another try to surfing and went out for some lessons with Kool Kats, a company that gave a money back guarantee of standing up and riding the board for 40 meters. Let’s just say, they’re good to their word. I had a great time catching some waves and actually surfing this time. I had a massively big board, which I’m sure made all the difference, but I also think I was starting to get a good feel for surfing. It’s a fun sport, but it takes a lot of work. Maybe I’ll have to give it a go on the Oregon coast some time.

Byron Bay Light House

Today, I hiked out to the light house that over looks Australia’s most easterly point. It was a decent walk with some stunning views of the beaches surrounding Byron Bay. During the hike I caught a glimpse of a wallaby as it hopped away. The light house was built in 1901 and is still in operation.

Tomorrow, I’m headed out for an all day travel, as I make my way from Byron Bay to Newcastle. While Greyhound is much nicer here in Australia it doesn’t’ appear to be any faster. My journey is scheduled to take 10 hours, so I won’t be doing much other than gazing at the scenery as it passes by my window.

Monday also marks my final two weeks traveling abroad. I know I’ve said it before, but I really can’t believe it’s been nearly five months. When I head back the year will be half over, I’ll be unemployed and I’ll be living with my parents once again (temporarily). But with all that said, there’s still quite a bit planned for me as it’s wedding season and summer. I’ll be sad to say good-bye to friends and the fun of traveling abroad, but at least I’ve got family, friends and good times waiting to greet me when I get back to Oregon.

Surf’s up from Byron Bay and Happy Father’s Day for all the dad’s out there, including an extra happy one for my dear old pa!
~Joey

Happy Father's Day Dad

On to the great land of OZ

Wednesday, June 16th

Sitting at a picnic table on a rooftop patio, I’m over looking the skyline of not only a new city, but a new country. The pleasantries of New Zealand and my most recent “home”, Christchurch, are now in the past I’m off to Australia. The development comes with very mixed emotions.

I started my journey across the Pacific Ocean with no intentions of venturing into any other foreign countries than New Zealand, but after only a short time I realized that I may not have an opportunity to see the likes of Australia and Fiji ever again. So, being an opportunist I’ve now trekked back across the Tasman Sea to Brisbane to start my two week adventure in OZ.

Leaving Christchurch was difficult. I had spent over two months at the Coachman Backpacker and developed some fantastic friendships. My time spent there could probably be seen as the most “normal” part of my trip. I worked for a month and a half at odd jobs, referred to the Coachman as “home” and had routines.

But the life of a backpacker isn’t about becoming comfortable and sedentary, especially the life of a backpacker with only five months to travel. So, after starting my time out on the cleaning staff in early April, I took off shortly after spending my birthday with a couple of great friends, Leonie and Sonja.

My flight to Brisbane marked the three week countdown until my return to the USA. On first thought, it doesn’t feel like I’ve been gone for over four months, but when I stop and think about what I’ve done and where I’ve been, I truly understand the length of my time abroad. As I draw nearer to the end, I’m, starting to think back more and more about what has happened in my time and what I had hoped to achieve.

But before we get too much into that, I do still have three weeks left to travel.

I’ve spent a day in Brisbane and am starting to remember what the start of my journey was like. I arrived with very few ideas as to what I was planning on doing or how I was going to get there. It appears like Greyhound Australia will be my chariot for a trip between Brisbane and Sydney. I’ll plan on stopping in Bryon’s Bay and Newcastle for a few days each and spend three nights in Sydney before heading out to Fiji for five nights.

Brisbane is Australia’s third largest city and it is very evident from where I’m staying. The Chill backpacker is only a short walk from the very busy downtown area, where I’ve spent time for the last two afternoons. Today, I did a tourist walk through the city center seeing sights like city hall, the ANZAC memorial, botanical gardens and the river front of the Brisbane River that cuts through the town.

So, while I was sad to leave my friends and comfortable surroundings of Christchurch, I still have an adventure ahead of me, as well as a journey back home to look forward to.

Reminiscing in Brisbane,
~Joey

Brisbane Skyline

Outside the snow is fallin’

Wednesday June 9th

Queenstown

Many of you may have heard me say that my ideal living situation would be in a place where I can go snowboarding during the winter and wakeboarding in the summer. There’s a good chance I may have found that place.

Hanging out on the back deck of Deco Backpacker

Queenstown on New Zealand’s south island is about the closest place I’ve ever been to my dream home. As you drive in between towering mountains and along pristine shorelines you can’t help but be in awe of the sights of Queenstown. My first impressions upon arriving to town were that this place reminded me of Bend, Oregon, only it included lake front property and more mountains.

The temperature has been chilly, with today’s high expected to hit 3° (37° F) and lows below freezing. Makes me a bit concerned about my drive tomorrow back towards Christchurch through the mountain passes.

An amazing coincidence occurred while I’ve been here at Deco Backpackers, I’ve run into two people with ties to Oregon. First while checking in yesterday, a guy walked by and must have noticed my American accent and asked where I was from. Turns out he’s from Portland. Then later that evening, while sitting in the common room, I spotted an Oregon hoodie on a girl sitting in the back of the room. Turns out she grew up in Eugene and now lives in South Dakota. With these two new people the number of Americans I’ve meet on my trip is growing and amazingly, I’ve met three people with ties to Oregon.

Queenstown Garden

I spent most of my time today out exploring the adrenaline capital of NZ. It’s a small town, with a lot going on.  Most people come to Queenstown for parties, bungy jumping, sky diving, skiing/boarding and anything related to the extreme. I wish I had more time to partake in these activities, but the draw of selling my car and celebrating my birthday with friends is drawing me back to Christchurch. The ski season has just opened up here in NZ and a number of residents in the hostel have been talking about trips up to the ski fields.

I wish I could make a trip up, and part of me wishes I could have a bit of a winter to play in the snow, but then the bitter cold part of me is excited about heading to warmer climates in under a week.

Tomorrow I head back to Christchurch and, well, it’s my birthday. Let’s hope year 27 of life has as much in store as 26 did.

Freezing cold in Queenstown,
~Joey

PS – I ate dinner at Fergburger tonight, and it truly is a fantastic burger. I had been informed about how delicious the burgers were at this restaraunt, but I had my doubts. I’m pleased to say , they didn’t disappoint. This is perhaps the fullest I’ve been since I’ve arrived in New Zealand.

Stepping out

Monday, June 7th

Happy Queen’s Birthday!

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I’m down to my last week and a day in New Zealand. Well I guess not technically as I will spend a couple of nights in Auckland before I fly back to the states but pretty much this is my last week in Kiwi land.

Results from falling off a ladder on probably my worse day at work

After working for the past month and a half, I had high hopes for this week. I was planning traveling through the rest of the south island that I hadn’t seen yet, but there’s been some distractions from the get go.

First off, the weather has been less than stellar. Rain is most definitely not the preferred weather for sight-seeing.

Second, despite working and saving money for a while, after buying plane tickets for flights to Australia and Fiji, money’s once again a bit tight. That is until I sell my car, which brings me to the biggest struggle of this week…selling my car.

I put the thing on the market last week and only got interest from one person. Now this week when I leave Christchurch for the first time in two months I start getting calls to see the car. It’s become my dilemma, do I use this week to see the sights I’ve yet to see and risk losing out on potential buyers or do I cut the trip short and head back to Christchurch?

At the moment I think I’m going for a bit of a compromise by still seeing parts of the southern end of the south island but still getting back to Christchurch in a couple of days. Hopefully my potential buyers won’t be upset with the slight delay.

As for my first day away from the friendly confines of the Coachman Backpacker, I’ve spent my time in Dunedin (Done-EE-den). It once again is a holiday weekend so not much was open on Monday, but it seems like a pleasant town. It’s the home of the University of Otago, Speight’s Brewery and a Cadbury chocolate factory. I walked around the city center today, checking out the shops (mostly window shopping) and stopped at the University of Otago Museum for a few hours.

The plan is to head to Queenstown tomorrow and spend a couple of nights there before heading back to Christchurch for my birthday and hopefully to sell my car. If I can find a way to make it happen, I’d like to swing through Te Anua to at least get a glimpse of the fiord lands, but we’ll have to see how time goes.

Getting wet in Dunedin,
~Joey

And now the answers to all your burning questions

Monday May, 24th

Wow, so I looked at the last time I posted and it really has been infrequent. I do apologize. Today marked the 21 day out of 22 that I’ve worked, so I’ve been busy, but I have been trying to have some fun too.

Out on the town with my German girlies

Work has been my main objective here in Christchurch. I’ve been temping, as I may have mentioned before, and I’ve had a variety of jobs, but I’ll get into more of that in a minute. I have made some good friends who have also been long-term stays here at the coachman backpacker, and we’ve been spending a number of days a week heading out for some good times.

And now to some of the main topics for this post. I asked in my last for questions about my trip, you guys delivered a few good ones so let’s address ‘em.

Mom:
As for my biggest surprise, one thing that comes to mind is how long some of the travelers I’ve met stay on the road. When I left home, I thought I was going to be gone for a long time. I mean it’s nearly half a year, but some of my fellow backpackers have been traveling for a year or longer.

I just don’t know if I could spend that much time away from my family, friends, working and home. Maybe it’s because I knew I was only going to be traveling for five months, or maybe it’s because I’m not out on my gap year before heading back to university. But being away for a year or longer is something that is a bit of a surprise to me.

The rest of your questions;
What do I wish I had brought that I didn’t? A few more pieces of clothing. I would really like to have another collared shirt and at least another t-shirt. Oh and probably more socks and underwear, five days goes by a lot faster than I imagined.
What is the biggest lesson I’ve learned so far? When you’re broke and living on a budget, many things get sacrificed, beer and alcohol is never one of them.
What has been the thing that has pushed me out of my comfort zone the most? There’s been a few things that have stretched my comfort level a bit. Buying a car on my own, asking to stay a few nights at someone’s house that I’d known for only a day, randomly choosing a family to host me for two weeks and probably the biggest… getting on an airplane on February 10th to travel across the Pacific.
What is something I still hope to do before I leave? There’s tons still left to do and I can’t wait to get going again. Party in Queenstown, see the lakes near Wanaka, experience the amazing sights of Milford Sound, hike on the Franz Josef Glacier, sky dive, give surfing another go, get a taste of Australia and spend a few relaxing days on a sunny beach in Fiji.
What has been the most awe inspiring moment so far? There are moments when I’ve been like “wow this place is beautiful” and I’m totally in awe of the scenery (the Bay of Islands, Arthur’s Pass, Abel Tasman) but really I think the most inspiring has to be a day off I had during this working period I’m in the middle of. I spent it walking around the city center area and while walking past a monument to some of Canterberry’s most influential people I thought to myself “man it’s nice to have a break from working…but you know even if I’m working in some factory pulling tires or feeding bags of wool through a scouring machine, I’m still working in New Zealand and I really can’t believe I’m here experiencing this.” Sometimes life for the last month or so has felt a bit routine, sleep, then work, then food, then repeat. But even still this isn’t your normal routine, I’m in a completely different country, with people from all around the world. When I realize that I feel rather inspired.

Grandma:

A visit to Cathedral Square to the giant chess board

Sorry I haven’t checked in lately, I assure you I’m still alive and doing well 🙂 .
Your question about some of the low cost entertainment and local celebrations, well I have visited the free art museum. I only had enough time to visit on exhibit, but it was very interesting and I do plan on visiting again before I leave Christchurch. There’s also the botanical gardens, which I did walk through as well and hope to make another trip on a sunny day.

You also want to know about my jobs that have been taking up so much of my time. Well I’ve been working with a temp agency so I have gotten quite the variety. My first job was with Altex Coatings, they supply marine and industrial paint. I was mainly a receptionist/shop helper for them. I worked one evening shift with a company called Kaputone. They are a wool scouring company and I basically stood in front of a machine for eight hours feeding wool onto a conveyor belt. I spent two and a half weeks with Bridgestone Tyres (that’s how they spell it here), while there I was mainly moving tires. If they had shipping containers filled with tires, we’d unload them. If they had a container empty, we’d fill it. Not complicated, but rather exhausting moving nearly 5,000 tires in a day.

For the last few weekends I’ve been a cashier/mover for a retail shop called Impulse Imports. And lastly I work for a company called Vbase as a casual host and the only job I have done is one rugby game. I was basically an usher helping people find their seats, closest food and beverage stand and the toilets.

My current residence 144 Gloucester St CHCH

And lastly Grandma, yes I’ve met quite a number of excellent new friends while staying in Christchurch. The nice thing about being in one place for so long is that you get to really develop some good friendships (I’ve been here for a month and a half and will take off around the two month mark, longest I’ve spent in one place since I left!). It’s really made the Coachman Backpacker feel like home.

Jeff:

Me enjoying some delicious Monteith's

Yes I’ve definitely consumed my fair of local brews, and to be honest they’re not too shabby. I visited the Monteith’s brewery in Greymouth on the west coast of the South Island. They had a wide range of styles and flavors that were very tasty. While here in Christchurch I’ve frequented a local pub called Twisted Hop that I’ve been told makes a very good English style beer. They have a fantastic porter and the last time I had they’re new seasonal a very delicious oatmeal stout. I’ve also ventured towards the cheaper stuff and I’d have to say if I’m drinking economically, Speights has been my favorite beer.

Despite some decent choices here in NZ, I’ve been trying to sell Portland’s image as a beer town. I know I’ve perked some interest from at least a few fellow backpackers. I can’t wait to get back and head out for a drink or two. Lately I’ve really been craving a Beershake from Mcmenniman’s.

And lastly, Ryan;

Out on a Friday night pub crawl

I don’t really know if there was supposed to be a question in there but I’m sure you would have asked about girls or something like that. I’ve met lots of girls. Some from France, others England, lots from Germany, one from Denmark, a few from Utah, Argentina and so on and so on. You know as well as I do Ryan, I’m not looking for long-distance, so I’m looking for one petite enough to squeeze in my checked baggage, when I find that one, I’ll let you know.

Thanks everyone for helping give me some stuff to write home about. I’ve been having a great time while traveling. Even the time spent working has been exciting. Lately there’s been plenty of hanging out watching movies in the lounge, playing poker on the pool table, drinking games, pub crawls, late nights out until 4 in the morning (ya bars are open really late here) and even some time spent reading. That’s right, it’s not all partying around here!

The plan is to buy my airline tickets for a trip from Christchurch to Brisbane (AUS), from Sydney to Fiji and from Fiji back to Auckland this Friday after my next paycheck. Then around the 5th of June I’m headed back out on the road to see the rest of the south island and finish up back in Christchurch around the 12th. Fly to AUS on the 15th, travel done the east coast to Sydney and fly from there to Fiji on the 28th of June and then relax for a few days on the warm sunny beaches  before heading back to Auckland on the 3rd and then back home to the states on the 5th of July.

I can’t believe there’s so little time left.

Hope there’s less time till the next post,
~Joey