29 May 2016


Today is the day!

What day? You ask.

drum roll please....

The day that I officially put paper, ink, and passports on hiatus for one week. 

When I come back, rest assured, you'll be floored. 



Bear with me as I make some small changes to my blog. I am finally (six years in the making) switching to Wordpress from Blogger and I just need some time to do it without any posts scheduled or ready to go. I'm finally there.

Believe me, I'm a little emotional right now. This blog has been my baby for years, from its first inception as a web.mac blog musing about my year in Scotland and my post-graduate life to my frustrations and failures in my job hunt in KC before I took the travel plunge. Its gone from {paper, string, and ink} to {paper, ink, and passports}... and today I finally break PIP away for another purpose.

When I'm back up and running, you can find me at (hidden).

See you in a week!!

26 May 2016

(more) advice for a young traveller

A few months ago, I was sitting in the kitchen of my hostel after a night at work. I was chatting with Alex, a British guy, about politics. Around one am, just as we both started to yawn, three young girls came into the kitchen. They had a box of pizza and were giggling. Turns out they were Alex's roommates: three Australian best friends traveling across New Zealand together for two weeks. We heard their stories about the disastrous start with the rental car, we listened to them talk about their itinerary. They were so enthusiastic and I loved every second of talking to them.

24 May 2016

travel essay: hokianga

The road climbs steadily, trees obscuring the views on either side. Suddenly, the hill crests and the valley drops before me. The Waima Forest surrounds me, all greens and browns against a pale grey sky. It has been raining off and on since I left Paihia, and I’m anxiously awaiting the west coast to see if the sun will grace me with its presence in time for sunset.

The turnoff for my hostel appears on my left and I swerve off into a gravel, one-lane road that takes me higher and higher into the forest. On the horizon, high upon the hill, I spy a farmstead. This is where I’ll spent the night: a wilderness farm set at the entrance to a DOC walk, where I can hear the call of the Morepork and hope to hear the calls of the Kiwi. I am greeted by Lois, a lovely and warm white-haired lady with bright eyes and a quick smile. She gives me a quick tour and then a few pointers. I’m off again, this time for the Opononi Heads for sunset.

The sky has been growing ever clearer, although it mists here and there as I drive. I descend into Opononi and the Hokianga Harbour widens as it approaches the mouth. The wind whips offshore, sending the water into little ripples of current that brush the shoreline with a mere kiss. The sun breaks through the clouds in a spray of light and the way that it shimmers on the water and on the rocks still wet from the tide floors me. I start looking for a place to pull off so that I can take a picture. I end up stopping on the Opononi waterfront; music streams from the open door of the restaurant on the hill but I only have ears for the surf as it breaks on the rocks and eyes for the sunlight that seems to have captivated the water and the sky, a brilliant white light that obliterates the clouds and the sand dunes behind it.

Ahead of me, the sun shines brightly on the horizon before dipping behind a thin line of dark grey clouds. A rainbow appears to my left and I actually gasp out loud: it is so close, I could touch it. I pull into South Station Road and park at the carpark. The rainbow now appears to end in the cow field behind the car park, I can see it touching the grass in front of a tree. The other end of it dips into the dark green hills above Opononi.

I walk toward the reserve. The wide track leads to a thin track that leads to a few off-track paths. I explore the warren of sandstone rocks, sandy dunes, and manuka, kanuka, and tea trees that grow unencumbered on this remote head. I stand on the edge of the cliffs, the beach below a beautiful mess of boulders tossed carelessly there by the Tasman Sea, tide pools that glisten in the late afternoon sun. The sea breaks far offshore and from up here it looks terribly shallow, like I could just wade into the surf for miles. But I know the sea is a relentless killer; stories of shipwrecks abound in these parts of New Zealand.

I wait, hoping the sun will reappear, give me a stunner sunset that only I will see. It doesn’t, but the sky lights up in reds and oranges. To my left, a fog bank sits, waiting to roll in, and I can see rain behind me, somewhere over Rawene and Kohukohu. To my right, the sand dunes of Hokianga roll north toward Ahipara. They’re pale golden against the ice blue water and the orange sky. They seem to disappear into the mist but I think it’s a trick of the light; nothing really disappears into mist.

I take one more short walk, through a dense grove of Manuka trees. I love these trees; they grow low to the ground with a high canopy and their limbs are thin: if I was a child, I’d want nothing more than to crawl amongst them, pretending I’m living off the land or exploring uncharted continents. The trail ends on the top of the head. I can see more of the beach from here, I can see all the way back to Opononi and Omapere. I can see the lights of a car driving along the Koutu Loop Road, and lights from cars across the harbour.

I’m all alone in this wilderness and I’m so happy I could cry. It’s phenomenal, it’s pure, it’s magical. I’m incredibly sad to turn my back on the endless ocean and return to my car, but it’s getting dark and I don’t have a torch. I reach the trail and just as I’m about to walk to the main path, I spy a tiny, well-worn path off to the right. I can see that it leads to some sandstone rocks and I’m just a little bit curious so I step off the trail and follow the trodden brush to the rocks. I clamber on to the rocks and I’m rewarded with another stunning view: the cliff edges along the beach below.

The fog bank is moving in now and I can see the rain within it, so I make moves toward my car. I spin in circles a few times, laughing to myself that this place could be real. Every single landscape that I lay eyes on in this country astounds me, gob smacks me. I can’t pick a favourite, they’re all unique in their own way and all wondrous. I climb back into my car as the first raindrops fall on the windshield. The harbour falls away before me as I turn back onto the road and make my way back toward the mountain. I arrive home in time to see the sky light up a glorious orange on the hills beyond.

19 May 2016

ten reasons to visit iceland

Iceland has garnered all sorts of attention over the last few years: it's a wondrous country of icefalls, waterfalls, glaciers, stark mountains, and barren plains. I can guarantee that if you haven't already been, or if Iceland isn't on your "must-see" list, then it will be after you read this post. Here are ten reasons to visit Iceland.

18 May 2016

i don't need you: why i will never date a guy who travels

A while ago, I met a fellow traveller. We'll call him Jay. Jay seemed very cool. A few years older than me, a traveler like myself. American.

After a couple of days of chatting, I headed to the beach and set up camp next to him with my towel. I'd say we hit it off, kind of. I liked him, he liked me, but I was pretty upfront that I wasn't looking for anything except friends.

13 May 2016

travel essay: a love affair with the northland

When I first arrived in New Zealand, my plan was to spend time in Wellington - get a job, make some money - explore the North Island, and then head to the South. I wanted to spend the majority of my time in this country on the South Island. I've been there. I knew I loved it: remote, wild, barren, soulless, a mess of adjectives that I can’t even come up with. Mountains, sea, glaciers, rainforests, pure blue lakes, windswept cliffs. But somewhere along the line, I ended up in the Northland - the Far North, to be exact, the northernmost district in New Zealand.

12 May 2016

the hostel story: a battle with trip advisor

update 11 May 2016:
We have a winner! My review rewrite was published. No word yet as to whether "Stu" will reply.