Month: January 2016

Waihi

January 16th– 22nd 2016

After a night catching up with family in Hamilton, I headed to Waihi: a small town which is home to erotic gay werewolves of legend, polydactyl cats, zillions of flies and where dogs swim down gold mines. It was also home to my first WWOOF (WWOOF= Willing Workers On Organic Farms) of 2016.

WOOFing is basically a work exchange where you set out the terms of your stay with your host in advance. Generally, it is room and board for a pre-arranged number of hours (usually about 3-4) per day. The tasks required of the WWOOFer will vary depending on the host’s requirements and the WWOOFer’s abilities/interests. Generally, WWOOFers are backpackers looking for a cheap place to stay and to experience local life with organic farmers. My “Woof WWOOF” falls a little outside the norm, as I am bringing my bedroom with me and it is populated by two handbag dogs. I was pleased that some hosts were still willing to take me on and was pleasantly surprised at this one in particular.

Another part of my plan to be more proactive in animal welfare is to write books. Specifically, children’s books about dog training and bite prevention. This is something I may or may not do in tandem with my plan for The Longest Walk (described in a previous post, here). Christine, the female half of my host couple, just happened to be an author, publisher. Find out more at Quintessence Publications (website). Right now, Christine and her co-author Trev are working on a series of gay erotic novels starring… werewolves. And apparently the market is burgeoning with interest. Christine had so much information and advice to offer me about publishing that it will be a long while yet before I have taken all of it in. I have books and blogs to read, online services to explore and really everything I need to get my books published. Great from the point of view that it is now up to me. Not so great from the point of view that… it is now up to me.

This week was a week of self-confrontation. Many people have difficulty succeeding because they limit their success with their own beliefs. Having struggled with my own limiting beliefs and now having a path laid out bare in front of my with no impedance was a difficult thing to face. I’m very thankful for the push, as it got me moving. I finally finished the first drafts of my first two books and started setting up the online presence I will require to make them work. I’m also thankful for the philosophical chats shared with Darwin (a fellow WWOOFer from Germany) and John (an elderly friend of my hosts) as well as for the assistance John (the male half of the hosting equation… plus aeronautical engineer/automotive engineer) gave me in fixing up a couple of things with my car (including the blown fuse mentioned in Homesteading).

This property was a larger suburban block growing a crop of their own organic produce. Darwin and I were tasked with several renovation jobs inside as well as some roof maintenance.

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Painting the roof with Darwin in Waihi

I got out in the garden for a couple of days and planted out a crop of potatoes and got the wood stores ready for winter. It was hot work but there was plenty of down time and a couple of cheeky cats with extra toes (Polly with 6 toes per paw and Jumbo with 7). Christine gave me tips on places to check out such as the track around the big gold mine in the centre of town and a local swimming hole complete with cliff jumping and a tree swing.

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Jake swimming in a gold mine

And no need to worry about hitting the ground. This thing is an old, disused mine shaft. Jake had a great time swimming and playing in the waterhole with the local boys and Piccolo had fun exploring the area.

Waihi. Good spot if you like a quiet little town. Check it out.

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Flexibility

January 15th, 2016

Sometimes you have to plan but it’s always good to be flexible. Today was one of those times. I’d planned to make my way to Hahei (Coromandel Peninsula) today to meet a rather remarkable person. However, as it turns out, we are both terrible at planning and organisation, so that didn’t happen.

I mention in my bio that I hope to find a proactive role to play in animal welfare. One of the ways I am exploring to do that is to walk with my dogs between all of the SPCAs in New Zealand (Google Maps- to get an idea of the scope) as well as opening the experience up to other animal welfare organisations, such as rescues, other shelters and animal sanctuaries. The goal: to raise awareness of the issues surrounding the welfare industry and encouraging prevention rather than problem management. Another important goal is to raise funds for the organisations.

I had already identified several issues with my proposed journey, such as the fact that I’d need to be aware of my dogs’ (one of whom is a senior citizen) health and ability to complete such a trip. Other things such as permissions, legalities, what involvement with RNZSPCA and its affiliates was desirable and what they’d expect of me if I did it… Lots of other stuff too, including equipment and how best to carry it. I’d settled on the idea of a kind of rickshaw based on this guy’s design (YouTube video) of a bike trailer/camper. The pros of this were many. Such as the ability to stash Piccolo (my dog) when he was flagging, less stress on my thoroughly use up back and the ability to carry sponsor logos. The cons, as far as I had figured are really only maintenance and restriction on terrain.

Needless to say, this is a fairly sizable task and I thought I’d best consult the experts. Who’s an expert in walking thousands of miles all around New Zealand you ask?… Wildboy.

You can read more about Wildboy here (blog website). His name is Brando Yelavich and he has a book entitled “Wildboy: An epic trek around the coast of New Zealand” (book/order information). In summary, he walked (and kayaked in places) around the coast of New Zealand in 600 days becoming the first person to have done so. After reading his book, I realised there may be a few things I hadn’t thought of that I could learn from his experience. So I decided to contact him.

Anyway, we’d arranged to meet and chat but we stuffed up and it wasn’t going to work (won’t bore you with the details). I decided to see if I could stay with my aunty in Hamilton since it was right on the path to my first WWOOF in Waihi.

Homesteading

January 14th, 2016

Next stop Kaponga, Central Taranaki. Actually, pretty much right at the base of the mountain. My friends Ringer and Nicky are living the dream. But I wouldn’t be arriving before a minor disaster struck.

Pulling away from my parents’ place with my brand new trailer coupling, I was feeling confident that my car issues were at an end for now. Alas, having connected everything up and pulled away, I was halted by a concerned mother: “You’ve got a cable hanging down”. Sure enough, I did too. As I’s straighten up the trailer, the cable had not had enough slack and all the wires pulled clean out of the coupling on the trailer end.

With a bit of hasty autoelec-trickery, I bunged all the wires back in place. Or at least, I thought I did. Sadly, I’d reversed the earth and tail light wires and in not too long, a warning light let me know I’d blown a tail light. Bugger. After checking that the indicators and brake lights still worked, I decided to go on anyway. Hoping I’d just blown a fuse, I decided it was best for a real autoelectrician to make sure I’d not cooked something.

A couple of hours later, we arrived at our destination. And WHAT A DESTINATION!

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Chillin’ by the mountain with the boss… and his owner

I was super jealous immediately. The quiet was penetrating and the peace of the area was palpable. The happy couple (and brand new parents!) had set up a sizeable veggie garden and had a couple of sheep, chooks and a cow. Open greenery as far as the eyes could see. That is except where it was obscured by the majesty of Mt Taranaki or, if you looked really hard, fringed by the churning Tasman Sea. Casa de Ringer was indeed as redneck as had been promised and it gave me such a thrill to see that they had successfully carved such a life for themselves. If they could, maybe I could too.

Much catching up was done, babies were cooed over, cordial introductions to the cow and sheep were made and my wee lads met Ringer’s ‘hound’. Joyful frolicking and crotch sniffing ensued. Then the dogs started playing together too 😉 Ringer and I decided to pretend we were real men and began playing with the car, grunting things about sumps, radiator flushes; jacked the car up; got out a heap of unnecessary tools; got covered in oil and even did a little rewiring. As we clearly had no idea what we were doing, not much was achieved by this. We did sink a couple of beers in the process and had a good laugh though.

Ringer and I took to the kitchen and cooked up a storm. Dinner consisted largely of the home-grown veggies on display in the veggie patch. While they are still really only getting a useful harvest around the summer months, there’s every sign of their yield improving gradually. They hope to eventually be growing, raising, collecting and butchering the majority of their food year-round. With the amount they have already learned about creating a sustainable lifestyle and with the can-do attitude they both have, I have no doubt they will make that dream a reality.

Homestaying

January 10th– 14th 2016

After the wedding, it was time to go home. I am reminded of an excerpt from Vipassana courses (meditation centres): “If you think you are so enlightened, spend a week with your parents”. Don’t get me wrong, mine are about the most caring and loving parents I could hope for and it’s great to see them to catch up. Nice as it is, I struggle to be a good house guest at my parents’ place and that’s all on me. (Sorry Mum and Dad)

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The rig makes its way to Tawa

It was an opportunity to spend a bit of time with my sister too and a chance to clock up some quality uncle time with my Wellington-based niece and nephews. The physical distance between us and our Gore-based family was bridged by Skype and we managed a bit of intercity family time catching up with my sister and her kiddies as well. Furthermore, it was a time to sort through and organise the assorted items I have dumped at the olds’ place for storage over the years.

I should probably just send it all to the tip, but those old hoarding habits prevent me from letting go of all the little pieces of memorabilia and ‘stuff I might need in the future’. Some tough choices are going to need to be made if this Tinyhouse future become a long-term reality. Down-sizing a household also means being realistic about what is truly useful to have around. It doesn’t necessarily mean getting rid of everything without specific utility, but is does mean ditching those things that don’t really serve you in one way or another.

Arranged to have the trailer light socket installed while I was in one spot for a couple of days. Now the rig was legal, I could happily start my travels and see was in store. I’d arranged a couple of WWOOFs and a WorkAway (work exchange sites) stay but the first stop was the couple who gave me my last excuse to return home when they got married last. It was then, that I may well have found my future home and it was this next trip that may well have consolidated my desire to follow this whole thing through.

Nuptials

January 9th, 2016

Today was all about public proclamations of love! Who doesn’t love a day like that?! The timing of the big move back from Aussie was largely governed by today. My good friends Nick and Rosie got married on Nick’s parents’ farm in a truly kiwi ceremony which is utterly appropriate for their laidback attitudes toward life. I love this type of wedding because it both respects tradition and puts a personal and unique finish on the event.

It was also a chance for me to discuss dropping out of urban/suburban society with Nick’s Dad. We chatted about how and why he and his wife had decided to make the move to the country and also the specific shape of how their rural drift had gone. The girls did a great job of shifting 30kg hay bales while we supervised their work and discussed such things as self-employment, occupational health and safety/professional liability requirements, suing/litigation and nomadic communities of pensioners living carefree lives of leisure (news article). I was rapt when we both came to the same conclusion that dropping out of the system of things was my best option at this stage.

I got the impression from his account that the shift to country life has allowed them to explore life according to their own priorities instead directed by others’ dictates. I didn’t get a chance to get Nick’s Mum’s views on this. While I’m sure things don’t always work out, it’s a consistent theme in the stories I am hearing of those who choose to explore other options. There are several books on the subject, including one called “The End of Jobs” by Taylor Pearson (on Amazon.com), which I would recommend having a look at. In today’s global village, imagination and determination really are the only limits on the form that life can take.

Quite unexpectedly, another thing happened today. I’ve come to expect the unexpected, as this is often the way these important moments arrive in our lives. Today was also a time of catching up with old mates. One of these mates, (who shall remain anonymous as I’ve not asked his permission to discuss it) really made an impression on me through his life choices and behaviour. He reminded me how this system of order really works for some people. While it doesn’t feel right to me, it nurtures others to develop into quite remarkable humans. I was struck by the way he had developed a successful career which makes him happy and a family life which truly gives him joy. It was really interesting to see the different choices made and paths taken amongst a group from such similar origins.

Life comes in a lot of different packages… as many as there are beings to live it. Today was a great day to reminisce, consider, reconsider and reconnect. But most of all it was a day to celebrate. I’m so happy that Nick and Rosie took this step in their life together.

On the Road Again

January 8th, 2016

Seven years ago, almost to the day, I’d left this very driveway on another road trip. Last time I was carried by Annette the Vannette. She was held together mostly by rust and painted a unique shade of “cow”. Acquired for a song from some German backpackers on their way out of the country, she was thoroughly used up. But what a wonderful vehicle. With her shimmering, glow-in-the-dark stars adorning her ceiling. The stars hung silently over a simple mattress that concealed all the necessities of travel, hastily and untidily stowed beneath. Ok… so she was a bit of a junker, but she was my carriage for a pretty awesome month-long journey into Northland: one of the few areas of New Zealand I’d not yet explored.

This time however, the set up was somewhat more sophisticated. Still pretty basic, but it was a definite step up.

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Here, I owe a big “thank you” to my legendary cousin Jason for having been my go-between in the purchasing of the caravan I am writing this from and the car which tows it. (Not only that, but he also helped me out with Annette all those years ago and has consistently gone above and beyond). Thanks Jase. You truly are a champion.

I see this phase as an intermediate step on my way to my own real Tinyhouse (see the mock up of its proposed design). It’s modelled on a girl in Auckland (YouTube video), whose story was presented by Living Big in A Tiny House (YouTube Channel). I liked how she had found a cheap way to decrease her rent and I hope to do similar. My plan is to advertise on TradeMe.co.nz and community notice boards in the local area I decide to settle in. We’ll see how that goes. But for now it is also going to be a useful set up for travelling, as I need a place to house my dogs when I can’t supervise them directly. The camper is well-ventilated and I have a portable fan that makes it great for the summer months.

Today’s drive was always going to be an adrenalin pumping ride. “Why?” you ask… Because I was on the wrong side of the law for hours through heavily populated roadways. While my new car was able to tow the trailer, it hadn’t had a trailer light coupling installed. So I was driving straight down State Highway 1 for hundreds of kilometres past Highway Patrol and Police cars with the thought of discovery thumping at my conscience continuously. Well… it crossed my mind every now and then at least. Meh! I had to get down the country to attend a good friend’s wedding. I could get the thing fixed up ASAP after that.

I won’t bore you with the details of the 8-9hrs of driving that followed (driving with a trailer means slower progress unfortunately). Let it suffice to say that I nearly ran out of petrol once and the highlight of the trip was a nice lay over at Lake Taupo where I let the dogs have a run around and where Jake, my water-loving Pugalier had a bit of a swim. Other than that, it was a procession of long, winding roads framed by paddocks, small towns and picturesque forestry pine plantations. If you’ve never driven it, you should give it a go.

Made it to Ohau having managed to dodge the fuzz. Actually, I even got pulled over and had the registration on my trailer spot checked by the Highway Patrol. But he must’ve had eyes only for the registration and WOF (Warrant of Fitness- a regular safety certification required for vehicles on New Zealand roads). Whew! Winning!

All up, it was a long day of driving. But it signifies the beginning of a new chapter in my life. It’s the beginning of a nomadic existence, in which I choose every day to be open to possibility and change.

Homecoming

January 7th, 2016

It’s a new year. I’ve been unemployed for 6 days and I have pretty much everything I own in front of me in three bags at Auckland International Airport. All other remnants of my life in Australia have either been sold, given away or turfed in the Great Melbourne Furniture Swap (aka “Hard Rubbish Day”). I’ve paid a small fortune for the privilege of excess baggage, which I currently lug and basically wiped out my savings to clear and ship my two dogs, for whom I currently wait. The only things I have sorted back in my homeland are: 1) a pre-purchased pop top camper parked at my aunty and uncle’s house; and 2) a car, which is currently en route to pick me up. These combine to form my intended lifestyle for the foreseeable future.

* Point to note, if you find yourself with more than your baggage allowance coming from Australia to New Zealand, you’ll find shipping options are ridiculously overpriced unless you have a large amount. This is mostly due to the set price of freight inspection once it reaches our hallowed shores. The best way I found is pre-ordering excess baggage on an Air New Zealand flight for $55 per bag (up to 25kg- valid at time of writing)… unfortunately I was on a Qantas flight… hindsight is 20/20

How did I get here? And what was I thinking? Valid questions.

I had moved to Melbourne 4 years earlier to pursue a career in dog training and sheltering after previous experience at the SPCA in Wellington during my uni years. I’d decided to recapture the sense of fulfilment and purpose that it had given me before. This was a great move as far as education ad mentoring went. I did my training at the National Dog Trainers’ Federation and fell into a position working under a very experienced and reputable trainer, Trish Harris of 4 Paws K9 Training. I’d also had a go at running a martial arts school, started working for myself doing private dog training consultations and gained more experience in sheltering on a whole different scale at the Lost Dogs’ Home than I’d had before.

However, I’d known for a long while now that I really wanted out of cities and out of the cycle of working for the ability to pay off someone else’s mortgage and barely being able to get ahead. I have no real estate of my own, no desire to sell my life to a high paying job and its soul-sapping demands, no money to speak of, and no prospect of inheritance or a beneficent sponsor. The chances of procuring a lovely country home on a rural block, on which I could work towards a quiet, self-sustaining lifestyle were remote to say the least. And the problem of how to financially support myself once I got there always lingered in the back of my mind. There are clearly innumerable other options. Some are ethical. Others less so. Most require a long-term commitment to one location. Only one really took hold of me.

Tinyhouses are a thing which have been around for some time now. Recently, they have really been finding popularity in the USA. If you’d like to learn more about Tinyhouses, this video (We The Tiny House People- YouTube) is worth a look. I think the first time I heard about them was in a Facebook post from my Mum. Over the space of about two years, I got more and more interested in these people who were downsizing their lives in order to create a lifestyle of independence and abundance. By decreasing their possessions and taking responsibility for their own needs they were lessening their dependence on the very system that enslaves so many of us to our money and debt. Quite simply, a well-planned Tinyhouse decreases your expenses and means less need to chase money. Combined with at-home food production, it becomes a way to outgrow the need for mothering by the state.

While I explored a few possibilities in Melbourne and further afield in Australia, the pull of family, lifestyle and cheaper land prices made New Zealand seem a more attractive option. That… and a now-familiar intuitive feeling that this was my next step. I had also developed a couple of fairly ambitious plans to make my dreams reality and I was about to give them a try.