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The magic of staying put

Paekakariki Escarpment track

“You are never more essentially yourself than when you are still.”

– Eckhart Tolle

The title of this post is not our motto but an aspiration. We hate staying put. We’re counting down the days until the end of the lease on our flat (177 remaining, in case you were wondering). Our feet are itchy, our bodies ache for movement across the planet. I can look out our front window at the sea and it kills me that the whole world can be reached if we just step away from this shore.

But 178 days from now, I’m pretty sure we’ll be right here, still. And–true to my aspiration of staying put and staying present–I’ll keep trying to focus on the joy of that. And there is a lot: the school Leah and Holly are attending is amazing (Holly’s gone from reading BOB books with frustration to Neil Gaiman chapter books in less than six months) and both girls are making lots of friends. Michael’s got a new ICT position, working in the public sector again. We love this beautiful, watery part of New Zealand and are really glad we landed here. And despite my occasional threats to get a job at our local pet shop, I really do enjoy tap-tap-tapping away at my keyboard every day, stringing words together.

We’re all getting older, faster every day it seems and sometimes the urgency to make the most of this time we have is overwhelming. I can’t help but gaze longingly at Google Earth, at all there is to see in the world. We’ve tended, ahem, to jump headlong into wild ideas in the past. But right now, just resting here, we’re back in the dreaming phase. Trying out ideas, letting them simmer, tossing them aside. And then just gazing out the window, remembering how incredibly lucky we are to be here.

 

Sunset Parade

 

How to Move to New Zealand coverBut another benefit of staying still is seeing a project from idea to draft to finish. And here’s the latest result of all my tap-tap-tapping: a full-length eBook based on our most popular post ever, How to Move to New Zealand in 31 Easy Steps. Ever since I published that post three years ago, I’ve gotten countless emails from readers all over the world asking for more details on the New Zealand immigration process. Now, I’m not a licensed immigration adviser, so I’m not able to give specific advice to anyone, but I have enjoyed pointing people to resources for job-hunting, work visas, and tips to moving to New Zealand. Earlier this year I got the idea of putting it all together into one volume and I’m proud to announce the eBook is officially available to purchase (with print coming soon)! I worked with my Voyaging With Kids coauthor Michael Robertson and his new publishing company, Force Four Publications for this project and I’m so excited to send it out into the world.

The eBook is now available at:

kindleIBooksnookkobo

 

 

Here’s a gorgeous peek at our ‘hood. Can you tell why we love it here?

Forever or failure?

5 years ago today. Motoring in typically glassy summer PNW waters to Canada.

5 years ago today. Motoring in typically glassy summer PNW waters to Canada.

My friend and Voyaging with Kids co-author Michael Robertson wrote a post back in April, one I’ve been thinking about ever since. It’s a good post; to me it says stop worrying about whether you will like cruising or not. Just go. You might like it or you might not but the only way to find out is to find out. Excellent advice.

But something about this concept bothers me–and it’s not Michael’s idea, but a common perception in the wider cruising community. And that is the idea that you’re cut out to be a full-time cruising sailor. Or you’re not. What, you only cruised for two years? And only to New Zealand? Too bad you couldn’t hack it.

I call b.s. on that. Who cruises forever anyway? Can you think of anybody besides Cap’n Fatty? I sure can’t.

But I’m guilty of thinking the same silly thing, over and over. They only sailed to Mexico? They must have chickened out and scrapped their plans for the South Pacific. They’re selling their boat after only a year? Must have been too hard. They couldn’t even get off the dock and they’re selling their boat? Ha! Another cruising-wannabe that couldn’t hack it.

These are terrible thoughts.

The reality is that people “stop” cruising for an infinite number of reasons but I don’t think any of them means they can’t hack cruising. We run out of money, or health. Or we just get tired of it and it’s not fun anymore. Boats break. Sometimes the kids we drag along really don’t like leaving their friends behind on a regular basis. It’s certainly not an easy or convenient way to live for months or years at a time. As Michael R. wrote, it is scary. We might miss home, and miss our families who can’t afford to fly around the world to meet us. Sometimes we’ve just had enough, dream fulfilled.

Cruising is not a forever or failure thing. Sometimes you go cruising for a while. And then you stop. You might go again one day, or not. This doesn’t mean that you’re not cut out for the cruising life. It means you did it, and then moved on to something else as we do just about everything in life. Michael J. and I have work-cruised-work-cruised-work-cruised-worked for over 17 years now and it’s a life that suits us. I’m sure we’re not done yet. (I can’t seem to hack staying put, either.)

I don’t think there’s anything such as failure when it comes to cruising. Cruising success is not measured in distance, or time. Even if you “only” take your boat out on the weekends, maybe a week out to the San Juans, you learn something about yourself, something important. And that’s the journey we’re all on.

Exploring our for-now backyard.

Exploring our for-now backyard.

Simple things.

Simple things.

Why we’re stuck in New Zealand: that’s Leah amongst her āpiti wearing her favourite pink sweatshirt, doing the kapa haka.

 

Acquiescence

Fetoko YogaTonga time is a really interesting thing. (I even wrote about it the last time we were here, three years ago.) I don’t know if it’s the way the dateline snakes around this part of the ocean or that it’s so hot and muggy this time of year or that the people of Tonga truly epitomize what “island time” means. Whatever it is, time seems to stop here. And yet it seems like the march of days will never end. Weeks streeeeeeeetch out and it feels like our buckets are overflowing with empty hours.

Two months on a tiny tropical island is a really, really, really long time. It’s sort of like being at sea, except we’re already there. We watch the sky and the sea change, just like on our boat. We do have a small skiff and explore neighboring islands and run into town for food once a week. Our friends aboard Del Viento came by and there were bonfires and slumber parties and giggling girls running all over the place. We swing in the hammocks, squirt each other with the water pistols Santa brought. Books and books have been read. A novel draft completed. Games played. Bread baked. Stuff fixed. Movies watched. Meals cooked with mystery meat and cabbage (again). The cat is nearly bald from the amount of pets he’s been getting.

And thinking. Oh yes, I’ve been doing a whole lot of that. Trying to make sense of our lives, of the general upheaval of the past three years. I think about what didn’t work for us (a mortgage, Auckland, Common Core, shopping) and what is (living small, traveling light, cultivating real-life friendships, pursuing our interests, writing, minimalism). The problem with all this time to think is that I can imagine so many futures, so many lives worth living. But I’ve already lived a lot of them and some times I just want to go back: to our home in the woods, to our cozy little boat sailing on the sea, to the cute Seattle apartment I was living in when I met Michael at 23. But there comes a time when you have to accept that the only one you really have is this one.

2016 will be our year of acquiescence. True acceptance of who we are, what we need, what’s important to us. Right now. Some of this is practical (i.e. money to eat is up there on the list of immediate needs). Many more are intangible: more stability in friendships for the girls, more focus on my diabetes health (which travel is not so kind to). We want to live in a city again, where ideas and people collide in so many interesting ways. We’ll keep living small (the girls comment daily how they miss the coziness we had aboard Wing’n it). We want to plant some roots for a bit; this shy, introverted family needs time to cultivate deeper friendships. And we love New Zealand, despite all the challenges of living on a small island nation thousands of miles from our loved ones.

It is a lot like being at sea here, the more I think of it. Just like being on passage, I love all these hours with nothing else to do but simply be. Having spent weeks at a time at sea I know you can’t keep looking forward to the destination. You will drive yourself crazy with the desire for a cheeseburger, and a cold beer, and perfectly salted chips. No, you have to take each day, each hour, each minute at a time, focus on what’s directly in front of you before it slips by. I don’t know if we’ll ever get such a vast spread of empty days again so I don’t want to forget it, this time.

Santa brought water pistols for Christmas. Isn't he clever? (That's our lighted Christmas palm behind them.) They only each got one thing on their Santa wish lists (ebooks) but later said they got everything they wanted.

Santa brought water pistols for Christmas. Isn’t he clever? (That’s our lighted Christmas palm behind them.) They only each got one thing on their Santa wish lists (ebooks) but later said they got everything they wanted.

There's a bit of Christmas here, too. We miss the coziness of a northern hemisphere holiday, but not the crowds, shopping, traffic...I think it's just right here.

There’s a bit of Christmas in Tonga, too. We miss the coziness of a northern hemisphere holiday, but not the crowds, shopping, traffic…I think it’s just right here.

The Neiafu market. It's tomato salad for dinner. And pasta with tomato sauce.

The Neiafu market. It’s tomato salad for dinner. And pasta with tomato sauce.

They have no trouble keeping busy (as long as I ignore the "I'm bored" complaints)

They have no trouble keeping busy (as long as I ignore the “I’m bored” complaints)

Sand Cay

The Voyaging With Kids cover girls reunite aboard Del Viento, four years after the original was taken. They've grown a tad.

The Voyaging With Kids cover girls reunite aboard Del Viento, four years after the original was taken. They’ve grown a tad.

Exploring Swallow's Cave, courtesy of Del Viento (photo by Michael Robertson)

Exploring Swallow’s Cave, courtesy of Del Viento (photo by Michael Robertson)

The girls love taking care of the Fetoko animals. They know what to do as the temperatures have started soaring lately.

The girls love taking care of the Fetoko animals. They know what to do as the temperatures have started soaring lately.

Dad and daughter make bread. We don't have an oven aboard Wing'n it and are sure making up for lost baking time here.

Dad and daughter make bread. We don’t have an oven aboard Wing’n it and are sure making up for lost baking time here.

Wondertime Family, Tonga 2015

Wondertime Family, Tonga 2015 (photo by Michael Robertson)

We Are Learning

Throwing stones - Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown, South IslandA well-meaning family member recently asked us the question that every single long-term travel family hears, and often: but what about school? Aren’t they going to get behind?

I must admit that I am a reluctant homeschool mum. When we moved back to Olympia last year and the big yellow school bus picked the girls up for their very first day of American public school, I went back into the house, turned up the stereo full blast and may have danced in joy for a couple hours (or at least that’s what it felt like). I had hours and hours to myself to read and write with Michael off to work and the girls off to school.

But then the homework was sent home in my all-day kindergartner’s backpack. And the tears from dealing with mean kids at school. Also, complaints about the computer reading tests foisted upon our 3rd grader and how so-and-so got a higher score than she did. Fall conference time arrived and we sat in front of our daughter’s kindergarten teacher and tried to pay attention as she went over pages of data on our 5-year-old’s current progress. On her 6th birthday I brought in class cupcakes and asked when I should come back for the party. “Oh, I don’t know when we’ll eat them,” her teacher told me. “I like to surprise the kids sometime during the day.” In other words, get lost.

A month later I took Holly out of school. We played. Read books. Counted stuff. Shopped together. Made art. She was a happy 6-year-old again.

I took Leah out a month after that. She was becoming increasingly distressed about school. She had made some very good friends, but was bored silly in class. Most of the kids didn’t listen to her teacher and they would have to stay inside and miss recess. Totally makes sense, right? Ever since she was little she’d pick her fingernails when she was anxious; hers were bloody and sore.

So even though my days since have been a little more hectic and it’s been a challenge to carve out time for myself to write, I know that we made the right choice. The past five months of traveling aboard Wing’n it has only reinforced that: not worrying about tests, evaluations, curriculum and pointless busy work has resulted in them being kids again. Happy, curious, thoughtful, patient, and pure sponges of knowledge.

Together, we are learning constantly. We read things, we count things, we draw things. We look up topics that interest us. We look at maps and decide where to go next. We talk about history, geology, wildlife, ecology, conservation, sociology, economics. We visit libraries and read for hours, picking books off shelves that strike our fancy. We’ve learned how to get along living in a teensy space. We talk about budgeting and how we must give up one thing to choose another. We’ve learned how it’s far better to have experiences rather than wasting money on climbing the “property ladder” or buying the latest plastic junk. We’ve learned how to set goals and then go for them.

I honestly don’t know if they are ahead or behind in school. But I do know they are leaps and bounds ahead in life and I think what we’re learning together will serve them well.

Puzzling World, Lake Wanaka

Puzzling World, Lake Wanaka

Queenstown/Cardrona Snow!

Queenstown/Cardrona late spring snow…first time in the white stuff in over 5 years!

Clifden Caves near Fjordland. (I totally chickened out when crawling became necessary. Luckily Michael is braver than I and he and the girls kept exploring underground.)

Clifden Caves near Fjordland. (I totally chickened out when crawling became necessary. Luckily Michael is braver than I and he and the girls kept exploring underground.)

McLean Falls, Catlins, South Island

McLean Falls, Catlins, South Island

Dunedin Telephone Booths

Dunedin Telephone Booths

World Famous Moeraki Boulders

World Famous Moeraki Boulders

Learning about earthquakes in crumbling Christchurch

Learning about earthquakes in crumbling Christchurch

Center of downtown Christchurch, 5 years later. The stones in the giant cairn are each written upon with a wish for the city's rebuild.

Center of downtown Christchurch, 5 years later. The stones in the giant cairn are each written upon with a wish for the city’s rebuild.

NZ fur seal pups frolicking in a waterfall. It's a 10 minute walk from the ocean; the mothers leave them here in a sort of seal pup daycare. Cute overload. (Kaikoura)

NZ fur seal pups frolicking in a waterfall. It’s a 10 minute walk from the ocean; the mothers leave them here in a sort of seal pup daycare. Cute overload. (Kaikoura)

Beer tasting in Marlborough Wine Country

Beer tasting in Marlborough Wine Country

Happy to be back in Welly

Happy to be back in Welly

#nofilter friday: beauty time

beauty time

Pelorus River, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand

Thoughts after two months on the road

No TV

As of this writing, we’ve officially been Wing’n It for 61 days and 7 hours. With our little Mitsubishi Canter diesel puttering away, we’ve explored around the Bay of Islands, Whangarei, Auckland and the Waitakere, the Coromandel peninsula, Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty. We have camped by marina boatyards, bridges, city streets, driveways, parks, forests, and beach after beach after beach. Right now, we’re freedom camping at a small reserve in Rotorua (the home of geysers, boiling mud, and steaming, sulfur-emitting hot pools). Earlier today, our family went on a walk together here along a small but thundering river, water-falling and pouring down a small gorge into a series of peaceful-looking pools that look perfect for swimming.

Except for that it’s still winter here (a fact that doesn’t deter local surfers any). And while our friends back home are enjoying the hottest summer on record, New Zealand is having one of their coldest winters ever. Temperatures are supposed to drop to nearly 0°C tonight which is a wee chilly in a tiny motorhome with no heater. But this is when the camper’s small size most comes in handy: four bodies sharing 100 square feet keeps the temperature inside….tolerable. It at least keeps ice from forming on the windscreen. Michael and I still sleep with our sub-zero mummy bags zipped together with two blankets on top. And flannel pants, a fleece shirt, and wool socks. It appears a year of central heating has made me a bit soft.

But spring will be here in less than three weeks and the sky tells me that’s true; the sun has warmth again and the bluish white sunlight I remember of New Zealand is growing in intensity. Truth be told, we’ve had feelers out ever since we arrived for jobs, a place to stay for a little while. We even got a P.O. box up in Paihia. But life in this old, small van has been growing on us. It is the simplest we’ve ever lived: the most basic clothing for all, a truly minimalist galley, a few drawing supplies, games, Legos, and Kindles for the girls. Our routine is down pat: every three days we find a dumping station and empty the graywater tank and Porta-Potti and fill up our tiny 60L water tank. I go to the store and stock up on meat, vegetables, dark chocolate, and Pinot Noir. Then we open up the road atlas I got used at an Auckland library for NZ$0.75 and we decide where to drive next.

It’s not a bad gig, not at all. Because while some things are scarce, such as the aforementioned heat, along with internet (it took me 4 days just to find a cell signal strong enough to actually upload this post), interior (and–cough–personal) space, and good hoppy beer, we are rich once again in the things that truly matter: the wonder that is exploring a stunning island at the bottom of the South Pacific Ocean and the time to do it together as a family. I think we’ll keep going.

Camping near the Whangarei bridge.

Camping near the Whangarei bridge.

Auckland: our most favorite waterfront in the world. Except maybe Wellington. Or Pahia. Or Mt. Maunganui...

Auckland: our most favorite waterfront in the world. Except maybe Wellington. Or Pahia. Or Mt. Maunganui…

Breakfast with a view (Firth of Thames)

Breakfast with a view (Firth of Thames)

With a negative outflow of cash, we stop to pan for gold in the Coromandel (no dice however).

With a negative outflow of cash, we stop to pan for gold in the Coromandel (no dice however).

Lego night

Lego night

Million dollar view...for free. (Mercury Bay)

Million dollar view…for free. (Mercury Bay)

We had stunning Cathedral Cove nearly to ourselves. One of the prime benefits of wintertime roadtripping.

We had stunning Cathedral Cove nearly to ourselves. One of the prime benefits of wintertime roadtripping.

Winter will not deter the surf sisters.

Winter will not deter the surf sisters.

Now that we're officially permanent residents of New Zealand, off go the shoes.

Now that we’re officially permanent residents of New Zealand, off go the shoes.

18 days until spring...and we're counting down each one.

18 days until spring…and we’re counting down each one.

We explored amazing Karangahake gorge, complete with old gold mining tunnels and ruins. Amazing!

We explored amazing Karangahake gorge, complete with old gold mining tunnels and ruins. Amazing!

Learning continues even though we're still officially on summer break (Holly reads her Bob Books to Michael)

Learning continues even though we’re still officially on summer break (Holly reads her Bob Books to Michael)

We woke up on Papamoa beach near Tauranga to a beautiful sunny day...and so did this NZ fur seal

We woke up on Papamoa beach near Tauranga to a beautiful sunny day…and so did this NZ fur seal

Wing'n It girls at the summit of Mt. Maunganui near Tauranga

Wing’n It girls at the summit of Mt. Maunganui near Tauranga

We love steamy, smelly Rotovegas

We love steamy, smelly Rotovegas

You can spend a fortune in Rotorua, or just go to the park in the middle of town and enjoy the free sights and mineral foot baths.

You can spend a fortune in Rotorua, or just go to the park in the middle of town and enjoy the free sights and mineral foot baths.

Oh how we love libraries. Books, wifi, HEAT.

Oh how we love libraries. Books, wifi, HEAT.

Wintertime beauty, Lake Rotorua

Wintertime beauty, Lake Rotorua

Living in the slow lane

Somewhere over the rainbow

Motorhomes and caravans all have names here, just like boats do (perhaps this is true everywhere though?). Ours is called “Wing’n It” which we at first thought was kind of silly and planned to change it as soon as we could. Until we realized it pretty much fits our situation perfectly as we’ve been taking each day as it comes. Wing’n it. We know we’ll settle into a little corner of New Zealand sooner rather than later, but for now we’re letting our path come into focus as it will.

But I woke up the other morning and had no idea where I was. My arm was freezing, having escaped the warmth of Michael’s and my zipped-together mummy bags sometime in the early morning. I tucked it back inside to warm it up again. Then I heard the Tui bird in a tree outside. The Tui’s call is the most fantastic bird call I’ve ever heard: a chorus of high and low, short and long notes, chattering and chuckling. A hundred birds all in one. Then I remembered exactly where I was and curled up to sleep a few minutes more before the girls woke up.

Michael was up a short while later to make coffee. It’s not a fast process: he grinds the beans by hand (unless, by chance, we’ve remembered to do that the night before). The kettle is put on the gas hob to boil and he measures the grounds into the Aeropress. Once the water is near boiling, he pours it in and presses the steaming espresso into a mug. He divides it between our two mugs, then pours hot water into both for perfect Americanos. We lay in bed for at least another half-hour, sipping our rapidly cooling coffees. The rest of each day is much the same: slow, measured, and just enough to make it a full one.

One of the wonderful things about NZ is that you never know just who will stop by for Tea. Here, my publisher, Lin Pardey stopped by when we were camped in Auckland. I'm sure she's used to small spaces.

One of the wonderful things about NZ is that you never know just who will stop by for tea. Here, my publisher and mentor Lin Pardey stopped by while we were camped in downtown Auckland. I’m sure glad she’s used to small spaces.

My friend and coauthor Michael Robertson asked me a few weeks ago if it is taking time to acclimate to our new life or have we just fallen into it? It’s taken this long, but I think I finally have the answer: it’s both. This experience is both familiar and completely new at the same time.

What I’ve found most interesting is how moving back to a foreign country can be so familiar. I know which brands of cheap Pinot Noir are the best (admittedly that’s an easy one as I haven’t really found a bad one yet). We’ve got our Sistema box full of Whittaker’s chocolate bars stashed in the cupboard again. The girls feel right at home swimming at the Tepid Baths and remember all of their favorite parks and playgrounds. After a day or two we recalled our way around the roads and are even remembering not to switch on the turn signal when it starts to rain. Everyone’s Kiwi accent is like a familiar singsong, joyous to our ears. The best part is we’ve been meeting up with friends all over; even Gloria who works at the Freeman’s Bay laundry was happy to see us, lugging our bulging Ikea bag of laundry in (“The girls are so big now!”). We’ve had dinner nearly every night with old or new friends…something that just doesn’t seem to happen often enough when we’re not traveling. But it should.

This may be familiar to us, but, as always, the girls always notice something new.

This scene may be familiar to us but the girls always notice something new. (Opua to Paihia trail in Bay of Islands)

What is different is living life in a tiny motorhome, but even that feels oddly familiar. Land cruising is a whole lot like water cruising, right down to spending a good majority of our time filling and dumping tanks and looking for free internet and showers. We look for places we can “freedom camp” rather than spend big $$ at holiday parks (just like we tried to avoid marinas). I make simple meals with fresh food purchased from farmer’s markets. My galley is the simplest yet, with a few pots and pans, a handful of utensils, and a bowl and plate for everyone. The girls occupy themselves with Legos, or a notepad and a pencil. Or better yet, I can toss them out the door and they can go and run play…without a dinghy ride or a swim.

What also is decidedly different is that we took off five days after buying the motorhome, which we’ve certainly never done in a boat. That, and we sleep soundly each and every night. Space is tight (have you seen that Portlandia sketch about life in a tiny home? That’s pretty much what it’s like for us right now. You’ll have to google it to find it. My internet is dog-slow too.) This entire experience has made me give daily thanks to my years of living aboard small boats; mere mortals may have been driven mad by now. But I know we’ll move on eventually to a bigger space and will miss all this closeness and the freedom of the open road. A flat? A boat? Who knows? We’re just wing’n it.

P.S. Just for fun, follow our NZ wanderings via our friend Tucker’s amazing new website, Farkwar. It’s designed for boats…but why not land yachts? http://farkwar.com/boats/wing-n-it

We've help our friends aboard Nyon with their mast a number of times over the years (the last being after their mast breakage in Mexico in 2011). This time the stick was out for a touch of varnish and Michael was glad to lend a hand again.

We’ve helped our friends aboard Nyon with their mast a few times over the years (the last being after their mast breakage in Mexico in 2011). This time the stick was out for a touch of varnish and Michael was glad to lend a hand getting her aloft again. (Opua, Bay of Islands)

See? Can't seem to get away from boats.

Still can’t seem to get away from boats. (Paihia, Bay of Islands)

A tour of our wonder wheels

How could we possibly pass up a campervan adorned with knitting?

How could we possibly pass up a campervan adorned with knitting?

We’re currently parked next to our most favourite beach in the world, Piha, just an hour’s drive from Auckland city. We set off just yesterday, after finding the perfect motor caravan for us our second day in Auckland (considering ourselves very lucky to have grabbed it just minutes after it was posted on Trademe!) Good, clean, reasonably-priced caravans go fast apparently, even in “winter” (put in quotes as the girls are off running on the beach barefoot and with short sleeves. But it’s early still in the season….). One thing is certain: we’ve never taken off on a boat five days after purchasing it.

Tonight, we’ll camp over by Kitekite falls just outside of town, but right now we’re in front of the Piha Surf Lifesaving Club and burger & chip shack which has free wifi so I thought I’d give you a little tour of our new teeny, tiny home. Firstly, I don’t miss my writing desk in the woods–here’s what I’m looking at now:

Writing desk

That’s the beach right outside, with a view of Lion rock. And more knitting (not done by me, but maybe I’ll find the time to knit again….). And that’s our cat, Chi, in the window keeping a lookout. Below is a view of our living area. The benches are very long, about 7 feet each. The table drops down to make an “emperor” sized bed–it’s huge! The girls share the double bed above the cab (right now it’s full of the bags of clothes I’m still figuring out where to store).

View forwardHere’s our little fridge. It runs on propane, 12-volts or 240-volts. Pretty neat.

Fridge

Here’s our front door, with what I suspect is a permanent pile of sandy shoes.

Door

The galley is across the aft end of the van. There is even instant hot water! Seriously, this thing is luxury like we’ve never had underway.

Galley

A tiny head (also with perpetual Ikea bag of laundry).

The head

Plenty of storage for the essentials.

View aft

In Piha

The girls sit up front, where there are three seat belts. I sit in the back, and hang onto the knitting with white knuckles.

The girls sit up front, where there are three seat belts. I sit in the back, and hang onto the knitting with white knuckles.

How to Move Back to New Zealand in 59 Easy Steps

Back in NZ!Despite all our years of writing about sailing, the most popular post on our blog ever remains How to Move to New Zealand in 31 Easy Steps. We’ve gotten hundreds (okay, maybe 99 or so) emails from people all over the world asking for more details on how we did it and how do they get started in their own immigration process. We’re not immigration consultants, so we can’t give any advice other than just do it, you won’t regret it. Which is but one of many, many reasons we decided to follow our own advice, again.

I’m typing this from the friends’ couch we’ve been surfing on for the past few days in Auckland, New Zealand. We arrived, bleary-eyed from our 14 hours of flying, two days ago and I can report with definity that it is SO good to be back in this beautiful, happy, peaceful country.

But it’s been a busy, busy, six weeks.

1. Decide to finally listen to the voice in my head that’s been screaming the past year this is not right! you were where you were supposed to be! sure the woods are beautiful and the house comfortable…but there is so much more out there….

2. Drink a wee dram or two of scotch on a late-April Friday night with Michael.

3. Fantasize about giving it all up and moving back to New Zealand to continue our residency.

4. Start planning to give it all up and move back to New Zealand to continue our residency.

5. Look up plane tickets online.

6. Find one-way tickets at a great price.

7. Decide to sleep on it.

8. Wake up.

9. Realize that we weren’t that drunk after all.

10. Buy plane tickets.

11. Decide to rent out house.

12. Realize there’s no way in hell we’d be able to rent house for enough to cover mortgage even if we worked day and night for six weeks to finish the basement doubling the size of the house.

13. Put house on the market.

14. Give stuff away.

15. Sell stuff on Craigslist.

16. Clean house.

17. Give our dog to the family who’d fostered her from the shelter originally and were over the moon to have her cuteness back.

18. Give our kitties to my sister-in-law’s mom who now adores them (thank you Lisa!!!).

19. Give stuff away.

20. Sell stuff on Craigslist.

21. Reopen our NZ bank account.

22. Wire some money over.

23. Michael quits job.

24. Get storage unit.

25. Start filling it with stuff.

26. Pack stuff.

27. Give stuff away.

28. Start making piles of stuff to bring, trying to stick to the essentials (clothes, shoes, toiletries, electronics, 4 stuffies per each kid, basic drawing supplies, journals, Legos, coats, books, sleeping bags, Kindles, Aeropress).

Packing for a year or more for a family of four? Not my most favorite step.

Packing for a year or more for a family of four? Not my most favorite step.

29. Make arrangements to stay with friends our first few nights.

30. Start researching motorhome market on trademe.

31. Sell our family car.

32. Cancel gymnastics & dance classes.

33. Cancel cell phones, internet, garbage service, car insurance.

34. Keep house clean between showings.

We made the last bubble bath in the house a good one.

We made sure the last bubble bath in the house was a good one.

35. Invite friends over for a final Bon Voyage Bonfire.

36. Give stuff away.

37. Return shitty mattress to Costco.

38. Pack everything into six large bags to check and four small backpacks to carry on plane.

...but I did it!!

…but I did it!!

39. Give food to neighbors.

40. Lots of teary goodbyes.

41. Load up our little old pickup and drive to Grandpa’s house.

42. Enjoy a last weekend with family.

43. Give pickup to Grandpa in exchange for a ride to the airport.

44. Pile in Grandpa’s car and head to airport which includes a ferry ride to Seattle.

45. Another teary goodbye.

46. Unload all 14 bags.

47. Check 6 of them.

48. Wait to board flight. Enjoy the first hours with nothing to do in weeks.

The secret to travelling long distances with kids? ELECTRONIC DEVICES.

The secret to traveling long distances with kids? ELECTRONIC DEVICES.

49. Enjoy the last free and fast Wifi we’ll see in a very long time.

50. First flight to Los Angeles (2 hours).

51. Second flight to Auckland (12 hours).

We flew on Air NZ's brand new Boeing 777. The economy seats are as small and agonizing as ever, but the entertainment can't be beat.

We flew on Air NZ’s brand new Boeing 777. The economy seats are as small and agonizing as ever, but the entertainment and free wine can’t be beat.

52. Arrive Auckland at 6:30 am.

53. Try not to jump up and down with giddiness when immigration officer stamps our passports and says “welcome back!”

54. Enjoy amazingly delicious flat white coffees.

55. Grab new sim cards right at the airport.

56. Shuttle to Jucy rental car facility to pick up our El Cheapo.

57. Upgrade car to next larger since can’t fit all bags in the super compact.

58. Drive to bank to see if debit card is there waiting for us as promised.

59. Disappointed that it’s not. But who cares? We’re back in New Zealand.

Best friends, reunited. Traveling has always been about the connections we make with people along the way and we are so grateful to be on this path again.

Best friends, reunited. Traveling has always been about the connections we make with people along the way and we are so grateful to be on this path again.

Packing for life

Books

When Robert and I decided to take Bobs, our daughter of nine, and spend a summer cruising the intricate coastline of British Columbia, the procedure appeared to be comparatively simple. We’d buy a boat, stow supplies aboard and depart. Bobs had never been on shipboard, and Robert and I had never navigated or lived in a cruiser, but freshness would add zest to the adventure.

Having made our decision, we put it into execution in our usual forthright fashion, for we get on faster by trying out a scheme than thinking about it.

-Kathrene Pinkerton, Three’s a Crew (1940)

One of the things I miss the most while living on a boat is my books, or more accurately having my books where I can actually see them. Wondertime only had a single tiny bookshelf in the forward cabin. That didn’t stop us from having books aboard, of course. The girls had fabric bins at the base of their beds filled with them; they were also stuffed into their lockers and stacked next to their pillows. There were three plastic crates of books in the pilot[storage] berth in the hallway and baskets of library books in our aft “family room.” When we moved all of those books off the boat, the waterline went up three inches and we gained at least a knot and a half in boatspeed.

We left a great many behind in New Zealand, but shipped (too many) back to Washington. And it was a glorious day when those books met up with the ones I’d left behind in our storage unit in Olympia upon the shelves of an old china cabinet I found secondhand. I could stand and gaze at them all lined up there neatly, so happy, on those shelves for hours. I’ve actually read a lot of them. Our used cruising guides are all there, as are the first books that introduced me to the idea of voyaging under sail. But many just sit there, waiting, filled with promise of stories yet to read.

So it was with great sadness last week that I took each one down off their temporary shelves, held it in my hands for a moment, then tucked it back into a plastic storage crate. Another pile destined for the Goodwill grew, but not one of those was from the four shelves of travel/sailing books. (It only takes a glace at our bookshelves to see where my heart lies.)

One of those books was one I’d not yet read, but that I had found on a marina book exchange shelf years ago. It was a paperback reprint of a book written in the 1930s, before The Curve of Time even, of a small family that ups and moves from San Francisco onto a small power cruiser they’d just purchased in Seattle. They had suddenly got the crazy idea (“going foreign” Gasp!) to explore the B.C. and Alaska coasts for the summer. They didn’t stop for seven years. Kathrene Pinkerton wrote about her family’s adventures in the 1920s, in what is likely the first book ever to describe family adventuring on the sea.

On page 18, of Three’s a Crew, Kathrene writes:

For the first time I wondered if we had been sane on that day when we had so abruptly decided to cruise along the British Columbia and Alaska coasts. Twenty-two months of steady writing had entitled Robert to a vacation, and those months had completed five years in one locality. Almost unconsciously we had been relinquishing our foot-loose instincts and accepting the creed that a family should “stay put.” We deserved no credit for this attitude. By the time we had followed the usual parental routine of proper schools, dancing classes, the inevitable orthodentia for a growing child and a decent neighborhood in which to bring up a daughter, had added a few outlets for ourselves in golf, theaters, concerts and dinner parties, there were no funds with which to do anything but “stay put.” And after we had bought these routine requirements with our writing, there was no energy to expend in wandering.

It’s hard to believe that was written over 75 years ago, but it’s true. What’s even more true is that we feel the same way, 75 years later. Our money is finite. Our days are finite. The only thing that really makes sense is take full advantage of each and every one.

(As a side note: it never seems to fail that no matter if my books are on a shelf, or in boxes, or on my Kindle: just the right one always seems to land in front of me.)

And so I pack the books away. We sell the furniture. Give outgrown toys and clothes away. We tearily pass our cats and dog onto friends and relatives. We sell the cars and the house. There is a tiny pile in my closet of things to bring with us: we each get to check a 50 lb. bag on our Air New Zealand flight, along with a small carry-on.

It’s stressful, but we’re all tingly with excitement. All four of us. It’s invigorating to pare down to the truest essentials of living, what is all we need. I suppose we’ve finally accepted our wandering blues. It feels so good to shed the stuff that I thought we needed to make a home. The girls ask each and every day how much longer until they get to go back to New Zealand. They think they are going home. I think they may have been right all along.

All that matters in the world: our family and our tickets to freedom.

All that matters in the world: our little family and our tickets to freedom.

We are bringing thousands of books with us.

I always thought the birthmark on Holly's calf looked a little bit like a map of New Zealand. So I thought to compare it to an actual map. Am I crazy or...? (Wait. Don't answer that.)

I always thought the birthmark on Holly’s calf looked a little bit like a map of New Zealand. So I thought to compare it to an actual map of the South Island. Am I crazy or…? (Wait. Don’t answer that.)