All posts by mekayla

The End Of The Road

Today we officially took our first steps in good ole’ Boston in over 16 months. We almost had to follow the freedom trail in order to find our way around.

If you’ve spent most of the past year and a half wondering where we were, you’re not alone. This collage should help a bit; it’s all the places we’ve slept on our journey. Or at least all the places we remembered to take a photo.

We can’t say thank you enough to all the people who have opened up their homes (and pantries) to us in every country – our current hosts included!. We love our tent Gusty, but it is good to get a shower occasionally. (If your house isn’t in the collage, it means we were too bleary eyed when we left to get a photo and you need to send us one!)

We did a rough count of how many times we stayed in different locations:
Our tent (Gusty): 74 different sites (100+ nights)
Houses of friends and family: 28
Motels/hotels/B&Bs/hostels: 16
Huts: 15
Train: 1 (overnight from Sydney to Adelaide)
Boat: 1 (on Doubtful Sound)
Car: 1 (Under a bridge, down by a river. I’m not kidding, it was late, we were tired, and we didn’t want to camp next to train tracks for another night.)

Not to fear though, being back in Boston does not mean we will stop having adventures. Stay tuned for more, maybe we’ll even fill in some of the gaps while we’re at it, you never know.

Where’d the Hair Go?

Several of you commented that my hair seems a lot shorter in the recent blog posts. There’s a reason for that. My good friend Carrie had some fun playing with scissors.

The thought was that if I didn’t cut my hair during the year I was gone, maybe it would be long enough to donate when I returned to the country.

Most places require 10 inches. To my great surprise, my ponytail measured in at 15. Guess that will do.

Carrie was a bit nervous because I kept making her cut more off. But how else are you going to end up with lovely hair covered shoulders? Plus, she’s an expert in disguise. She definitely has a backup career if dance falls through.

Greg begged us to keep the ponytail after it was cut off to help him speed up growing out his beard, but in the end he caved and let us send it in to Locks of Love*, he figured they needed it more.

*Locks of Love is a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada under age 18 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis.” (

Thinking Forward

I’ve landed a job with Landcare Research, a top NZ environmental research organization. Much of the work that they do is scientific in nature, studying the natural environment (plants, animals, soils, etc), but they also think about how we as humans could be living our lives more sustainably. I’m working in their Sustainability and Society group.

This is all quite exciting for me because I’ve been spending quite a lot of time during our travels trying to explore different aspects of sustainability through reading books, interviewing people, taking courses, and just keeping my eyes wide open. My hope is to figure out a bunch of different ways of how I might be able to focus my work more into this area.

But maybe I should back up a little. The word sustainability gets thrown around a lot these days, but what does it mean? First of all, it’s more than just ‘environmentally friendly’. When we think about sustainability, we think about what it will take for us to live in a way that meets the needs of today’s people and environment without jeopardizing that of future generations. This takes into consideration the environment, yes, but also economic and social factors.

In any case, trying to make our society more sustainable pretty much always requires change of some sort. Change in the way we think, change in the way we act, change in the systems we build… it all depends. So, my job is to help think about the best way to bring this change about. In order to do this, you need to understand the people that it would impact. By doing this, you can design ways to bring them along instead of causing more problems or contention.

The particular project I’m looking at is in the commercial building sector. How to encourage and spread the uptake of sustainable building practices. If you have ideas, or examples of people doing this well, let me know.

Here’s a few photos since it’s always fun to have photos in a post. They’re from the Earth From Above exhibit, which was on display in cities across NZ. Check out more of Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s work on his website ( )

Ko wai koe? No hea koe?

It seems I just can’t be satisfied coming to another country without learning another language. At first, I thought it would be enough to focus on learning to understand the Kiwi’s crazy form of English. It’s been no easy feat to get to the point where I can come out with proper responses to phrases such as “Bob’s your uncle”, “Good on ya”, and “sweet-as”.

However, in addition to English, there are actually two other official languages in New Zealand: Māori and NZ sign language. While I’ve always been interested in learning sign language, I decided to focus on Māori for the time being. Those of you who have visited NZ will know that many place names and signs are in both English and Māori. However, this is a relatively recent change. Māori only became one of the official languages in 1987. Prior to this, and the start of several Māori-language recovery programs, there was actually a fear that the language would be lost. There were many reasons for the decline of Māori speakers, among them the fact that for many years Māori was forbidden in the schools and all proceedings in Parliament were conducted in English. Many Māori felt there was little reason to teach the language to their children. At present only about 4% of the NZ population speaks Māori. However, knowledge and interest in the language (and culture) is on the rise in both official and personal settings.

One of the first things we are learning is “Ko wai koe? No hea koe?”: “Who are you? Where are you from?” It seems like a fairly basic question, but traditionally the answer would include a whole description of lineage and family history. When we first introduced ourselves, we were asked to give our name and place of origin, as well as “our” river and mountain. It’s added a whole new dimension to some of the discussions Greg and I have been having lately about identity.

*Photos courtesy of my mom. Hopefully we’ll get a post up about our travels with her and Robert soon…

The Matzah Boat is Late

After my experience trying to find Hannukah candles in NZ, I decided I should start early in my quest to find Matzot for Passover.

Thanks to the genius of the World Wide Brain*, I tracked down the one store in Christchurch that does actually carry matzah. Not only that, they carry matzah meal and matzah Balls as well!!

If only I were so lucky… When I called before making the trek to the store, I was told “usually we have those items several weeks in advance, but we’re pulling our hair out right now… the Matzah Boat is Late!”.

I never realized that there was a single boat that sailed the seas in preparation for passover, delivering matzah to the Jews of the world. I hope they aren’t soggy.

*The Internet to those who aren’t familiar with Grace Dalley’s (our illustrious flatmate) terminology

Come on over (we need people).

Many Kiwi’s are surprised that it was so easy for us to get 1 year work permits here in NZ.

They’re used to heaps of people coming over from other commonwealth countries, but the US doesn’t really fall under that category anymore. Even Bostonians, with their ‘pahk’ and ‘cahr’ , clearly can’t pass for the true Brits.

More importantly, many of them have tried to get work permits in the US, and failed. Funny that. Apparently this is not an equal exchange.

But now, we start to see the true welcoming nature of the Kiwis. Our visas have no where near expired and they’re already trying to get us to extend our stay. For all of you that are rooting for us to return to the states at some point, be forewarned, you’re competing with all of Immigration NZ :

Happy New Year Mekayla

As someone who has visited New Zealand on a Working Holiday visa you’ll know about our long, lazy summer days, with sailing and cycling after work and weekends at the bach.

Creating memories to treasure. And share with your friends and family.

Which is why I am writing to you now.

First, as someone who entered New Zealand on a Work Holiday visa you may be thinking about your future options. You have many, including staying here in New Zealand and applying for a work visa as a skilled migrant.

In fact, this is a great time to consider staying because with our current low unemployment, we’re looking for professional qualifications and experience. If this is of interest to you, my advice is to complete an Expression of Interest application by clicking here, or alternatively complete a registration on If you do the latter, we’ll then send you a series of emails about life in New Zealand that will also include visa information and job links tailored to your age and experience.

Second, if you have colleagues you think would enjoy working and living in Aotearoa, why not excite their interest by sharing the attached video with them? It’s a recent one from Tourism New Zealand, and reflects the passion we have for life. You can also refer your friends to by clicking here.

As one of the youngest nations in the world, New Zealand has much to offer. For work. For travel. For life.

If you are keen to stay and/or return to Aotearoa, why cherish your memories when you can continue the journey?


Victoria Forrest
Immigration New Zealand

Work Work Work

For some reason, we keep getting questions about work. I don’t really understand, since we think that work is a much less interesting topic than all the adventures we’re having, but I suppose it’s time to satisfy the masses and answer some of the questions:

Yes we’ve been working.

No, we don’t think it’s as fun to tell work stories as it is to make you jealous of all the beautiful places we get to visit in our time off.

No we’re not shearing sheep or picking kiwi fruit (although I did consider getting a job as a bread maker at an organic bakery, mmm bread!).

Boring as you may think it is, we’ve actually gotten jobs more or less in our fields. I’m working at an insurance company and Greg’s designing websites.

Didn’t you know that’s what our specialties really are?

Greg gets to sit at home all day, messing around on the computer, and I get to go into a big traditional insurance company and help them learn how to do User Centered Design. Very similar to the type of work I was doing at IDEO, except that working with a team of people that’s familiar with the process, I’m working with a bunch of people who have never done this type of work before.

Turns out you have to spend money in order to make money. I don’t think they would have been too happy if I had showed up in the faded shirt I’ve been wearing hiking for the last 5 months. Especially since all the software programmers wear ties and shiny black shoes to work. Ah well, I guess I can save the hiking shirt for casual Fridays 😉 .

Time for me to go learn some more insurance terminology!

Toasty the Sandman

Toasty the Sandman
Was a jolly happy soul
With a fern-like pipe and a carrot nose
And two eyes made out of broccoli (florets)

Toasty the Sandman
Is a fairytale they say
He was made of sand
In a distant land
And he came to life one day

There must have been some magic
In that old dead gull they found
For when they stuck a feather on his head
He began to tramp around

Toasty the Sandman
Was alive as he could be
And the children say
He could laugh and play
Just the same as you and me

Toasty the Sandman
Knew the sun was hot that day
So we hit the beach
With a wine glass each
To celebrate Christmas Day

Up to the mountains
A walking stick in his hand
Tramping here and there all around the hills
Saying catch me if you can

Thumpety thump thump
Thumpety thump thump
Look at Toasty leap
Thumpety thump thump
Thumpety thump thump
Over the hills of SHEEP!

Happy (End of) Channukah

Nothing reminds you that you’re Down Under more than celebrating The Festival of Lights in the middle of the summer. We’re not even getting sunset until 9 o’clock, much less the first three stars. And when you’re lighting candles that late, it becomes particularly necessary to have ones that will only last an hour or two.

But where do you find Channukah candles in the lovely Christian city of Christchurch? Unfortunately, the one local synagogue never called me back. Luckily, there’s a listing for candles in the yellow pages. Unluckily, it led us to a warehouse.

“Do you sell to the public?”

We were greeted by a stare and a hesitation.

“Not normally, but what are you looking for?”

Hurrah for New Zealand, the land of small towns and friendly people. The lady sold us two boxes of excellent non-Channukah, Channukah candles. That only left us with the question of where to find a menorah.
Luckily, there’s construction on our road. This means that there’s a nice pile of rocks a few houses down. No one noticed us pillage the pile in the twilight hours. That, a bit of fossicking at the beach, and some colored wax from the birthday candles I bought just in case we couldn’t find Channukah candles, and we had a menorah!