A move, a journey, and a little surprise (or two)

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moving to wanaka new zealand

So the award for most random blog post of all time will likely go to this one.

I’ve realized it’s been ages since I’ve actually written an update of what’s been on my mind – the decisions weighing on me, plans in the works, exciting and not-so-exciting things that have been going on.

You know, diary things. Because sometimes we just need to get all those jumbled, crazy thoughts swirling around inside our heads out on paper, or in this case, on WordPress.

Forgive me, but this one time I need be very self-serving and use my blog to word vomit everything that’s been going on, and if you have the time, please chime in because I’m stuck on what to do about a lot of things. HELP!

moving to wanaka new zealand

Even though I tend to write about my adventures on here, I don’t actually spend all my time galavanting around New Zealand from one waterfall to the next. Lately I’ve slipped into a nice routine which has made me really happy.

I’m not really one for permanently traveling around and sleeping in new places every night. I’d much rather spend my time in one place for longer and get to know it really well, which is what I’ve been up to in Wellington.

Sadly, that’s all about to change. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Where to begin?

Let’s start with the good news…

moving to wanaka new zealand

1. I’m going to be on House Hunters International!!

If you’re from North America you’ve probably heard of this popular reality TV series on HGTV. For everyone else, just know this is a BFD – big fucking deal, at least for me.

I’ve been harassing the producers for years, since I lived in Córdoba, Spain to be on the show, and finally FINALLY my dreams came true, and I get to show the world my move to New Zealand.

I wasn’t allowed to say anything for the longest time but I’ve been given permission to announce my breakout into stardom (watch out Hollywood) and share my story! Wahoo!

moving to wanaka new zealand

Of course I was absolutely petrified the first day of shooting, but in 2014 I’ve been determined to conquer my camera-phobia, which after several days of intense filming around Wellington, I’ve firmly gotten over that. Though dealing with having microphones stuffed down your shirts and tucked in the back of your pants I can live without. Maybe I’m not cut out for Hollywood after all.

But what I’m most excited about is getting to show the world (ok,  America and Canada-land) JUST how awesome Wellington is! I still don’t know the air date, don’t think it’ll be for a few months, but once I know when it’ll be on, I’ll be sure to announce it. So stay tuned.

Oh, and don’t worry, I said plenty of spectacularly stupid things on camera. Get excited.

moving to wanaka new zealand

2. A 6.3 earthquake

So last week I was sitting in my awesome, proudly-won IKEA chair minding my own business and blogging away when my room started to shake, shake and shake some more.

Convinced the world was ending as I realized it was an earthquake, I picked up my coffee mug (seriously, what is wrong with me?!) stood up and walked to the center of my room, uncertain of what to do.

Under the desk or in the doorframe? I teetered back and forth trying to decide what to do as everything shook around me.

Can you tell I’m from the east coast where the only time the earth rumbles is when a tractor trailer truck drives by?

Wellington sits on a giant fault line which means earthquakes are pretty common here, leaving the locals unfazed. In July, right before I arrived there were two huge ones that shattered glass and caused noticeable damage around town. I feel obligated to point out that if I were to be in a huge one like that, I would most definitely lose my shit.

Yikes. Have any earthquake tips for me besides grabbing my coffee cup?

moving to wanaka new zealand
The only earthquake victim – Weta’s eagles from the Hobbit


3. Move to Wanaka

So perhaps what’s been weighing on me the most is where I should move to in New Zealand now that my lease is ending.

I’ve been living in a great house in Wellington with magnificent views of the city, and I’m really really happy here. I finally have found routine, have made good friends and feel like I’m a part of the city now. I was so uncertain of where to move in New Zealand when I got here, and after listening to a lot of your tips I settled on Wellington.

And Wellington stole my heart. I never want to leave here, and I think if I end up settling long-term in New Zealand, which has also been on my mind a lot lately, it would be here.

moving to wanaka new zealand

But at the same time, when I decided to come all the way to this part of the world, I knew I wanted to live and spend some time on the South Island, specifically in a place with great scenery and even greater views.

I could easily find another apartment to lease in Wellington after leaving this one, but at the same time, I think I would regret not trying to move down to the South Island, especially when I have an opportunity like this staring me in the face.

After 2 weeks exploring the South Island with Haka Tours, I definitely got a taste for the raw, untamed beauty down there, and I realized I wanted more. But where to go?

Queenstown. Christchurch. Dunedin. Nelson. 

moving to wanaka new zealand


Too many options! When I announced I was moving to New Zealand way back when I got tons of valuable feedback from Kiwis, travelers who’d been to NZ before, and pretty much from anyone with an opinion, which is what I wanted.

While I spent Christmas in Queenstown and thought it was a pretty nifty place (a must-do for anyone coming to New Zealand) I can’t really imagine myself living there. It was way too touristy and to be perfectly honest, it didn’t even feel like New Zealand. I loved the views and the convenience of having all the shops and stuff in town, but I think I would have a hard time fitting in and finding a group of friends. It felt too transitory for me, if that makes since.

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Instead I found myself really enjoying Wanaka, another stunning lake town nearby. Tiny but beautiful, I think I could see myself settling in Wanaka for a little while.

After all, part of me just wants to squirrel myself away somewhere pretty and quiet so I can finally start writing a book, among other things.

What do you think?

moving to wanaka new zealand

4. North Island solo road trip

And finally, before I head to the South Island and after I clear out of my apartment in Wellington, I want to take advantage of these nice summer days to explore a bit more of the North Island. I’ve invested in trekking and camping gear here and I want to go full-on Kiwi and rekindle my outdoorsy side, taking in some of the magnificent landscapes around me.

New Zealand’s love and respect for nature is something I both admire and want to know more about. It inspires me. Growing up I used to do so many more things outside than I do now. Somehow in my adulthood I’ve drifted away from “nature” if you will, and it’s important for me to reconnect with that side while I’m in New Zealand. Another reason why I think I need to escape “urban” Wellington for a while.

And in my usual fashion, I’ve not planned anything yet, but so far I’m looking at doing a 2 week road trip around the North Island leaving Wellington around February 12.

moving to wanaka new zealand
Favorite John Muir quote


While there are lots of little places I’m hoping to hit around the north, the three main sites I don’t want to miss are Taranaki on the west coast, Tongariro in the center, and the Coromandel Peninsula up in the north east.

Taranaki is a stunning conical volcano in a part of New Zealand not frequented by tourists. While I’m looking into doing a summit bid while I’m there, I’m also pretty happy to just hike around the park and take in the wild west coast, including some significant Māori sites, like Parihaka. Maybe even drive the Forgotten Highway – doesn’t that sound intriguing?

moving to wanaka new zealand


Kiwis often refer to Coromandel as New Zealand’s best-kept secret, so don’t kill me for mentioning it, but I have been DYING to go here ever since I recognized it as one of the major filming locations on Chronicles of Narnia. Nerd alert!

Beautiful rocky coastline meets with clear blue water, hot water beaches and plenty of fabulous weather. While it may technically be summer in New Zealand, I have yet to see any sign of it in Wellington. I just want to swim, kayak, tan and hang out on a beach. Is that asking too much?

moving to wanaka new zealand


Finally I want to get the famous Tongariro Crossing hike under my belt, New Zealand’s most famous day-hike in National Park around the active volcanoes Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu, also known as Mt. Doom from Lord of the Rings.

In addition to acting out various scenes from LOTR, I am hoping to spend some time hiking around the park and taking part in some of the fun outdoor activities in the area.

But as usual, I haven’t planned anything and I really want to wing it. I want to be flexible in case the weather is bad, and I want to be able to tailor my trip around YOUR suggestions.

That’s right, help me out. Have any tips of where I should go? What should I do? Do you live around these areas? Want to meet up for coffee at some point? Help!

moving to wanaka new zealand


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89 Comments on “A move, a journey, and a little surprise (or two)

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  1. OMG Liz!! I knew you were going to be on House Hunters International thanks to your Instagram and I am SO EXCITED. Seriously, I can’t even tell you. I have recently become extremely addicted to that show and I can hardly wait for your episode! I want to be on that show – I want them to follow me on my upcoming move to Ireland!! I think it’s great that you’re going to move to Wanaka. If I were to spend a year in NZ, I would spend half on each island, too – so, great choice 🙂 Taranaki looks absolutely beautiful – I want to go. I’m going to send you an email soon regarding my potential trip to NZ this June. I need some advice, and if I do end up visiting – I’ve got to meet you! 🙂

  2. Love your NZ posts, they always make me reminisce and smile. Not sure if you want to venture around the North Island completely solo or with a group (I see you’ve gone through Haka tours) but I really, REALLY recommend Stray. It’s hop on, hop off – you can use your pass year round — and I just suggest this if you want to explore the North Island with others. I met the greatest people when I backpacked there this summer. You should definitely hit up Raglan — tiny little surf town, one of my favorite places there.

    Also – Wanaka ROCKS! I think if you move to the South that would be an amazing place to set up for a bit, just loved it there.


      1. When will your HHI episode be airing? My husband may be getting a job in Wellington (we find out next week) and we are searching everywhere for information! We would be moving from Denver, CO. I have loved reading your posts.

  3. 1. Congratulations again on getting onto House Hunters International! Let us know if your episode ever makes it online; would love to hear the “spectacularly stupid things” you said 😉

    2. Hopefully you would’ve familiarised yourself with the “Drop, Cover and Hold” steps by now in preparation for the next earthquake (they don’t call NZ the ‘Shaky Isles’ for nothing). That said, I’d probably freak out too when I experience my first earthquake :}

    3. When I finally get down to the South Island again after 30 years, I’ll certainly be heading towards Wanaka and giving Queenstown a wide berth;

    4. My wife and I also did a 2 week road trip around the North Island in November 2011. We didn’t do much hiking (okay, we actually didn’t do any unless you count the 4-hours Lost World Tour we did with Waitomo Adventures) as she’s more of a homebody so our activities were a little less strenuous 🙂 We drove from Auckland down to Wellington through Rotoroa, Napier and Palmerston North and returned to Auckland via New Plymouth and Waitomo before heading all the way to the tip of Cape Reinga on one coast and returning on the other. The 3 main sites you already have in mind are perfect and the only suggestions I have (if you haven’t already done them on your previous trip) would be to add Napier for its art deco architecture and wine as well as a stop at the Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre (near Masterton) to visit Manukura (the white kiwi) and Kahurangi (the kokako who inspired me to become a Hunua Kōkako Recovery Project volunteer in the summer of 2012/13) 🙂

    I will be starting a new chapter in my life as a resident of NZ when I arrive in Auckland right smack in the middle of February so if you do decide to stop by on your way to Northland, it would be cool to have coffee with you 🙂

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