Readjusting to Reality – back in the UK

This post has been delayed, as has my return to reality following our trip. The best way to avoid post-trip blues is with another holiday, surely?

We landed back in London in early September, eleven months after leaving the departure gates. Three days later I went away with my family for a week. Slightly ridiculous after spending so long away, but it was a wonderful way to catch up and relax in each others company without distractions. I also relished spending time in mainland Europe. For the first couple of days, being without Rob did feel like travelling like without my right arm! I think some time on our own was healthy after almost a year in each others pockets.

Soller, Majorca

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What to expect… when you’re heading home?

1 month today we’ll leave NZ. After almost a year away, I absolutely can’t wait to see family & friends and I’m looking forward to home comforts and the end of living out of a bag! This milestone has also prompted thoughts about what it’ll be like to return home.

How much will have changed?

When you’ve been out of everything for a while, you feel like you’ve missed a lot and wonder how much will be different to what you remember. The big things like births, deaths, birthdays, weddings and engagements, but also just a year’s worth of the everyday.

However most people have said that, beyond the surface, very little really changes when you’ve been away. A friend of mine recently returned home after 5 years living abroad, and even then, most things felt the same as when she’d left. Hopefully it won’t take too long to catch up and get back into the swing of things.

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Clothes shopping in NZ

Now I haven’t done a lot of shopping since I left the UK, but these are some of my thoughts on what to pack & what you can buy when you’re out here.

There’s no getting away from the fact that clothes and shoe shopping is more expensive in New Zealand – the products have got much further to be shipped! I also think that, in the majority of high street stores, the quality is not as good.

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Planning our final 3 months in NZ

As expected, our trip has flown by in many ways and we only have approx 3 months to go. I should probably add a disclaimer to the name of this blog, as it’ll actually only be 10 months we spend in New Zealand, book-ended by other travel.

We’ve got some decisions to make about what we want to do before we leave and how to stretch the budget!

These are a few things we have in mind…

Return to Queenstown

We packed in as much as we could to our 2 day stop in Queenstown during our south island tour, but it just wasn’t long enough. If money was no object we’d love to spend a fortnight on the slopes, as the region’s ski season starts in June. Unfortunately as beginners the cost just seems to rack up too quickly.

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Finding somewhere to live in NZ

We’ve been very lucky in finding great places to live in both Auckland and Wellington. I did worry that we might have needed to spend weeks in a hostel, which may not have been so bad, but there’s nothing like being able to unpack after a few weeks on the road.

If you’re coming out to NZ and thinking about renting, these are some things to consider…

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Last minute prep

We’re out of our flat, have packed our bags and are as ready as we’ll ever be!

Following our farewell party, we’ve had some further final goodbyes; a gorgeous afternoon with friends in Sheffield on Saturday, followed by a meal with my parents for me and a wedding for Rob. Yesterday, we had our families together for a very British afternoon tea.

I feel like I’ve written quite a bit about packing (it occupies a lot of your thoughts before you actually go anywhere!), but I’ve had some excellent last-minute tips from a friend from school, who is a well-seasoned Antipodean traveller, including:

  • Good things to include in your hand luggage: nasal spray to avoid nose drying which makes you more susceptible to bugs; fluffy socks; a pen for boarding/arrival cards; a separate little bag for things you’ll want handy on the flight and a jumper.
  • To print your NZ work visa to show at customs on arrival
  • Rob’s mum also advised that we mix up our clothes so we have some in each, just in case one bag gets lost/delayed (heaven forbid).20130930_113035

We asked my uncle that we’re staying with in China if he’d like anything bringing over from the UK. He said he’d like a pork pie and, as Rob is from Melton Mowbray, we’ll be taking him the king of all pork pies!

I’ve spent some this morning devouring travel blog posts (time-wasting or getting into the spirit!) including:

This afternoon we are travelling to London to stay over ahead of our flight tomorrow.
We’re a mix of emotions but feel very excited and lucky to be setting off on this adventure!

The Final Countdown

There’s less than a week to go until Rob and I take off on our adventure and in preparation we have been…

Finishing work
We both left work last Friday; me after a year & a day of commuting to the Big Lottery Fund in Birmingham and Rob on a career break from his HR role. My team and colleagues are based across the country so I thought I wouldn’t be too sad, but the kind cards and messages broke me down by the end of the day!

Bidding friends farewell
The following night we had a leaving party in Leicester with a brilliant bunch of our favourite people.

Packing up
This week we have packing up our flat. I say ‘we’, so far this has mostly been down to Rob as I have been on a course this week (see below).

Learning a new skill
I’ve been on an Introduction to Abode inDeisgn course with Web Studio Training in Nottingham. I’d noticed that a few of the vacancies on the job alerts I’d signed up to required experience in the software as essential and the dates worked well. It was a great 3 day course and though it won’t make me a designer, I’m much more familiar with how to use the programme.

Learning the Kiwi accent

Still to do before lift off

  • Move out of the flat
  • Rob is at his friend’s wedding in Doncaster on Saturday
  • Final farewells with our families – tea, cake and fizz on the menu!

Practice pack

Over the weekend, Rob and I had a major sort out ahead of moving out in a few weeks. I also attempted a practice pack to get a better idea of what I’ll be taking to NZ.

We’ve had some great tips from friends who have traveled on how to pack and what to take (see previous luggage post). I think Rob was pleasantly surprised by my first go at selecting what to take, though it can always be cut down further!

I opted for the Eastpak Transfer holdall from my luggage shortlist and I’m pleased by two separate compartments and various zipped pockets. We have a 23kg weight allowance on both flights, so I’m aiming for a few kg under this.

There are a few things missing and my toiletries will take up more space, but not looking too bad!


I’ve bought a couple of space-savers  including a Lifeventure compact towel and a mini hairdryer and straighteners – I tried these out last week and they work fine, straightening just takes a bit longer.

It doesn’t seem like much to take for a year, but a good excuse to go shopping in China and NZ!

Packing list:

Jumpers x3 (including fleece) Packing list  Cardigans x2
Jeans x2  Shorts x1
Skirts x2  Dresses x2
Tshirts x4  Long sleeve Tees x4
Vests x4
Denim shirt and smart/work blouse
Leggings x5  Socks x6
Underwear x8
PJs x2
Wrap towel and slippers
Shoes: trainers, boots, pumps and sandles

Still to get: Raincoat, another pair of casual trousers (cords?), black vest

I’m still thinking about hand luggage, I will probably take my backpack as it will be useful when I get there and will hopefully fit enough in it.

Let me know if you have any packing tips or there’s an item that you never set off without!

Blogs of inspiration

While in search of inspiration for my next post, I’ve been thinking about the blogs that have inspired me while planning our NZ trip and are safely bookmarked for when we arrive.

There is a world of travel knowledge out there. In preparation for our trip to New Zealand I have become a regular visitor to TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet and Guardian Travel. In addition I have begun to discover amass of travel bloggers sharing their personal experiences and recommendations.

Here’s a few of my favourites:

More general travel blogs with extensive NZ sections:

As well as using this blog to update family & friends, this is also what I’m hoping to do with Year in NZ.

And I can’t write about travel blogs without a mention to fletchjaney who has just returned from South America – she saw some wonders and maintained her cynicism and self-deprecation throughout.

Do you have any favourite travel blogs that you use in a similar way to mainstream travel websites?

NB. This post has not involved link exchanging is a genuine selection of blogs that I have found useful. Except Jane’s, but she just makes me crease.