Category Archives: Help Exchange

Working for lodging and food and staying with local people makes travel so affordable!


I think I knew this about myself, but it’s been solidly confirmed lately: I really like to have a plan. I enjoy spontaneity for sure, but I like going to bed knowing a skeleton of a plan for the next day. Actually, I always don’t need that, what I need is to know where I’m going to sleep the next couple of weeks. And I think that’s normal, eh? Well, I figured some of it out tonight, thankfully. I am heading to Christchurch tomorrow. Tessa is driving me to the bus stop (so I don’t have to lug my luggage around to the bus stop I need to be at) and I head out at 2:20pm, arriving in Christchurch at 7:50pm to meet my new host family. The traveling part is no big deal, it’s getting to the correct bus stop without a car that I dislike more than the smell of shrimp. Now all I need to figure out is how to get from their house to the airport at 5am on Tuesday. Then I get to see my sweet family. Hallelujah! I’m beyond ready. I can’t wait to sit at the table, Kendall at our feet, and sip on endless coffee while we tell stories and enjoy the treats I bring them if I haven’t exceeded the luggage weight limit. 


There are some seriously loud critters outside my hut right now. I imagine they’re possums. I’m cold enough to be sitting under the lamp in the corner to feel the heat from it. Other than the cold and the noise, this place is lovely so far. While sipping our ginger tea over our first introductions, we had those “Oh, me too!” moments over and over. I love when that happens. It took a good 45 seconds for us to be laughing like we were old pals from GJE singing “Pioneers for the Future.” They have two blonde boys that I’ll meet in the morning on Waitangi Day, a public holiday here signifying when NZ’s founding document was signed in 1840. So there’s no work and no school, but a lot of gardening will take place, no doubt.



I’ve been really tired as of late, so much so that I almost passed up the chance to go see the blue penguins on the tip of the peninsula. They don’t come out of the water until dark and it doesn’t get dark until 10pm. My host opened the cabinet that led down to my room and said, “Are you keen to go, Beth?” I was under the covers reading. “I am if you are?” 

Wow was it worth it! The blue penguins are the smallest in the world, and no doubt the cutest. (Yellow-eyed penguins are on the other side of the peninsula and look quite mean in pictures!) They come in rafts, their little heads stick out of the water and they look like a raft coming in. Very, very cool. Then all of a sudden, you see them waddling up the beach to their nests. They waddled their way up (when they’re in a group in the water they’re called a ‘raft’ but when they’re on land they’re called a ‘waddle’) right past us, only about four feet away. We weren’t allowed to use a flash on our cameras, so this is the best I could do:

And check out the waddling video:

almost got a dog.

I’ve been without Nana the Toyota for a week now. Luckily, I’ve been “stuck” in really beautiful places. I enjoyed playing with these sweet kiddos and taking many walks along this road that hugs the peninsula:

I’m back at Glenda’s (owner of Knight the handsome dog) and am about a 25 minute walk from the city centre. I headed into town this morning and on my walk back, I saw a beautifully fluffy dog prancing toward me. It said hi, I said hi back. Then it didn’t leave my side. I looked around and saw no one looking for her. I checked her tags and began calling her by Athena. I rubbed her belly and we were both pretty instantly smitten. I called the phone numbers on her tag and reached no one. She stood in the shade of my shadow. I walked around with her for about 45 minutes, waiting for a phone call. Other people walked by and she would say hello, then come right back to me like I was her new master.


I got a call back. “Hi, I found your dog Athena…”

“Oooh, um, that’s my ex wife’s dog. Hm.”

“Oooh, I’m sorry.”

“Let’s see. I will, hm…I’ll try to get a hold of her owner. Then I’ll give her your number if that suits you?”

“Sure thing, I appreciate it.”

I laughed and wondered how long it’d been since he talked to his ex. Look at me and Athena, bringing people back together. We were near a big field by a school and recess let out. Athena made me instantly popular. Many girls were squealing and shouting “It’s so fluffy I could die!” Athena was matching the girls’ (probably 3rd graders) excitement and ran off suddenly and ran right into the school office. Eeek. I ran in after her and said, “I’m trying to find her owner!” I grabbed her by the collar and said, “I reckon I’ll take her to my friend’s house and wait to hear back from them.” The teacher nodded like, “Uh yes, please take her away so these kids will calm down.”

She’s such a cute little ball of chaos. I made the walk from the school to Glenda’s slouched over so I wasn’t choking Athena by holding her collar. Knight was left outside and wasn’t too happy about this strange dog in his territory, drinking his water. Athena stayed by my side and fell asleep by my feet under the table.

About an hour and a half later, I got a call from the owner. She was over-the-top thankful. After I said about two sentences she said, “Are you American?!” I admitted it, and she said she came from California but is originally from New York. She had patients coming in and couldn’t get away. I got her address and returned the darling (and a large piece of my heart) to the gate she somehow escaped from. Her brother was ecstatic to see her:


I waited around to see if she would try to get out again, but she seemed exhausted and content. When I let the owner know they were together again and everyone was happy, and that I missed Athena already, she said, “Lol! She is a sweetie. If you ever get a dog, Samoyeds are really wonderful.”



I love the way this family seems to enjoy time with each other. This morning, I crawled up through the cabinet like I do, to see a small dance party going on in the lounge. The six-year-old girl had her multi-colored tutu skirt on, holding hands with her big strong dad, jumping around while the ten-month-old smiled at me like he knew he was lucky to be in a family like this and he was glad I saw it.

I had my NZ version of Cheerios and listened as the girl asked if her dad would sing Katy Perry with her. Even though he knew I was taking in the show, he belted out “Firework” and the little girl was as content as one could be, sitting on her dad’s lap, reading from the CD pamphlet and thrilled that she knew the words. There’s something so special about father daughter time. There’s something really special about a dad who genuinely enjoys time with his kids. My dad is one of those and John, Greg, and I are so blessed. (And Billy Dean/Lee McKinney comes to mind right away. I love Erica’s stories about her fun-filled childhood.)

I’m so thankful for my grandparents who raised four amazing kids to be four extraordinary adults. They made the long drive from NC to be with Grandpa (who recently had two strokes). Grandma said he’s full of one-liners and he’s being awfully sweet. My grandma is a strong, compassionate, lovely woman. I’m feeling very blessed this morning when I think about my family. 


Do you know what I love? A good quality peanut butter. And sunsets. Sweet dogs. Polite children. The ocean.

All of these lovely things have collided in Dunedin, on the Otago Peninsula, with my current host family. I’m staying right on the water with a family of five. Two girls, ages thirteen and six and a ten-month-old boy with eyes as luminous as a paua shell. The six-year-old sings Taylor Swift songs, is reading Narnia, and loves making bracelets out of soap. The older girl is an athletic bombshell who can hold a conversation like she’s at least twenty-five. The parents were engaged nine days after they met each other. Nine days. They’re extremely likable. My view is of the ocean and the city lights. My comforter is down. My en suite is new and clean. My way up to the house is via ladder through an opening that looks like a cupboard on the other end. It was open when I went up the first time, and I couldn’t find where I was supposed to go down when I came back in the room. It’s bizarre. The dad is a builder and he is creative.

This is their view for the swing:

number 19.

We have worked at 18 different places, and tomorrow starts the 19th for me. 19 different personalities (although one host had at least three all on his own), 19 different pantries, towns, stories, favorite dishes, idiosyncrasies, ways of hanging up their clothes, and 19 different perspectives on New Zealand.

The place I think about when I close my eyes or when I’m cold or when I picture paradise: The Coromandel Peninsula with Raewyn.

The person I miss the most: Probably Winnie, the one who made all of the noises. Sometimes when someone is telling a story in a boring way, I think about Winnie would spice it up.

Oh, actually, the person I miss the VERY most is little Zak, the almost-three-year-old that called my Ivy. What a dollface.

bye, nana.

Do you know how to write a killer ad to sell a car? Include a Celine Dion CD, a tent, and a “new car” air freshener. Tell the reader the car’s name is Nana and she has a wonderful combination of stickers on her backside. I am supposedly selling Nana tomorrow at noon. I know, reader, you’re right. This is hard. I just need more money and I worry she will require a big repair in the future. I will walk my way around NZ and be as strong as an ox.