Liebster Award | The Freelance Explorer

Liebster Award

Well, Imagine my surprise when I woke up one morning to discover I had been nominated for the Liebster Award – surprise mostly because I had never heard of it before, and had no Idea what to do with it.

After careful researching, googling and blog reading, I learnt that it is a bit of a viral thing – getting passed round between blogging newbies. It’s an awesome excuse to introduce yourself to people, and helps bloggers connect with one another. WordingWell  has a fantastic resource that outlines the history & the rules of this award.

Oli & Lucy over at twobackpackateers nominated me the following 11 questions, so here we go!


1) Where did you go on your first holiday?

My first international holiday was as a child to Australia. As an adult.. also Australia! Which, being from New Zealand isn’t particularly far away, but despite how many times I have now been there (and I have been many many times, being a former air hostess) – I still consider Australia an exciting and awesome holiday every time.

2) If your backpack was on fire, what would you save?

I would love to be the rational, logical person who answers with ‘My Passport” or something of similar practical value. Unfortunately though as many times as I tried to type, rephrase and reword, it just wasn’t me. I have a voice in my head reminding me that passports are replaceable, that even though it’s inconvenient to be far away, and without one, there are still always embassies and such things that will help you replace it.

I am a much more sentimental and emotional type person, and the things that holds the most value to me are probably my notebooks. I am pretty good at keeping most of my writing, notes and to do lists on cloud based aps (I can’t live without evernote, and I love remember the milk for my to do’s), but there are still many notes, ideas and thoughts I have each day that slip through the cracks, and I jot down in one of my notebooks. I love writing, and am taking down idea’s at the strangest of places (just today I had to pull over my car and take notes from a podcast I was listening to)

As a writer I think my thoughts and ideas are much more valuable and harder to replace than any physical possession.

 3) What has been your most uncomfortable nights sleep whilst traveling?

In Kuta Beach, Bali. I loved Bali, and I did it on the cheap – a solo backpacker with a super thin wallet.  One particular night I remember as being the most uncomfortable – physically the bed was fine. It was the not sleeping all night part of the sleep that got me. My hotel was down a long windy road, in the dark, full of trees and bushes. As far as I could tell, nobody else was staying here other than me. It was eerily quiet other than a persistent taxi driver who had taken a liking to me and kept coming to try and take me out for a drink.

I didn’t have any faith in the lock on my door, but luckily I wasn’t entirely alone; I had an army of lizards smothering the walls and ceilings to keep me company, and their chirping lizard songs to listen to as I lay awake all night, in a pool of my own sweat, cursing the broken ceiling fan and jumping at every noise.


4) What’s your ultimate street food?

I am a street food fanatic! From road side BBQ in Fiji to road side tacos in Mexico city, I have some ingrained idea that food sold on the side of the road is superior (well.. more authentic, interesing & flavoursome) than anything that could be found in a restaurant. I’m not sure where I picked up this unusual idea, but it seems to have stuck, and so far I’ve had quite successful results. I am in love with Mexican streetfod, it is definitely my ultamite.

Some yet untasted foods that make my must eat list are Peking Duck, Babi Guling , Authentic Thai, and Malaysian.


5) Lets talk luggage – front/top loading backpack? Rolling? Carry on only?!

Dream scenario? Carry on only, backpack. This isn’t always viable, and I’m still learning what it is I really want in luggage. But whenever I can get away with it, I love the freedom of carry on only.

6) If you were an animal, what would you be and why?

A dinosaur. I don’t feel the need to justify why..

7) What is your ultimate holiday destination?

Somewhere exciting, exotic, very importantly with a warm climate, and preferably very little English speaking (forcing me out of my language comfort zone). I’m obsessed with Latin American culture too, so maybe somewhere in the Americas.

8) If you could travel with any airline, regardless of cost, which would you pick?

After working as a flight attendant, I no longer get too excited about flying different airlines. I would be interested to give Thai Airways a try, or maybe Lufthansa? But I’m not too picky.


9) Cameras: point & shoot or DSLR? Or just good old iPhone?

I use a Nikon Point and shoot, it’s an awesome camera, but not quite DSLR. I would LOVE a DSLR, and it’s definitely in the budget for the future, just not right yet. I do use my phone occasionally, but generally only for the odd tweet or share.


10) To Instagram or not to Instagram?

I love the idea – but have never really stuck with instagram, I guess I just have so many other social media updates and phone apps going on in my life that as much as I want to love instagram, it always ends up falling to the wayside.


11) How did you choose the name for your travel blog?

Through desperation and agony! As a writer, I thought a blog name would be the easiest part. But, how wrong I was. I struggled for ages, I contemplated naming my blog after myself, I came up with terrible suggestions – translating words into foreign languages, fusing interesting words together – I came up with many horrible, horrible suggestions. Jet Setting & Living Well was actually my partners Idea, and I said in response – Oh, Yeah: I could go with that for now. And so it was born, nothing dramatic, exciting or meaningful – but it works.


Thanks Lucy and Oli! Now it’s my turn to nominate some bloggers & think up some questions for them ..  here are are my 11 and I am nominating them to:

Juliette at Sensitive Girl Travel

Majesta Zea at  Thereandbackwithsnacks

Amy at Passport love

Morgan at The Misadventures of Morgan



Let’s get to the questions!

1.   How do you fit in writing alongside all the amazing travel you do – do you have a routine around when you write?

2.  How do you fund your travels – lots of savings, odd jobs as you go, blogging alone?

3.  What has been the scariest moment of your travels?

4. What is the most unusual accommodation you have stayed in?

5.  Is there anywhere you have visited that you never had any interest in, but ended up in by chance – and has now become one of your favourite destinations? What made it so unexpected & special?

6. What’s your must have piece of clothing for travel – the one that will always have a home  in your backpack, wherever you are headed?

7. Do you keep travel journal? Not talking about blogs here – about the physical paper kind that you carry around with you.

8. Where to next – what’s the plan? Do you even have a plan?

9. Who has been one of  the most unusual/interesting people you’ve met along the way?

10. Have you had any serious illnesses or injuries while away?

11. And finally.. your favourite travel blog to read?



Thank you to everyone – those who’ve nominated me, those who I’ve nominated.. if anything, I think this is a fantastic way to connect with the community, and to see what new blogging talent is around. I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Update: On Becoming a Freelancer

Scribbling stories away in exercise books at the age of four, stories about cartoon characters, superheroes and my mother (Who is very similar to a super hero in fact!), counting down on my fingers and toes until the day I would turn five and get to start school. Fast forward 24 years .. I’m still here, with a selection of notebooks in my handbag, my bedroom, my car.. all full of scribbles and notes; thoughts and ideas.

It even surprised me that I have only just decided I would like to write as a profession. Let me re-phrase that – I have only just decided that I CAN write as a profession, I’ve wanted to write for a long time but disgusting things like self-doubt and self-consciousness have always gotten in the way.

Through personal adventures, note taking, asking lots of questions, writing essays for university and practicing, my writing skills have improved. I do not believe that being a slightly better writer is what has changed this into a viable profession for me though. No, I believe the difference lies in how I see myself, and my possibilities, and if there is even a single person out there who reads this and tells them self ‘Oh, I’ve always wanted to be a writer/painter/musician/etc but I’m just not good enough’..please hear me when I say that it DOES NOT MATTER! Not at all, not one bit. Just try, get yourself out there and do it.

So, where am I up to so far? How is becoming a freelancer working out for me?

Really well actually.  Here is where I’m at:

  • I’ve got a full-time job where part of my job description involves writing (copy writing for adverts & marketing materials)
  • I am learning a TON – working through the freelance writers den boot camps as well as listening to pod casts when I drive (looking for more time in the day? I highly recommend switching the music off for your daily commute and listening to something educational!)
  • I am almost complete in setting up my writers website/portfolio, which is an exciting step
  • I am writing & online/social media marketing voluntarily for a local theatre – it is a lot of fun, and completely fascinating, not to mention all the wonderful & helpful contacts I am making.

And, of course – posting here at Jet Setting & Living Well.

Thank you to everybody reading, it is a really fantastic journey I’m on right now, and I love the appreciation & support!


Dreaming of Living in Auckland? | The Freelance Explorer image 4

Dreaming of Living in Auckland?

When asked to point it out on a map, many people have no idea where New Zealand is – let alone Auckland.

Some think it is conjoined to Australia, that it’s part of Asia, or even nestled away in the depths of Europe.  The success of  ‘Lord of the Rings’ and the hilarious ‘Flight of the Concords’ duo has helped to put it on the map, however for many people New Zealand is still a mysterious land filled with Volcanoes, Jurassic park style scenery and maybe even hobbits lurking around in it’s depths.

Living in Auckland - Auckland City at Night - Jet Setting and Living Well

View of Auckland City, as seen from the North Shore

I have had the privilege of growing up in New Zealand, spending all 28 years of my life to date living here. I would highly recommend making the move to anybody who is dreaming of living in Auckland.

Despite being an avid traveler with constant itchy feet I am still quite the advocate of my home land.  New Zealand is made up of two main islands (and a number of considerably smaller ones) known as the North and South Islands, or in the language of the indigenous Maoris: Te Ika-a-Māui for the northern most island and Te Waipounamu for the more southern of the two.

Moving to Auckland City been been one of the more memorable landmarks of my adult life to date, having come from Christchurch city in the south – a considerably smaller and less metropolitan city where I had spent most my life.

Auckland felt like the ‘big city lights’ for me, and at first it was overwhelming and hard to comprehend – it expanded far out to the south inland, right out into the hills and the ocean to the west, and over the harbor bridge to an endless dabbling of scenic seaside suburbs for as far north as you could see.  In comparison to other cities of the world, Auckland is actually rather small with it’s population of around 1.4million people (which is about 32% of the entire population of NZ, the rest of the country is quite unpopulated in comparison!) compared to Sydney’s 4.6 million or Beijing’s whopping 21 million, Auckland is still just a small town.

Jet Setting and Living Well - Living in Auckland City - Bethells Sunset

Breathtaking west coast sunset – Bethells Beach

Over the past 4 years, Auckland (also known as Tāmaki Makaurau, and pronounced something like tah-mah-key mah-kow-row) has completely stolen my heart, and has become my home.

The beauty of this city  and New Zealand in general really comes from its proximity to everything , even when you are in the busy central business district (CBD) packed with excellent shopping, restaurants and nightlife;  you are still less than a 10 minute drive from the nearest golden sand beaches,  lined with gelato stands, trendy cafes and paddle boarders dotted out on the ocean.

Central Auckland Suburbs

The variety of suburbs is something that has really attracted me here – there really is something for everyone. The suburbs surrounding the CBD are an excellent start: New Market is a retail haven, Parnell for it’s views and restaurants, and ponsonby for its hip and trendy vibe – up market stores, cool and eclectic cafes and busy bars in the evenings.  If you head a little further into the surrounding suburbs you can find some really interesting areas: personally I love mt Eden, it is wonderful for going walking or jogging and finishing off with a coffee at one of it’s many cafes. Sandringham is known for it’s Indian influence – an excellent place to go out for a curry or to stock up the spice cupboard. Kingsland is only a few train stops from central and is really up and coming with a young and vibrant night life as well as unique restaurants and lazy laid back spots to find a beer in the summer. Between the central city and it’s closest beach you will find Remuera, where you can really sink into the ‘old money’ feel.. people watch and spy some gorgeous old style & very expensive mansion-eque properties.

South Auckland

Further out from the center toward the south suburbs expanse out from the pacific island (mainly Samoan & Tongan) influenced areas of Otahuhu and Otara, these areas are typically lower decile areas than the rest of Auckland, but certainly vibrant and a lot of pacific island and local flavor. The Otara Flea markets held every Saturday from 6am until 12pm are jam packed full of Polynesian foods, music, clothes and handicrafts not to be missed.

West Auckland

Heading west from the CBD takes less than 30 minutes before you reach the Waitakere ranges… this stunning 25 km range of native New Zealand bush is idyllic and wild all at once – full of tree ferns, waterfalls, hiking track, rugged black sand beaches with dramatic white sheering cliffs, even glow worms.  Once you get into the West of Auckland wilderness you feel like you have stepped back into the prehistoric ages, even though you have barely left the city.  The west coast beaches are always full of surfers chasing down the big waves, or for a different kind of adventure it is only 4 hours to the nearest Ski Fields at Mt Ruepehu.

Jet Setting and Living Well - Living in Auckland - Waitakere Ranges

The captivating Waitakere ranges, right on Auckland Cities doorstep

Nestled in the beginning of the Waitakere ranges is the picturesque Titirangi village. This is where I currently live, and in my opinion is one of the best locations that Auckland has to offer.  You feel like you have stepped into a small town miles away from any city, where everybody is a local and will know you by name, even though you are only a small commute from the CBD (On a traffic-less day it might only take 20 minutes to get right into the heart of the city center).  Titirangi has some incredible cafes – Hardware Cafe and Stripe Cafe are my two personal favorites, as well as a supermarket, local theater, incredible food/crafts market on the last Sunday of every month, and a selection of small local shops and businesses.

North Auckland: The North Shore

Living in Auckland - Ferry to Devonport -Jet Setting and Living Well

Catch the ferry over to Devonport for a delightful afternoon outing

If you head over the Auckland Harbor bridge from the central city you end up at the north shore. Known for it’s cafe scene and pristine beaches, the north shore is worth a look at. The naval base suburb of Devonport is quite the opposite of how it sounds – with a charming seaside small town feel, gorgeous small artisan shops and art galleries it hosts some of the most spectacular views across the harbor of Auckland city and the famous sky tower. You can drive over the harbor bridge to reach Devonport, or alternatively it is only a 10 minute ferry ride across the water, with ferries leaving from downtown Auckland city on a very regular basis each day.

There are so many other areas to explore that I have yet to mention – so keep your eye outfor more posts! In the mean time, If you want even more Auckland Inspiration try checking out east Auckland including the yacht lovers paradise of Howick, further north up to the gorgeous rural village of Matakana, and rural south Auckland around Pukekohe – stay tuned for more in depth information about this glorious city.

When I first made the big shift up to Auckland – myself and all of my worldly possessions fleeing from the Christchurch Earthquakes and journeying towards an exciting new life, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about this city. I expected ‘big city’ things such as pollution, crime and endless grey dreary buildings, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I have fallen in love with the diversity of Auckland, all the parks, the trees and how each part of the city has it’s own unique personality.  I will travel again soon, and surely discover many more places that steal my heart away – however Auckland has made a huge impression on me, and I urge everybody who gets the chance to come and visit this diverse and magical place.

 Do you live in Auckland? Where’s your favorite place and why? If you haven’t been yet – what are you looking forward to seeing or doing when you finally do? I love to hear other peoples perspectives on this amazing city, so get in touch & leave a comment!