I’m finally settling down from traveling. The amazing freedom, exploration and companionship I found in Bali is slowly merging to a traditional lifestyle I enjoyed in Los Angeles. I certainly miss traveling already, but there is an amazing amount of potential ahead of me once I get accustomed to the lifestyle.
I stepped off the plane bringing me from Perth to Auckland and felt a chill. It’s summer here, but certainly not overly warm. In the shade, it’s even nice to have pants and a long sleeve shirt. There is a natural ozone hole over New Zealand and the sun is incredibly strong; the difference from shadow to sun is dramatic.
Large, old beautiful trees are everywhere.
Auckland is very … unimpressive. It’s the sister city of Los Angeles, known for exceptional city planning and extensive use of public transit – zing! Almost had you there! The CBD is standard for any first world city: clean with a bunch of chic shops, cafés and clubs with the ever present din of cars on the road – far cry from the exotic cities of Asia.
Because the city spreads across a large isthmus, public transit is rarely used. Less than 1 percent of residents use the train regularly and about 5 percent use the bus regularly. The train service is pretty reliable but currently uses ancient Diesel engines! Luckily these are currently being upgraded to electric engines.
Much like the Los Angeles mentality, everyone pushes the necessity of a car. It’s self-perpetuating and the only way to bend the system is to move against it. So my goal is to not own a vehicle for three months. I have a rental car now to get me acclimated, but I will use my feet, my bicycle, the bus, the train, friends and taxis to get around.
Prehistoric food truck
In order to make this practical, I have to make compromises. I can’t live in the city center – it’s simply too far to commute. Instead, I had to select apartments that were close to transportation hubs and nearby work. I chose to live in Onehunga, a suburb of Auckland on the south side of the isthmus, as close to work as I can get without living in South Auckland. My commute will mostly be by bicycle, a 9km trek one-way, which already makes it significantly shorter than my LA bike commute. If I choose not to ride, I’m a 30 minute bus ride from work with no transfers. So – jackpot!
Onehunga isn’t a prime place for people my age. On the very outskirts, it’s a self contained town with lots of middle aged people. At least the suburbs here aren’t like the suburbs in the US: the towns only recently joined together to form an Auckland proper, so each town has it’s own small grocery, butcher, laundromat, cafés, etc. everything I need in a day to day basis is only a block away so there’s not much need to go into the city. I was originally looking for flatmates but was surprised at blatant homophobia in ads and general conservative attitude. Maybe I’m just used to the west coast. I decided it would be best for me to have my own space, with the possibility of having an extra person if I could find someone good.
Grazing fields are all over the city!
But yes, the county is beautiful. Twenty minutes’ drive and you’re out in the hilly sheep infested countryside and have no idea the city is nearby. The west coast beaches are extremely rugged and beautiful. It gets really windy here, so windsurfing is popular. I went to a west beach and saw about 8 surfers start at the entry and only 15 minutes later they were at least 400 meters downwind!
Another strange thing for me is how cozy New Zealand is with both the US and China. One strange consequence in my opinion is that NZ was one of the last westernized countries to ban shark fining (though will continue to be legal until 2016!) which is a huge export to China.
Rugged west coast
I still have a lot to learn here.