Christmas in July

Friday, July 16, 2010
Green Bay, Wisconsin, United States
When the holiday season arrives, I'll be trading in my snowshoes for sandals and blizzard-y weather for beaches. It will literally feel like Christmas in July. On December 25, I will depart from LAX en route to Sydney, Australia and Auckland, New Zealand!

My round-trip airfare is already booked. I found a pretty good deal, and I will arrive in Sydney and depart from Auckland.

People have been asking what the purpose is? R and R? Volunteering? Like my travels to Costa Rica, I hope to do a combination of both, only set up differently. Unlike Costa Rica, the "volunteer" opportunities are different and harder to find in these areas.

I found a website called Help Exchange (help x). As it states on their homepage, "HelpX is an online listing of host organic farms, non-organic farms,
farmstays, homestays, ranches, lodges, B&Bs, backpackers hostels
and even sailing boats who invite volunteer helpers to stay with them
short-term in exchange for food and accommodation."  By paying a small membership fee, I am able to view all the "host people," see photos and read reviews. If I see a place that sounds like a good fit, I can email or call the host. Hosts can also contact me. Some stays are a week and some can be months. Some are strict vegetarians, some are meat eaters and very proud of it. It's a pretty cool site!  

I am happy to say that I did find a family outside of Sydney who said I could stay, as well as a family who owns a macadamia nut farm outside of Auckland. They both sound wonderful and received great reviews. The Sydney family has a pool, tennis court and it's described as a "dream stay." :) They also have two young kids. Both families ask for 4 hours of "work" per day, in exchange for my own room and meals. Once I am done with my work, I have the rest of the day to explore and relax.

Why am I doing this as opposed to just going on a tour or staying in hotels? I want to see how real Aussies and New Zealanders live. I love meeting new people, sharing stories of our culture and learning about theirs. I want to feel part of another family when visiting another country. What are their homes like? What do they typically eat for meals? What do they do for fun? I'm excited to find out!

This will also by my first, true solo trip. But I don't think I will feel alone. That was another reason I wanted to do a help exchange.

My next step is to figure out how and when to get to Auckland. I also plan on staying in both Sydney and Auckland for a night or two in a hotel, just to get my bearings straight. I also need to book a flight from here to LAX the day before I depart for Sydney. The cool thing about that is I will get to spend Christmas Eve and part of Christmas Day with my aunt and cousin in Long Beach!

There will be a lot to do between now and then, but I seriously can't wait!
Until next time,

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