As the four month mark passes by on the day that we first stepped foot in New Zealand, I thought it was time that Luke and I reflect on our trip a bit, share some of our favourite memories, and update everyone on what our lives are like now, living in Mount Maunganui. I'd say overall the homesickness has not been an issue for us, if anything, we simply wish we could bring everyone here to experience it with us!! There have been many dreams of "If I had the money, I would fly you here tomorrow". New Zealand is such a beautiful, friendly and exquisite place.. I almost feel guilty enjoying it all to myself instead of sharing it... almost!

  From the Unknown ........... To the Everyday

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March 2012 | Vancouver Airport
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July 2012 | Mount Maunganui Beach
What is your favourite city that you visited? Why?
Luke: Wellington. It just had such a nice welcoming feel to it, I felt like I was home. Probably had to do with the hippyish type people and that it is very similar to Victoria. 
Deanna:  Wellington. The streets were filled with funky, yet very friendly people. There were heaps of unique cafes and restaurants, a lot of "hole in the wall" type places. It was the kind of place I could see myself living and loving.
What is your favourite photo, where was it taken, and what makes it awesome?
This photo was taken up in the Coromandel Peninsula near New Chums beach. It's my favourite because this beach was amazing, me and Dea had such a great time here, and then this picture was taken and Dea looks like a monkey....and we almost cried laughing so hard.
This photo was taken at 7am on top of Mount Pukawhakataratara at Mana Retreat Centre on the Coromandel Peninsula. It was a challenge to get Luke out of bed to hike up a mountain for 45 minutes in the black of morning - but the beauty of the moment was worth it in the end! I was so worried about the amount of clouds that were present, but it turned into a beautiful, eerie, misty morning.  This photo reminds me of what my time at Mana represents to me - freedom and inspiration.
What is your favourite New Zealand experience story to tell?
Luke: I like sharing our wwoofing experiences at Mana Retreat Centre and Terri's because I think it is just a fantastic way to travel and meet people. 
Deanna: I really like sharing our stranded on 90 Mile Beach story. Its good for a laugh at our stupidity... and is a fun memory!!
Is there anything that you desperately wish you had brought with you and forgot?
My bro and sis
Bandit...
What would be your advice to anyone traveling to New Zealand?
Buy a car, it's just way easier to see everything, plus once getting here you realize you don't really have a home and having a car is just your own little home if you need it.
Keep your plans wide open so you can jump in with someone else's travels when the opportunity presents itself... and ask everyone everything.. the people are friendly!!
What individual, activity or place has impacted you the most in New Zealand?
Individual is tough because Mana retreat is just this amazing place away from the world, once there you forget about everything around you. You become more relaxed and just have more room in your head to think. Then there is Terri who really took care of us when we needed it the most, trying to find a home wasn't the easiest process for us, and to have someone to just let us come back not just once but on plenty of occasions is amazing. So I guess you could say wwoofing again.
Terri - she has such a warm, inviting and real way of living her life. Terri has fed us, taught us, laughed with us, laughed at us, fed us again, taught us about life in New Zealand, embraced us into her family, and even recently helped us find work! She loves her family above everything else in her life, which I respect so much and enjoy being able to be a part of. To allow so many random international travelers into your home on a constant rotating basis... you need to be a unique, open and wonderful type of person. Terri is all of these things!! <3
Would you say that you have changed at all in the past four months?
Yes definitely, I think being here has opened my eyes more on what's out there, I really want to see more of the world now, and meet more people.
I've become happier, more relaxed and laugh more freely. My life has much less drama! :)
Can you describe what its like living in Mount Maunganui?
So far like a dream - living on the beach, surfing, long boarding, and its only the winter, I can't imagine what summer is gonna be like.
Paradise! 4 blocks from the beach, sunshine almost every single day... perfection!
What are you doing now? For work, for fun? 
Well I was doing electrical work which was very interesting to see how different it is from our country, but now I'm just helping in construction which is still interesting meeting different people. As for fun like I said surfing, long boarding, just walking on the beach with dea, and going on little adventures.
Since moving to the Mount I have been working with my roommate at a hotel in downtown Mount Maunganui, cleaning toilets, making beds, scrubbing floors.. all the fun stuff. Also, thanks to Terri, I have had a few shifts with a catering company that I am really enjoying, and I had my first "trial" shift at a coffee shop... which I was ecstatic about!! For fun I've been really enjoying the gym in our apartment building - mainly because its free and always empty! I've been having a GREAT time with my blog (thank you to everyone who reads and comments! you keep me going!) and just writing in general. And of course, my fun day trips to the library or beach!! 
What is the biggest change from living in Victoria?
Not having those familiar faces and friends that we hung out with all the time. 
Agreed! Not being surrounded by a group of friends that are ready and willing to partake in fun adventures on a regular, almost daily basis.. its a big change. And there's no Auntie Sue here.
What is exactly the same?
Hahaha this is the toughest question for me, not very much is exactly the same....I mean even the coffee is different, playing guitar is different because I have more time and feel like I am actually getting better. Driving feels the same now but it's different seeing how I'm on the other side of the road. I would have to say although work is somewhat different, I guess the people are somewhat the same, they interact the same, make the same kind of sick jokes, and overall Kiwis are friendly like Canadians, while you still get the odd jackass, just like in Canada.
I find living in the Mount feels as though I could be living in a part of Canada. There are obvious differences - like tropical trees in every yard - but because there are many pieces that are similar, I often forget that there is a body of water separating me from my home. Many days I find I feel so comfortable here that I forget I'm in a different country. I think being here with Luke really helps.. makes it feel like home.
What is your favourite part about your new living situation?
Well instead of my roomies pretending to have a British accent they actually do, and it's hard not to mock them. Also our apartment is awesome with a pool and hot tub, and the best part: it's cheaper than what I was paying back home.
We live in a b-e-a-uuuutiful apartment!! I love it. I am able to walk to and from work - which I have always wanted! And I don't have any money... I enjoy seeing what I can do without. It feels a bit refreshing and grounding, although at times frustrating. 
Is there anything that you desperately miss from home?
Friends and family.....oh and timmys of course.
Bandit... and all of the above!
Is there anything that you thought you would miss desperately but you've been surprised that you don't?
Not really. I guess just Canada in general, I mean, I miss it but I guess I just know it will be there when I get back and being here makes me appreciate my country more.
Work. 
There you have it! A reflection of the past four months through the eyes of Dukey and Dea! Anything else you're curious about? Anything you'd like to share?
I hope you've enjoyed reading about our adventures as much as we enjoy sharing them!
Sincerely,
Sweet Dea & Dukey
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Papamoa Hills Summit - that mountain is the background is "the mount" - Mount Maunganui - our new town
 
 
Yesterday Luke and I enjoyed another day of constant sunshine with a different view of our favourite mountain. We drove out to  Papamoa to hike the hills. The hike up was a good steady climb in a beautiful foresty area that teases you with small glimpses of sunshine through the trees. It was ever winding so you never quite knew where you were headed or where the summit was. which is helpful to "trick" yourself into thinking the summit is "just around the corner"
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Luke and The Tall Trees
After our 45 minute hike up, and many many "hellos" "howsits" "howyougoings" and "g'days" from a friendly group hiking down, we saw our summit! A beautiful grassy top with 360 degree views of the Papamoa hills. 
PHOTO OP!
After our much quicker hike down to the carpark and toilets, we decided to head back to downtown Mount Maunganui for a delicious treat!! Anywhere at the base of the mount is a great place to get a delicious treat! From freshly made waffle cone engulfed ice cream, to lattes to fresh and hot fish and chips. And all treats can be consumed while looking at the beautiful ocean view or looking up at the monstrous Mount Mauao!  
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Main Beach, Downtown Mount Maungaui
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Main Beach, Downtown Mount Maunganui
Luke and I opted to enjoy the rest of the afternoon down on the beach, a few km's away from the busy and bustling Main Beach of Mount Maunganui. This activity is beautiful, comfortable and free! There is plenty of people and dog watching, wave watching, friendly conversations with passerby's and a chance to catch up on that book or some well-deserved snooze time!!
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The beaches best accessory: hunky man + guitar
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Bliss.
 
 
I have felt a sudden energy change among my network of wonderful friends and family.. even from afar. There is more talk of low spirits and less energy. Each reason is unique to the individual, but I often find that low spirits do come in waves; like a social phenomenon. If you have a few friends who are down, they're telling you about it, describing why their down, or what is bringing them down, and then maybe you start to think about those things and realize that they bring you down as well. Then suddenly, everyone is having a pity party jam-packed with ice cream, cookies, a little extra wine and reality tv shows...(or maybe that's just my cure)

It's got me thinking.. what do I do when I'm feeling down in order to bring myself back up? 

These are some of my favourite things to do when I feel down.  Maybe you'll try some.. maybe you won't.. but I wanted to share them just incase they make at least one person smile. 

Allow myself to wallow - sometimes all I need is a good wallow in self pity.. sure my life isn't that hard, I have a LOT of privileges, but sometimes I just need to let go of every single responsibility, stop smiling and have a down moment. These are the times that Luke says "you have absolutely zero expression on your face" and my response - "I'm replenishing!"

Endorphins!! - Exercise makes me feel wonderful, and yet I often find it very hard to commit to actually doing the deed. When I haven't done anything physical in awhile, and I'm feeling down, I know there is a correlation. If I'm so down I can't find the motivation to go to the gym because I know I will simply stare at the machines.. I go to a high-intensity class!! This way no thinking is involved, there's a set time that I have to make it there by and if I skip out halfway through.. people will see!!

The Library! - Being over here in New Zealand and only working a few hours a week means I don't have a lot of expendable funds. My new favourite way to combat the money blues.. stroll down to the library. I allow myself to feel like a millionaire in there! When I look through the aisles, I know that I am allowed to leave with any item I choose! And not only that.. I can choose 3, 4, 5, 10 items!! Suuuure I don't read every single item I take home.. but I feel good not having to limit myself! (and I've recently learned I can take out my trashy magazines...FOR FREE!! major score when their price tags are around the $5 mark!)

Write a letter!! This is one of my all time favourite activities to do when I am feeling a bit low or secluded or unsure of myself. Sending love to a friend means you will be putting a smile on their face when they check their mailbox. And as I begin writing, I find I'd rather find anything/everything positive in my life to write about as I wouldn't want them to open up a letter just to hear me bitch and complain. And suddenly, I am focusing on the positive pieces of my life instead of those silly little pieces that were bringing me down before. Instant smile.

Empty the closet!  - Don't feel like facing the world? Then don't. Stay in. Sometimes that is exactly what I need.. goes with the lack of expression on my face. Sometimes I need to wear sweats, have greasy hair and stare off into space in silence. This is when I usually go through my closet, my drawers, my cupboard, anything, and just take stock on the many "things" I have in my life. Most things I don't need, in any way, whatsoever. So those get filtered out and passed over to a second-hand store. And sometimes I can't part with any item. Those days I just re-organize, make everything clean, tidy and create a mental checklist. Life gets cluttered, why should my home be the same?

My New Zealand Favourite Mood Booster - Walk the 4 blocks to the beauuutiful beach here at the Mount. I always take my camera, even though I'm sure I have every unique photo possible already, as I am simply stunned and amazed at the natural beauty, that requires zero human interaction to be so beautiful. I stand there thinking, "I have done absolutely nothing to create this, this has zero to do with me, and yet, here it is, allowing me to appreciate it". 
I find it very humbling, energizing and inspiring!! It's amazing how close nature can be when you need it.. its just a matter of finding your way to it. Its usually closer than you think and less effort to get there than you imagined in your mind. 

xoxo
Sweet Dea

"Just the simple process of letting go of negative thoughts will allow your natural state of healthy to emerge within you. And your body will heal itself." - Rhonda Byrne, The Secret

"Experiencing what you don't want helps you work out what you do want." - Mia Freedman, Mamamia

"You are aware of where you want to go, but you honour and give your fullest attention to the step that you are taking at this moment"  - Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now 

Photo Inspiration

 
 
I am walking away with a well-fed stomach and a well-fed soul. I didn't come here to experience a "personal retreat", but that is exactly what I got. There are stories that suggest the land that Mana Retreat Centre is on has healing powers. True or not, one real, concrete fact that I know is true is Mana has space! Space for your thoughts, your emotions, space to play and run and jump and laugh. Space to work and space sit 
quietly.  Space to be social and space to be reclusive. Space to heal old wounds and space to think. This place is an all-encompassing sanctuary. It is your choice while here to do anything from challenge yourself mentally, physically or spiritually to do ab-so-lute-ly nothing! No thinking, no feeling, just being. I came to Mana in search of a basket. I found that basket, and I am now leaving with it full of goodies! 

As a wwoofer at Mana you are treated as a family. The longer you stay, the stronger the family becomes. The work is not hard, and you feel good doing it, because you know that the guests who will benefit from your work, are the type of people who will appreciate it. They are coming here to better themselves, and you are aiding them in this process. There is a calmness that comes with finding a respectful environment, and that's exactly what Mana is. While traveling, sometimes it is hard to anticipate the environment you will soon be in. Mana is like a safe and comforting home to protect yourself in. Whatever your beliefs or your lifestyle, if you bring respect to Mana, it will be returned ten-fold. A wise friend named Cyril once said, "I came to Mana to feed my soul," and that is exactly what has happened to me in the two weeks I have been here. The natural scenery - from the ocean to the mountain, the never-ending hikes and trails, the jaw-dropping and inspiring views, the incredible people with amazing knowledge and compassion and the work-worth-doing are all reasons that I will be returning to Mana. It takes a very strong vision to create a space that welcomes such a large variety of people and lifestyles and does so with complete respect and compassion. I can truly say that my eyes have been opened to a fresher, more real way of living my life. I think the name Mana in Maori means "seeing the beauty within". That is exactly what you will find when you wwoof here. 

The Secret


 
 
I have recently been dealing with the constant and nagging feeling of anxiousness. I have emptied my home, finished up at my job, said most of my goodbyes and packed my bag. All there is left to do now is wait. and wait. and wait. and wait.

Seeing as I have adapted the "western world" work-ethic,meaning I find it hard to truly and completely find satisfaction in relaxation, I am constantly feeling anxious.
have I packed the right things? | do we have enough money? | what will we do?

I had just accepted that this was now my way of life until we finally embarked on this trip in a few weeks. I accepted that I would have endless nights of restless sleep with constant thoughts racing through my head. I had actually begun having middle of the night mini workouts in an attempt to exhaust my body so much that I would simply pass out.
(a challenging thing to do when you don't have your own room in your own home). Sadly, these mini workouts, although they are keeping me semi-fit, had not been helping. So, each night I lie awake, thought after thought racing through my head, did I email that person back? what will I do with my cellphone? did I actually put the visa paper with my passport? oh crap.. where's my passport?

appealing  right??

Then, on my long trip back to Ottawa to visit my family, I randomly opted to pack my recently untouched book, "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle. Originally I had bought this book sometime back when I was in a very low place. I was searching for something, anything, to pull me out of my misery. But I knew the answer wasn't a thing. It had to come from me. So, to the self-help section I went. And I have to say, sure there are some kooky, crazy self-help books out there, but once in awhile you find a goody! And this one is
just that. A powerful book! I had read about 50 pages and that was enough to pump me full of confidence in my ability to take care of myself, and be the one to make myself happy!

I hadn't touched this book since that time. Which makes for some interesting thoughts floating through my head as I opened it and read through the many underlined phrases in the first 50 pages. If you haven't read it, and are able to open your perspective to a new concept, than I suggest you give it a try!

I have intrepreted the teachings of this book to associate well with my current theme of this trip: Gratitude!