Camp Riotahi near Whangarei Heads

Tyler and I agree that our time in Auckland felt like a bad dream.  The rush of the city, the sounds of traffic and people rushing by – it just wasn’t our jam.  Now, just a few short hours north of the city, we were surrounded by nature so beautiful that we felt like we were still in a dream, only this time we didn’t want to wake up. 


After our second night camping in Vanita, we both said “why would we ever want to live out of anything else but a van?” This has to be the best way to live. We’re beyond cozy in our van and every day we wake up to the sound of birds chirping and waves crashing. 

VANita settling into her home for the night.

VANita settling into her home for the night.


Our day then started with a fresh yoga sequence on the grassy terrace near the shore. I led our yoga then Tyler finished us up with an ab workout.  After which we both felt so pleasantly awake, alive and ready for a positive day. 

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As we ate our campside oatmeal and New Zealand Breakfast tea, we spoke with our German neighbor about fruit picking.  He had been in New Zealand 5 months and unlike us, was sick of van life and ready for a house of his own.  Three of his five months had been spent picking kiwis, something that was hard work but good pay if you could stand the physical labor.  He told us in three and a half months he earned around $10,000 NZD, which would translate to about $6,695 USD.  Like h said, not bad if you can stand it.


All this talk about work and money led Tyler and I into a good discussion about such.  The truth was, we were both much older and much more experienced than our German friend.  We were happy to do hard labor but honestly, we didn’t need to.  We both had degrees and killer resumes, with the personalities to back it up.  While it would be easy to snag a minimum wage job, Tyler reminded me that that wasn’t our goal.  My goal was to write books and build the business of my dreams.  His goal was to learn about environmental science and enjoy the great fishing and hunting that New Zealand had to offer.  We were ready to work, yes, but not just anywhere.

Tyler heading off on our morning walk.

Tyler heading off on our morning walk.

After breakfast we set out on what we thought would be a short walk around camp.  Two hours later we felt invigorated and a bit sweaty as we scrambled our way to the very top of what we found out to be called, Mount Aubrey. The trail had been heavily clouded with the scent of jasmine. And the beautiful trees and flora had made the uphill climb seem, yet again, like a dream.

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From the top of Mount Aubrey, we saw where we camped the night before plus VANita waving back to us from below and a cargo ship with shipping containers similar to the one on my dad’s farm that was holding my stuff for me back home. 

View from the top of Mount Aubrey

View from the top of Mount Aubrey

 We sat at the top for several minutes, admiring the view and watching dolphins play on the bank near the shoreline.

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After a nice sit, we slowly made our way down the mountain, dreaming up what we might make ourselves for lunch on our slow, dreamy day.  We landed on a recipe of fresh bok choy, sliced Jalapeños, siracha sauce, carrots, rice and mixed beans plus a couple of beers to wash it all down with. 


As we stuffed our face with spicy goodness, suddenly the spray-painted version of James Brown appeared on a camper that was pulling in next to us. It was a young mother with two children.  She and her two kids were here camping for the night and she was quite pleased to join us with a beer of her own and a cigarette as well.  After chatting with her about all things #vanlife, we decided to walk down to the beach and read our books for a while.



The beach was unreal. Because it is the winter season, we really didn’t have to share space with anyone at all. The background noises consisted of fish jumping in the water and birds chirping back at them.  I fell head first into my reading for a good while before I noticed Tyler had put his book down and was 30 yards away, hanging in a tree. He waved me over and proceeded to show me the coolest tree I had ever seen.  It seemed to defy gravity somehow, with both roots and branches in the air at the same time.


When I turned around, Tyler was another 30 yards away, this time at the base of a mountain.  I laughed hysterically when I saw him.  The perspective from where I stood made him look super-duper small, while from his view I looked normal.  Piqued with curiosity, he made me change places with him so he could get a good belly laugh too.


Our long, slow day ended with a walk uphill to Norfolk Avenue, where we watched the sunset in front of someone’s house who we don’t know.  


The sunset was beautiful, as expected.  We cheered her on for all the beauty she possessed in purely being, then sat at camp, under the stars, drinking tea and talking about grade school, the dynamics of our families and the secret to enjoying life.


We decided our two most-used catch phrases are “Play it by ear and take the road less traveled.”  So that will be our new sign-off.



Play it by ear and take the road less traveled.