April 30, 2017 | 9 Minute Read
The 5 weeks leading up to our departure from Wellington were among the busiest in my life.
I gave my boss over two full months’ notice that I was leaving (which, as an American from an at-will state, was a terrifying concept). He was sad to see me go, but happy to hear about my travels and for the fact that I gave him ample time to prepare. He ended up hiring my replacement a full two and half weeks before I left, while he himself was on leave, which meant a lot of single-handed training and onboarding on my part. I’m proud of everything we covered during that time, but man, was it hectic.
Then, for the three weeks of ‘funemploment’ riding out the last of our apartment lease while Loïc wrapped up projects at his own job, selling all our worldly possessions in preparation for the road trip became my new full-time job.
I’ve had to sell lots of stuff before when I left Chicago for New Zealand, but selling in NZ is…different. In Chicago, I could use Craigslist, for free, for just about everything, and most people were either happy with the price listed or understood how to negotiate for something lower. In New Zealand, Craigslist isn’t used (although it’s available), and instead most buying and selling is done through NZ’s own TradeMe or a spattering of various Facebook groups. Oh, and few people want to spend more than $10 for anything.
Loïc and I organized everything we had to get rid of on a Google Docs sheet, which got lots of compliments from various kiwis and helped us keep track of how much junk we had left to sell. We posted this doc everywhere: We shared it at work, posted it in the elevator of our building, shared it throughout Facebook, and tried a few times on Reddit. Unfortunately the Wellington subreddit is inundated with trolls, so that became a dead end, but most small items were quickly snatched up from Facebookers and the larger items were sold on TradeMe. In particular, there’s a massive Facebook group called ‘Vic Deals,’ that’s targeted towards university students but has a lot of alums or other locals on it, that was useful in promoting stuff to sell. TradeMe was always a last resort, as nearly every single action you want to do (even ringing up their hotline for help!) incurs a fee. I think my account is still some $60+ in debt.
In the end, we didn’t sell everything, and much of it was donated or ended up in the trash.
Even as we failed to find a new home for some items, it would have been a shame to just throw them away. Taking advantage of the fact we lived in a big building of about 300 apartments, we displayed what we had left in front of the big bins instead of putting everything directly in them.
And it worked! As people would enter the rubbish room to throw their own garbage away, they would have a look at our little piles and pick what they need. By the time we left the building for the last time, everything was completely gone.
Thanks, trash people!
The final weekend before we took off was the most stressful, both for finalizing TradeMe deals (people are impossible to get a hold of) and for packing up everything for our trip.
We were running out of time, but we couldn’t leave without having our friends over one last time for brunch and board games, even though we had no furnitures left. Everybody brought some delicious food and their favourite tabletop games (the name sounds silly now we don’t have a table anymore) for an amazing Saturday brunch.
We still had heaps to do and pack, but the evening was to hold one last gem for us…
On our first date two and a half years ago, we went to the night market on Cuba Street and saw Graeme James for the first time. He plays all sorts of instruments which he records and replays with his loop pedal. As you would imagine, it takes a bit of time to set up everything, but once he had them all set up, had teased us with some warm ups, he just left to the shop nearby to buy a can of coke. Seriously? What we didn’t know at this time, is that we would record the Pssshhhh sound the can does when you open it and make it part of the whole song. He then played songs from his album “Play One We All Know” which we liked so much we bought the CD.
We saw him playing a few more times in the street, at the Sunday market and at a private concert for the launch of his second album “News from Nowhere” we had backed on Kickstarter.
You’ve probably guessed it by now, that last gem I was talking about a few paragraphs earlier, was him playing in town. We’re exhausted but we couldn’t miss the chance to see him one last time.
The show was excellent, with two opener bands who were very talented and got the audience revved up. I think Loïc and I were too tired to really dance, but we had a good seat near the front to enjoy everything. Graeme didn’t appear on stage until late in the evening, and in addition to being exhausted, Loïc was fighting one hell of a cough and sore throat. We stayed for a few of his songs, one of which was new and the other one of my favorites, and then unfortunately went home early. Still, a fantastic night and a great send-off for Wellington.
Despite my exhaustion, my mind was on everything we had to accomplish in our final day in our apartment. I ended up waking up at 4am on Sunday to start packing my bags.
Once enough was packed, I started running things up and down from our apartments on the 9th floor to the van, and despite our best effort to get rid of all our beloved possessions, I still had to play Tetris to fit everything.
Dana continued to frantically pack and clean every square inch of the flat. As I would walk back in, she would inform me of the rooms now under quarantine, which quickly ended up being the whole flat given it was a two bedrooms.
It ended up being pretty effective, but we still had to ask our landlord to bump the flat inspection by half an hour. Inspection which wasn’t really one in the end. He had several chances throughout the year to witness how clean we kept the flat and simply asked us if we had anything to tell him.
As too often when you are about to say goodbye to someone, this is when this person will open up. We always had been on good terms since the beginning, but you know, it was a tenant/landlord relationship. Anyway, he told us about his first step in New Zealand, 30 years ago, which he made in a backpacker, just like us a few years back.
After vacating our apartment, we still had some things to wrap up before leaving Wellington, so Loïc rang up our good pal Neil to ask if we could hang out with him for a bit and steal his WiFi.
Neil and I almost missed each other as he started at the Quality Assurance department of PikPok as I was leaving it to join the Analytics team and start a new career in development. Anyhow, a couple years later, after helping you storing your whole life in a tiny storage room on one of the hottest day of summer before you took off around the world with your lovely wife Becca for 8 months, after numerous board/video games nights and countless laughs, I’m happy to count you within my dearest friends.
In addition to selling stuff during my ‘funemployment,’ I’ve been working on my character art again and trying to promote myself. I had a number of people ask for commissions during my last few weeks in Wellington, which was awesome. I also updated my drawing tablet to something smaller and more portable for our travels. I’m sure I’ll share that here again as we go along. But thanks to Neil, I was able to wrap up a final commission I had. Thanks, Neil and art customer!
For our first night out, we decided to stay at a very special place to us, Red Rocks. Beside the actual walk to the (surprise surprise) red rocks and the seals, this is first and foremost where we would star gaze during meteor showers with our friend Jeremy, all lying down in 5 layers of clothing and our sleeping bags.
Red Rocks is close enough to the city so you can drive there on a weekday evening, but far enough so there is very little light pollution so you can see the milky way bared eyes. All we had to watch for was the clouds and how bright the moon was but luckily, Jeremy was always on top of it all and made it a perfect experience every time. Thank you, Jeremy.
The sea was rather angry as we went to sleep but it felt good knowing our trip had officially started.