Tag Archives: America

A-Z Challenge: QUESTIONS (& answers) about my life here in New Zealand

James and Alexa Rae at the top of the Sky Tower in Auckland, New Zealand via ZaagiTravel.comMy boyfriend James is a big fan of Reddit, a site known for their AMA “Ask Me Anything” interviews.

I thought that a Q&A would be a fun way to post about the letter Q in my seemingly never-ending alphabet blogging challenge.

So… on Facebook I asked my friends and family to send me their quandaries. Scroll down to see my responses.


How many hours difference are you from San Diego?

Well, it depends on the time of year actually. Right now, we in New Zealand are nineteen hours ahead of San Diego (or I like to think of it as five hours behind but a day ahead haha).

That will change when each of us (NZ & California) goes through Daylight Savings. It will change to 20 hours ahead and then 21 hours ahead.


How does working there compare to here?

Let’s see…

Here in New Zealand there is a 90-day trial for every employee. Before you hit 90 days at your place of employment you can basically be let go without reason.

Our salaries are a bit higher (but our dollar is weaker and cost of living fairly expensive) so it ends up being somewhat similar.


What are the benefits like?

In New Zealand we get many more days of paid annual leave (the minimum for everyone is four weeks but some businesses offer even more).

We also have PAID parental (yes, BOTH parents) leave (which will move from 16 weeks to 18 weeks next year), as opposed to the US – which federally speaking has zero paid leave and only 12 weeks unpaid leave… California does now offer six weeks at 55% of your salary.

And if you’re wondering why I know so much about parental leave? I wrote an article on it a few weeks ago.


When’s the wedding and am I invited?

Ha! Not anytime SOON – we are not even engaged!


What are your work colleagues like, and are their accents the coolest ever?

Yes, Heath. Your accent is awesome. haha And you, along with all of my co-workers, are pretty darn great! I feel very fortunate to work with such a dynamic group of people. There’s a fantastic energy in our office.


View on the kiwi foodie scene?

The amount of health food restaurants and stores is incredibly impressive for its size!

One of the things that stands out most about the food here is how fresh it is. It just tastes more real and fresh off the vine if that makes sense.


And what would you recommend to those travelling to NZ?

In terms of food? If you’re in Auckland I really love Mexico, ironically. I didn’t even like Mexican food when I lived minutes from the Mexican border. But Mexico is a really fantastic restaurant with a few different locations around AKL.

In terms of just regular travel? In summer I absolutely LOVED spending a few days on the island of Waiheke just off the coast of Auckland.

I would also definitely recommend the Coromandel Peninsula and Cathedral Cove as well as the Glow Worm caves down in Waitomo and hiking Duder Regional Park in Maraetai.

But honestly… this country is the most beautiful and diverse place I’ve ever been to. Everywhere you turn it is absolutely stunning. There truly are endless opportunities for adventure here.


Are you an All Blacks fan?

Sure am! I even have an All Blacks jersey! But I’m still figuring out how rugby works…


Do you say mate yet?

I don’t say mate and I don’t think I ever will. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, it just doesn’t come naturally like some other kiwi words do.


Other than missing family & friends, what’s been the most difficult thing to adjust to and how do you deal with it?

Driving and the weather.

I have managed to conquer driving on the left – with the steering wheel on the right. Well, for the most part.

The weather? Still a daily struggle for me. It’s not the arctic or anything but WOW. It really FEELS like it.

I’ve had to go out and buy new clothes – including merino wool tops, wool socks, more tights/leggings, more thick sweaters, more boots, etc.

I also have had to purchase an electric blanket which has made a massive difference in the evenings!

I now use a room heater in the bathroom for when I get out of the shower and I wear a robe, and slippers or house socks pretty much constantly when I’m home.


What is the main differences in food compared to the U.S.? In terms of what people eat, the taste, fruits, etc.

Food in New Zealand is generally a bit healthier — less processed, smaller portions and so on. Supermarkets don’t look that different really but people appear to eat somewaht less fast food and more homecooked meals, and you can tell the differences in sizes at the movies for example.

There’s a lot of pumpkin/kumara served here which makes me a very happy camper! And definitely a British influence in the food – the commonality of things like savoury pies, fish and chips, etc.


How different are the road rules other than driving on the other side of the road?

I’m still getting a hang of that.

The first thing that comes to mind… ROUNDABOUTS! And I actually LOVE them. They scared me for the first couple months but now I can’t imagine life without them. They’re so much more functional than sitting at red lights for forever.

In more rural New Zealand there are one-way bridges where one side yields until there are no more cars coming, which I’ve never seen in the US.

The speed limits in the US are a bit higher and I think I still drive at US speeds – oops! But I haven’t been caught yet. Only by James.


How did your perception of kiwis change after you moved here (if it changed at all)?

Hmm… I think I just learn every day how friendly kiwis are. I personally find them very welcoming and warm, more so than the average Los Angeles resident.

They have a wee bit (see what I did there?) of that formality that Americans associate with the UK. Sort of a sophistication. Well. Some kiwis. 😛


What do you wish the US had that NZ does and what do you wish NZ had that the US does?

I wish NZ had Target! And quark. And less-expensive shopping. And warmer weather. And currency as strong as the USD. And my family. I really miss them.

Hmm… I wish the US had the lifestyle that NZ has. And the amazing level of healthcare that NZ has. And the far lower crime rates. Children walk home from school here without the fear that they’ll be kidnapped. Police in NZ don’t carry guns or even tazers. It’s very safe and you can feel that.


What’s the main differences in lifestyle from the U.S. To NZ?

New Zealanders have a healthier work-life balance. Americans live to work, where in NZ it’s more about working to live. The focus here is on enjoying life – BBQs with friends on the weekend, an emphasis on O.E. (Overseas Experience) for young adults, etc.

People here just seem more ALIVE, instead of simply going through the motions. I never noticed that the US is like that until I spent more time here and realized how much people


If you have any other questions for me ask them in a comment below and I will add them to the post!

A-Z Challenge: America to nZ

Alexa Rae on Waiheke Island in New Zealand via ZaagiTravel.com
Well, if you’re reading this there’s a good chance you already know I’m moving to New Zealand.

If you didn’t know… now you know!

And I’m moving… this week.

I’ll keep this post relatively brief because there will be some lengthy ones to come.

In the month of April I will be blogging EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Ok wait. That’s not true.

I’ll be blogging every single day of the month aside from Fridays or Thursdays if you’re in North America. Technically the rules of the challenge I’m completing (more on that below) include breaks from blogging on Sundays. However, I’m a rebel so I’m choosing Fridays.

Keep Calm And Move To New Zealand via ZaagiTravel.com

Basically… while researching blogs about Americans that have moved to New Zealand I came across Albom Adventures, a blog written by a female American expat living in Auckland.

She has completed the A-Z Blogging Challenge for the past four years. I was inspired. And being that this will be one of the biggest months of my entire life thus far, I want to document it the very best I can.

My blogging lately has been pitiful, and that’s being kind. But I feel extremely motivated to complete this challenge.

Some of my upcoming posts will include information pertaining to travel, including my experience with Global Entry as well as the special visa I’ll be on.

But most importantly, it will follow the shenanigans I get up to with the best sidekick in the world, my boyfriend James.

Upcoming topics include…

  • On April 11-12 James and his dad Brett will be attempting their second Guinness World Record, for the longest game of squash, playing 36+ consecutive hours to raise $36,000+ for the Child Cancer Foundation.
  • I’ll also be discussing Kiwi food, Kiwi slang, and some of my favorite places I’ve already traveled to around New Zealand.
  • Some of the most fun you could ever imagine!

Flag Of  New Zealand via ZaagiTravel.com

And! As it turns out… Rhonda from Albom Adventures has themed her A-Z posts ‘AmaZing Auckland’! I look forward to discovering more about my new backyard through her blog as well!

Please feel free to follow this journey I’m about to partake on.

And buckle up. It’s gonna be a crazy beautiful ride (on the left side of the road… Oh goodness!)

Day Date in Laguna Beach, California: What to See, Eat & Do

View of Laguna Beach boardwalk, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Laguna Beach, an upscale, coastal, & artistic Orange County community in Southern California, is famous for a variety of reasons: the “Laguna Beach” reality television show, the Festival of Arts Pageant of the Masters, the Sawdust Art Festival, it’s gorgeous, snorkel-worthy beaches, the list goes on and on…

View of Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

There’s no denying it’s a beautiful place any direction you look. It’s also chock-full of great food, great shopping, and great views. Here are some of my favorite things to do on a day-trip to Laguna Beach.

So grab your mom, your dad, your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your husband, your wife, your best friend, your dog, your grandma, your grandpa, your daughter, your son, your pet rock! Grab them and enjoy a day here with my best recommendations to get the very most out of your day in Laguna Beach.

Laguna Cinema in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

What better way to begin a day-date than with… a movie.

The small Laguna South Coast Cinema is a cool place to catch the latest flick. Adult tickets are only $8.50, or $6.00 for a matinee (before 5:15).

Afterwards grab a bite at my absolute favorite restaurant in Laguna Beach, The Cliff, located in the Laguna Village. The restaurant offers a reasonably priced valet parking service for your convenience.

Entrance to the Laguna Village in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Here is one of the many reasons I love eating at The Cliff. Just let that view sink in.

View from the Cliff Restaurant in Laguna Beach, Orange County, California via ZaagiTravel.com

If you can tear your eyes away from the turquoise waves long enough to take a glimpse at the menu, you’ll find a variety of delicious seafood options, as well as sandwiches, burgers, salads, and so on.

Menu at the Cliff Restaurant in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Did I mention the view?

View from the Cliff Restaurant in Laguna Beach, Orange County, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Alright alright, back to the food.

Scallops Wasabi from the Cliff Restaurant in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

I recently ordered two “Scallops Wasabi” for the first time. They’re described as “raw scallops on the 1/2 shell topped with seaweed salad, pickled ginger and wasabi cream sauce”. As of March 2014, pricing is $3 ea. / $25 doz.

Scallops Wasabi from the Cliff Restaurant in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Now… let me just say… I love seafood. I love sushi. I love scallops.

These scallops were the BEST scallops I’ve ever had. They were SO GOOD. If you like raw seafood (i.e. sushi), you have to try these. I could eat these everyday for the rest of my life. A little tang, a little spice, a little crunch, a lot of YES.

Fish and Chips, well fruit, at the Cliff Restaurant in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

My mom ordered Fish N Chips ($16), minus the chips, plus fruit. So. Fish N Fruit you could say. I had a bite of hers and it was ALSO some of the best fried fish I’ve had. Light, not oily, and flavorful.

Halibut Laguna at the Cliff Restaurant in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

For my main entree I had Halibut Laguna ($25), “fresh grilled halibut filet topped with mango and papaya tropical salsa served with rice and fresh mixed greens”. Also fabulous!

View from the Cliff Restaurant in Laguna Beach, Orange County, California via ZaagiTravel.com

That view again. I can’t help myself.

Shops in the Laguna Village in Laguna Beach, Orange County, California via ZaagiTravel.com

The rest of the Laguna Village is filled with cute, little specialty & art shops. I bought a gorgeous gold-filled anklet from Shelby’s and my mom bought some coral and shells from Rudi’s (located on the eastern side of the Laguna Village, near the street.

Shelby's foot jewelry shop in the Laguna Village in Laguna Beach, Orange County, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Meeting and chatting with Rudi and Linda was a highlight of our day! Rudi is from Vienna, Austria and Linda is from Cape Town, South Africa. Since I have previously visited both of their original hometowns we had a blast discussing our favorite parts of each destination. They told me about the under-rated Tokai wine region in Cape Town, a place I’ll most definitely be visiting on my next visit to Cape Town (which is hopefully sooner, rather than later)!

Rudi's Seashell shop in the Laguna Village in Laguna Beach, Orange County, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Rudi's Seashell shop in the Laguna Village in Laguna Beach, Orange County, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Their adorable dog, Bear, greets customers with a wagging tail when he’s not lounging in his cushy bed.

Rudi and Bear at Rudi's Seashell shop in the Laguna Village in Laguna Beach, Orange County, California via ZaagiTravel.com

My mom was so inspired by Bear’s haircut that she requested I groom up our Pomeranian/Papillon pup just like him. I tried. But I’m saving you from the visual. I’ll leave it at that. Admire Bear’s handsome looks, instead.

Bear, Rudi's dog, at Rudi's Seashell shop in the Laguna Village in Laguna Beach, Orange County, California via ZaagiTravel.com

After checking out the Laguna Village I recommend taking a stroll along the sand… because everyone likes long walks on the beach. Am I right or am I right?

Laguna Beach Lifeguard Tower, California via ZaagiTravel.comI also highly recommend heading to the main downtown streets, Forest Ave and Ocean Ave.

Here, you’ll find Scandia (248 Forest Ave, Laguna Beach, CA 92651), an awesome bakery popular with locals.

Scandia Bakery in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Scandia Bakery in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

It’s filled to the brim with salads, pastries, and a comfy warm coffee aroma.

Scandia Bakery in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

From cookies, to tarts, to danishes… they have something for every sweet craving.

Baked goods at the Scandia Bakery in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Choosing between a danish and a coconut macaroon was next to impossible. I ended up “eenie-meenie-minie-mo”-ing it.

Baked goods at the Scandia Bakery in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

You’re lucky I paused to take a quick photo before gobbling this baby up! Ain’t she a beaut?

Coconut macaroon from the Scandia Bakery in Laguna Beach, Orange County, California via ZaagiTravel.com

 ANDDDDD… MORE SHOPPING! Because shopping. Duh.

I was ecstatic when I came across Tuvalu (295 Forest Ave, Laguna Beach, CA 92651), a home furnishings store with a shabby chic/oceanic theme. Totally my style!

Being that I semi-grew up in Orange County (die-hard beach baby since birth, just ask my mama), and sailed around the world on a ship, I have a deep LOVE for coastal interior designs.

Tuvalu Home Furnishings and Interior Design Shop in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Tuvalu is the epitome of unique, rustic and beautiful. Their furniture, lighting, dining, bedding, art and accessories have even been featured in Coastal Living, Sunset Magazine, Ocean Home, Real Simple, and InStyle.

(Heads up: Their website is currently under construction, but Pin this and come back to it later! Even if you can’t make it out to Laguna Beach, you can still browse/shop online when their website is back up!)

Tuvalu Home Furnishings and Interior Design Shop in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Tuvalu also has a fun and eclectic book section towards the back of the store.

Tuvalu Home Furnishings and Interior Design Shop in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

And it gets better. The owner/buyer, Laurie Alter, is totally awesome! She’s very hands-on in the store and one of the most helpful and cool business owners I’ve come across since I started blogging.

Tuvalu Home Furnishings and Interior Design Shop in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Be sure to check out the Tuvalu blog and Pinterest account! I’m already obsessed.

Next up, one of my favorite clothing boutiques in Laguna Beach: Muse!

Muse Clothing and Accessory Boutique in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Muse, formerly known as Ivory Moon, has been around for fifteen years. I’ve been coming here for at least five of those years.

Muse Clothing and Accessory Boutique in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

The clothes are consistently interesting and desirable. This is because Muse sees itself as more than just a clothing store; they aim to be an art and fashion gallery by showcasing up-and-coming designers.

After speaking with the owner, I learned that he is inspired by the casual, artistic feel that the Laguna Beach community is known for. The boutique/gallery hopes to inspire it’s customers to be different and unique.

Muse Clothing and Accessory Boutique in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

The clothing and accessory pieces are discovered and brought to the shelves and racks of the store from all over the world. For example, the canvas bag (on the left in the photo above) is from Madagascar!

Dressing rooms at the Muse clothing and accessory boutique in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Muse is a fun place to explore the future of the fashion world. I’ve often wondered if fashion-mogul Lauren Conrad gained inspiration from the boutique as she was growing up in Laguna Beach. (Shout out to LC! Her blog is to-die-for!)


If you’ve been to LB, what are your favorite things to see, eat, and do? Have I missed anything note-worthy?

Swells & Surfboards: The 2013 US Open of Surfing


Huntington Beach is where I learned to surf. It’s where I realized I was in love for the first time. It’s where I met Arnold Schwarzenegger – for the second time. No, I was not in love with Arnold. Actually this guy’s last name was even harder to pronounce, so I won’t put you through that…

Huntington Beach holds a special place in my heart. I’m excited to share the first of many posts about it with you.

Shameless selfie time! Okay, moving on…

So a few weeks ago we pulled into the garage of my aunt and uncle’s house located less than three blocks from the Huntington Beach pier. My mom, my dad and I had brought along our dogs Kona and Beau for a stay in one of the greatest surfing destinations in the world (Huntington Beach isn’t called Surf City USA for no reason)!


We spent the evening resting up in preparation for the monstrous surfing documenting we would be doing early the next morning.

You better wake up early if you want to eat breakfast at the Sugar Shack before it begins to get crowded.



This place is famous. So famous in fact that our adorable server, Summer, is often recognized in other parts of the country when she’s working as a flight attendant – her other job.

The Sugar Shack is a 3rd generation family owned business. It’s a Southern California style “mom and pop” hole-in-the-wall breakfast joint. The inside is covered with decade’s worth of photos of legendary surfers, many of them studded with autographs. A waiting list for the outside tables hangs out front under the forest green awning.

TIP: If there’s an available table inside, feel free to grab it! And you better do it quick!

ANOTHER TIP: My favorite things on the menu… If you want to feel like a true local you gotta try the Main Street Burrito which is stuffed with avocado, mushrooms, onions, sprouts and cheese. If you’re aiming for a quick bite you can’t beat the Wake Up & Shine – 2 poached eggs on toast. If you’re aiming to eat healthy I recommend Michele’s Special – grilled chicken breast, three egg whites, bell peppers and tomatoes. And if healthy eating isn’t a priority add a hot cinnamon roll to your order. You won’t regret it!

And pancakes are always a good idea!
And pancakes are always a good idea!

Main Street and the surrounding area have an impressive selection of delicious things to be consumed – everything from açai bowls to poke bowls to the best burger in Southern California. I’ll cover my favorites in detail in a post focusing on Huntington Beach as a vacation destination sometime in the next few weeks.

Okay… onto the surfing!



The misty morning began with the horn that announces the beginning of the heat, signaling the surfers to paddle into the line up and start scoping out the incoming swells.


As we made our way further down the pier the cool, salty ocean air filled our lungs. The breeze out on the pier was just heavy enough to need a sweater and even though it was only 8am and completely overcast I was glad to have sunglasses.


My dad and I arrived early enough to grab a key spot huddled up next to the professional photographers. Our pictures aren’t in the same league as theirs but they treated us as one of their own – all of us reminiscing about past U.S. Open of Surfing experiences and our predictions for this years events.


The first surfer that caught our attention was Conner Coffin, last year’s (and spoiler alert this year’s also!) Junior Pro champion from Santa Barbara, California. It turns out Conner has a blog, which you can check out here.

My family followed Conner’s progress throughout the U.S. Open and we were ecstatic to watch him take home the Junior Pro title for a second year in a row the following weekend.

Here are some shots of random surfers we observed from the pier over the next few days.




Have you visited Huntington Beach? If so, what are your own personal highlights?

Have you ever tried surfing? Would you?