A Realistic Calendar for New Zealand

If you are new to New Zealand perhaps this calendar will help prepare you for the local progression of seasons. :-)

I originally made this calendar specifically for Wellington, but it seems that much of New Zealand identifies with it so I renamed it.

Five Years

In December 2009 I quit my job at Weta Digital and headed off into the unknown. It was amazing. I spent a few months travelling aimlessly, a year studying yoga, a year living on permacultureA system for designing landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature. farms, a year living on intentional communities and a year and half making a new home with Tink on her 12 acres on the Kāpiti Coast.

Today, today I signed a contract to go back to Weta Digital to help wrap up the hobbitses. So starting on Wednesday, and through to the end of October, I’ll be in town a lot more than I have been recently. The end of a movie isn’t the best time to plan a social life, but perhaps I’ll get to spend some more time with Wellington friends than I have in the last couple of years?

I am slightly embarrassed to announce this a week after Reece’s lovely video did the rounds, however financial reality has (finally) set in. My hope is that a short stint back in Miramar will get us through the quiet December/January period, pay off our credit cards and then life can go back to “normal” in 2015.

We’ve got plans for next year, and I’m looking forward to it!

The Stories We Tell

A couple months ago I was interviewed by Reece Baker as part of a series called The Stories We Tell. Many thanks to Reece for such a beautiful job and thank you to everyone who has seen it and commented.

Building a Cabin from a Shipping Container

People are talking about building tiny houses and cabins out of containers a lot recently. I built a cabin from a shipping container in 2012 to use as my primary (tiny) home. I only got it to fairly basic standards (basically an insulated box with two sets of doors) before the community I was living in collapsed and I moved out and sold it.

I’ve written my thoughts up for a couple of friends but have been meaning to do a better write up for ages. Here are the basic lessons I learned:

  • Containers aren’t a particularly cheap way to build, but they are really fast. I got mine to it’s finished state with less than a weeks work (of about 1.5 people).
  • It’s not particularly hard, but work with a builder if you can, they are amazingly fast.
  • If you’re planning on living in it for the long haul, pay the extra for a hi-cube which gives you an extra 30cm of vertical space.
  • There’s no way to know what the container was used to transport and some of them are used to transport seriously toxic shit.
  • If you care about potential toxicity sandblast the steel walls and either cut out the plywood flour (not a very pleasant job) or investigate epoxy encapsulation of the floor.
  • Containers are surprisingly expensive to move.

Overall I wouldn’t do it again unless for some reason I needed something fast and wanted to be able to sell it off fairly easily later. The research I did on toxicity didn’t leave me feeling comfortable, but I may be precious.

If I was going to build something like this again I would do it differently:

  • If I wanted cheap I’d build with cob, earthbag or maybe straw bale.
  • If I wanted super portable, I’d kit out a bus (extra annoying since I’m tall, but possible).
  • If I wanted comfortable but easy to transport I’d get a yurt.
  • If I wanted a transportable living space in or near a city I’d get a boat.

My analysis is that containers fall in the worst gaps of all of those. They aren’t particularly cheap, they aren’t particularly easy or cheap to move and they are potentially toxic.

One awesome thing you can do with containers is cantilever them. I have two designs that I’d love to build that would be super easy with containers … but over all I think it will be better to do it another way.


Two People Walked

Two people walked. A couple. The woman went ahead. Down to the water, and back up the beach. Many times she went, back and forth. With her, two dogs. One small, one larger. The dogs constantly running, yet always coming back. Jumping up, then sprinting away. The man walked carefully. Slowing periodically. Scuffing the ground, kicking a rock. The whole way he kept slowing to kick a rock.

Today I kicked a rock about a kilometre down the beach. My rules were simple. It had to be the same rock and I had to always go forward. It's funny what you can learn kicking a rock down the beach. The pattern a tumbling rock makes in the sand. How much to scrunch my toes. What my rock looked like from every angle. To recognise my rock in the middle of hundreds of other similar rocks. Even the time I took my eye off the rock as it tumbled across the scree. How often it ended in seemingly improbable positions. Hanging from an invisible string.

These rules allow only two sensible strategies. Kick carefully or decide you don't care that the games ends. How many times did I kick the rock? Dozens. Hundreds? Each time I was able to make sure that it was carried forward far enough to kick again. It's a simple thing to kick a rock, but isn't everything simple?

I wasn't surprised that the rock changed. I was more surprised that I changed. Kicking a rock, thinking about care. About this world. About me. About the power of decisions. It's not hard to take care. To be careful. To carry something forward. To make sure something isn't left behind.

Life After Weta?

I keep forgetting that we aren't all connected to the same hive mind and am surprised when friends don't know that I have left Weta (again). Everybody asks why I chose to leave, and the answer is simple. Despite the fact that I adore my job, doing it left me with very little emotional energy to do anything else. I realised that for most of my adult life, work really has been my life. For a long time that was fine because I loved my work and was happy to make it my life. However with each passing year that compromise has seemed less acceptable. With “Avatar” wrapping up, and especially now that I'm single again, it felt foolish to not take a punt and try something different.

Of course this leaves the question of what exactly is the next step, and honestly the answer is that I don't know. What I do know is I've been talking about travelling the world for longer then I can remember. As a kid, shuttling between California and New Zealand with my parents, I remember idolising the scruffy hippy kids that I'd see congregating in the corners of airports. Over the last <gulp> twenty years I've ended relationships and quit jobs to head off on this journey more times then I care to count. Yet I always allowed life to pull me back before the final plunge. The time has arrived to stare the dream square in the face and either plunge in … or get over it.

What I do know is that I'll be spending the next couple months in Wellington enjoying summer and the company of friends. Then around April I'll be heading off towards Southeast Asia. My destination? The cheapest flight that gets me to Southeast Asia, I'm guessing Bangkok but hope to be surprised. From there I intend to slowly make my way westward. Since I'm not in a hurry I intend to stop for as long as I like and enjoy everything which seems worth savouring. I'll be avoiding planes and will instead travel by foot, bicycle, motorbike, boat and bus as much as possible. After exploring Southeast Asia I hope to make my way into China and from there to Tibet, down through Nepal and into India. After that I really have no idea, I suspect my initial travel companions will have headed for home by then so I'll be properly on my own. Then depending on how comfortable I am in my new traveller shoes, Africa or Eastern Europe seem the most likely choices.

I've been saying that this is going to be a years trip but really I have no idea. More realistically it'll end when I: get sick of it, run out of money, find something I don't want to leave or end up back in New Zealand.

Between now and then I hope to keep the new travel section of this updated with what I learn and experience along the way.

2014 by adam shand. sharing is an act of love, please share.
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