Day 428 – Thankful for Another Day at the Ocean

Today was a heavy driving day, but in good cause… we were heading to the ocean (again). The destination today was Hot Water Beach, another geothermal wonder.

The interesting thing about this beach is that if you dig a deep hole in the sand it will fill up with hot water. How cool is that? Unfortunately, we found out that it’s really only like this within a couple hours of low tide… because of that I’m thinking it should be called Lukewarm Beach, but it was pretty cool regardless of the temperature.

The awesome thing was that the water temperature didn’t matter one bit… we were at the ocean again. There’s something so magical and calming about sitting on the beach, soaking in some sun, and listening to the sound of the waves. It’s one of the most peaceful moments on Earth.

While driving we stopped off for a quick stop and went wandering on the beach. At one point Becky, Gavin and I were walking the beach and we realized that Dominic wasn’t with us. As we looked back we saw him… just standing at the edge of the water staring into the horizon, totally in his happy place. It was so great seeing him finding joy in the same place as us like this.

The beach was a blast, chilling on the sand, jumping in the waves, and just enjoying the present. I’m so thankful for each of these moments I’ve had by the sea, it fills my soul with peace and joy.


Day 427 – Thankful for Hiking In an Active Volcano

Day 427 – Thankful for Hiking In an Active Volcano

Yup, you read that correctly!  The family and I had one of the most epic excursions we’ve ever had on a vacation.  This morning we loaded up onto a boat and headed out for a 90+ minute ocean ride to White Island to hike in an active volcano.  Don’t worry, there was no lava, just a lot of steam and sulfur.

The boat ride there and back was pretty sweet as we were able to see a couple of Dominic’s favorite animals (seals) and dozens of Gavin’s favorite marine mammal (dolphins).  Throw in some amazing views and it was very cool.

Once at the volcano it continued to get better and better.  I really don’t even know what to say, the pictures really speak for themselves.  It was nothing short of epic, heat everywhere, steam and sulfur all around, and then entire hike we were right in the crater!  How crazy is that???

As we were heading back I couldn’t help but smile.  I was thinking about how awesome the excursion was and how much I’ve already burned it into my brain.   My mind floated to thinking about how Becky and I will remember this experience for the rest of our lives and will talk about it often with each other.  Then I smiled even bigger thinking about how the boys were able to have this unique experience.  Who knows, maybe this ignites a passion for them, maybe it’s future inspiration, or maybe it helps them start dreaming of cool vacations with their kids when they get older.  I’m so thankful for this experience.


Day 426 – Thankful for Experiencing the Māori Culture

Day 426 – Thankful for Experiencing the Māori Culture

First things first, I’ve got to brag up the AMAZING breakfast this morning. While today’s post isn’t focused on it, the Parisienne Crepe blew my taste buds away… Bacon (middle bacon to be specific), onions, eggs, & cheese all in one delicious buttery package? Yes please!!!

What I’m most thankful for today is very much unexpected. When Becky shared her idea for the day I was really only focused on the geothermal wonders we were going to see, especially the geyser. She’d mentioned seeing some Māori stuff, but I kind of put it in the back of my brain… kind of the filler in a busy vacation day. Yeah, it’d be cool, but more of something to pass time than something I’d really wanted to see. I couldn’t have been more wrong!

We went to Te Puia for a couple of hours and had an incredible experience. Our tour quickly moved into their carving school and my mind was blown. In front of us roughly 6 Māori men were carving elaborate wood statues using chisels and wooden hammers. Watching them work was amazing, their attention to detail so precise.

As we learned, they were students of a school that takes on four new students each year and teach them the ancient art of Māori wood carving. After they completed the school, 3-4 years later, they would go back to their home and teach others to help keep their culture alive. How awesome is that? Learning specifically with the end goal of teaching others.

While standing there I had a case of “the feels” come over me and I had to focus to not tear up. Many times over this vacation and other experiences I’ve either teared up or come close because I’ve felt like Dad is right there with me. When I was watching them carve I thought about how cool Dad thought this would be to see. I swear that somewhere in my heart I knew he was there with me, in just as much awe of their art as I was.

In addition to the carving the Māoris also demonstrated their weaving skills. We also watched a welcome ceremony in which they sang, shared dances and stories, and did the Haka. It was AWESOME!!! Watching them keep their traditions alive was inspiring, and seeing the boys’ eyes light up at the event was fantastic. Gavin even got a pic with a few members right afterwards.

After touring the entire site we went back to the woodcarving school and I spent a good 10 minutes or so watching the students work their art. It was so intriguing to see how they were quickly turning a piece of wood into a piece of art.

Everything else today was superb. We saw the ocean, walked the beach, had a unique dinner, and even saw California redwoods in New Zealand! That said, I’m most thankful for that experience of the Māori culture. Seeing the world through a slightly different perspective was an experience I’ll reflect on often and draw inspiration from. I’ve had the boys spending time journaling each day about what they did and what they are thankful for. Hearing Gavin say that he was thankful for the Māori culture was music to my ears, I’m glad he took something from this experience as well!


Day 425 – Thankful for Fog & Steam

Today Mother Nature disagreed with our travel plans and caused only the second weather related cancellation we’ve ever had during our 15+ years of vacationing – not too shabby! We changed our plans and headed out for day hikes in the area instead and Becky & I each added a new entry on our dream lists, hiking the Tongariro Crossing. It worked out pretty well!

The fog was crazy thick all morning long and the visibility was ridiculously low. Take a look at the pics below, one was on our way out in the morning, the other was in the same place on the way back in the afternoon. Crazy, huh?

The hike was pretty cool too. The fog added an interesting twist, we couldn’t see very far so it was a weird calm mixed with being on the edge of eternity. It was like the rest of the world ended somewhere after the fog. The spider webs glistened, the streams had more of a mystical feel, and we enjoyed the quiet hike.

The town that we’re staying in tonight, Rotorua, was built around a bevy of geothermal activity. On our walk home from dinner included a trip through the Geothermal Park snack dab in the middle of town. There are hot springs, a boiling lake, mud pits, and vents. It was gnarly!!! Even walking on the street there were several spots where the steam was blowing up through the ground!

Today may not have followed the script we initially wrote, but it was a lot of fun that we’ll remember forever. Fog may have been the cause of the change but it led to an awesome experience. The steam was just flat out cool 😎.


Day 424 – Thankful for a Little Vacation R&R

Day 424 – Thankful for a Little Vacation R&R

If you’ve vacationed with us before or have heard stories of our vacations you’ll know that we typically pack 8-10 days worth of activity into every 7 days of vacation. The great part is seeing and doing so much while we’re away. The downside is the amount of energy it takes to keep that pace going for a prolonged period of time and it usually requires some recharging time afterwards.

Due to Mother Nature’s disagreement with our plans for today we found ourselves with a day in which we had nothing planned – truly a rarity on our vacations! Taking advantage of our luck we opted to sleep in, we took our time getting ready, and then headed off for a bonus hike in a New Zealand’s best geothermal area. It was pretty cool, very similar to and yet very different than Yellowstone.

After that we went on a short walk by a waterfall, headed into town for a relaxing lunch, bummed around town, and then headed back to the hotel to chill poolside. The boys are having a lot of fun together and Becky are enjoying some chill time (though I’m still feeling a little stir crazy, hence blogging right now and then working on my book once this posts!).

Normally we wouldn’t have quite this much downtime in a day, but it really feels great and we’re enjoying it.


Day 423 – Thankful for Nature’s Ability to Make My Jaw Drop

Day 423 – Thankful for Nature’s Ability to Make My Jaw Drop

The natural world is truly amazing. I’ve been so blessed and fortunate to see so many awesome natural thing, today added another one to the list… glow worms!

We did two different caves tours, one that was more focused on the geological and then other focused on glow worms. When the glow worm tour reached its finale my jaw just about hit the floor of the boat. Right above me was a sea of glow worms, all shining like bright stars in the dark summer sky, except they were blue green. It was awe inspiring, mind blowing, and something right out of a dream. My mind is still wrapping itself around how beautiful that sight was.

Quite honestly, I took no pictures that could do these bioluminescent little guys justice, but these will give you an idea. They use their light to attract small insects to them and then trap them in one of up to 20 “fishing lines” that are sticky. The glow worm feels the vibration, reels up that line, and has a little snack. How wild is it that they’ve grown and adapted like that???

It was another one of the crazy moments that I’ll save so near and dear to my heart, another moment in which my mind is blown yet again by nature.


Day 422 – Thankful for Our First Vacation Day with Becky

Day 422 – Thankful for Our First Vacation Day with Becky

While the boys have been running wild for he past few days Becky’s been at her conference learning and listening to many speakers. Not sure that it’s fair that we have that much fun while she was stuck inside doing what created this opportunity in the first place, but I️ really don’t need to worry about it anymore. Her conference is done and today was her first day of vacation!

Boy was it a doozy! We headed to Hobbiton to see The Shire from the Lord of the Rings series, then headed to the ocean, saw a beautiful waterfall, and are now relaxing for a little bit at our hotel.

The experiences were mind blowing, but it was even better to have all four of us together and doing one of our absolute favorite things – traveling on vacation!


Day 421 – Thankful for a Thanksgiving Day Hike with the Boys

It’s only 2:30pm here on Thanksgiving Day, but we’ve already had a lot of fun. We initially were going to go to Raglan to see the ocean, but Becky reminded me that we were already going there later in the week. With that in mind we instead opted for a hike to the Hakarimata Summit.

The hike was only a couple of KM in each direction but said that it was closer to a 3 hour hike. That didn’t quite seem right so we figured it might be a little brutal. Little did we know we’d be going up well over 1,000 feet in about 1km – not too shabby!

Along the way there was a marker on every 100 steps to help keep us moving to the last step – #1,349. Along the way there were several inspirational quotes that helped to keep us going. In addition to motivation it helped start values conversations with the boys, which was pretty awesome.

Once we got to the top we went up the observation tower and had an amazing panoramic view.

The entire hike was so awesome from start to finish. The boys were in a great mood the entire time and kept moving at a solid pace. We shot the bull, goofed around, talked values, and had fun the whole time. It was a fantastic way to celebrate Thanksgiving with the boys!


Day 420 – Thankful for a Mini Boys Vacation Before Family Vacation

Today was an awesome first full day on vacation. Becky was able to join us for breakfast before heading off to her conference and from there on out it was Boys Vacation until we got back just in time for our 7:00 with a large group of Becky’s colleagues. Even then the three of us ended up peeling out a little early to head back to the hotel. Dinner was great and the boys had a great time getting to know Becky’s PhD advisor, Martin. He was amazing with the boys, he even taught them some good life lessons 😉. I also really enjoyed getting to talk with Dianne, and, just as I’d hoped, she had some great sightseeing advice that we’re taking for tomorrow.

What I’m writing about today is how thankful I️ am for the mini Boys Vacation that we’re having before our actual family vacation. She’s got another day at the conference so the boys and I will have had almost two and a half days on our own and we’ve really taken advantage of it.

Today we had the plan of heading to the Auckland Zoo, but paused on our walk back from breakfast and searched out some New Zealand All Blacks gear at the mall we walked by. Not finding anything exactly like what we wanted I️ hopped online and found a store that sells only All Blacks stuff in Auckland. Without checking out anything else I asked the boys if they wanted to head there first and they agreed…

A couple of hours later I️ was driving on the “wrong” side of the road in bumper to bumper traffic in the middle of downtown Auckland. We figured out parking and bummed around for a while before finding the store.

After that we headed to the zoo and played around while seeing some seriously cool animals, including a kiwi! We had so much fun learning about the animals, harassing each other, and cracking jokes. The animals were awesome, but my boys were the highlight of my visit there.

The whole way to Auckland Dominic was riding shotgun (on the left side) and talking with me while he kept a steady flow of great music playing. Gavin was reading and occasionally jumping in on the conversation.

On the way home we had more conversation and discussed things like rush hour, which is exactly what we hit as we left Auckland. Instead of getting frustrated like I️ do, I️ had a different approach and used it as a teachable moment.

While on a vacation I love how my brain feels freed to focus on different things and on many different levels than normal. One of the thing is wanted to focus on today was helping my personal values stick in my boys’ heads so I️ wanted to find ways to include grit, growth mindset, do right, and gratitude. Grit was shown by the homework that they both did on the way home – we play hard because we work hard to have that opportunity. Growth mindset was in all of the learning today – there was so much to let soak in as we explored a new continent, city, and animals. Do right was when I️ explained why I️ was staying completely calm while driving in rush hour traffic at the very time I️ would normally feel the muscles in my shoulders and back tensing up to the point that they hurt. Gratitude…

I shared the value of gratitude in a very different way than I’ve ever done before. I️ gave both of the boys homework today that they will continue to do each day we’re on vacation (& maybe even a little longer 😉). They both had to journal about their day and what they were thankful for that day. As I️ read both of their journals I️ was smiling from ear to ear.

While on the flight here I️ was writing the chapter of the book about losing Dad that’s focused on the No Regrets blog I️ wrote while he was in the hospital. At its core there’s a focus on legacy. If I️ didn’t have a tomorrow I️ know that the boys would know that I️ love them and am proud of them and vice versa, but I may have a regret of not passing all of my values on as I would’ve like. With that in mind, I’m going to focus on this each day of vacation, sharing my values while finding teachable moments. As I️ looked back today I realized that I didn’t use the terms directly, so I’ll start working on that better tomorrow.

To roll this all back to where this blog started, I’m thankful for this mini-vacation for the boys. It’s been awesome to have this much time with them and equally as awesome to help them grow.


Day 419 – Thankful for Making It to New Zealand 🇳🇿

We’re here!!!

All went well on the flight over. We didn’t have any issues with bags or passports. The rental car was ready and waiting. The hour and a half drive on the wrong side of the roads went very well. We even stopped off for a bit of New Zealand candy and soda to make the road trip even better. Just showered up and will be heading out for a late lunch shortly.

So far so good!