Author Archives: Leah Kalm-Freeman


I’m so sick of combing all the knots out of my hair, that I just gave myself a haircut.  To be honest, I wish I had the nerve to cut if all off, but 12-year-old Leah still hasn’t forgotten how badly that can go!

I would kill for a bagel.  Who knew I liked bagels so much? What I’d give for a doughy, warm, lightly toasted poppy seed bagel with sliced cheddar and cucumbers (a fairly random filling, I know).

I wish I had another pair of technical trousers (yep, the ones that zip off into shorts!).  I’ve always been skeptical of “technical clothes,” as they seem like a marketing ploy for consumer-oriented yuppies, but the hiking trousers/shorts I reluctantly purchased before this trip are versatile, comfortable on hikes, resist dirt and stains, and wash and dry super quickly. I wear them pretty much every day; I could use another pair to wear on laundry days!

I don’t care how dirty the public showers are, as long as they have hot water and are bigger than the closet bathroom in our van.  It makes me laugh to remember the first campsite shower room I walked into when we started this trip – it looked so run down and depressing that I walked out immediately, sure that I would always opt for quick rinses in the van. I’m certain that same shower room would seem perfectly dreamy to me now. How times have changed.

I wish I’d gotten the expensive prescription sunglasses and not the cheap Warby Parkers.  I love the concept of Warby Parker and the amazing prices, so it makes me sad to say I wish I’d gone higher end – my squinting eyes do, too!

We could have packed less.  To be honest, I figured I’d say this at some point. I pretty much said it the day we left. But I’m a super minimalist packer, and Carl isn’t, so we compromised. However, we’re now both in agreement, and we’ll be reducing before the next leg of the trip. All the camping gear will go (we won’t need the tent or sleeping bags at our other destinations, and we could have gotten away without them at all). Depending on shipping costs back to the US, I may reduce on camera equipment. I’m considering using just my IPhone, but I think I’ll probably end up keeping my proper camera/lens and one wide angle lens. Carl will likely send his drone home; he loves flying it, but we’re a bit nervous about getting it in/out of China and it’s just such a big case (we have some overnight train trips ahead where we won’t have much storage room). I’m hoping to get us down to two main duffels and one small carry on each (which would be a reduction of one large duffel and one drone case). I’m looking forward to the challenge!

My husband is awesome because he always empties the poop bucket.  That’s what I call the toilet canister that needs emptying every couple of days – it’s small and stinky and Carl dumps it and cleans it every time; he’s totally my toilet hero!

JUMP! 12/11/2014

Adventure Mondays

Adventure Mondays

Adventure Mondays

Adventure Mondays

Carl and I used to jump in photos all the time. (As a side note, we also used to take photos of each other all the time – it seems so long ago, before Grace and Max totally usurped us as interesting subjects). Well, now both Grace and Max enjoy jumping, so we’re reviving the tradition. These photos were taken on a walk near (gorgeous) Lake Tekapo.

SEEN AND HEARD | WEEKS 6&7 12/07/2014

Adventure Mondays

Adventure Mondays

Adventure Mondays

Adventure Mondays

Adventure Mondays

Adventure Mondays

The past two weeks have been epic. The scenery in the southwest of the South Island is almost unreal. Mountains, forests, lakes, rivers, gorges, waterfalls, beaches, glaciers, fjords – big and beautiful and literally around every single turn in the road. Cameras fail to capture the scale and absolute gorgeousness (or at least mine does!).

Heard in the van: 

Wow Wow Wow

How is that even possible?

That doesn’t look real

Can you even believe this?

That’s just epic

Have you ever seen anything like this?

NZ is honestly the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen

This is like Scotland on steroids

Holy moly

Holy cow shit (Grace!)


Also heard in the van:

Could you please just leave me alone for five minutes?!

Do you think our children might be a little bit bipolar?

The top bunk is starting to feel like a coffin

Why are there so many sandflies?!

VAN ROUTINE | WEEKS 6&7 12/06/2014

We seem to have settled into a bit of a camping rhythm. We’ve been doing more freedom camping (essentially pulling off somewhere beautiful and staying the night) or stopping in Department of Conservation campsites (designated sites within national park areas with minimal nightly fees). After a couple of days of this more off-the-grid style, we pull into a commercial campsite (often a Top 10 brand since they have playgrounds and consistently clean bathroom, kitchen, and laundry facilities). We dump our water and waste, fill up with clean water, plug the van in for the night, take (longish) warm showers, and do laundry. These sites are more expensive (averaging at least $50/night) and less picturesque, so we’ve been trying to cut back on them for both budget and aesthetic reasons. We also had a bit of a fender bender in one of them the other day, as they’re often quite crowded (thankfully no one was hurt, but the van will need a little cosmetic patching up when we get to Christchurch – I’m now quite happy we opted for full coverage insurance).

Meals have also taken on a certain rhythm. Perhaps once a week we indulge in a restaurant dinner, usually when we’re passing through a larger town. Even being used to NYC prices, I think restaurants and groceries are quite expensive here, so we try to keep eating out to a minimum and focus our funds on van provisions. For breakfast we have bran cereal or bread (toast if we’re plugged into power) with marmite or peanut butter, bananas, and apples. About once a week, we have a more leisurely pancake and bacon breakfast; we even managed to find some (very expensive and very delicious) organic Canadian maple syrup! Lunch is usually sandwiches, raw vegetables, and fruit, often in picnic form during a hike. When we’re in the van, we also usually heat up some soup. We seem to rotate through several dinner options – pasta, daal and rice, vegetable and tofu sitrfry, an egg-based dish, and chicken fajitas (the family favorite). Snacks feature carrots, apples, rice cakes, and cheese and crackers. We’ve also taken to buying biscuits (to have with tea and as midnight snacks) and Carl is slowly becoming addicted to his “driving candies.” And, of course, endless bottles of fizzy water – I miss our Soda Stream! Oh, and quite a bit of red wine.

Carl is the driver-in-chief and I’m the itinerary/route-planner-in-chief and a second pair of eyes on the road. It’s been really nice to take each day as it comes. I usually try to have a general sense of locations for the upcoming three days, and then finalize the exact destinations and overnight stopping points in the morning right after breakfast. Thus far, we’ve been able to drive up to all campsites except one without a reservation; this may change the closer we get to Christmas holidays.

We’ve now been on the road in New Zealand for 47 nights and we have 21 to go before we head to Australia. We’ve driven a little over 5000km (3100 miles). And we like camper vanning! We’re already discussing future vanning options – Iceland, northwest and southwest United States, South America! But for now, we’re focusing on the next three weeks here in this absolutely stunning country.

Adventure Mondays

Adventure Mondays