Resources
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new zealand

If you’re considering a trip to New Zealand-Aotearoa then it’s worthwhile investing a little time before you go researching the local culture. This isn’t a difficult homework task and you don’t need a PhD – just watch a few NZ movies, listen to some great music and if you like, read a few books. It’s fun to find out what the Kiwis are all about and to make it as easy as possible for you, here we provide some quick links to the cultural landmarks of the country downunder!

 

Movies
NZ movies can be dark and humourous, and many of the best are infused with elements of the Maori culture. For example what did Peter Jackson do before he made Lord of the Rings? One of the best comedy zombie movies ever, Braindead.

NZ actress Anna Paquin started her Hollywood career with this atmospheric art film, the Piano, with Harvey Keitel and Holly Hunter.

A great historic-action film is Utu (meaning ‘revenge’) set during NZ’s colonial civil war in the 1860s.

For bitter-sweet comedy check out Boy.

For just the ‘dark side’ watch Once Were Warriors, exploring tensions between gang culture and family.

Top of the list for pure feel good factor and a great story we recommend Whale Rider, which everyone is guaranteed to love.

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Comedy
Apart from Peter Jackson and his hobbits, nobody’s done more to promote New Zealand to the rest of the world than NZ’s fourth-best folk band, Flight of the Conchords – watch their classy music video Sexy Lady!

For a local hit that could not have been made anywhere else check out the animated comedy Brotown, this excerpt is from an episode about the Kiwi love hate affair with the Australians.

Books
The Booker Prize-winning The Luminaries is very readable and will give you a sense of the gold mining history of the South Island. You could also read Whale Rider (Witi Ihimaera) the excellent short novel the film is based on, or the only other NZ book to win the Booker, The Bone People, a magic realist poetic narrative from the ‘80s.

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Music
There’s really too many great musicians to mention here – for such a small country there’s some great sounds coming from the South Pacific, and it’s not just Lorde. If you love music then you’ll love NZ. Here’s a few local classics and some of my personal favourites:

Fat Freddy’s Drop – funk soul electronic

Katchafire – blissful reggae

Che Fu – smooth hip hop soul

SJD – beautifully crafted pop songs

Fly my Pretties – a collective of NZ musicians performing each other’s songs (this song is the awesome Ria Hall)

Iva Lamkum – up and coming soul sister

Woolshed Sessions – a beautiful one-off folk project

The Haka & Maori culture
The haka is a traditional war dance that is part of the Polynesian cultures of the south Pacific. There’s the haka, which many associate with the sports teams of New Zealand (for example the Samoan and Kiwi rugby league teams face off here; even school kids do a mean haka) and then there’s kapahaka which is music and dance performance:

The Guardian; a photo essay

Winning performers of the 2015 kapahaka national champions:

http://www.maoritelevision.com/

Sport
All you really need to know is that the national sport is rugby and the All Blacks are the best in the world! They are one of the most successful sports teams ever:

The Guardian Business lessons from All Blacks team culture

NZ accent
Finally, you may have trouble understanding NZ English so here’s a couple of clips for you to study.

Beached as bro

Chat show host Graham Norton’s reaction to the New Zealand accent:

Flight of the Conchords’ again – Bret has trouble with his name.

 

 

save money

Have some US Dollars around? Then it might be time to hit the road (or the airport) in 2015! With the US Dollar strengthening compared to many other currencies, destinations such as Euro-backed countries, Japan, Russia, and many others are getting cheaper to visit! Get planning and get traveling!

According to CNBC, “It may be time for U.S. tourists to pack their bags for destinations abroad—and they have the dollar to thank.

On Friday, the U.S. Dollar Index hit its highest level since March 2009. The greenback’s strength against other major currencies has presented opportunities for American travelers to jet off to more exotic places. The dollar’s bull run, especially against European and Asian currencies, has made buying goods and leisure travel more affordable in those countries…”

What this means is that your money will go far. The Euro and the dollar have always been at odds and a real pain in the ass when traveling in Europe and you exchange your money. You get a lot less. However, the cost of living in some cities in Europe are much less than New York or LA so the buying power evens out in those cities. So get out there and see Europe or Asia.

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domain names
Domain Extensions

Deciding on your domain name

Once you have figured out a niche for your blog the next step is to decide what you want to call it. This is called, a domain name. It is what people will enter on their internet browser (Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Safari, etc) to get access to your blog.

domain names

This name is very important and should be very relevant to the topics you want to cover in your blog. At the same time you want to make it as short as possible so that people can easily remember it. This is also good for SEO (search engine optimization, in other words, how quickly Google or Yahoo rank your site when certain words are searched) as we will discuss in later articles.

For example you don’t want a name such as: killingthemsoftelyonthagame.com because one, it’s too long to remember. Two, no one spells “tha” with an a unless maybe in a mistyped text message. So you want to be careful about that when registering a domain name for your blog because once it’s registered, &you can’t change it. You can only create a new one.

Also make sure that you register the domain yourself or at least have access to the interface. I can’t count on my fingers how many times a lot of my clients forget to renew their domain registrations because they forgot. I have saved their business several times with automatic renewals that charges my account and then I send them the reminder to their relief. This is a common mistake. That’s why whenever someone registers a domain with my company, I make sure they have access to the dashboard. This is pivotal. So make sure you don’t make the mistake of having someone else register your domain for you without you having access to manage it.

You must renew your domain name every year. That’s why it’s important to have access to it. However, there are options with many domain registrars that allow you to register your domain for more than one year. Also remember not to pay too much for a domain. Paying anything above $15 for a domain name is too much. The average price as of writing this is about $10-$12 and with promotions some companies offer them for about $4. Look for these special promotions to save; godaddy.com, hostgator.com and my hosting provider, media temple (afflink) usually have these sales.

Choosing The Right Hosting Account

Choosing a hosting account is another very important decision you will have to make. It makes a difference in how fast your site is and your SEO depends on it as well. The faster your website the better.

This decision shouldn’t be taken easily because it makes a difference in your wallet. A cheap hosting account is cheap probably because the service is not so great and their servers are probably not that great either.

I have made this mistake once and I will never do it again. I once signed up for a company called webhostingpad.com for $1.99 a month hosting. That was one of the worst hosting experiences I have had.

The server went offline often and I couldn’t access my site. The customer service was awful, especially the billing department; they charged my account even after I cancelled my service.

Don’t make the same mistake. Pay for a good hosting service. There are plenty of them out there and you won’t go wrong if you follow these simple steps. Keep these in mind when starting your own blog.

1. Make sure they are reputable company and have been in business for a long time

2. Check their customer services rating and what other (real customers) have to say about them

3. Make sure their servers have a 99.99 percent up time or better

4. Get their premium hosting service if available (this guarantees better support)

5. Make sure they do backup your website

6. Make sure they don’t charge extra for too many add-ons

7. Make sure they have scalabilty so as your site grows they don’t penalize you for traffic or start giving you a hard time for your growing site

8. That they are easy to leave

Although these are not all the things you want to check for, they are very important. You want to make sure you are getting your money’s worth. I use Media Temple and Hostgator for a lot of my projects. Godaddy is often in my radar as well but out of these I find Media Temple to be more reliable for my needs. They have the WordPress hosting which I love. And their VPS hosting is just as good as anyone’s. But here is a small list of companies I recommend for a good hosting experience.

1. Media Temple – because I use them and they are great. Slow ticket response sometimes but they also solve my problems

2. Hostgator – I also have server space with them and the sites I have on there haven’t had too many problems. Just make sure you buy the business plan or above because I think that’s when the support is much better.

3. Godaddy – A few client’s sites I have designed use them and they only say good things about them.

4. Knownhost – I used their VPS server a few years back and I had a good experience with them.

5. Bluehost – they are just a damn good company to be a part of. And they have a very affordable VPS option.

 

So now you know how to pick a domain and how to pick a good hosting company. Follow the guidelines I have outlined here and you should be good to go. Like always leave a comment if you have any question and I would be happy to help.

The next article will walk you through the first things you want to do after you install your blog.

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home accommodation

When traveling you want to maximize your budget. Accommodation and flights are the things that take up most of our finances. So learning to manage your money as well as knowing where you can go so you don’t have to pay for accommodation is a savvy way to travel.

Of course, sometimes you want to treat yourself and stay in a nice hotel but continually doing so would not get you far. I have put together a good list of where to find cheap and free accommodation.

  1. Hospitality club

    This is probably one you have never heard of. This site is like couchsurfing; it brings hosts and guest together for free housing. It is free to join and people are kept safe via passport checks, online feedback etc.

  2. Couchsurfing.org

    This is one of the best ways to travel. You meet cool, awesome people, stay for free and build life long friendships. I love couchsurfing and some of the best people I have met on the road I met while couchsuring. It is a site full of like minded individuals who love to travel and share their home with others.

  3. Work away

    Workaway is another great site for work and accommodation exchange. It aims to promote diversity, cultural understanding and easy access to housing for travelers.

  4. Tip: “Many hostels will let you get a room for free in exchange for a few hours of work”.

  5. Servas

    This one has been around for over 50 years and it’s recognized worldwide. It is a non profit non denomination good will and cultural exchange program for travelers. You can volunteer or just travel. Once you join, you are sent information of their network so you can be able to reach the right people and stay for free.

  6. Stay4free

    Although the housing is free, the site charges a small fee for access to the housing. Nonetheless, the fee is negligent compared to what you will pay for a hotel.

  7. Hostel World

    Probably the most affordable website for budget accommodation anywhere in the world. Hostels are very similar to couchsurfing but you pay for them. They are inexpensive and also full of great people who love to party, meet and greet and sometimes become travel buddies who go on a trip with you.

  8. Global freeloaders

    Let’s not forget global freeloaders. The name says it all but in good faith.

    “GlobalFreeloaders is an online community, bringing people together to offer you free accommodation all over the world. Save money and make new friends whilst seeing the world from a local’s perspective!”

  9. Another Tip: “Camp grounds are great to sleep at too if you have a nice tent”.

  10. House Cares

    This is another good one for those wanting to take care of someone else’s house in exchange for staying there for free and having a chance to explore another country. There is a free membership option on their site and a paid membership option with more features.

  11. Airbnb

    Airbnb is another great site for full home or room rental. It is like renting a hotel but it’s all yours. I have had great experiences using this site. I prefer hostels and couch surfing but when you want to treat yourself or just staying for a few nights, this is a good option.

  12. Helpx

    HelpX is provided primarily as a cultural exchange for working holiday makers who would like the opportunity during their travels abroad, to stay with local people and gain practical experience. In the typical arrangement, the helper works an average of 4 hours per day and receives free accommodation and meals for their efforts.

  13. Homeexchange

    Yearly membership for home exchange. Has a large community and great locations. This is more for older travelers who are less adventurous and just want to rent a place.

Other ways to stay for free are:
Stay with friends
Keep contact with people you meet because sometimes they may travel to your place and you to theirs
Sleep in airport and train stations (carry a warm blanket)

Do you know of any other ways to get free or affordable accommodation?

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Blogging happiness

Are you serious about starting a travel blog? Yeah I know starting a blog can seem daunting. When I started my first blog 6 years ago I knew pretty much nothing. I kept searching on Google for how-to-guides on blogging and they were all very technical. For non-techs it causes even more confusion.

I will spend the next few articles to take away some of that confusion.

I will give you 12 steps to starting a blog, great tutorials and great success stories to motivate you. And this is step 1.

Since starting my first blog I have built and managed over 10 blogs and blog like websites and I have learned a lot about blogging.

And I can say for certain now that starting a blog is extremely easy and requires absolutely no coding (HTML, DHTML, PHP etc) although I recommend knowing a few things. But I will do a small tutorial on the basics in a later article. Nowadays the whole process is automated and takes just minutes to get online. So whether you are 10 or 60, you can start your own travel blog or other niche blog – area you want to blog about in as easy as 1,2,3. It’s really that easy.

There are many reasons people start blogs. And in this article where I talk about reasons to start your own travel or any type of blog, you can find out why you should start yours.

LET’S BEGIN

Know what you are going to blog about

Skip this part if you already know what you want your blog to be about

Deciding on what to write about or your niche is very important and should not be taken easily. Because once you start blogging you don’t want to keep changing topics. You want to stick to your niche. If you start going all over the place, you will lose focus and so will your readers.

Is there something you are really passionate about and enjoy? That’s a good place to start plain and simple. What you love should be what your blog is about.

I love to travel, experience new things, meet new people and take on challenges. That’s why that is the main focus of this blog. It’s about what I love to do plus the extra things I enjoy while doing so.

It’s much easier to write about the things you love. It makes absolutely no sense to start a blog on something you hate. Unless of course that hate is so strong that you can stand writing about it daily. For example, I have a friend who hates to see animals caged.

She has a strong enough hate for the abuse of animals and loves animals enough to start her own blog. That’s something worth reading about and something she would love to write about.

And when you already have an interest in something, you know enough about it already. Your hobbies are a good place to start when thinking about starting a blog. So start there.

Once you have figured out what you want your blog to be about then you want to decide on a domain name for your blog and a good hosting company. That’s what the next article will be about.

Books

guide to Beijing

This guide helps you navigate your way through one of the best cities in China; Beijing. It's now available on amazon.com. Get it...