Most of my faithful readers (all 3 or so these days) already know, but for the record – I decided at the very last minute to postpone my trip.

I have to finish my master’s thesis, which is proving a logistical nightmare, to say the least.

I need a job.

I got engaged.

I needed to find an apartment in Brooklyn. Thankfully I can check this one off the list, but we don’t move until mid-August, a challenge in and of itself. We didn’t think about the security deposits and broker’s fee – there went the New Zealand fund, and we really would have had problems if that money wasn’t readily available.

Plus I had booked my trip with frequent flier miles, so I can reschedule the trip for free or reclaim all the miles for somewhere around $80, so nothing lost, really.

This was a very, very last minute decision – but the right one, clearly. I might have a lead on university-related tech journalism assignments, and I interviewed for an IT-related content contract, so fingers crossed.

For folks wondering about time and date difference:

WordPress prohibits Java and other fun stuff, so my work-around is a link to a clock and weather stats for Auckland, on the sidebar below the Blogroll. The link will remain there for the length of my trip.

Also here:

The one universal question I get about New Zealand: am I going on a Lord of the Rings Tour.

Um, No.

I love the movies – I own the movies – and I read the book every other year.

But I know it’s fiction.

That said, my heart beat a bit faster at the Web site of the jeweler who made the rings – and The Ring – for the movie. I might have to swing by. I wonder if he had to learn elvish.

Only a few more days ’til liftoff for the southern hemisphere. I realized this will mark my sixth continent. Antarctica here I come! One day.

Until then, I’ve found some great New Zealand sites:

Two Auckland neighborhoods with shopping, walking, dining, etc. have detailed Web sites with links to services and stores, plus directions and maps. The sites are really well done, I was impressed.

The city of Queenstown has a lovely municipal site (though not quite on par with the other two). The photo alone on the page header makes me drool.

I’ve only downhilled once, but the chance to do so at a mountain named The Remarkables may be too good to pass up. I like their interactive trail map.

The southern edge of the South Islands looks lovely in a lonely, windswept, Oceanic kind of way, but hard to get around on public transportation, I hear. I’m actually thinking of doing a quickie tour for 3 or 4 days.

According to the Lonely Planet discussion boards, this place in Wellington can be a noise party central, but it’s right by the trains and buses. The key, apparently, is to request a room far from the bar.

Here’s a totally cheesy national tourism article, asking local celebs for their favorite places, but there are a few fun suggestions. I like the idea of walking the Auckland beaches.

In the crafty little town of Nelson, an interesting collective offers hands-on experiences from basket weaving to bone carving to cheese lessons. I really want to try the Pavlova cooking lesson, so much so I might book a room in the teacher’s B and B. We’ll see how the money runs.

I’m always looking for new suggestions if anyone has them, or opinions about the stuff listed here. Thanks!

I got a notice for another new travel Website seeking submissions. The guidelines page made no mention of payment – which means there isn’t any.

I take issue with that.

Starting out, you need writing samples and exposure. I get it. It’s competitive out there, and paying gigs can be hard to come by – impossible without something concrete to show editors. And yet, someone out there is profiting in some way by the writer’s largess. Writing is time consuming, and can be mentally draining. It is work, and work should be paid. Roofers don’t offer free flashing for the sake of earning a few new customers – why should writers be expected to do the same?

I won’t mention the new Website I saw, because it does seem interesting, I support their mission and I don’t want to seem like I’m unfairly singling them out.

But I do think that writers are clearly being taken advantage of, especially with travel-oriented online publications. I saw one Web site run by a hugely successful author with a couple of best-selling travel titles, several television appearances, and a really glossy Web site with plenty of advertising – and some pretty great writing. But the latter, reading their guidelines, was clearly submitted by folks who did so merely for the chance to maybe score some free stuff or press passes, if they were lucky.

I wish a union of freelancers banded together and forced publications, even small ones, to give some kind of token to writers. It will never happen – to many aspirants will see it as their chance to sneak past the picket lines.

That’s why I salute WorldHum. Not only is the writing fantastic, but they’ve found a way to pay contributors. The checks won’t cover rent, but at least it pays for groceries (according to the guidelines).

For some it’s the destination, others, the journey. Or at least, traveling in style.

I met this gentleman at the grocery store yesterday.

The black box above the front wheel is a car stereo receiver.

The fringed saddlebags hold the speakers. Genesis played softly as he paid. He turned up the volumne as he waited for the automatic door to the parking lot to open. It sounded like quite a ride. I can guarantee he had a better sound system then my car. Now that’s a way to ride.

Pimped out bike

Wherever I go, I make trails – of my stuff. Meaning I always leave things behind. I’m just that disorganized about gear. It’s a curse. I put something down, my mind’s already on the next thing, and out the door I go. I do this at home with drinking glasses, mugs and laundry. I have left perfectly good, not-cheap water bottles in the Old City of Jerusalem and at the outdoor used book stalls in Valparaiso, Chile, only discovering my mistake when I’m, say, in the desert or Patagonia. An Egyptian cruise boat snagged a T-shirt. More trains and buses have swallowed more of my snacks than I have. Thankfully I’ve never (knock wood) lost anything major – I manage to hold on to my shoes, pack and sleeping bag (though I think I did sacrifice sneakers to Europe one summer).

The one that kills me, though, is the pack towels. I love them – so thin and light, so absorbent and yet quick drying. I hate traveling wet. I love traveling fast and light. It’s totally a travel geek thing, but there it is. And yet, I loose them. All. The. Time. I should invest in my own towel company – except Rick Steves already has.

What do you lose?

So I’ve been told that Saturday night at Mountain Jam was blissfully quiet and I would have slept like a baby. No rain, either. Figures.

So la visita familia is four days away. Dad put the kibosh on Bethel Woods and the new Woodstock museum – too far a drive. Now they’re thinking Berkshires. Which is great, because in my 6+ years in Albany I’ve only been to Northampton (not counting getting lost coming back from Vermont the first week I lived here, which if you know the geography of the area, gives some insight into my complete lack of navigational skill).

They suggested Great Barrington (I secretly think my mom just wants to visit Karen Allen’s knitting shop, which I’m totally down for). I countered with Stockbridge, which has the Norman Rockwell Museum as well as a stellar summer theater with the first production underway. Not that I’m huge into Norman Rockwell, but it’s something to see and I think it’s one of the few art museums my Dad might truly enjoy.

All of this involves research. It’s funny. When friends visit, I love entertaining, but usually they have some idea of what they want to do, or take some time to do their own thing. When family visits, things must be planned. I’m not sure if it’s because I live here so they rely on me, or because I feel a moral imperative to do so (they’re my parents, I HAVE to show them a good time!). Probably a bit of both.

Ah, the music festival. Days of music in the sun, nights camping under the stars.

Of course, the brochures don’t include the sudden hailing thunderstorms or the party kids who stay up ’til dawn doing enough chemicals to make a pharmacist blush. And keep the rest of us up with them (can you detect a sore point)?

Michael has festivaled since college. I’m a newbie, and quickly discovering that while listening to a new band with the Catskills as the backdrop is blissful (seriously, it’s pretty amazing), I’m not sure the camping part is worth it. But one thing I’ve discovered is a definite Mars/Venus split.

The boys in our camping posse this weekend at Mountain Jam had gear. They had a set up. They had lanterns and extra tents and pop ups and grills and coolers and ice and tarps for the tents and the tent openings sent just so and the stakes staked just so. These men are professionals. This was clearly part of the joy, and cousin to the male gene that shops Home Depot and builds decks. This is not to denigrate their skill – they do an amazing job, and once the rains start (inevitable at Mountain Jam) there’s nothing better than hanging beneath a huge white circus tent with a cold Saranac Pomegranate Wheat (which, by the way, is kosher, which seems appropriate to point out in the Catskills) and dry jeans. If left to my own devises I would be soaked and sober. So there it is. I would say that the indubitable Amy Fischer falls into this category of the uber-prepared, but otherwise it’s definitely a guy-girl split.

But there is also a timeline, with much discussion of what band to see when, and very serious timetables to stick to.

Which leads to the use of “festival” as a prefix. There are literal personality changes. Friends who are laid-back most of the time are suddenly intense to the nth degree. Or the go-go girls just want to lay back and relax or socialize. So they become “Festival Michael,” or some such, for example, with very different results.

I think there’s a “Backpacker Anne” too, but she doesn’t usually come out unless there’s a passport involved.