travel

Goodbye, California. Hello, New Zealand.

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SHOP MY MATERNITY LOOK HERE:

Raincoat: H&M (similar here, here, and here); Dress: ASOS (similar here and here); Bandana: Zara (similar here and here); Boots: old (similar here, here, and here

So if you've been following along on Instagram, you know by now that we have made a huge move across the world from California (the only home my boys have ever known) to New Zealand. A few months before the move, I began mentioning often that we were moving, but rarely alluded to when and where because I wanted to make sure that we had everything set before officially announcing everything (getting the boys visas in order, letting Dustin's job know, telling family and close friends, etc.). And then the months turned to weeks and the weeks turned to days and we were suddenly boarding a flight to New Zealand and I hadn't even mentioned where we were going or what was happening. I've been getting lots of emails and comments and messages asking us what motivated our move to New Zealand and well, there are lots of reasons, but I'll do my best to explain here.

Dustin and I have talked about living in another country (literally for over five years) - wanting to experience life outside of the United States and to let our children experience another culture - but we have been too terrified to actually take the plunge, constantly discussing the possibility and then just as quickly dismissing it as we came up with a million reasons why it couldn't be done (financially, jobs, family, etc.). So it has been something that we have wanted to do for a long time and we finally just decided ok, let's do it.

I have lived in California (Santa Barbara, San Francisco, and San Diego) for over ten years and Dustin has lived in California his entire life. For the past couple of years, we have lived in Southern California, where Dustin has a huge family presence, and there were so many things we loved about living there - being close to family, the great friends we met, living by the ocean, the weather, and the California lifestyle in general.

But there were some aspects of our life that we weren't loving and we started feeling like we needed to make a change with our lives.  One was the amount of time and effort Dustin was putting into work. During the week (every single week) he would be gone for three to four days in Los Angeles and I would be home with the boys on my own. Dustin was working around 65 hours per week (getting up in the middle of the night for a few hours every night even after a long days work and working on the weekends) with no vacation time, not many benefits, and still not living as comfortably as we would like. After two years of this endless cycle, it was starting to feel like he had his own life and the boys and I had our own life.

We really felt like we were stuck in "the ratrace" and we just couldn't get out of it. Seemingly working harder and harder, but not really moving ahead financially or getting to where we wanted to be in life. We realized our family life and marriage life were suffering, and we really wanted to make a change that would put family life first.

We have also rented for many years as I have never been entirely positive of where I wanted to settle down and was always scared to buy a property and be stuck per say. But it was getting to the point where it was time to purchase a home for our family and choose a place to officially settle down for some time. With Holden getting older, it seemed like it was time to find a home and make it our own - a place where the kids could grow up. Yet, California property can be very pricey. I kept dreaming about a tiny house on a big chunk of land (so we could have animals) overlooking the ocean and to be honest, I'm not sure a piece of property exists like that in San Diego.

So when we decided that we wanted to find our dream home, a simpler life, and focus on our family and marriage for a little bit, we had to decide where in the world we wanted to move. Both of my parents are from New Zealand and I visited often as a child. As we seriously started discussing moving to another country, New Zealand was top of the list because of two things: (1) I have dual citizenship (which would make getting visas for the boys a little easier) and (2) I have a large family over here, both of which would make the huge transition to another country and lifestyle just a little bit easier.

So we finally applied for visas and said if we got them we would just go (we didn't even buy our tickets until two weeks before we left, that's how indecisive we were about actually taking the plunge).

It’s a new adventure and it can definitely be stressful thinking about all of the logistics when it comes to setting up a life here in another country, but we are also incredibly excited about the opportunities and adventures that lay ahead of us. It feels so good to finally be able to share this new adventure with you all and I can't wait to share more!!

Where to Stay and What to Do with Kids in Santa Barbara

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All photos by Kristen Beink

Dress by Echo & Atlas

When we were in Santa Barbara, we stayed at the most amazing Airbnb and had the most amazing photographer, Kristen Beink, come to document our family in this sweet little home and I couldn't help but share some of the images. And if you live in Santa Barbara and are looking for a family photographer, she was absolutely wonderful with kids!

Where to Stay in Santa Barbara:

There are lots of hotels to choose from in Santa Barbara, but most of them are pretty pricey and we always find that Airbnb's workout better with kids. With an airbnb, you have your own space and you don't have to eat out every single meal, which doesn't always work with children's schedules. We rented the The Fig House for the week and it was perfect. It was within walking distance of downtown which was great for morning strolls to the get coffee and pastries or for just wandering before any real activities are planned. They had a great outdoor area for al fresco dinners, hammock swinging, and rock collecting. It had plenty of space for the boys to play and relax...and a fully stocked kitchen where we were able to cook the majority of our meals.

What to Do with Kids in Santa Barbara: 

Santa Barbara Zoo - the zoo is a smaller-sized zoo, but there is so much to do that you could spend all day here. There's a train that goes around the entire zoo. There's a giant hill with cardboard that the kids can slide down and we honestly spent most of our time here versus seeing the animals.

Natural History Museum - This is one of our favorite museums of all time. Currently on display is Sue, the second most complete T-rex skeleton ever found. We also got to walk into the butterfly exhibit where we were surrounded by hundreds of butterflies. Another amazing part is that there is open woods part of the museum for exploring, picnicking, and climbing trees, in nature.

East Beach - Tucked between the pier and the volleyball courts, this wide expanse of beach is perfect for kids. It has a playground in the sane and there's a cafe for food when the little ones need a snack.

Picnic at the Rose Gardens - A beautiful rose garden perched at the bottom of an open, grassy hill. Perfect place to stop for a picnic and let the kids run around and roll down the grassy slope.

Turtle Pond in La Arcada Shopping Center of Downtown - If you're exploring downtown and your kids need a break from shopping, make a quick stop at the turtle pond. It's filled with twenty to thirty different turtles and the kids will love watching them swim around and poke their heads out of the water.

Top of the Courthouse - It's completely free and there's an elevator so you can take your stroller with you to the top and get a 360 degree view of Santa Barbara from the mountains to the ocean.

Chase Palm Park - Pond with Koi Fish, Carasoul, Shipwreck Playground

The Ultimate Guide to Venice Beach with Kids

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After our trip to Palm Springs, we continued north stopping in Los Angeles for a week. Throughout the week, we stayed in a couple of different areas of Los Angeles to get a real feel for the city and Venice Beach was one of our favorite spots in L.A. A lot of that had to due with the walkability factor - not having to hop into a car with little ones in tow in a city that is known for it's heavy traffic was one of the big reasons we loved this area. It was eclectic, with a variety of things to do, and felt like it's own little town despite being in the big city.

WHERE TO STAY

We rented the cutest Airbnb in Venice Beach. The house is located on a quiet, walk-only street and yet is only a block and half from the beach and a short walk to some amazing restaurants and shops. Beautifully decorated and styled, the house was perfect for our family: stocked with snacks for both us and the kids and some great family-friendly board games that kept the boys entertained during our downtime in the evenings.

SHOP

Kid Firefly (1405 Abbot Kinney Blvd): A modern baby store stocked with unique pieces that both you and your kiddo will be drooling over. The shelves were filled with handmade toys, interesting books, and beautiful pieces of clothing. I would have bought out the entire store if I could have. There were jars of little trinkets where the boys each picked out a little toy to bring home with them.

EAT

Gjusta: There isn't a sign on the door or prices listed on the menu and the ordering is a little chaotic, BUT this place is an absolute gem and you can't go wrong eating breakfast or lunch here. 320 Sunset Ave, Venice, CA 90291

Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop: A casual spot with healthy lunch options, beautiful interior style, and a sunny patio that was not only delicious, but kid-friendly so we didn't feel bad when Gray climbed on the table or Holden dropped a pile of ketchup on the ground.

Salt & Straw: We couldn't walk by and not go in for a scoop. Favorite ice cream store that we've been to in a long, long time.

SEE

The Mosaic Tile House: This house, composed completely of mosaic tile pieces, is a must see. Just make sure to make an appointment for a tour so you can go inside the house (we made that mistake and only saw it from the outside...although still amazing).

Heart Wall: Make a quick pit stop for a photo against this bright and colorful wall while strolling down Abbott Kinney.

Venice Beach Boardwalk: Filled with interesting and eclectic people and shops, you can't miss this spot. We walked up and down with the kids, found a store filled with figurines made from scrap metal, a man selling beautiful wind chimes, and listened to a really good singer. Holden even got took a ride on an electric skateboard with a surf instructors that we ran into in the parking lot. When the kids are done with walking, hit the playground in the sand or walk down to the water to relax for a little bit before walking home.

Venice Canals: Fashioned after the Venice Canals in Italy, it's a great place to stroll and let the kids get out some energy. Very serene and a completely different feel from that of the boardwalk.