Introducing : Phil Armstrong

Phil is an avid traveller and enjoys exploring different places and learning about different cultures. Phil has travelled extensively through Europe, the US, parts of Asia including Japan and China, Israel and India. Most recently he spent time on the ‘Big Island’ of Hawaii, exploring volcanic activity in a Robinson helicopter with no doors on, heading to the summit of Mauna Kea, swimming with dolphins and snorkelling at Kealakekua Bay plus driving a giant American SUV down the notorious Waipio Valley road.  He was too busy gripping the steering wheel to video it but this kind person on youtube did it for him

Phil’s love of travel also offers plenty of opportunity to partake in another of his passions. food! As a bit of a gourmet, Phil thoroughly enjoys cooking and trying new flavours. Fresh, self-caught seafood would be high on Phil’s list, though he has also perfected the art of the home-made pizza, and is also partial to fine wine and trying out some of the great boutique beers that New Zealand has to offer.

Whilst now back in Tauranga where he grew up, Phil spent the past five and a half years living in Cooks Beach on the Coromandel, where his favourite way to start the day was getting up well before the sun and heading out into Mercury Bay on his kayak for a touch of fishing. Phil was also a valued member of the volunteer Cooks Beach Fire Brigade for over five years.

In the past Phil has completed multiple endurance events including marathons, half-marathons and the Motatapu Ultra Run from Wanaka to Arrowtown. Recently Phil has also taken up a keen interest in cycling, and has already twice cycled the Otago Rail Trail and late last year completed the 300km ‘Alps to Ocean’ cycle from Mt Cook to Oamaru, and has plans to tick off more of New Zealand’s cycle trails over the coming years.

Now back in Tauranga and living close to the water and his Mother, Phil is back into his kayak-fishing and surfing, and can regularly be seen running up the Mount. Despite his active lifestyle, Phil always prioritises his clients and their needs and is happy to offer his advice.

Holiday idea?

I have just returned from a 12 day cruise (11 actually as I got on at the second port, my home town).  We sailed on the Diamond Princess, which I had been told by numerous people to careful and watch out for scooters on (as in the battery operated vehicles that are allowed on the pavement that people with mobility issues use).  As it turned out I didn’t see one, and as for the ship being filled with over 65s, not likely.

Diamond Princess
Diamond Princess

Cruising is different depending on the time of year and the route you take.  We went in the school holidays, so lots of children on board and with 1500 of the passengers being Asian, it was a very lively cruise.  This is where I need to make a confession, I went as part of a family group, 14 of us to be exact, and three of us in wheelchairs, due to mobility issues.  We were the ones hogging the doorways and lifts trying to get around the monstrous hotel on water, not the over 65s.

We met people from all over the world, but given that I am only really fluent in English, that narrowed my encounters to people from the UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand.  I have a funny story to tell about some Mexicans I met after the cruise that I recognised from being on it but that is for another day.

The main reason for our trip was so that the lovely lady who organised the trip could tick “see Fiordland” off her bucket list, the one and only item on her bucket list.  Given there is no cure for her illness the trip was well timed.  Fiordland though was really the highlight of the trip, it was every bit as spectacular and soul-lifting as I remembered.  The most exciting part for me was when we came around the bottom left hand corner of the south island and headed into Dusky Sound.

Fiordland Magic
Fiordland Magic

For a place that has a reputation of raining 95% of the year, we had the best weather.  Hardly a cloud in the sky, the sun beaming and Fiordland was shown off in true glory.  The idea that you can see such a place from such a big ship is truly exciting and bewildering.  The sheer cliffs that are visible above ground are just as sheer underground, as is the difference in the salt and fresh water that both inhabit the same place, but on different levels.

So, if you want to be treated like royalty, fed excellent food till you can eat no more, I suggest you try cruising.  You miraculously arrive in a new port most mornings to go and explore, and you don’t have to pack every day to do it (packing is one of my pet hates). If you want to know more please contact me, or else try Nichola at Cruiseabout in Tauranga, she was excellent.

Do you have a Campervan or Caravan?

Due to the significant number of clients who have campervans/motor homes and caravans we thought you might like to know more about the NZ Motor Caravan Association.  For members there are some great benefits, such as being able to stay on beautiful private land, and lots of great ideas for your next trip.

“The NZMCA is a membership based organisation representing the interests of private motor caravan owners in New Zealand. Members receive benefits including, but not limited to, discounts on services and products, free and low cost overnight sites, a dedicated insurance scheme and a range of handy publications.

Fellowship, camaraderie, and information sharing are also valued attributes.”

They have all sorts of information on their website to make your trip easier and potentially cheaper.

“We operate a network of parks across New Zealand with access exclusive to financial members travelling in certified self contained motor caravans.

Some parks provide basic facilities e.g. a dump station, fresh water, rubbish and recycling bins, while others simply provide a safe place to park overnight.”NZCMA Map of NZ

If you are interested I suggest you check out their website as it serves a large community and is easy to follow.

How hard do we work in New Zealand? CNBC

The world’s hardest working nations

May 9, 2011, 11:26

While you may have an idea of the countries that have the strongest ‘work ethic,’ the results may surprise you.

Which countries are among the world’s busiest and hardest-working nations?

Recently, The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) released its ‘Society at a Glance’ survey, which investigated the number of hours the population of its member countries spent in both paid and unpaid work (defined as working at home or doing volunteer work), as well as how much time people spent in leisure activities.

The report also analysed a number of emerging market countries including India, South Africa and China. While you may have an idea of the countries that have the strongest ‘work ethic,’ the results may surprise you.

So, which countries are the world’s hardest working? Read ahead to find out.

10. Slovenia

Average Hours Worked: 8.15

Slovenia rounds out the top 10 in terms of average hours worked among the population of OECD member states, possibly as a result of the fact that Slovenians do three hours and 51 minutes of unpaid work each day, 24 minutes more than the OECD average. Slovenia also has the lowest income inequality in OECD and the ninth – lowest relative income poverty rate at 7.8 percent of its population. Slovenia registered a big fall in infant mortality in the last generation and has the second lowest rate in the OECD of 2.1 per 1,000 live births, just after Luxembourg. But the country is rated in the highest third of the OECD for perceived corruption and the lowest third for confidence in national institutions.

9. USA

Average Hours Worked: 8.16

According to the OECD the U.S. is only ranked ninth among the hardest working nations. However, at $31,000, the U.S. has the second – highest average household income after taxes and benefits in the OECD, after Luxembourg. But U.S. income is distributed relatively unequally, with both the fourth – highest rate of income inequality and relative poverty (17.3 percent of people are poor compared to an OECD average of 11.1 percent) in the OECD. People in the U.S. have a life expectancy of 77.9 years, lower than the OECD average of 79.3 years, despite having the highest public and private spending on health at 16 percent of GDP, considerably higher than the OECD average of 9 percent.

8. New Zealand

Average Hours Worked: 8.18

New Zealand may not be famed for its work ethic, but it actually ranks quite high. Unpaid work in New Zealand accounts for 43 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the third highest in the OECD after Australia (46 percent) and Portugal (53 percent). Along with Israel, Iceland and Turkey, New Zealand is one of only four OECD countries with a fertility rate at 2.14 children per woman, sufficient to replace the population in the coming generation.

7. China

Average Hours Worked: 8.24

The research also included non-OECD member countries such as China, India, South Africa, and Brazil because all are “enhanced engagement countries” – which means OECD members have opted to forge a more structured and coherent partnership with them. The research states that, at less than an hour, both men and women spend very little time on unpaid work in China, in comparison with other countries, particularly in terms of cooking and cleaning. Meanwhile, at 12.29 births per 1,000 of the population, China has one of the lowest birth rates in the world, equal to France and the United Kingdom. The average birth rate stands at 1.54 children per woman.

6. Austria

Average Hours Worked: 8.29

At nearly 8 1/2 hours of work per day, Austrians have the sixth – highest total time spent working – both paid and unpaid – in the OECD. (The OECD average is 8 hours.) Austria also has the fifth – lowest unemployment rate in the OECD at 4.8 percent – far lower than the average OECD rate of 8.1 percent. Austria has low income inequality and poverty rates with around 7.2 percent of the population on relatively low income or classed as being in poverty in both cases.

5. Estonia

Average Hours Worked: 8.36

At 8 hours and 36 minutes, Estonians – yes we did say Estonians – have the fifth – highest total work time in the OECD, well over the OECD average of 8 hours and 4 minutes. At 3 hours and 52 minutes, Estonians do the fourth – highest unpaid work time after Turkey, Mexico and Australia, and well above the OECD average of 3 hours and 28 minutes. However, at 14.1 percent , Estonian unemployment is also the third – highest in the OECD, six percentage points above the OECD average of 8.1 percent.

4. Canada

Average Hours Worked: 8.37

Canadians have the second – highest rate of “positive experiences” in the OECD after Iceland – feeling well-rested, being treated with respect, smiling, doing something interesting, and experiencing enjoyment. At the same time, Canadians have above OECD average “negative experiences,” such as pain, worry, sadness, stress and depression. Canada has the sixth highest proportion of its population foreign-born in the OECD at 20 percent, nearly double the OECD average of 11.7 percent.

3. Portugal

Average Hours Worked: 8.48

While some people might think that the Portuguese live a relaxed Mediterranean lifestyle, they in fact rank among some of the hardest – working in the world. Men do nearly two hours of unpaid work in Portugal, compared to less than an hour in other OECD countries such as Korea and Japan. The amount of time devoted to unpaid work accounts for up to 53 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in the country, the highest proportion of all OECD countries, compared to 19 percent of GDP in Korea. Meanwhile, 60 percent of the Portuguese population spends time cooking and cleaning, spending the third largest amount of time on household chores at 110 minutes per day.

2. Japan

Average Hours Worked: 9

The second-hardest working nation among OECD member countries will probably come as no surprise to anybody. Japan’s adherence to its work ethic is legendary with company employees often competing to stay at work later than their colleagues to achieve promotion in many corporations, where company loyalty is demanded and where a job for life still means life. Japanese people work an average 9 – hour day while the unemployment at 5.3 percent is well below the OECD average of 8.1 percent.

1. Mexico

Average Hours Worked: 9.54

Recently, Richard Hammond of the TV program “Top Gear” managed to upset the Mexican Ambassador to the U.K. by suggesting that Mexicans were “lazy, feckless, flatulent [and] overweight”. The OECD’s research, however, may go some way to ward redressing the balance by showing that the Mexican people are in fact the hardest working in the world, working a total of nearly 10 hours on average every day. They also have the second-highest level of income inequality and the highest level of relative poverty among OECD countries.

Foreigners in Egypt: watch or flee?

Sourced from The Economist
Jan 30th 2011, 16:31 by N.B. | WASHINGTON, DC

EGYPT is in open revolt against the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak. Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets this week, and many people have been hurt and killed in clashes between protesters and security forces. The end-game seems to be approaching rapidly, and multiple governments have announced travel advisories or promised to evacuate their citizens from Egypt. CNN reports that America and Turkey are planning to fly their citizens out, while the Washington Post has a fascinating story on Iraq’s—yes, Iraq’s—offer to return its citizens to the safety of Baghdad. (That’s a weird sentence to write.)

The UK foreign office, meanwhile, has advised British citizens not to travel to Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor, or Suez. But they’re also asking the estimated 30,000 British citizens already in Egypt to “stay put.” So what should you do if you’re already in country? The Atlantic’s Jeff Goldberg has a suggestion:

It is understandable that Americans, and others, might want to listen to the State Department and leave Cairo in a hurry, but there is an alternative, which is to stay in Cairo and watch history unfold. These demonstrations are directed against one person; they are not directed against Americans, or any other national group. Here’s proof, from Israeli tour guide Amos Abidov:

“The attitude towards us as Israelis and tourist is very friendly. Actually, they’re overly nice compared to my previous visits in Egypt. The Egyptians want to explain themselves, to tell everyone about their struggle. They speak Arabic over here so it’s easy to communicate with them. On Friday we went right past the demonstrations on our way back from the pyramids, and people helped us get though the crowd.”

The first instinct, to run from these situations, isn’t always the best instinct. This doesn’t mean people shouldn’t be cautious and alert for mood changes, but often there is little reason to run away like mice.

The situation in Egypt could still end in a massacre. It could also end peacefully. For the adventurous, risk-takers, and thrill-seekers, it will be hard to resist the urge to stay in-country to witness a world historical event. Mr Goldberg’s colleague Max Fisher asks: “If you’re in Cairo right now, would you really want to flee instead of observing history?” Well, would you?