How to Successfully “Wing It” on Your Campervan Trip in New Zealand, Plus Our 3-week “Itinerary”

How to Successfully NOT Plan Your Campervan Trip in New Zealand on northtosouth.us

We’ve learned from experience that creating a definitive schedule for a road trip is pretty silly, and since camping without planning is an easy thing do in New Zealand, we approached our 3-week campervan trip with no campground reservations and vague plans to explore the country from north to south. With the assistance of the Camping NZ App and recommendations from several local contacts, we decided what to do and where to stay as we went.

In the three weeks we spent in New Zealand, we drove entirely around both the North and South Island, experiencing some of the best New Zealand has to offer — without receiving a single infringement along the way. Here we share our guidelines for an unplanned, yet well prepared, campervan trip in New Zealand. And at the bottom of this post, you’ll find our “un-itinerary” — the unscheduled list of places we stayed and things we discovered along the way. Continue reading

Burning Man 2016: Portraits of a Camp

Burning Man 2016: Portraits of a Camp by Diana Southern and Ian Norman

I say this every year, but I say it because it’s true. The people are what makes Burning Man such an incredible experience — friends and strangers alike. I don’t know what my Burn would have been this year without that group spiral hug at the Hug Deli, the helpful strangers who lowered me back down from that MAGIC artpiece I climbed, or the hilarious nude portraits we captured of some of our spontaneously sparkly friends.

In my three years of burning, I’ve found it’s the people closest to you — your campmates — who have the biggest impact on your Burn. You camp together, eat together, explore together. You experience Burning Man together. So this year we again turned the spotlight on our campmates for a sunset portrait session in the open playa.

With 14 Burners, ample booze, and a brief appearance by “El Guaco” (I still can’t believe I missed that), Ian and I did our best to capture the spirit of our Burner family on camera.  Continue reading

U.S. Road Trip Re-Cap: Week Nineteen (Maryland, West Virginia and Kentucky)

U.S. Road Trip Re-Cap: Week Nineteen -- Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and Kentucky on northtosouth.us

We may have crossed several state borders, multiple times, but we spent most of our time in West Virginia and Kentucky this week. Starry skies, friendly goats, and lakeside camping made this week memorably awesome!

Note: I’m still catching up on our weekly road trip re-caps! This one covers September 13-19.  Continue reading

U.S. Road Trip Re-Cap: Week Eighteen (Niagara Falls to Washington D.C.)

North to South U.S. road trip recap week eighteen

I can’t even express what a good time we had riding the Maid of the Mist around Niagara Falls! Who knew you could have so much fun being soaking wet?

Niagara Falls has been on my Must See list forever, so when we left the Adirondacks, we headed west to experience the cool mist on a hot day. It was perfect. And after that it was back to the East Coast to finish off the week in our nation’s capital.

Note: I’m still catching up on our weekly road trip re-caps! This one covers September 6-12.  Continue reading

Escape Campervans Review: Los Angeles to Death Valley (and why we don’t recommend Escape Campervans)

Escape Campervans Review and Our Trip to Death Valley

Let’s visit a popular U.S. National Park in peak season at the last minute! Yeah, that sounds like our travel style. And that’s how our conversation started two weeks back when we decided we had to see the Death Valley Superbloom.

All advance reservations for park accommodations were full. We could try our luck at a first-come first-served campsite, but we didn’t really feel up to tent camping this trip. So we decided to try something new: the rental campervan.

Despite paying more than we should have (no thanks to Escape), we had a good time on our trip. Want to know what the campervan life is like? Keep reading to find out! (More on why we don’t recommend Escape Campervans, too.) Continue reading

The Superbloom of Death Valley National Park: A Photo Journal (California, USA)

Death Valley Superbloom Spring 2016 on North to South: a Photo Journal

After receiving substantially more rain than typical in the 2015-2016 winter season, Death Valley National Park is experiencing a rare “superbloom” of wildflowers. The last superbloom event was 11 years ago, in 2005.  Since missing this year’s superbloom could mean waiting another decade or more before it happens again, we knew we had to go see this rare event.
Continue reading

U.S. Road Trip Re-Cap: Week Thirteen (Chicago to Pittsburgh)

North to South U.S. road trip recap week thirteen

After our much needed road trip break in Chicago, we set our sights on exploring the Northeast. Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania were all checked off this week of our road trip, as we made our way to New England. And we saw a good amount of ultra-green midwestern farmland along our route. Take a look at our journey from Chicago to Pittsburgh on week thirteen of our trip!

Note: I’m still catching up on our weekly road trip re-caps! This one covers August 2-8.  Continue reading

U.S. Road Trip Re-Cap: Weeks Nine, Ten, Eleven & Twelve (Chicago & Oshkosh)

North to South U.S. road trip recap weeks nine, ten, eleven and twelve

Two months of nearly non-stop road-tripping exhausted us, so we decided to take a break.

We wanted some time to relax, regroup, and work on our blogs, and to do that, we needed to stay still. Luckily, we were traveling around the midwest at the time, and my twin brother had a room available for rent in his Chicago apartment. So we settled down for a full month and used the time to explore Chicago more, set new goals for our projects, dabble in some artistic hobbies, and even launch a new business. See what else we accomplished during our month-long road trip break in Chicago below!

Note: I’m still catching up on our weekly road trip re-caps! This one covers July 5 – August 1.  Continue reading

The Magical Landscape of White Sands National Monument: A Photo Journal (New Mexico, USA)

The Magical Landscape of White Sands National Monument, New Mexico, USA

This year Ian and I checked a HUGE item off our bucket list. We can both now officially say we’ve visited all 50 U.S. states. (Hooray!)

We’ve explored a LOT of the U.S. this year — even amplifying our goals to include visiting all 50 states in one year’s time — and every time I tell people about our epic quest, I always get asked some version of the same question: Which place was your favorite?

Well, if you limit me to a certain number, I’ll have trouble answering, but White Sands National Monument is absolutely 100% somewhere on my list of favorites. (Funny, because our visit there was completely unplanned.) And while I could go on and on about how amazingly surreal and magical the scenery is there, I think the photos will give you a better idea. So I’ll let the scenic photos do most of the talking… Continue reading

Things to Do Year-Round in and Around Anchorage (Alaska, USA)

Things to Do Year-Round in Anchorage, Alaska on NorthToSouth.us

Alaska is a BEAUTIFUL state. In fact, it’s one of my absolute favorite states from our entire 2015 50-state quest. And there are a lot of things to do, even if you’re visiting outside of the summer “tourist” season.

The most popular tourist season in Alaska is summer, with a secondary season in winter, but the time in between — the “shoulder” seasons — can seem pretty dead. That 28-glacier cruise only runs May through September. Dog-sledding tours near Anchorage don’t run in fall or spring. And even the expensive polar bear excursions up north shut down post-summer. There’s a lack of demand, so yes, the big tour companies that rely on big numbers shut down when the crowd thins, but there is still PLENTY to do in this awesome state outside the major tour company offerings.

We’re currently in the midst of a two-week “offseason” trip to Anchorage — the last week of October and first of November — and we haven’t run out of things to do yet. Here’s a list of our favorites so far:  Continue reading