Austin ain’t got nothin’ on Auckland


(written by Travis)

In order to understand why I’ve come to believe that Austin’s got nothing on Auckland I need to share with you a short history of my life’s search for the perfect city (and by that I mean the perfect city for me):

I grew up in bum-fuck Texas. The places I grew up (Paris, Texas and Jourdanton, Texas) were generally understood to be front runners in the contest for the most boring places in the world.

I literally witnessed a foreign exchange student weep openly about how boring it was in Jourdanton. Through tears she bemoaned to me what a letdown it was to be forced to endure having her preciously short life sucked away by the quicksand of eternity that was the city limits of Jourdanton, and to add insult to injury, she expected all of America to be like downtown New York or Los Angeles.

Leaving Jourdanton wasn’t the sole reason I joined the military, but it was certainly a motivating factor. Getting to see a part of the world that wasn’t boring as death was worth dying for to me. So I joined and saw the world. Then, when I got out of the military I was free to move anywhere in the world (more or less). And I chose to move to Austin, TX.

Why did I come back to Texas if it was so boring? Because to me, Austin wasn’t Texas. Austin was Austin. I’d idolized Austin like a Mecca ever since I was a kid. It was the capitol of my home state, which I’d been brainwashed into loving even if I hated Texas. Plus, it was nationally known as one of the most hip places in America. Not only did it have a reputation among travel magazines as being one of the most environmentally conscious and tattoo friendly places in the Western World but the weather never gets too cold, and the property and job markets were looking lucrative.

So I moved there and got most of what I was looking for but also got a sour taste in my mouth.

Austin is a city with its own catch phrase: “Keep Austin Weird.” Those three words express a popular public sentiment among Austinites that Austin should be a fun, crazy, colorful place. The fact that the city coined that kind of philosophy is what attracted me to Austin, but I only ever found a soft shell of that idea bubble in reality. Most of Austin was dominated by ubber-strict professional, corporate businesses, overpaid and intellectually lazy government pensioners, underpaid and overworked immigrant/criminal laborers and intellectually lackadaisical psuedo-Christians. And then there were the ever present gangstas and bums. And I mean literally on every street corner there was someone who you weren’t sure was going to shoot you or ask you for money. Objectively speaking, for a lot of reasons, Austin was a pretty unsafe place.

There were a lot of kick-ass Mexican and BBQ restaurants and good swimming holes around Austin though. Plus there was a vibrant music scene if you were into that. But that was all basically underground. The mainstream reality of the city was that it was an Orwellian/Office Space monster in denial of it’s suffocatingly evil nature.

Turns out Auckland is what Austin wants to be. Talk about weird. Auckland is so weird there isn’t a word that measures its caliber of weirdness. First of all, Austin mainly is mainly made up of white, black and Mexican Americans, and they all know exactly where each other stands. That’s three cultures that are 90% the same bickering incessantly about the other 10%.

Auckland is full of ancient Maori island warriors, British Commonwealth refugees, European convicts and religious derelicts, Indian entrepreneurs, Asian wanderers and thrill seeking riff-raff from every corner of the globe celebrating each others differences. I’m a Texan living with a Yankee, 2 Aussies, an Argentinian and an Ethiopian. I work with Russians, South Africans, Kiwis, Aussies, Americans, Indians, Maoris and Fijians. There’s a Turkish cafe within walking distance of my house where I can buy a truly ethnic meal from halfway across the world for under $6. In fact, within a 20 minute drive I could probably sample a dish from a 1st generation chef from 30% of the cultures in the world. And with all that diversity I’m not scared of getting shot or beat up when I walk around town. I’m not saying there aren’t any places I wouldn’t go after dark, but my safety isn’t an all-present concern like it was in America.

And it’s not just the skin and the food. It’s the stuff you can do here. For example, I”m going to make a list of things I can do within a 3 hour drive of where I live. Write these down and put a check next to each one you can do within a 3 hour drive of where you live. I’m not making this list to brag. Hell, I haven’t done most of the stuff on this list either. I’m trying to prove the point how cool Auckland is. Anyway, here’s the stuff you can do within a 3 hour drive of Auckland:

snowboarding

surfing on water

surfing on sand

glow in the dark minigolf

drinking at a bar made of ice

hiking through rain forests

white water kayaking/tubing

spelunking through caverns with glow worms

whale/dolphin watching

coral reef scuba and snorkeling

genuine global gourmet dining

sailing, skydiving, bunji jumping and zip line-ing

seeing world class theater and concerts

Celebrating public festivals from every Asian, Russian, Middle Eastern, European and American holiday

gambling and having sex with prostitutes without fear of legal repercussions

driving a car without insurance

I’m telling you. Auckland is the egalitarian melting pot that America wishes it still was. There’s something wild and crazy on every street corner here. The shops are random like an acid trip, and so are the accents. The sense of unknown and adventure in Auckland is as exhilarating and humbling as shaved testicles.

I guess what I’m trying to say is…

Auckland is as exhilarating as wintergreen gum for the testicles where as Austin is like a slightly rough “good game” pat there at best; Austin is a fantasy in theory but rougher and more violating than you’re comfortable with in practice.

That’s why Austin ain’t got nothin’ on Auckland.

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3 Responses

  1. Hi Guys,

    I’ve commented once, a few months ago, the rest, I’ve make that we’ve just been following. So it’s been about three months or so since my / our last comment. Since then, we’ve come to New Zealand, but went to Wellington with just a short layover in Auckland, and now we’re in Brisbane Australia. Anyway, this is a story for some other time because we are hoping at one point we will meet you guys. We feel like we know you, since we followed you from day one. Anyway, Travis, – this last blog just hits the nail right on the head. It is exactly the way we feel.

    It’s like you’re peeling a layer of plastic off American society and laying it out for everyone to see.

    Absolutely revealing

    • It’s awesome to hear from you guys again. Congratulations of you American exit, it’s amazing how difficult moving can be. I’m sure you have some great stories from the last few months. My flatmates just got back from a short vacation to the Gold Coast, maybe it’s just because it’s the middle of winter but I’ve heard more then a few people talk about the amazing Australian weather. On the other hand rainy days mean that it’s to warm to snow, I find this acceptable for the middle of winter. Let us know if your ever in Auckland.
      Amber

  2. I’m from Pleasanton and lived in Austin! I move to Auckland in July, thanks for the heads up!

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