In light of the recent events in America, we wanted to share some resources for anyone that would like to educate themselves on racism, inequality, and white privilege.
If you feel saddened by what’s going on in our world and want to help we believe the best way to do that is by educating yourself, use these resources, and find your own, there is so much good stuff out there.
I have received a lot of questions from my English students about what is going on, why the protests are happening, and a plethora of other well-meaning questions about being black. And while it is great to see so many people taking an interest and the time to ask questions, I am only one person and I’d encourage you to do your own research. Talking to people is a perfectly legitimate option but don’t make it your only option
Here are some resources and social media accounts you might find helpful.
First off if you don’t believe white privilege is real or don’t understand what it means, watch this video.
“Be the Bridge places a lot of the focus on listening to and learning from people of color. But there’s also some important internal work that white people need to do as well. When white people don’t understand some of the basic tenets of whiteness, it’s hard to fully engage in the work of racial reconciliation.”
They have a range of links and tools available, some that we found particularly useful were:
An implicit bias test – according to the Kirwan Institute, “Implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in anunconscious manner. Implicit biases are activated involuntarily, unconsciously, and without one’s awareness or intentional control.”
As a US citizen regardless of if you are in the country to not or paying taxes to another country, you need to file your US taxes while you are overseas.
After neglecting my US tax obligations for years while in New Zealand before we left New Zealand and hit the road I knew I had to take my head out of the sand and get it sorted.
I had been in New Zealand for over 5 years without filing. Luckily there is a process for Americans in this situation – the Streamlined Process so I’m guessing it’s not uncommon. It doesn’t come cheap but it allows you to catch up with your US tax filings without facing any penalties nor any undue scrutiny by the IRS.
How much does it cost?
I’m sure it’s possible to do it yourself and save some coin but I chose to have an accountant do it which set me back $1,276 for the Streamlined Process plus the current years return.
Wondering if you qualify for the Streamlines Process?
To qualify for this amnesty program you must
File your last 3 federal tax returns
File your last 6 FBARS (Foreign Bank Account Reports), required in years when you had over $10,000 in foreign accounts
Pay any taxes due (often nil, once you claim one or more expat exclusions)
Self-certify that your previous failure to file was non-willful (conduct that is due to negligence, inadvertence, or mistake or conduct that is the result of a good faith misunderstanding of the requirements of the law.
How does it work?
I filled out a quick form online at BrightTax! and scheduled a call with my assigned CPA to give them the lowdown on my situation, they confirmed I’d be eligible for the process and once I paid the 30% deposit (balance due on filing) we got underway.
I had to supply information for the past 5 years including:
Employer name and address
Dates of employment
Deductions and expenses
I was a little bamboozled at first and reminded why I had put this off for so long but eventually figured out it was actually pretty simple and I could get all of my records from the NZ Tax service IRD and I was away laughing.
I happened to submit return during peak tax season in the states so it took close to six weeks for BrightTax! to complete but off-peak you’re looking at only 2 – 4 weeks to wrap it all up.
I was relieved to find out I didn’t own anything to IRS, phew!
What happens next?
The completed Streamlined paperwork needed to be mailed to the IRS in Austin, Texas. Being in Sayulita, Mexico where there is no post office and in the middle of a pandemic, this was the most difficult part. We ordered a DHL to collect the package for $33 on a 3-day delivery service. The next day we received a call from a lost driver, he couldn’t find our casa and didn’t speak English so we had fun trying to direct him to our location. Once he arrived we handed over the envelope and the waybill and he asked for some pesos, umm but we paid online? We showed him the receipt and whipped out Google translate to explain we’d already paid but he insisted that it hadn’t been. The transaction was showing as pending on our bank statement (in transit between our account and DHL’s) so we gave the driver the benefit of the doubt and paid, again to send the taxes to the IRS.
We’ve contacted DHL twice and not even an acknowledgment of the email so we aren’t holding our breath to get that money back.
P.s. if you use our referral link you’ll get $50 off your Outdoorsy van booking. This was by far the cheapest way to book a van in the states and was so super easy.
Day 1: Sedona
Our first day on the road in the Campervan was exciting – Phoenix to Sedona, a trip we’ve done twice before so this time we checked out a few new sites off the beaten path.
Bell Rock Pathway
You’re surrounded by stunning red rocks as soon as you get into Sedona but there’s nothing quite like getting close to them. There are loads of hikes of varying degrees of difficulty that you can do. We chose this one which is a nice flat pathway. It’s free but you do have to buy a $5 parking or Red Rock pass which you can use at multiple sites.
Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park
A Buddhist spiritual site where people come to meditate and pay homage Amitabha Buddha. Sedona as a whole is known to be a spiritual place; a vortex of energy conducive to healing, meditation, and self-exploration so people come from all of the world to feel its energy. Visiting Amitabha’s Stupa is completely free and a short walk from the car park.
Exactly what it sounds like, a rock that you can slide down. It was way too cold for us (March/Spring) to swim but we stopped in, walked around and watched some crazy teenagers get in the water on our way to Flagstaff. Slide Rock State Park‘s entrance fee wasn’t cheap at $20 per vehicle. This makes for a highly memorable attraction whether you have a car full of kids, or if it’s a hot Arizona day and you want to take in that Sedona-nature while you swim.
Day 2: We are hitting up Flagstaff, 45 mins north of Sedona.
We started out visiting the International Kadampa Retreat Centera Buddhist temple; a Tibetan branch of Buddhism. Brand spanking new! And a beautiful building, from the golden-gilded images of Amitabha Buddha and Shakyamuni Buddha to the awesome Darmha Wheel at its peak. Visiting the temple is free. The people are kind, warm, will show you round and answer any questions you have. Be sure to say “Namo Buddha (respect to the Buddha)” before the Buddha’s image for limitless blessings!
Next up, Bearizona Wildlife Park ($46 for 2 adults) think Jurassic Park minus everything going wrong! A great kid-friendly trip experience. Basically, you self drive around a park visiting different animals that are unrestrained. You get to go at your own pace until you get to the 🐻 and the 🐺, at which time there are strict rules about keeping your windows up, doors locked, and not stopping.
Lastly, we visited the Northern Arizona Museum where they had several cool exhibitions. Particularly, the history of the Native Americans within Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah. Get there quick, they have a limited-time art exhibition about the correlation between Star Wars and Native Americans. It was $24 for 2 adults.
On our way out of Flagstaff to Page in the wee hours of the morning, we visited Snowbowl a ski area to take in the view, drink our morning coffee and get some snow time, freezing but beautiful!
Day 3: A definite road trip highlight! Antelope Canyon
($109 for 2 x adults, a 1-hour walking tour) and Horse Shoe Bend ($10/car entrance fee).
Antelope Canyon is one of those places that pops up a lot on Instagram with unreal looking photos and you can’t help but wonder if it’s just hype and clever photography – it’s not! It’s even more beautiful in real life and the tour (which you have to take because it is on a Native American reservation) is great, our guide was super knowledgeable about the geology, history, photography and loads more which made the experience even more enjoyable. The tour groups are small so you get a good run through, don’t feel rushed and get the space to take the dreamy IG pics. We highly recommend it!
While staying in Page we popped down to view the Glen Canyon Dam and another famous Instagram spot Horseshoe Bend for sunset.
Horseshoe Bend was again, absolutely stunning but did feel a bit like you were climbing over people to get a good view and we weren’t even there in peak season. Ideal for a romantic sunset picnic!
Being in the camper van we’ve got a lot of freedom with where we can stay but we chose to stay in the McDonald’s car park, not very glamorous but the WiFi was free and fast which gave us the ability to get a few hours for work done and we had access to toilets until 10 pm, all free!
Day 4: What’s an AZ road trip without stopping at the Grand Canyon?
We left Page for the South Rim of Grand Canyon, a 2 and something hour drive with more red rock scenery!
We stretched our legs at Little Colorado River Lookout ($10/car entrance fee) for a sneak peek of what was to come.
We finally made it to the main park and were greeted by a Split Endz & Flight of the Concords loving park ranger. He handed us our permit ($35 park fee) and we went our merry way. We filled up the gas tank at exorbitant rates and ventured into the park, stopping at viewing points along the way.
Once at Mather Campground, we registered for a campsite for the night ($18 per car, for up to 5 people) and within minutes of driving spotted a herd of 🦌 wandering about the campsite, they paid us no mind.
We found our site, primitive but all we needed with a toilet close by and a pit for making a fire (if we had wood or thought to buy some at the store on the way in!). Being that it was early March it was still a bit chilly, but we were nice and cozy in our van.
Day 5: Lake Havasu City, AKA Arizona’s Playground.
Did you know the original London Bridge resides here? British flags, street and shop names. Talk about ‘Arrested Development’; the city certainly leans into the Little England theme!
If you dig lakeside beaches, powerboats and jet skiing, Golf, and dune buggies/off-roading this is just the place for you.
We found it difficult to find a campsite, (March may be revving into peak season considering Spring Break) so our advice is to make reservations. If you are like us and like the flexibility of ‘going with the flow’ there are two state parks (leaving Arizona’s playground, along highway 62, towards California) that accommodate dry camping.
We stayed at Buckskin State Park ($35/car per night). A little overpriced for our liking; yet, to be fair, a small price to pay for safety. There is a general store, bathroom w/free showers (hot water!), great staff and a nice view of Parker River. Our only issue was a lack of access to Wi-Fi (too many people on it lowered the bandwidth to the point that it was unusable). We happened to arrive on a day a lovely couple decided to get hitched so it made for an entertaining evening anyways.
The next morning we headed off. One Billboard after another advertised buffet specials for Bluewater Casino. We thought nothing of it until we saw all you can drink Champagne, Bloody Mary’s, or Mimosas & Buffet for $10.95 (Sunday’s Special) and just had to stop; it was the Mrs Birthday!
We learned though that you are able to freedom camp at the casino so we were saddened to find out we could have driven a bit further for a free campsite.
Day 6: Joshua Tree (and Mrs Brazil’s birthday 🍰)
After a champagne breakfast at the @bluewatercasino we headed for California and entered Joshua Tree National Park from the 29 Palms entrance ($30/vehicle fee) and lo and behold the first sign we see as we drive in (despite checking availability online the day before) is that all the campsites in the park were full, no drama we think, it’s Sunday surely lots of people will be packing up and heading home today. Sadly that was not the case! We drove past 5 or 6 camping spots and they all had ‘full’ signs up.
We didn’t book because we wanted to be truly free to travel at our own pace but have never traveled this way before the ‘go with the flow’ mentality is taking some time to get used to but it wasn’t the end of the world, we knew we could get a free park just outside the park but we’d definitely suggest booking if you have your heart set on staying within the park.
Putting our camping woes behind us we drove through the park stopping at various ‘exhibits’ and lookout spots to do short walks and inspect the plants and rocks. Joshua Tree has such a different landscape than what we’d seen on the rest of our trip with a cool mix of tropical and desert and is a real hive of activity. We sat and watched a few people free-climbing rock faces while we ate our lunch 😳 while people bustled around us on various hiking tracks.
Away from the main attractions on the road towards the Cottonwood entry/exit we stopped at the Cholla cactus garden, this was super cool and took us back to the desert vibes.
We exited the park at Cottonwood (the opposite side to where we entered) and drove 5 minutes down the road to Chiriaco Summit a small travel stop with a gas station, coffee shop, a free dry camping spot, and home to the General Patton Memorial Museum.
After grabbing some dinner and checking out the tanks outside the museum we settled in the van for the night to play Monopoly Deal where Zahn’s 75% win rate was crushed.
Key Trip Stats
Sedona to Flagstaff 29mi
Flagstaff to Page 132mi
Page to South Rim 118mi
South Rim to Lake Havasu City 243mi
Lake Havasu City to 29 Palms 148mi
29 Palms to Cottonwood (via Joshua Tree NP) 39mi
Cottonwood/Chiroiaco to Phoenix 243mi
Total = 852 mi / 1371 km
Campervan Hire (7 days including mileage) $756.42 – Don’t forget to use our referral link to get $50 off your Outdoorsy van booking.