Y’all. New Zealand. I have no words.
Well, obviously that’s a lie — I could gush on and on about my trip, but nobody wants to hear unfiltered gushing. So I’ll wrap up my experience in a few paragraphs interspersed with some photos. (I’ll save the vegan-in-New Zealand stuff for later!)
New Zealand is, by far, the most beautiful country I’ve ever visited. It has everything: snow-capped mountains; gorgeous, rugged coastlines; sandy beaches; stunning blue-green water; lush, tropical greenery; and temperate forests. And that’s just what I saw! There are plenty of sites I didn’t get to visit, like the Franz Josef glacier or Milford Sound or the west coast of the North Island. (Those are on my list for my next trip.) I spent so much time hiking and just reveling in nature; it was absolutely glorious. And it reaffirmed my commitment to environmentalism, to protecting nature and trying to leave as light a mark as I can.
On a personal level, this trip was especially meaningful. Although I spent most of my time with my friend who’s living in Auckland, I did a little solo adventuring too. And those days were, perhaps, the most significant for me. The truth is, although I try to project an image of independence and self-confidence, it’s all too easy for me to get mired in self-doubt and anxiety. As much as I love traveling and think it’s one of the best ways to broaden one’s mind and expand one’s perspective, it does make me anxious. Thanks to my OCD*, I have some [wholly irrational!] issues, like sleeping in unfamiliar beds (especially if the sheets are white) and showering in unfamiliar showers (especially if I’m using someone else’s towel). And the very act of traveling worries me. What if I miss a bus and I’m stranded in an unfamiliar town and I can’t find wireless to contact someone and then I miss a flight?! What if I get lost and can’t find my hostel and I’m stuck outside in the middle of the night?! What if I’m stuck in an awkward conversation with a stranger and I don’t have a travel partner to turn to for rescue?!? (Only partially joking there!)
But despite all my worries, I travel anyway, fighting through the anxiety because I believe travel is worth it. On this trip, I faced many of my fears head-on. And, finally, I felt in charge of myself and my anxieties. They were certainly present, but I made sure they didn’t rule my actions; I pushed through them. I faced my fear of getting lost by, well, getting lost. I wandered around and then found my way back on my own or by asking for directions. And never once did I miss a bus or a flight or find myself trapped outside all night long. Instead, I found myself in places I might not have discovered otherwise, and I found myself getting acquainted with places I might otherwise have known on only a very surface, cursory level. I felt, truly, self-reliant. And I found myself talking to people I might not have talked with otherwise, had I had a travel partner there. I asked folks to take my photo, and I chatted with them about their travels. So even though I was alone, I found myself talking to locals and other travelers who I might have otherwise ignored.
I know how absolutely trite this will sound, but — traveling alone is truly liberating. Doing everything on my own terms made for such a great experience. I loved being able to spend time doing exactly what I wanted for exactly how long I wanted to do it without worrying about anybody else’s happiness or comfort.
So. New Zealand? More than worth the expensive, super-long flight, both for the views and for the opportunity it gave me for self-reflection and self-growth.
I’ll be back, someday.
Now, after getting all heavy on you, let’s wrap up with a little levity. Let it be known that traveling with virtually no hair is freaking amazing. Showers are quick, you don’t have to worry about wet hair before bed/in the morning, and your toiletry bag is lightened. I’m such a fan!
* I mean real OCD, not like, “OMG I’m sooooo OCD because I like things to be neat!!1!”