The Penguin Parade

Oh man, I haven’t written a post in quite some time. My apologies. Life, politics, and a exploring a new country got in the way. I’ll talk about all of this, but first, since the world needs a little happiness, I’m going to talk about penguins.

Picture this. You drive at dusk to Phillip Island Nature Park, feeling slightly rebellious that you’re allowed into the park after sunset. You park your car amongst more tour buses than you’ve ever seen in one place and make your way to a concrete structure swarming with people from all over the world. You push through the crowd to the ticket desk feeling overwhelmed by all the people. You’re convinced there aren’t any tickets left because you came too late. The man at the counter laughs at you when you inform him of your fears. He tells you that this is a quiet night so of course there are tickets. You gape at him while he rings up your purchase. Ticket in hand you head through the double glass doors onto a boardwalk.  Continue reading

All You Have To Do Is Say, “Hello.”

“How are you finding traveling alone?” a woman asked me as she plopped her backpack onto a bed next to mine.

I looked up from the book I was reading, surprised by the question.

“It’s been great,” I said.

She looked a little crestfallen.

“The first few weeks can be hard,” I continued. “Especially if you’ve never traveled alone before.”

This seemed to make her feel better and she launched into the story of her trip, telling me that this was her first time traveling alone and that she’d never stayed in hostels.

“I had this idea that while traveling I would make lots of life-long friends,” she said. “But so far I’ve found people unwelcoming.” Continue reading

My Favorite Places on the North Island

One of the most common things I heard while traveling on the North Island was that the South Island was so much better. Having spent two months traveling on the North Island, I must disagree. Yes, the South Island is beautiful, but the North Island has a different kind of charm and some spectacular scenery.screen-shot-2016-12-11-at-9-15-10-pm

Below are my favorite places I visited on the North Island and why. The list starts at the northern tip of the island and works its way south. (Note: This is definitely not a recommend driving route, as looking at the map will show you.) Continue reading

Hiking in Mordor a.k.a. Tongariro National Park

Mordor. The word brings to mind black rocks barren of foliage, a boiling sky, The Eye and Mount Doom. What doesn’t come to mind are aquamarine lakes, bright snow, windswept plains, icy streams, and rocks dyed red with the iron of countless volcanic eruptions. However, these are what greeted me as I explored Tongariro National Park, the place in which Peter Jackson decided to set his Mordor over 15 years ago. Continue reading

Shaken But Not Stirred

It has been one heck of a week, and no, I’m not referring to the presidential election.

On Sunday night I went to bed at 11:45 p.m. It had taken me some finagling to get into bed because there was a cat hiding under my covers. I had worked all day and was ready to sleep until I woke up naturally the next morning.

As I lay there, drifting off, my bed started to shake. It felt like the cat was itching himself. Annoyed I looked at him, but he wasn’t moving. Then the shaking became more severe. The house creaked and rattled, furniture moved from side to side. I stumbled out of bed and stood in the middle of the floor, trying to stay upright. Adrenaline surged through me as I realized what was happening. Instinct kicked in, I hurried to stand under my bedroom door frame. Continue reading

I love you, Air New Zealand

In order to fly in the U.S., I have to be mentally and physically prepared for a long and grueling day. I have to remember to put all my liquids in 3 oz. containers and then into 1 liter bags; I have to think about what I’m going to wear because I’ll inevitably have to take it all off to go through TSA; I have to pack two week’s worth of clothing into a tiny suitcase in order to avoid paying $25; I have to remember to stretch so that I can stand up and walk off the plane after being crammed into a tiny seat for 5 hours.

It’s exhausting to say the least.

I had hoped that once I got to New Zealand I wouldn’t have to fly again until I was ready to leave. However, last week I had to get from Whangarei to Wellington, and flying was significantly cheaper and shorter than taking a train or bus. Continue reading

Checking Things Off the (Un)Bucket List

I have been in New Zealand for over a month now, which is pretty crazy. It has been quite the month. I moved to a new country, felt homesick, traveled all over the North Island, debated quitting, and met lots of fascinating people. I have not regretted any of it.

In honor of the ups and downs of travel, here are some things I got to check off of my bucket list, and some things I got to check off of my un-bucket list. Continue reading

That Hostel Life

I love hostels. Really, I do. As I write this I’m sitting at a hostel in Tokomaru Bay called Stranded In Paradise. From my spot on the front porch I can see the entire bay and into the Pacific Ocean beyond.

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My view from the deck of Stranded in Paradise

The life of a solo traveler can be hard. You’re alone in a country you don’t really know, and most days you spend traveling. Hostels offer a welcome break from driving and a chance to interact with the hosts and with other guests.

New Zealand hostels are some of the nicest I’ve stayed in. There are two big “brands” here: YHA and BBH. YHA hostels tend to be large and are mostly located in major cities. They are clean, offer decent prices, and feel a bit like college dorm rooms full of concrete and cheap carpets. Continue reading

Lords of the Forest

“Wouldn’t it be amazing if trees could talk?” a tourist standing next to me wondered.

I nodded my agreement. It would be amazing, especially since we were standing in front of Tane Mahuta (‘Lord of the Forest’), a 2,500 year old kauri tree in Waipoua Forest.

Can you imagine what stories he could tell? Maybe he could give a definite year the first humans arrived in New Zealand or give us a picture of the now extinct Moa bird. He could describe what happened to the island during massive volcanic eruptions or how his roots trembled with the waves of earthquakes. Continue reading

My First Few Days in New Zealand

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I have now driven twice on the opposite side of the road and lived to tell the tale. It’s not as traumatizing as I thought it would be. I still turn on the windshield wipers instead of the turn signal and wince as cars come at me on the right, but I think I might be getting the hang of it. My hosts Glennis and David have taken turns risking their lives driving with me. I salute their bravery.

I am currently in Whangarei (pronounced fong-a-ray) staying with friends of my grandparents. It’s about 2.5 hours north of Auckland on the East Coast.

It’s been great to stay with people I know (at least in name) while I get on the timezone. Glennis and David have been great, not only with helping me drive, but also explaining what stores sell what, and making sure I’m well fed. Continue reading