New Zealand

Traveling always provides clarity. It’s a chance to step away, take a break, and learn something unexpected about the place, the people around you, or even yourself. I would’ve never expected to go to New Zealand…ever. It’s not that I never wanted to. It’s that the opportunity never seemed realistic.

We flew from a sticky summer to the end of a cold winter. Winter, as in, colder than what we’re accustomed to in year-round summer weather.

As we were trying to escape the rain, briskly walking down the rolling hills of Auckland, Tasha and I were talking about how we met, how it wouldn’t have been possible if by some chance our mutual friend, Raijeli, would have never moved to Hawaii or if she’d never ended up at my small, small high school with only 35 eighteen year-olds in my graduating class.

I’m always wary of groups of friends mixing. What if they don’t get along? What if they don’t share common interests? But it was perfect. Neazel, Darren, Tasha, and I headed out to Waiheke Island on our first full day. It was cold and overcast but not rainy. Luckily the hotel that Darren had booked was close to everything. We walked a few blocks down to the pier and hopped on a cold, wet ferry ride to the island. We jumped on the first bus that took us around the little island. We didn’t know where we were going or what stop to get off at, but we knew that we wanted to experience a beach. After riding the bus for about 15 minutes, we arrived at the first stop. It was a gorgeous little beach. We saw dogs, surfers, and black-painted houses. Even though it was overcast, it was still beautiful especially the way the wet sand showed reflections after the ocean had washed it anew. We walked back up to the bus stop, got some cappuccinos from the store nearby, and waited for the bus. I cherish the conversation bridge between acquaintances and friends. This was it. As we were waiting for the bus, we all got to know each other a little better. We got on the next bus to who knows where. I thought it was taking us back to the ferry, but it actually took us to the last stop on the map. We decided to jump off the bus at the moment the doors opened. It was windy but still not raining, so we decided to walk down what seemed like an old, abandoned dirt road. Abandoned for the fact that it was winter and only crazy people would be out here during winter. We found a pathway at the end of the road where a tree had fallen and was blocking the wooden bridge that was built. We climbed under and around the overgrown trees and found a miniature peninsula. The wind whipped my hair. The rocks were pointy and sharp, and I could feel them through my shoes. I stood there silently, dazed from the cold and amazed at what seemed like a surreal dream. We defrosted on the bus ride back to the ferry. As it started to rain outside, I was glad we were under cover from the steady drizzle that had started. I was tired and hungry, but I was definitely still so happy to be somewhere else in this huge, amazing world.

The second day was filled with wet weather and a lot of decision-making. We explored and brunched. We went to the art museum, where I felt like a child of wonder. Why did they paint this that way? What was he/she trying to evoke? Were they just happy how it looked and then decided to just go with it? We spent the majority of the day indoors, but we came to a conclusion that we needed to get out of the city the next day. That would have either required us to take a tour or drive (on the other side of the road). Unfortunately, all the tours were sold out, so we ended up renting a car for the next day.

As I sat in the backseat trying to understand driving on the other side of the road, the highways turned into single roads with many roundabouts lined with green rolling hills full of sheep and cattle. After three hours, we made it to Hobbiton. Tiny houses lined the Hollywood-built set. It was quaint, and it ended up being quite the sunny day. After the tour, we were on our way back to the city. We got a little lost on the way back, but we made it with a couple minutes of daylight left, just in time to get dinner and take a late night flight out to then go straight to work…and I mean straight to work.