People go on journeys for a variety of reasons. Some hope to achieve spiritual enlightenment. Others are just looking for a place to lie on the beach and roast in the sun. Others still just hope to “discover” themselves, whatever that is supposed to mean. I’ve taken a fairly lighthearted approach in constructing this blog, using humor as generously as I could, giving a daily account of where we were and what we did, and not delving too deeply into my reasons for coming to New Zealand. I wanted to go with the flow, see where this journey took me, and leave my reflections for the very end.
I’ve long considered New Zealand a mystical far off land but was never that interested in it despite knowing that for a hot minute in the late 70’s, paperwork was filed for my dad’s side of the family to move here. My lack of interest changed after seeing the Lord of the Rings movies in theaters and absolutely falling in love with the beauty of the country. I spent countless hours on the internet learning about the country’s history, finding photos of the places I had seen on the big screen, and playing with my academic calendar in order to facilitate a trip there.
For whatever reason, I developed this notion that New Zealand was a bastion of all that is good and pure, untainted by the arrogance, greed, and consumerism that is running rampant throughout the rest of the world. It was far away from the things that I see as being the downfall of modern day society. It seemed like the perfect place. Utopia. I decided that I had to visit this place and see it for myself. I knew it would either be the best trip of my life—my prayers answered and the country exactly as I pictured it—or a complete let down, filled with all of the things I wanted to run away from. All or none, the perfect test of extremes.
It definitely helped that my cousin Eugene felt exactly the same way and so the seed for this trip was planted. I prayed that I would not be disappointed and that my high expectations wouldn’t be shattered. In November 2008, the seedling finally broke through the ground as we booked our flight to Auckland. We had been tracking plane tickets for quite a few months at that point and when we saw they had dropped from $1800 to $1300 for a round trip, we made the decision then and there to book the flight. We exchanged high fives and I went to get ready for bed. It was at 2am, smack dab in the middle of the week, and I didn’t care that I had to be up for work that morning at 6am. I was too excited to sleep. We were finally going!
From the moment that we booked the trip until we left, I was frequently asked ”Why New Zealand? Gonna go catch some hobbits? Fight some orcs?”. Though my love of the Lord of the Rings movies inspired me to explore New Zealand, we actually spent no time partaking in the LOTR tours or activities. My friends didn’t seem to understand my excitement. My family for the most part was dumbfounded about why I wanted to travel to the end of the earth. My coworkers joked that while I was there I should make sure I fix the problems we were having in AsiaPac. As hard as I tried, I feel that I was unable to properly articulate my obsession with New Zealand. I gave a half assed answer or deflected the questions and told myself, ”It’s okay, I’ll show them through photos and journal entries of my observations. Maybe then they will understand.”
Though our May 2009 departure date seemed to be ages away when I graduated from college in December 2008, it managed to come out of nowhere, almost catching me off guard. What seemed so far away was suddenly very real indeed. It was time to pack my things and go off on my own personally designed excursion. Hopefully by this time you have read the posts about my trip and have seen the photos. If you have, then it won’t come as any surprise that New Zealand was everything I could have hoped for, and more. There really aren’t enough positive adjectives in the English language to describe how I have felt this whole trip. The last three weeks of my life have been filled with nothing but straight up awesome.
It wasn’t a journey to achieve spiritual enlightenment or discover myself. It certainly wasn’t much of a relaxing vacation. What it ended up being was a journey to prove to myself that not all is lost and there are still places in this world that are pure; Places that can provide an endless number of jaw-dropping experiences—through admiration of the scenery, interactions with the locals, and cultural observations. Ensuring that the tail end of our trip contained our stop in Milford Sound, a “village” with two lodges, a single café, and generators that shut off at 11pm was the perfect way to get away, evaluate and reflect on life while in the shadows of a glacier carved fiord.
Though I obviously can’t move there now, I know for sure that I will definitely live in New Zealand at some point in my life. It is too beautiful of a place to not experience all four seasons in succession.
Should have a “New Zealand by the numbers” post up soon. As well as a few others with some personal reflections.