On 16 March 2016 I woke up with excitement at 5am, loaded up the backpack, and caught a train to Sydney Kingsford Smith International Airport. I was finally heading to a country which I’d been waiting to see for ages – New Zealand! A friend of mine was waiting for me in Queenstown and we were to hire a car and road trip the South Island for a week. I couldn’t wait.
Flying in to New Zealand was nothing short of spectacular. I knew it was a beautiful country, but didn’t know quite how breathtaking I’d find it. When people say that the photos don’t do it justice, they really mean so! Hopefully this (very amateur iPhone) timelapse communicates the idea.
New Zealand’s energy was nothing like I’d imagined.
To be honest, I didn’t research it too much beforehand: for once, I wanted to go into an unfamiliar place and allow my senses to guide my experience, rather having this coloured any expectations or others’ observations. I was traveling with someone I completely trusted, and thus felt comfortable plunging myself into the unknown. I guess I also just assumed NZ would be overall similar to Australia, since it is so close by, and the two countries have so many associations. How wrong I was!
Queenstown felt like a pocket of Canada located deep in the Southern Hemisphere! I stepped off the plane, inhaling the clean crisp air of the land, and soaked up the presence of the surrounding mountains. In a strange way I felt at home – the same ‘home’ feel I had when I lived in Canada 8 years ago. Perhaps it was the mountains, the lakes, the log-wood cabins. The friendly people, both travelers and locals. The absence of any pretense or ego. Whatever it was, I immediately liked what I saw, and my mind further opened to let it all in, ready for an incredible week.
Whilst waiting to be collected, I got chatting to an American guy.
He was probably in his 40s; leaving to return home after having backpacked for a month in the country. He was glowing from his trip, and we had a really cool conversation about the magic that he felt in NZ; how he was leaving feeling like he was so aligned with the path he is meant to be on. Who would’ve guessed that a week later, despite enduring a huge turn of events (to still be written about), I would nonetheless find myself in this same euphoric space.
I got collected and we checked into the Black Sheep backpackers – it was really awesome to be staying in a hostel as a guest instead of staff! – and we walked down to the village where we found a rooftop bar. I’ll never forget my first evening in NZ relaxing on this corner couch, the sun starting to dip behind the mountains; low-hanging clouds, the buzz of youthful energy surrounding me, icy air, beanies, cold cider. This is where I started feeling centered, and remained in this very special space for the majority of the trip (and beyond).