To be honest, when I decided to come to New Zealand, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Sure, this was a trip I had always imagined taking and New Zealand was certainly a bucket list country; however, visiting here had not been in my immediate plans. I’m not even sure it was in my five-year travel plan.
My life changed so drastically after I got divorced. All the trips I had imagined taking and planned for within the next two years were suddenly canceled. I didn’t know if I could afford to travel to exotic places and I didn’t know who would be willing to accompany me to them. I had suddenly lost not only my husband, but everything that I planned with him.
I spent the entire summer pining over travel articles, pricing trips almost daily, and begging my friends to travel with me. Unfortunately, the timing was off for nearly everyone. My friends have families, children, obligations, and financial restraints. Yet here I was, suddenly free, burning to scratch the itch that so determinedly plagues a wanderer. I didn’t really care where I went. I just wanted to go somewhere, anywhere.
Divorce, and the incredibly dramatic life changes that accompany it, certainly increases wanderlust, at least in my case. My desire to “get away” became stronger than ever, but I realized that it wouldn’t happen if I didn’t just book it and go. I realized that I couldn’t depend on anyone else for this and that it was something I was going to have to do myself or not at all. I took a chance and reached out to Rachel and Sean, a couple whom I had met through CrossFit. To be fair, I didn’t know them all that well when they lived here. Sure, we saw each other at the gym and we hung out outside of the gym a few times, but I never imagined I would fly to New Zealand and stay with them as a house guest. Rachel had repeatedly made offers for visitors and it seemed that no one was prepared to take them up on it yet, so I took a chance and asked if I could visit. They graciously agreed to let me stay with them, and so I booked a plane ticket as soon as I found a reasonable price for airfare. Let me just tell you, I am quite Type A in terms of personality and that tends to become vastly apparent when I plan trips, especially when they are extremely technical and require a lot of logistical planning. I harassed the shit out of Rachel in the months preceding my trip and she took it like a champ. I wanted to know everything.
I did my own research, of course. You could almost say that planning for this trip became a part-time job for me. I spent hours reading blogs, travel articles, packing list recommendations, and itineraries. I developed a perfectly curated list of items that needed to be purchased to prepare for this trip and then spent hours and hours poring over options and reading reviews before making each purchase. I developed an itinerary, complete with travel times between locations, in addition to an expenditure spreadsheet and a personal data information form that I left with my family. I booked lodging, tours, airfare, and activities and made PDFs of every booking. I organized two teams of sitters for my kitties and provided detailed instructions to them. Does that amount of preparation seem like overkill? Perhaps. Did it make my life a cake walk when I landed in New Zealand? Absolutely. I didn’t have to scramble to print bookings at hotels. I knew exactly where I needed to go each day. I prepaid everything that I could. I had contact information for every company that I used to book an activity or tour. It allowed my family and friends to follow my trip and know where I was and what I was doing each day without me trying to constantly fill them in. I drove 2400km by myself in my first week in New Zealand. It was fast-paced and it was exhausting, but I wanted to make the most of my time here. I’ve
provided an abbreviated itinerary of my trip below, should someone wish to learn from my experience.
Flew to New Zealand (OKC-Dallas-Sydney-Auckland)
Landed in New Zealand and picked up rental car
Drove to Coromandel region
Whitianga sea cave tour
Lunch in the wharf
Hot Water Beach
Lunch at the Pour House
Drove to Matamata
Hobbiton Movie Set Tour
Waimangu Volcanic Valley
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
Drove to Tongariro National Park
Guided hike of Tongariro Alpine Crossing in winter conditions planned – cancelled
Tama Lakes hike
Drove to Taupo
Rapids Jet boat on Whitecastle River
Drove to Waitomo
Black Labyrinth Tour in glow worm caves
Drove to Auckland
Drove to Kikitere
Drove to Paihia
Dolphin swim tour planned – cancelled
Booked 3-hour Hole in the Rock boat tour instead
Drove to Auckland
Returned rental car
Walked to a beach nearby lodging in Auckland
Flew to Nelson on the South Island for Abel Tasman Coast Track
Transported to Marahau to begin Abel Tasman Coast Track
Sea kayaked from Marahau to Anchorage
Hiked from Anchorage to Bark Bay on Abel Tasman Coast Track
Hiked from Bark Bay to Awaroa on Abel Tasman Coast Track
Lunch in the café at Awaroa
Water taxi from Awaroa to Marahau
Ground transport from Marahau to Nelson airport
Flew to Auckland
Flew back to US (It took me about 30 hours to get home, but it was all one day because you cross the international date line and get back the day you lost on the way there)
This trip truly flew by, but I loved every minute. Well, maybe not every minute. I had some issues with my hiking boots which nearly resulted in hysterical sobbing while hiking on multiple occasions. I also encountered some weather conditions that crushed my spirit a little – like having my face rained on for a solid three hours of a hike (where my boots also almost made me cry), or a boat ride that was so cold and windy that I spent an hour and a half hunkered down below the railing, just trying to keep my eyes open to glimpse the scenery. I was also busy pouting about a canceled dolphin swim (that I found out about after a 4.5 hour drive), so I was destined for a bit of grumpiness.
That being said, New Zealand is the most diverse, beautiful country I have been to. The people were incredibly accommodating and friendly and the food was amazing. I met a lot of people, including other solo travelers, and I crammed in every experience that I possibly could. People keep asking me what my favorite part of my trip was and, quite honestly, I don’t know how to answer it. I loved the highs and I loved the lows. I loved being by myself and I loved spending time with my friends. I loved driving for hours on end and I loved hiking for days. I could have stopped every five minutes to enjoy another breathtaking view. A lifetime would not be enough to soak in all the beauty that New Zealand has to offer. For those who haven’t been, you should absolutely go. For those who have, you should go back. I know I certainly will.