New Zealand changed my life. It was my first adventure all on my own, I was 20 and wasn’t necessarily heading in the right direction, or really in any direction for that matter. Not a shining moment in my life, but one that made me pick myself up, dust myself off and journey on. New Zealand was the beginning of that journey. One that would, unbeknownst to me at the time, change my outlook on life and help me create lasting friendships that are still going strong some 16 years later.
While I haven’t travelled much on my own, I have still managed to camp my way across Canada and the northern United States with my family, ride on It’s a Small World at Disney World about ten times in a row, visit three Caribbean Islands, walk up Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh (but had to be carried down part of the way due to a fractured ankle – a story for another time), explore London, and go punting in Cambridge.
For me, travelling to New Zealand was a rite of passage. It wasn’t running away, it was running towards an adventure that I just couldn’t pass up. Before social media became all about a display of “look where I’ve been”, before cell phones were a thing constantly in your face trying to get the right ‘selfie’ angle, there was a quiet reverence for the places we visited. I didn’t even own a cell phone and dial-up Internet was still a thing.
I’ve done the all-inclusive, sit on the beach in the sun vacation. It was really nice, especially considering I was escaping the -45oC (-49oF) winter. But I have never been affected by an adventure the same way that I was affected by my time in New Zealand. I remember it like it happened yesterday, not 16 years ago. It is a magical place full of mountains, rolling green hills, clear blue lakes, sheep, black sand, white sand, more sheep, deep fried Mars bars, fish and chip take-aways, beautiful people… I could go on.
Travelling shouldn’t be all about physical pictures, although those are great to look back on with fondness. It shouldn’t be about bragging points because some people have no desire to travel across the sea, they find solace in what is right in their backyards. What travelling should be about is exploration, learning, and adventure. Pushing yourself in a small way to go out of your comfort zone just once, even for a second. Try something new, go sit by yourself in a quite place and think, go to a crowded market and take in the sights and smells of a different culture. Just be. Explore. Relax. Create your own adventure. You may surprise yourself. New Zealand is my life-saver, I hope that if you ever need one, you find your special adventure too… if you haven’t already found it.