I’ve been home for almost a month now and I still can’t stop thinking about my trip. It was 14 days of the most incredible landscapes, sweetest souls and all the fries. #dreamvaca
Prior to this trip, I had never traveled abroad (minus Mexico), so this was a huge deal for me. After I booked my ticket, I had the “holy $#!+ I’m doing this” moment and then got insanely excited. I’m naturally an anxious person, but I was surprisingly calm the night before + day of.
Because it’s me, you know that something crazy is bound to happen. It was literally the second I arrived at LAX. It went a little something like this:
Lady at United kiosk: “Hi there! Where’s your Visa?”
Me: “Ummm….what Visa?” (Internal dialogue: WTF! What am I going to do?!)
Lady at United kiosk: “You need a Visa to travel to Australia. But you can sign up for one here, let me show you on your phone.”
Me: “Oh, thank god!” *fumbles on phone for 15 minutes and the website stops working* *has second panic attack of the evening*
Lady at United kiosk: “Let me go in the back and get my phone from my purse, and we can see if that will work”
This woman was a saint. I have no idea how/why I got so lucky to have crossed paths with her. She spent 20 minutes helping me fill out the application, put my ginormous backpack into a plastic bag so it wouldn’t get damaged on the flight and told me how much she loved New Zealand + hoped I would have the best time.
I asked if I could hug her and almost started crying tears of joy.
Now on to the flight we go!
I boarded the plane thinking, “Ok I’ve totally got this” and 8 hours in, was on the verge of my third mental breakdown of the evening. Guys, I not only had a bulging disk in my lower back, but I could not fall asleep and was so beyond exhausted. I think I eventually fell asleep for a few hours, woke up and realized I only had 5 hours left…I’ve got this! After flying for 15 hours, I think I can pretty much do anything.
In true Mary fashion, I find myself in another crazy situation. #AdventuresWithMary really needs to start trending on Twitter. Here’s how this one played out:
I’m standing at baggage claim trying to find the WiFi only to realize it won’t connect. Lovely. A guy my age introduces himself as Loch and starts chatting with me about his backpacking trip in Northern California. He’s super, super sweet and I offer to hold one of his bags (he had a million). As we walk to customs, we get separated and I am now standing in the middle of the Sydney airport with a random guy’s backpack and no WiFi…SOS.
However, I was weirdly calm and had an instinctual feeling that we’d find each other. After 30 minutes, he comes around the corner and I was SO relieved. He walked me to the train station, showed me which stop to get off on and we went our separate ways. Angel #2 of the trip!
I get to the hostel, meet up with Lyss + Eric and got a quick bite to eat. To be honest, I wasn’t super stoked on the city, so I’m not going to spend too much time writing about it. I really wish we would have been able to go to the Blue Mountains (the city was very similar to San Francisco, so I didn’t feel like it was much of a culture shock), but we did get to go to Bondi Beach which I loved!
After two days in Sydney, we flew to Christchurch, New Zealand and were picked up by our camper van company, Jucy. In New Zealand, it’s super common for people to drive camper vans throughout the Islands, so there were a million on the road. Every time we passed one, we would both wave at each other and it was the cutest thing!
We stopped at the grocery store, only to realize that they don’t have vegetables? We were so confused! The woman who checked us out, told us we had to go to a separate store, which we found to be extremely strange. Nevertheless, we got our veggies and were on our way!
I haven’t camped much, so I really had no idea what to expect. Our Jucy van was SO nice and it really felt like a hotel. We had a full kitchen, two beds, a TV, bathroom and hook-ups to plug in for heat. Each night, we’d stop at a campsite, shower, make dinner, use the WiFi to Instagram (lol) and plan out what we wanted to do the next day. Some of my favorite memories were being snuggled in the camper van, watching movies and eating dinner 🙂
It takes 9 hours to drive the entire South Island, so we only drove about an hour and a half every day. And by we, I mean Eric because Lyss and I were terrified to drive. I got behind the wheel one time and almost drove us off the road.
We stayed in so many cute towns, hiked some of the most beautiful mountains I’ve ever seen and met such genuinely, nice people.
Some of my favorite places:
- Hammer Hot Springs
- Franz Josef Glacier
- Lake Matheson
- Knights Point Lookout
- Lake Wanaka
- Gondola Ride in Queenstown
- Absoloot Hostel in Queenstown
- Patagonia Chocolate (SO GOOD!)
Basically, I am obsessed with Queenstown and would live there in a heartbeat. We stayed in the most amazing hostel, met the sweetest girl (Felicity) that I will most likely be friends with forever and had the best burger + fries of my life. Oh, and #allthetreats. I had a brownie + sorbet every single day that we were there.
My flight back to LAX was out of Auckland (the North Island), so I took a short flight there and stayed one night in an AirBnB. Here’s story #3 in the #AdventuresWithMary:
I almost miss my bus stop (they don’t tell you what stop it is), but luckily, a woman overheard me talking to driver, so she told me when to get off. I start walking the wrong way towards where I’m staying (no WiFi = no directions), so I have to ask three people for directions. By the time I make it to the house, it’s pitch black outside. I meet the host couple (both super sweet) and ask for directions to the grocery store. This ended up being a straight shot (thank god!), but on the way back, my bag breaks and my half of my eggs crack, so the yolk goes everywhere. #yikes. I get back to the house and start cooking away, only to realize that I totally ruined their cast iron pan, which are super expensive. #yikes. I made enough food for 5 people because I was starving, inhale all of it and say a silent prayer to the pan gods that they will magically make this burnt food disappear.
Nope, still there. I hide the pan under another pan, go to bed and wake up as if nothing happened. The mystery of the pan still remains…
In the morning, the host offered to take me to the airport, which was so nice. I was beyond relieved that I didn’t have to get back on the bus haha.
I had 5 hours before my flight, so I meandered around the airport, ate my sandwiches, bought some snacks and read.
I spent a lot of time thinking about the trip and how 14 days went so quickly. I was totally not ready to come home! As I boarded the plane, I knew life was never going to be the same.
I don’t really think there are adequate words to explain how amazing the trip was. Not only did my love + appreciation for nature go through the roof, but just being abroad in situations that were completely new to me totally changed my perception of the world.
Before I left, I was running around like a maniac; always late, going 80 MPH down the freeway and stressed about the most trivial things.
Being in NZ, seeing how slow + relaxed the pace of life was really brought me back down to earth. There’s no need to rush!
It also reminded me that that there is so much more life to be lived outside of my teeny, tiny bubble in San Diego.
I remember laying in bed on one of our last nights in the hostel thinking, “Wow, I am so insanely lucky to be here” It brought me to tears to think about how badly I have wanted to travel and that prior trips haven’t worked out, but this one finally did. And to share it with one of your best friends is just so dang cool.
In general, this year has been a crazy whirlwind of growth and I’m so grateful for it. To have flown internationally by myself (for the first time!) and spent 14 days in two countries was everything + more.
Now, I feel like I can handle anything.
And the #travelbug is SO real.
Europe, 2017…I’m comin’ for ya!