Wednesday, October 12, 2011

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain

Well, I think it's time to start reflecting on my travels.

Early July I was introduced to a foreign land. New Zealand. Soon, I found out it wasn't really a foreign land I was at, it was I who was foreign. Being foreign brings about only good feelings, because everything you learn, see and touch is so interesting, unique and somehow always fascinating! Not somehow, but for a good reason, and the reason being that I am in an absolutely beautiful country.

The people I met from the very beginning are the people that have helped me to feel at home. Sure I've met heaps of International Students- Norway, Germany, Austria, Africa, France, Colorado-Pennysylvania-Oregon-Idaho, China, Korea and Canada- but I have also met tons of Kiwi's. I truly and honestly have only met good people, people who I know I will stay in touch with for the rest of my life. This part is only the beginning to the my book. The next chapter gets even better!

Having some experience in planning trips, like the one I have taken to New Zealand and many others in the past, I figured I would step up to the plate and start planning trips for our international group. I figured were all college students on tight budgets, so why not travel together and save some money... but also make for great road trips leading to our destinations with such a diverse group of people. So that I did, and boy did we save money!

I approached Lincoln University with a proposition that would forever change the way some staff members viewed exchange students. Never before had an exchange student asked for money to fund for trips before me. Call it a big mouth, call me absurd, or perhaps call me brave, but I successfully received funding in the amount of $700 for 22 students to attend a road trip to Kaikoura, one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand. It was certainly my top 'to see' destination. For students on a tight budget, this trip was in my opinion, 'too affordable' thanks to Lincoln University. Is there such thing as 'too affordable' though?

Us American students brought the concept of pancakes for breakfast to New Zealand.... well really, we only introduced it to the Germans and Austrians. With a slab of peanut butter, some jam, perhaps some honey and then of course syrup, and bam, you've got an American Pancake! To be honest, this was the first time I've had an American Pancake then, I guess, but surely, it was delicious!

And so it was July... as most do around the world, we celebrated Christmas in July. We enjoyed mulled wine, many deserts made by international students, sung about 3 different Christmas holiday songs and enjoyed time together, talking about different traditions we use to celebrate this joyous holiday.

It was time for me to plan another trip, so we decided to head off to Dunedin. Dunedin is more of a city, particularly geared towards college students and the party scene. So we did just that!

We climbed to the top of the steepest street in the world! It was absolutely amazing! As we were heading up on our trek to the top, we ran into some... snow? Yes... it started coming down like crazy... something New Zealander's don't see very often. The bus driver got a bit nervous, so we had to head out quickly and head to our next destination before heading back to Lincoln University... Moeraki Boulders!

I believe the image pretty much explains how amazing this 'rock park' was.

A picture captured from our train ride while in Dunedin.

And so that was Dunedin... an amazing adventure full of partying and sightseeing... this trip was literally nearly free... in my opinion. I was able to get funding in the amount of $1,650. The school was overly generous, and we were totally fortunate! Have you ever heard of a college paying for sight seeing? One more thing to add is that after our two trips (Dunedin and Kaikoura) we had snow days the following Monday... and after the Dunedin adventure, we had 3 days off! Some of the biggest snow storms New Zealand has seen in almost a hundred years!

Throughout the trip, whenever we would go on trips, I would always have a hand in cooking... so myself, Sam and Bill were the chefs! I also received some nicknames such as assistant RA (by the Lincoln staff) and Mr. Plan Man by the students.

I took lots of pictures... even some weird ones... of the train tracks!

And then it was time for Australia baby!

Beginning our adventure, we started in Sydney, Australia. We toured around and even had a surprise tour by one of Sydney's most aspiring architects. Emanuel Solomovic. So that was an educational adventure, learned tons and was able to see the city from a locals perspective, which was fantastic.

We had a lot of fun though and in the mornings would wake up and plan our day, with this sort of attitude. We would ask, where should we go, and that is where we would go. There was never a strict plan... which was kinda crazy, but I guess, my life is pretty unplanned, and that is really how life, in my opinion should be lived. Aim for the doors which you think you can open, but then challenge yourself to the ones which seem a bit stuck. The rest will flow open for you when need be.

So yeah, we went sea kayaking. Amazing... besides the fact that I got extremely sick while out in the middle of the sea. We were out for three hours, and for all three hours, I wasn't in the best of shape. Besides being sick, I swear that it was one of the best kayaking adventures I have ever gone on. The sights, the waves and the people we met while kayaking were amazing! It's amazing how the open sea really brings you together... and when I say that, I mean that when I was sick... I felt like it was all over. (The waves were HUGE! Being sick, dehydrated and unable to really paddle was in my opinion a pretty serious thing. Little did I know people went well out of there way to help me, by splashing me with water, giving me potable water to drink) Before I knew it we were at shore... we only flipped a few times :O ! Seriously though, I had so much fun... I know its hard to believe...

Can you tell I was happy to be back on shore? I'm the one who jumped the highest on the far right...

Have you ever seen THE BIG BANANA?

We saw some amazing sights...

I fed and shook hands with some fellow Kangaroo's

Had a photo shoot with a Koala

Visited the Opera House

Best of all, relaxed on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world!

Before I continue... yes we went to school and studied hard! I promise.....

Anyways, so we were off for another adventure. We were set to cover the North Coast and the West Coast in two nights! In case you don't clearly understand the trek we did... we drove 18 hours and hiked 10 hours. The rest were spent sleeping... in our rented car. There was no time to stop at hotel! We did bring a tent, but not only was the tent moldy (since we rented it from our university) but when we actually went to set it up, we thought a homeless person was sleeping on the bench next to our campsite (which was in the center of Nelson City). We got a bit scared, so we stayed in the car. Please don't judge us... This is the only picture we have of Nelson, since all we had time to do there, was sleep.

7:00 a.m. we were up and drove to Abel Tasman... windy roads and amazing views... This was only the beginning.

After a four hour hike in the mountains, we made it to a beach in a small New Zealand village called Anchorage. Even the guy from South France said it was the most beautiful beach he has ever been to. The best is that it was basically untouched since it is a pretty long hike for the average beach bum... its not accessible by car... how cool is that!

We had a nice dinner... and then were off for another adventure... the West Coast! A 7 hour drive brought us to Franz Josef. Franz Josef consists of a glacier (behind us... you can also see a raging river coming out the bottom center), a few small shops and some hot springs (which were closed when we were there because of how early we went, and how early we had to depart, in order to make it back to Lincoln University in time for dinner!) It was about 11:30 when we departed. Franz Josef, although very rainy, as you can see we were drenched... was a beautiful sight and offered some great hikes (or tramps, as New Zealanders would say).
We got back just in time for dinner at 5:30!

The glacier was the last adventure we have had since... but they are not over yet. We still have bungy jumping/sky diving to do... a visit to Queenstown in the southern end of South Island, and on Saturday, this Saturday, me and Traci are going to the North Island to visit Wellington and Auckland.... hopefully some Hitchhiking and awesome sight seeing... as well as meeting great people are all in the agenda. On the 19th, as long as my visa get's stamped, I am headed to Shanghai to visit a fellow classmate who is doing an internship there! So please cross your fingers for my visa!

Never stop. Never say no. Follow, understand and respect the network of people you are connected with. If it wasn't for my network, I probably wouldn't have all these opportunities ahead of me. Stay updated and be connected... connect with random people on and give compliments often to those around you. Don't go against the flow, always go with it and never take no for an answer... that's about all my philosophy for today. Stay happy, and always smile!


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