It’s been two weeks since I returned from the land beyond the sea, and I’m still struggling to find my footing. Jet lag has hit me like never before. Try as I might, I haven’t been able to get a handle on my sleep schedule. This past Friday my day began at a bright, early, and definitely not-yet-sunshiney 2am. But that’s not the only thing. There’ve been a few occasions when I’ve hesitated about which lane to turn into – stay left? Stay right? When I try to use my blinkers, it’s a toss up whether or not the windshield wipers will flick on instead. And frankly, the day-to-day feels too damn convenient. Ubiquitous WiFi is status quo again and somehow that’s depressing. Depressing enough that I spent a majority of today googling apps to block the internet from my phone and computer (no, the irony is not lost on me.)
It’s a ferocious hangover from what I’ve had no hesitation in describing as the trip of a lifetime. Since returning I’ve devoted my free time to retracing steps and reliving my favorite experiences, and before I get too far removed from it I wanted to capture my thoughts.
Looking back on my plans, my itinerary did change a bit here and there, but for the most part I stuck to it and most of the deviations from the plan were weather driven. Here’s how the chips ended up falling:
Adjust to jetlag in Auckland Straight to Rotorua!
Day 2: Visit the thermals and Cousin Anne in Rotorua
Day 3: Hobbiton
Day 4: Waitomo/Taupo
Tongariro (a.k.a. Mt. Doom) Rain on my day, Wellington instead
Wellington Journey to South Island
Journey to Abel Tasman Marlborough Vineyards
Day 8: Abel Tasman – Golden Bay
Day 9: Abel Tasman – Marahau
Frans Josef – More Marahau
Franz Josef Rainnnn again, Franz Josef for the night, and onwards
Day 12: Queenstown
Day 13: Milford Sound
Day 14: Queenstown
Day 15: Fly hoooome
Here’s the path, visualized, with some journey stats for fun:
Everyone keeps asking about my favorite experience. Stupid as it sounds, it’s been hard for me to narrow it down to just one. The richness of the thing was in the whole not the parts. The bad days thrust the good ones out in stark relief. That and they helped till some soil in my brain, breaking apart clumped stagnated chunks that are bound to form when your day to day is rote and routine and you settle into a way of doing things. Freshly tilled, I’m already feeling the benefits via fresh ideas and inspiration. I wouldn’t give those days up, but I suppose they would not fall into my list of favorites.
Forced to rank, and putting aside the extreme pleasure of spending time with a family member that I haven’t seen in almost two decades, my ranking is as follows:
- Hobbiton/Waitomo Caves – I simply cannot pick between the two of these. They were both mind-bogglingly awesome, and I connect both to LOTR, one bathing in light and the other plunging into the dark. Some hobbits and a dash of Smeagol.
- Skydiving/Bungy in Queenstown – These would not, perhaps, have ranked so highly on my list had it not been for their placement in my trip and the extreme, almost unreal beauty of Queenstown. A more worthy final day could not have been conjured up even by one of the Wise.
- Visit to Wharariki Beach – this was a solo adventure: tourist lite, guide free, and without a prescribed plan. Though I was by no means the only visitor, I felt myself both the master of my destiny and completely at the mercy of the elements.
- Garage Project brewery visit
- Volcanic Park in Rotorua
- Forest ziplining
In my pondering of this trip I keep turning over this super cheesy analogy. Lame though it be I can’t shake it, and it’s the right time of year anyway. It has to do with a snow globe. Yup, told you it was weird. When I think about this trip and what it did for me, I imagine myself as this little snowperson inside a snow globe. A stagnant snow globe is just a knickknack and a semi-lame one at that: just a figurine trapped inside a globe of water. But when you give that thing a good shake and flurries and swirls become a sparkling snowfall that creates a tiny capsule of a winter wonderland… well it becomes a different thing entirely. It comes alive and goes from boring to magical in an instant. The thing is, the little snowperson has been surrounded by the snow all along. Every day. She just hasn’t had the perspective to enjoy it.
Listen, this analogy falls apart all over the place but it has had staying power for whatever reason. Unlike a figurine made of plaster, we have memories and can remember the glittery snow falling all around us. It’s those memories that we collect and keep with us. They fill us up on the days the bubble of the world we live in doesn’t seem to be enough. I am rich in these memories, and it makes me feel like the luckiest snowwoman in the world.