Monday, February 22, 2010

Operation Red Herring

Forget the excitement, it's fear, fear and more fear.  Who does this to themselves? I mean, really?!? I'm going to be over 8000 miles away.  Holy crap!  What am I doing?  If I don't cry in the first week at least once when I get there, I will be shocked...who am I kidding, before I even leave I'll be sobbing like a big baby.

Ok, this won't work.  So, to avoid completely breaking down and ruining the trip, I have a new plan - I'm going to arrive and live in a constant state of distraction.  That's right, I'm planning to mask the fear, the shock, and the stress with as many diversions as I can find so that I don't have time left to think about being homesick and sad. And eventually, maybe, I won't have to pretend at all. So, I've added new things to my list of to dos in New Zealand...(actually, I just want something to cross off after my first weekend.)

43.  Visit the Kai Iwi Lakes
44.  Camp on the beach

Distraction #1 - Weekend Camping Trip: After landing in Auckland, I'll have a day to sort things out before getting in a car and driving north for a few hours to the Kai Iwi Lakes.  It's there, that I'll spend three nights camping and playing on the beach. I personally can't think of a better distraction upon arrival.
Distraction #2 - Spending Time on a Boat: The Kai Iwi Lakes are three fresh water lakes, located on the Northwest coast just 2.5 km from the Tasman Sea. They have white sand beaches and are surrounded by farmland and pine plantations. Campsites are set up just off of the beach making it convenient to pull up a boat nearby, which coincidentally, we should have with us.

Distraction #3 - Easter with Fellow Heathens: There's talk of a group of people spending the long Easter weekend at a beach house in Omaha (on the East coast of New Zealand also north of Auckland).  BBQs, drinking games, beaches, fishing...not a bad way to spend the holiday.

...and so begins "Operation Red Herring."

About the pictures:  The first photo is an aerial shot of the lakes and the Tasman Sea just beyond.  In the second photo the people are standing near the campsites on the edge of the pine forest.

Monday, February 15, 2010

New Zealand To Do List

I'm starting my to do list for New Zealand and requesting suggestions.  I will have up to 12 months to see as much of the country as possible, so I'm getting it organized. Since I have already been there once I know that there are a few things that I don't need to add.  For example, hurling myself off a bridge (or cliff) into the abyss below, held up only by the hopeful snap of a bungy cord, isn't going to make the cut of fun and entertaining things to do (maybe on a list of death defying acts, but I value my life too much for this one). There are, however, things that I missed during my first visit that I want to include:
  1. Go Blackwater Rafting at Waitomo Caves
  2. Tour the South Island
  3. See a Rugby game 
  4. Go camping
  5. Ski the slopes on the North and South Islands
  6. Figure out what a feijoa is (I can only vouch for its tasty infusion in vodka)

When I shared this small list with my friend who lives there, I was told that I had missed "a mental amount of stuff."  So, with help from someone who clearly loves the country, the ever-evolving list has grown substantially.
  1. Eat a feijoa
  2. Go fishing on Auckland harbour
  3. Catch at least a snapper.
  4. Try to see some dolphins or porpoise in the wild
  5. Learn to wakeboard (the "teacher" has no idea the patience that will be required on this one)
  6. See the Bay of Islands
  7. Go to Cathedral Cove
  8. Dig a pool at Hot Water Beach
  9. Go wine tasting in the Hawkes Bay
  10. Go to a cricket game
  11. Go to Taupo
  12. Check out a farm!!! (these are not my exclamation points considering I've seen several. I'll determine if it's worthy of the excitement)
  13. Visit Wellington, and go to Te Papa (the national museum)
  14. Play drinking games (I can vouch for the entertainment factor of this one)
  15. Attend multiple BBQ's
  16. See a kiwi band play at a small town pub
  17. Learn the difference between a Mars bar and a Moro bar
    (Considering they are both chocolate bars, I'll volunteer for several taste tests to get this one right)
  18. Check out a black sand beach (This is the kind that burns your feet when the sand heats up)
  19. Eat a pie - a real one, a.k.a. a meat pie
  20. Eat a Pavlova - it's Kiwi not Australian! (Either way, I'm still not sure what it is)
  21. Attend the comedy festival
  22. Kayak in the Marlborough Sounds
  23. Walk the Tongariro Crossing (Rated the best one day walk in the world... apparently... by people who like walking)
  24. See Wellington 7's rugby tournament (This may be difficult - all of the tickets for the games in 2010 sold out in 4 minutes)
  25. Mountain biking in Rotorua or Woodhill forest in Auckland
  26. Snorkeling at Goat Island - and feeding the fish
  27. Hike Abel Tasman (a 2-3 day hike along the northern coast of the South Island)
  28. Attend a big fancy dress party (a.k.a. costume party)
  29. Glacier hiking
  30. River sledging
I think this might be one of my favorite (or favourite) lists yet.  It's going to be entertaining trying to get things on this accomplished.  Let the fun begin....(and send my any other suggestions you may have).

About the photos: Top photo - Blackwater Rafting in Waitomo Caves; Second photo - A feijoa; Bottom photo (left) The National Rugby team, the All Blacks, performing the Haka before the game begins

Monday, February 8, 2010

And so it begins

Well, I've done it.  I'm heading to New Zealand in just 28 days.  I have recently decided to make a big (albeit, potentially brief) change in my life.  I have a flight booked for March 9, arriving in Auckland on the 11th (via Los Angeles).  My goal is to stay at least 2 months.  If I can find work, I may stay for up to 12, just to see what it's like to live like a Kiwi.

Since purchasing my ticket, I've been so excited that complete strangers are learning my plans (sometimes before my closest friends and family).  The woman at the bank who changed my address wished me luck, the kid that helped me with phone questions at T-Mobile was stoked, the guy at the Apple store showing me the wonderous benefits of the new iPod Nano thought it was totally cool, and even the Air New Zealand employee who helped me book my plane ticket was keen to hear about my plans.

I have been ridiculously giddy, for lack of a better term,...and just as it builds to near bursting levels, it hits me.  The fear.  The reality of what I am setting out to do brings me crashing back down.  I'm leaving my job, my friends, my family, most of my possessions, my cat, and my apartment to embark on a trip that will take me halfway around the world to who knows what.  My family is fully supportive of this move but that's not completely surprising because, as one friend put it, I come from a family of nomads (and adventurers).  And my friends may think I'm a bit nuts but for the most part they have been supportive, excited, and even at times a bit envious. 

So I continue on my emotional roller coaster ride, careening around the corners, and up and down the hills, silently screaming with excitement and fear the whole way.  All I can hope is that this ride, like the others, will end safely, leaving me with an adrenaline rush, very few bumps and bruises, an awesome experience, and the urge to jump right back in the line to do it all again.

Personal goals:
- Celebrate my 30th birthday in New Zealand
- Experience a new country and culture
- Discover what it's like to leave my security behind
- Create the stories to tell when I'm 90