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Throughout my travels people had hyped up the South island so much I was actually scared that I would be disappointed. I’m glad to say that the South island actually took my breath away at every spot that I visited. The landscape is so diverse and untouched that it sometimes seemed too beautiful to be true!

We woke up early in the morning to catch the ferry to the South Island. For some reason the Kiwi experience lot dropped us off far too early and we spent hours waiting in the ferry terminal. By now I had developed an addiction to New Zealand chocolate and could easily devour a large bar of Whittakers in a day…

The ferry was really comfortable with affordable food so I decided to treat myself to even more treats. Unfortunately the weather was quite bad so the upstairs deck was closed. The ferry passes through the beautiful Queen Charlotte sound and our guide said that you can sometimes see dolphins and even whales!

Kaiteriteri

One of the most beautiful sounds in the world is ‘Kaiteriteri’ said in a Kiwi accent! We only spent one night in this beautiful place, I could have easily spent a week there. The beach was absolutely beautiful and apparently the weather here is beautiful all year round!

Westport

The drive to Westport was absolutely beautiful and I was starting to believe the hype of the South island.

In the evening we went on a little trek along the coast and spent the night around a campfire on the beach. Another beautiful experience that made me glad that I chose to explore this beautiful country with the Kiwi Experience.

Lake Mahinapua

The drive to Lake Mahnipua was along the coast and the scenery really blew me away. The scenery seemed to be getting better and better the more South we headed! Our guide said that most of this part of New Zealand hasn’t changed since the Jurassic period. There was something so uplifting about seeing scenery untouched by man.

Lake Mahnipua was a peculiar stop. There used to be a quirky old guy who worked at the pub near the lake who was quite a personality but he had recently passed away. We had a fancy dress night where people bought outfits from the local town. I decided not to spend $ on my fancy dress outfit so simply bought a sailor hat and wore a stripy top…

Before the party we had a delicious meal together of steak. I preferred staying in small hostels in New Zealand because we felt like more of a group. In the evening everyone had a great laugh and some of the outfits were amazing considering the limited time we had to plan them!

People said that the lake was beautiful too but I forfeited a walk on the lake for a well needed nap…

Franz Josef

I opened my mouth in awe as the big green bus headed towards magnificent snow capped mountains and shiny white glaciers. The small village of Franz Josef was sophisticated with the most beautiful views of the imposing mountains and kettle lakes.

My time in Franz Josef was action packed, I hiked on the vast glacier one day and Kayaked on a beautiful reflective kettle lake the next. I felt like a great explorer in Franz!

One evening we even went in search of glow-worms along a dark path. It was a lot cheaper than paying $40 to see some captive ones in a cave in Waitomo!

Wanaka

Wanaka, oh Wanaka. Every day in New Zealand I would see the most beautiful scenery in the world. I don’t think anything can beat the view from the beach in Wanaka. Lush green mountains, beautifully blue lake Wanaka and views of snow capped mountains in the distance all topped off with a quirky tree in the lake!

Wanaka is seriously beautiful but I found the actual town to be quite boring.

It was a friends birthday so we enjoyed an Indian and a few beers in a local restaurant and had an early night in anticipation for the early ride to Queenstown.

Queenstown

Queenstown is probably the liveliest place in New Zealand’s South Island. The whole town has a really cool chilled out vibe, there’s loads of restaurants serving most types of food and it has an amazing nightlife!

My time in Queenstown was spent on a bar crawl , eating numerous types of burgers from the amazing ‘Fergburger’, shopping and(Where we visited an Ice bar!) checking out the beautiful scenery around the lake.

I decided to Bungy jump in Queenstown and two of my friends even did a tandem jump!

Milford Sound

Prior to this trip I’d heard that Milford sound was supposed to be one of the most beautiful places on earth so I booked an excursion to go on a cruise there with high expectations.

Milford sound was beautiful, not as beautiful as other places that I’d seen in New Zealand though. The boat tour felt very touristy and although enjoyable was not a highlight of the trip.

Christchurch

On the way to Christchurch we stopped off at lake Tekapo, a lake that could rival lake Wanaka for it’s beauty! It’s the most beautiful turquoise blue colour and we visited a little chapel that overlooked the lake, apparently its booked up years in advance, and I could see why!

I was a little bit apprehensive about visiting Christchurch because of the earthquakes that devastated the city a few years back.

I found Christchurch to be a city of opposites. In one way it was a city of devastation, it was creepy to walk around at night because the streets were empty. It has little to no nightlife and you can feel sadness when you walk around this once great city.

On the other hand it’s a city of hope. In the day the streets are full of families enjoying street performances or bites to eat in the quirky refurbished centre which is now the Re:start mall where the shops and restaurants are housed in brightly coloured shipping containers!

Christchurch was where I said goodbye to all of my Kiwi experience friends. Everyday we said goodbye to someone until I was the last one left.

New Brighton

Due to unexpected circumstances (That I will talk about in a future blog post!) I spent my last few days in the normal working class seaside town of New Brighton. It’s not really a place that attracts travellers, more people on a working holiday visa.

It was nice to spend the last few days of my trip on the beach though. Before I knew it I was on a plane that would take me to Dubai for a night and then back home to spend Christmas at home with my family and friends.

So this concludes the monthly roundup of my big trip! Have you ever travelled with the Kiwi Experience hang? If so what did you think? How did the North Island compare to the South Island? Did you love Milford sound more than me? 

Please ask me any questions you like!

 

 
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Tonight I realised just how much long term travel has changed me.
I was in the fitness boxing class at my gym, I asked a girl who was a similar height to me if she wanted to be my partner. She said yes then asked me in a really condescending manner if I had done boxing before. I replied that I had in this fitness class. She then said that she was a kickboxer and may hit too hard, I simply said ‘just don’t hit as hard then’…
As soon as we started the class I could sense the animosity between us. She barely looked at me and angrily brushed past me. I decided to carry on with the boxing class though thinking that this may just be her personality. I’ve been told myself that I take a while to ‘warm up’ to new people.

Then the boxing started, It’s only a fitness boxing at a local gym for fun and it’s not competative in the slightest. I was first to hit her pads, instead of recieving the impact (I was only hitting it lightly) she was pushing the pad back at me with double the force that I was giving. It was hurting my hands.

Then it was her turn to hit my pads, she was hitting them with full force and I could actually feel the stitches on the pads straining. She then told me off and told me to match the force and called the instructor over saying that she wanted to pad with him!

I’m moderatly fit at the moment so I can’t think why she felt such animosity towards me. Did she think that I was fat or unfit because of my appearance? Either way she was on an ego trip with very negative vibes that I did not want to be part of.

I politely said ‘maybe it’s best if I go and you pair with the instructor’. I just couldn’t handle her negative vibes anymore. The instructor tried to convince me to stay but I just calmly grabbed my things and walked out.

When I was in the gym downstairs I saw a girl who walked out of the class at the start because it was too physical. She didn’t seem so enthusiastic on the exercise bike so I plucked up the courage to ask her if she wanted a little boxing session because I had my own pads and gloves.

What could have been a very negative experience turned in to a very postive experience, I taught her what I knew of boxing and we had fun practicing different punches with each other. I found out that she was originally from Sri Lanka so I talked a bit about my time there and she read my numbers and said I was very chatty because I was a nine!

Pre travel Steph would have stuck out the boxing class even though it was making her miserable. Even if she did pluck up the courage to leave she would be feeling angry and frustrated, not calm like I felt. She would have certainly never have asked a stranger to box with her!

It just goes to show you that the effects of travel are evident in everyday, mundane life. Travel has taught me so much and to have much more respect for myself and others. To care less about what people think of me.

Travel really is the only thing you can buy which makes you richer.

 

Do you think travel has changed you? If so do you have any examples?

 
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If you follow me on Facebook you will already know this exciting news.

 

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I originally intended to travel to somewhere in Eastern Europe after being captivated by Poland’s culture, history and friendly people.  When searching on the Ryanair website I suddenly had an urge to go to Italy. Visions of an Eat, Pray Love kind of holiday filled my mind so I decided to book a return flight to Pisa without knowing much about the region.

I figured that Rome would be full of tourists and that Tuscany will be a little quieter at this time of year (I may be proved wrong…).

The more I researched about the region the more excited I got about my trip. So here are my travel plans for the week.

3 days in Pisa with a day-trip to Lucca. I’ve always been fascinated by the leaning tower and have been recommended to visit the small town of Lucca by a good friend who has travelled in the region.

4 days in Florence with a daytrip to Siena. I’ve always wanted to visit Florence, I love small cities where you can walk everywhere and it seems full of culture. I decided to stay in a campsite on the hills which is a ten minute walk from the centre of the city. I’m staying in a ‘tent-dorm’ which will certainly be a new experience. It will be well worth it though when I wake up to views of Florence and the Tuscan countryside! I also can’t wait to see my favorite piece of art in person; Botticelli’s Venus in the Uffizi!

Siena is a small Medieval town in southern Tuscany, I’m fascinated by medieval architecture and I am going to try to take some beautiful photos on my DSLR.

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Apart from the beautiful scenery and culture I can’t wait to eat delicious Italian food, drink Italian wine and try and blend in with the stylish Italians despite packing only carry on luggage!

 

I miss long term travel but for the time being small holidays are satisfying my wanderlust. I’m so lucky that I live in Europe and have so many different countries just a short flight away!

 

Have you ever travelled to Tuscany? If so do you have any travel tips for me?

 

 

 
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Today I attended Songkran celebrations at a local Buddhist temple. The experience was very different to when I experienced Songkran in crazy Bangkok with fellow travel blogger George on the go!

In Thailand Songkran is a crazy celebration. People of all ages take the streets by storm and cause havoc soaking passers by with super soakers, buckets of water and smear their faces with clay. It’s a very special celebration and it shows how highly the Thais value ‘Sanuk’ in their everyday lives. I had recently read an article online that said that scores of people were injured during the Songkran celebrations and that over 200 people had actually died. It is chaos on the streets during Songkran in Thailand, no one is exempt from a soaking, even people riding scooters! The article I read seemed to be spreading fear and had many other links stating ‘why Australians shouldn’t travel to Thailand’ so the figures may have been exaggerated…

I knew that there was a Buddhist temple in the next town to where I lived but I had never summoned up the courage to go. After seeing an advert in a local newspaer I decided to see what the temple would do for Songkran so I could compare my experience from last year.

I knew that the temple had a number of Thai monks from the original Wat Pra Singh  situated in Chiang Mai; Northern Thailand.

I actually visited the sister temple when I was in Chiang Mai!

As I pulled in to the car park I was atounded to see a car park attendant. I had thought that Songkran would be a fairly small celebration in Runcorn because very few people are Buddhist. I arrived ten minutes early and the car park was heaving, luckily I got the last space.

As soon as I exited my car throngs of giggling Thai girls in traditional dress scurried past me. The car park displayed both the Thai and British flags side by side. As I walked in to the temple it was full of Thai men, women and children giving alms to the monks on the stage. It was totally not what I was expecting and was a pleasant surprise. I never knew that so many Thais lived in my local area! I live in a working class Northern town that sees very little immigration.

I removed my shoes, sat down in the altar room and found a space amongst the bustling bodies. I was astonished to see only four other ‘falangs’ in the room and the room was full of Thais! The service was completely in Thai and I was transported back to Asia when I meditated. It felt so familiar and comforting in a weird way.

It’s hard to think that South East Asia was my home for seven whole months last year.

 

After the chanting we poured out of the temple and ate some very authentic Thai food. Eating that Thai food brought back so many memories of when I lived in Thailand: The time I lived with an ex monk, the time I trekked in the Thai jungle and my first time eating Thai food on a street corner in Bangkok. There were a few stalls selling traditional Thai food and it was nice to see people eating their food communally on the floor, the Thai way! There was also a bouncy castle for the children.

Sogkran was more of a family celebration and I felt quite alone strolling through the crowds solo. I occupied myself by taking photographs of the hustle and bustle and admiring the Thai girls all dressed up in traditional dress ready for the ‘Miss Songkran’ beauty contest.

In a nearby social club there were displays of traditional Thai dancing. It was so nice seeing everyone getting their elaborate costumes ready at the side of the stage and the children dancing enthusiastically to the acts. I had to pinch myself once or twice and remind myself that I was in a working mens pub in a Northern town and not Bangkok!

After the dancing there was the Miss Songkran competitions; both Thai and English girls were both encouraged to enter, It would be hard to beat the exotic Thais at their own game though!

I’ve been feeling quite down about being back in the UK recently, It’s been five months now since the end of my RTW trip. ‘Normal’ life is very different to nomadic life. This little slice of Thailand made me feel a little less homesick for South East Asia.

It was just what I needed.

Have you ever celebrated Songkran in Thailand or your hometown?

 

 
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If you follow me on my Facebook page you will know that I will be heading to Egypt next week!

I’ve only recently come back from Krakow, a place where I spent a very reflective 6 days drinking Polish beer and vodka and learning about the very dark history of Krakow from Medieval times through to World War two.

Now it’s time to travel to my fourth continent and experience a very different side to travel. For the past three years I have travelled on a serious budget, even sleeping in $1.50 a night dorms in Cambodia and taking 10cent train rides through rural Sri Lanka.

Now it’s time to experience all inclusive travel!

I will be staying in Sharm El Sheikh which is located on the tip of the Sinai peninsular lining the beautiful Red sea. I’m excited to spend two weeks basking in the warm sun and using the PADI I gained in Thailand by scuba diving in the Red sea. I want to see Nemo or maybe even a (friendly!) shark.

Recreate my ‘endless summer’ of 2013!

I’m also excited to have my towels transformed in to beautiful statues on my bed each day, sad I know.

Although Sharm may not be classed as ‘real Egypt’ because it doesn’t have magnificent cultural icons like Cairo, I’m looking forward to just soaking up the atmosphere in the souks and observing daily life in Egypt!

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Have you every travelled to Egypt or Sharm El Sheikh? If so what did you think of it? Have you ever travelled on an all inclusive holiday?

 
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I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while but for some reason I’ve been putting it off. Maybe because after the initial 24 hours my thoughts and feelings changed so often that really I did not know what I was thinking. Travel really does change you and coming home is a shock to the system in many ways, both good and bad.

 

My last plane ride felt very different to every other flight on my big trip around the world. Instead of feeling butterflies and anticipation because I was arriving in a brand new place, having to adapt and learn the local ways I felt nervous and excited because I was going back to ‘normal’ life.

I was going home.

My motto is que sera sera, what will be will be. I initially planned to be home after a year, after all I managed to get a career break and I had a job to go back to, a luxury not many returning travellers have. I guess along the way I wished for something amazing to happen to me, for my life to change irrevocably. To fall in love with a person or a place, for my heart to tell me to stay in one particular place, for something extraordinary to happen.

Unfortunately for me this did not happen. I actually felt ready to go home.

My last flight to Manchester actually arrived early. I was surrounded by English people in the terminal and I didn’t realise how much I missed the English accent and the way we interact with each other. I had been away for ten months and was about to meet my parents again. Although we had kept in touch via skype when I’d been away I still felt like I didn’t know what to expect, will it be the same as before?

Throughout my trip I had been waiting for this moment, the moment I walk through the arrivals gate, drop my bags and run towards my screaming parents. As I took the tentative steps out of the arrivals gate I looked around and my parents were no-where to be seen. All around me families and friends were being reunited, tears were shed and hugs were given.

I had missed my moment.

I decided to sit down on my heavy backpack for one last time and just soak in the atmosphere. This was home. This was normality. It felt easy yet alien at the same time. In the back of my mind I was glad that I visited ‘Western’ countries at the end of my trip. Suffering from reverse culture shock would have made coming home unbearable.

They finally walked through the doors, looking the same as when I left them. I don’t know what I was expecting. They didn’t see me and walked right past me so I crept up behind them and surprised them. The feeling of love was overwhelming, it was so nice to see my parents after ten months of new people. Everything felt familiar and almost too easy from that moment on-wards.

In the car on the way home I watched the changing scenery go by, surprisingly parts of the journey reminded me of places that I had seen on my travels, a leafy roundabout in Australia or factories in Malaysia. I had to remind myself that I was now back at home, not on the road.

I had always thought that moving back in with my parents after all this time would be weird but it was the most natural thing in the world. It was nice to sit in familiar, comfy surroundings and feel completely at home, something that is rarely encountered on the road. After sometimes experiencing loneliness on the road,  it was so nice to have people to talk to all the time, people who understand me and know me.

After flying for over 30 hours in the past 4 days I was mentally and physically exhausted. I went to bed to try and sleep but my mind was in overdrive. I couldn’t stop thinking about the past, present and future. I was in a new cycle of my life and I couldn’t focus. I stayed up the rest of the day and ate loads of salad, I was craving it after weeks of unhealthy eating in New Zealand. I watched TV and was very happy just doing nothing. Not having to think about anything, plan anything, everything just felt easy!

I was overwhelmed by the amount of possessions that I owned, despite selling or giving away most of my possessions before I went travelling. For 10 months I had owned just what could fit on my back, now I had a room full of pretty shoes, dresses, handbags and makeup and I wanted to try them again right now! Probably my favorite part of coming back home was ‘going shopping’ in my room, finding outfits and possessions that I had longed forgotten about. It felt amazing when I wore my first vintage dress again. I felt more like ‘me’.

I had expected to be inundated with invitations from friends but that was not the case. People get on with their own lives when you are away. When you get back you have to fit in to their lives again. It’s crazy to think that life goes on without you.

After a few days I did meet my friends, other family members visted me and I started to feel more settled. What surprised me most was how little people wanted to talk about my trip. I had kept everyone updated about my whereabouts on Facebook but I still thought that people would love to hear my travel stories, about the time I lived with that crazy ex monk, when I rode an elephant or even the time I jumped out of a plane at 12,000 feet. Nope, no-one wanted to know anything.

I guess if you have never experienced long term travel you can’t be expected to understand what it’s like. Maybe people are not interested, maybe they can’t understand what it’s like or maybe they are jealous that they won’t take the plunge and travel.

I will never know. All I knew was that I would never be the same person that first stepped on the plane to Dubai.

Travel has changed me and I’m ready to start the next chapter of my life.

 

How did you feel when you came back from a long trip away? Did you find it hard adjusting to ‘real’ life or did you find it really easy? Did your friends and family react how you thought they would?

 

 

 
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Before my big trip I always had such a romantic view of Malaysia, the name itself conjured up images of an exotic country, the pearl of Asia and one where I would feel like I was a million miles away from the Western world.

I couldn’t have been more wrong if I tried….

As I boarded the posh bus from Singapore to Melakka my stomach was filled with butterflies. Melakka was a place that I knew very little about, I actually picked a random place in Malaysia and booked a bus ticket there and then. This was what real travellers do! I crossed my first land border as I crossed the border from Singapore to Malaysia, the process seemed too beautocratic and I was already starting to hate my 20kg backpack as I dragged it from scanner to scanner.

Then I was through the border! In a different country! I struggled to find my bus in a carpark of identical buses and then I was on my way to ‘The pearl of Asia’.

I didn’t want to read or sleep on the bus, I wanted to see every bit of this new country on the journey, the butterflies faded as I saw miles and miles of road, tarmac and sparse vegetation. I soon realised that Malaysia was not going to be the exotic country that I had been hoping for.

But that was not bad, just different to what I was expecting. As a newbie traveller I still had an awful lot to learn about the world and I needed to stop seeing it through rose tinted glassess and see the real countries.

The bus stopped for a toilet break (I was surprised to find the dreaded squat toilet…), I was starving but had no ringets to buy some food. We then made our way to a massive bus station where I was going to try and find a bus to the centre of Melakka.

At this point I wished that I had done even a little bit of research about a new country. Luckily my fears were unfounded and it was easy to buy a bus ticket, the gentleman even told me when to get off the bus.

As I looked around the bus station I saw women wearing hijabs in every colour under the sun manning stalls selling modest Islamic clothing. The hijabs were differnet to any that I had ever seen before and had kind of an integrated peak in them. It certainly felt very different to Singapore, Sri Lanka and Dubai but everyone was very friendly and I felt at ease.

I boarded the bus to the city centre and was gretted by the world’s chirpiest bus driver. I stood up for the entire journey because I could not cope with the pain of picking my backpack off the floor when I had to put it back on again.

The bus driver let us off at the ‘Dutch Square’ that had a beautiful terracotta church in it’s centre. I cheekily asked fellow backpackers if they knew the way to my hostel, Jalan jalan hostel. They pointed me in the right direction through the narrow busy streets.

The streets were bustling with activity, cars and bikes whizzed past me as I watched people setting up market stalls for the night market.

It seemed alive!

Some helpful locals pointed me in the right direction and I found my hostel. Little did I know that I would be staying at one of the friendliest hostels in the world where I would meet friends who would travel in Malaysia with me.

I thew my backpack next to a free bed in the ten bed dorm that had no windows and set out to explore the town centre. Every corner I turned held a sight to behold, beautiful mosques and buddhist temples set against shops selling every item under the sun. It felt like a weird juxtaposition of East and West, of old and new. Exotic enough to feel like I was in ‘real’ Asia but Western enough that I didn’t feel culture shock.

 

That night I went out for a delicious Indian meal with the rest of the travellers from my hostel. I met a guy from England that in time was to become a Buddhist monk and partied the night away with my new friends in a crazy Malaysian disco where we ‘falangs’ were the centre of attention. The next day I wandered around the beautiful town and riverfront and ate a very delicious burger in one of the many bijous yet cheap restaurants dotted around the quirky town centre.

Malaysia was not what I was expecting at all!

 

Have you ever travelled to Malaysia? Did you have any pre-conceptions about it like me?

 
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On Wednesday I celebrated my two month anniversary. It’s been two months since I got back from my amazing 10 month trip to the other side of the world and back.

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The beautiful Old Town square in Krakow

Although I’ve enjoyed being back home It’s been hard adjusting to ‘normal’ life again. A life where I can accurately plan what I will be doing for the next few weeks if I want.

Did I mention that I hate repetition and knowing what I will be doing each day?

I decided that two months at home was enough for me and that I was ready for a new adventure. I’ve always been interested in the history and culture of Poland and I’ve always wanted to visit Auschwitz. I visited Dachau in Munich in 2012 and it touched me more than I can ever imagine. I learn’t a lot about world war two and humanity despite having more questions than answers when I walked out of the gates.

So I decided to combine my love of history, culture and beer and visit Krakow!

Krakow will be my first foray into Eastern Europe, a place that seems very mysterious and intriguing to me. In the past I have only visited Western Europe and I can’t wait to see how different it is.

I’ve even started to learn basic Polish, It’s a lot harder than any other language that I’ve attempted to learn but I’m trying my best!

I’m back on the road, if only for 5 nights….

 

Have you ever travelled to Krakow or Poland? Do you have any tips for me?

 

 
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My tenth and final month of travel was spent in beautiful New Zealand. After feeling thoroughly underwhelmed by Australia, a country I had initially dreamed of emigrating to I had no idea what to expect of Australia’s quiet neighbor. I had nothing to worry about, I soon fell in love with the natural beauty and laid back lifestyle. The food was amazing and the people were genuinely friendly with a similar sense of humour as the British.

It was just what I needed.

The first week was spent visiting family who I had never actually met before! Initially I was nervous about sopending time with someone who I’ve never met before but after a week I didn’t want to leave. My Dad’s cousin was absolutely lovely and made me feel very welcome. I also got all of the inside gossip about what New Zealand is REALLY like!

The beautiful Coromandel

I went for a weekend away to the beautiful Coromandel Peninsular with my cousin’s workmates, (Who were all midwives…). Apart from hearing far too many gory stories about childbirth I had an amazing weekend. I visited a winery and vineyard, saw a pod of killer whales just ten metres from the beach and even got a proposal from a Kiwi boy who didn’t want me to leave New Zealand!

Was it a sign? Am I meant to live in New Zealand?

Look at that beautiful food and wine!

I discovered that the world is a very small place when an acquaintance messaged me on Facebook to tell me that her best friend was in New Zealand, alone and wanted someone to travel with! Could the timing have been any more perfect?! Her best friend actually went the same school as me and it was so nice to travel with someone with the same accent, who knew the same people and places that I grew up with.

My initial plan was to rent a car and drive across New Zealand, my friend Ashley had actually booked to travel on the Kiwi Experience bus, a sort of semi organised tour. I decided to join her and had a very easy, fast paced month of travel where I met some amazing people and did many things that I would only do once in my life!

All aboard the Kiwi bus! I’m rocking head to toe grey…

The first stop on the Kiwi Experience bus was the Bay of Islands in the North. Most people stayed here for a few days but we decided to stay just one night. I enjoyed getting to know other travellers on the Kiwi experience bus and took a ferry to the cutest little island Russell where I saw a manta ray in the clear blue waters of the marina!

Auckland tower

The next stop was Auckland, I stayed there in the suburbs for the week I spent with my family but I never actually had chance to explore the actual city. My friend took a few of us on a whistle stop tour of the city and I ate one of the most delicious burgers of my life.

We travelled up to the Coromandel Peninsular to the amazing hot water beach, it really does have to be seen to be believed, like many of the crazy geo-thermal wonders of New Zealand. We dug our own hot spa on the beach, such a surreal experience.

Helping to dig the thermal spa on hot water beach!

In Waitomo I got to see glow worms! It’s hard to believe that the actual ‘glowing’ part of the worm is it’s faeces! As we travelled down the country to Rotorua we visited the amazing Hobbiton. I’m a big Lord Of the Rings and The Hobbit fan so I was in my element posing near the cute Hobbit Houses. I really was in my element!

Posing in magical Hobbiton.

Rotorura is a small town that smells like eggs because of geothermal activity. Right next to the hostel that we were staying at there were bubbling pools of mud and water that were only surrounded by fences the year before. The Te Puia geothermal reserve was where I saw a geyser erupt and ate an egg that was cooked in a geothermal pool.

Geothermal activity selfie…

Te Puia

A Geyser erupting

Then we travelled to Taupo, a place I was dying to go to and secretly dreading because I would have to jump out of a plane at 12,000 feet. Luckily I didn’t wimp out and skydiving was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Even to this day I still can’t believe that I had the guts to willingly jump out of a plane! In the evening I went on a relaxing cruise on Lake Taupo and wore my skydiving T shirt with pride! I wanted to hike the Tongariro crossing but unfortunately it was closed due to bad weather. I was still buzzing after skydiving so I had a well needed chill day in the hostel.

Feeling on top of the world after jumping out of a plane at 12,000 feet!

River Valley was a peculiar stop. It’s not really on the tourist trail and it’s basically a lodge in a secluded location. Most people went white water rafting but I used the time wisely and had a nap. I was finding this fast paced travel really enjoyable but also really hard. I was used to travelling at my own pace and staying in each place for a minimum of 3 days, here I was lucky if we stayed somewhere for 24 hours! It was good not having to book or research anything and to have a ready made group of friends for a month!

My last stop on the North island was the surprising little city of Wellington. It lived up to it’s name of ‘Windy Wellington’ but was a charming and beautiful little city. One day we took the cable car to the  botanic gardens at the top of the hill which had fantastic views of the Sea and the city. I also had a much needed Chinese massage for only $20. It’s a place where I could see myself living in the future.

Have you ever travelled to New Zealand? If so did you find it very different to Australia? Have you ever travelled on the Kiwi Experience bus?

 

 

 
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Ooh, I was nominated for the Leibster blog award for the second year running by Char Williams from LovefromCornwall.com.

So here are the answers to the 11 questions asked by Char!

1) What motivates you to blog?

I enjoy writing and imparting my knowledge to others. When I was planning my big trip I absorbed the itinerary and packing list of every solo female travel blog I could read. I have experienced and learnt so many things on my travels and I want to help both newbie and experienced travellers.

2) Top three favourite blogs?

Adventurous Kate and Never ending footsteps are my favorite blogs. I love their writing style and they are what inspired me to travel to South East Asia and follow in their footsteps.

I also used to love Girl and the world, she inspired me to travel to Sri Lanka even though it’s not a typical backpacker destination. Unfortunately the website is no longer updated.

Beautiful Hikkaduwa in Sri Lanka

3) What was the best day of your life?

Wow, what a hard choice! Climbing Adams peak was special, we started climbing at 1am and watched the sun rise from the Buddhist temple at the top. It was a very special travel moment.

4) The best place you’ve ever travelled to?

Koh Tao was my paradise. Good food, beautiful beaches and it’s where I got over my fear and completed my PADI.

5) Who would you hate to be stuck in a lift with?

David Cameron.

6) …And who would you love to be stuck with?

Baz Lurhman (The director of The Great Gatsby and Moulin Rouge), I would love to see inside his amazing mind.

7) Most embarrassing moment of your life? (I’ve had many!)

Forgetting that I had a knife in my hand luggage when going through security in Australia, oops!

8) Describe your ideal Saturday… no cash/travel limits!

Wow, I guess I would wake up in a luxurious hotel in the Maldives, enjoy breakfast on the beach then go for a scuba dive.

I would travel to Naples for lunch, enjoying real Italian pizza. Then head over to Rome and Venice for some sightseeing.

I would then skydive over the Grand Canyon in America and enjoy a steak with a cowboy in Texas. Mmmmm

I would then pop over to Iceland to see the Northern lights before enjoying a few drinks in an icebar then falling asleep in a big, fluffy bed.

That would be my perfect day if a time/teleportation machine was invented.

9) As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

It sounds really boring but I wanted to be a dentist or a geologist. I collected rocks and was fascinated about how they were formed and where they were found.

Saying that I was also obsessed with Tomb Raider, I wanted to visit the places she does in the games. Now I can say I have :)

10) Favorite song ever?

I absolutely love Porcelain by Moby. It reminds me of a time in life where I went against everything that I knew and planned a whole year away. The song is featured in the Film ‘The Beach’ and it was always my dream to go there. In August 2013 I realised my dream and travelled to Maya bay in Thailand.

11) The best advice you’ve ever been given?

‘Decide what you want to pack in your backpack then just pack half.’

I took a massive bag and greatly overpacked for my trip. I was in South East Asia for most of it where just a few vests, pair of shorts and a dress or two would have been perfectly adequate. Don’t be like me and carry a 20kg backpack around the world!

My nominations are:

George on the go

Y Q Travelling

Helen in Wonderlust

My Eleven questions are…

1) What is your most essential possession in your backpack?

2 What is your least essential posession in your backpack?

3) Where was the first country abroad that you visited?

4) What spf do you use? (If any?)

5) What is your favorite travel song?

6) In your opinion what country has the best food?

7) What continent is your favorite?

8) What backpack/suitcase do you use for travel?

9) What is your favorite foreign beer?

10) Have you ever kissed a fellow traveller?

11) Describe your ideal Saturday… no cash/travel limits!

 

I look forward to hearing your answers!

 

 

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https://www.facebook.com/PearlsandPassports