I ended up only spending two weeks in New Zealand instead of a planned three. I had a plane ticket already booked out of Middle Earth for the end of March back to the part of the world where all the people live. You know, where you aren’t a 20 hour plane ride to the nearest country. If it sounds like I’m complaining about how far away New Zealand is, it’s because it took me 40 hours of travel time just to get to Europe. (No, not even America!) But I’ll get to that later. For now, let’s talk hobbits. Disclaimer: I’ve never seen any of the Lord of the Rings movies (I think there are several?) or the Hobbit movie(s?) but I still appreciate how much they lean into that shit there. Especially on the South Island where a lot of the filming took place. Air New Zealand’s in flight safety video features actors from the films and even the director. They really go for it. So if as a non-fan I found it amusing, I can’t imagine an actual fan not losing their shit over how Hobbity everything is.
The North and South Islands are like different countries entirely. The people even look, act and talk differently, mostly based on a bigger population of Native Māori people in Auckland and the rest of the North, which is where I started my exploration. I made my way around the city, which is basically just a bunch of buildings next to about 500 volcanos. There is an amazing island called Waiheke that exists only as a wine-lovers paradise. It’s just full of wineries, each one more picturesque than the last, but of course it's ruined by an assembly line of weddings; I’m talking several a day at the same place. How romantic. I was pretty impressed with the scenic beauty of the area but I couldn’t help but shake the voices in my head from friends and fellow travelers telling me New Zealand was the most beautiful place in the world… I just didn’t see it. Until I got to Queenstown.
The South Island is an adventurer’s wet dream and Queenstown is one stop shopping for all of your outdoor fantasies. It’s not on the coast AND it’s cold, so already two strikes in my book, but in all my travels, never has a place overcome those odds to cement itself in my list of top 10 cities. Even though I was frozen the entire time, I absolutely loved it. I did all of the outdoorsy things, complete with mountain biking, trying out the Luge down a mountain, throwing myself off a cliff, (twice) and boarding a tiny sightseeing airplane to check out the Milford Sound, known as the 8th wonder of the world and honestly one of the most incredible landscapes I’ve ever seen in person.
So to put an end to all of the AU vs NZ bickering I will say this: I am happy I ended up staying Down Under that extra week because Queensland (a state in Australia, not Queenstown, a city in New Zealand) is also one of my favorite places I've hit on this 10 month trek, and in life. Would I have liked to have more time to explore Middle Earth? Of course! But not if it meant less time in AU. There's seriously a lot of pressure when it comes to mapping out this trip; where I go, for how long, where I stay, what I spend money on, etc. Everyone has an opinion and someone is always telling me I made the wrong choice. But I care about what those people think just as much as those Waiheke brides care about self respect and originality. So... not at all. Too bitter? Well, I'll admit that some of those weddings resulted in the closure of tasting rooms to the public. I'm sure you now understand my disdain.
I’ve been in Italy a few days now but I honestly have no idea what day it actually is, or when I should be sleeping. Jet lag is something that I’ve grown very accustomed to, it really doesn’t affect me that much because I usually stay awake all night anyway. But this last leg of my trip really tested my commitment to this whole "travel thing." I’ve been homeless and on the road for almost a year. The flight I took to Rome was my 66th. I’m not exaggerating when I say getting back to civilization took me 40 hours, I was so exhausted by the time I got to Italy that I slept for about 25 hours straight. Luckily I was dehydrated from all the flying because I really don’t think I would have gotten out of bed if I had to pee.
I got into an argument with a friend the other day. (this happens a lot, I love to argue) He said I didn’t have the right to complain about being tired from my 40 hour connection filled journey. His logic, though flawed, was something along the lines of humble bragging. Like, here I am complaining about how long it took me to get from one amazing place to another amazing place, while you sit in your office cubicle fantasizing about the weekend. Well guess what? I can and will complain as much as I damn well please. Why? How? You may ask from your uncomfortable office chair. Because I fucking earned it.
This life that I’ve chosen isn’t easy and I gave up a hell of a lot to make it happen. I was just an average person living my life in LA with student loans, a car payment, rent and plenty of medical bills. It took me a lot of time and sacrifices to put myself in the position to be able to take this trip. No one waved a magic wand over me and suddenly made me debt free and simply "luckier" than the rest of you. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that being able to travel the world isn’t amazing; it’s fucking incredible! And yeah, I’m aware that not everyone is able to do what I’m doing.
I guess I’m just tired of feeling guilty about ever having a bad day or not seeing the charm in every new city or just wanting to stay in bed and watch Netflix because I should be out there taking it all in for the people living vicariously through me. Ok, you got me, I don’t actually feel guilty. But how about stop trying to make me? Either way... My conscience is clear and my passport is full. (mic drop)