Today I have just arrived in Auckland for the beginning of my month long journey from north to south of the beautiful country of New Zealand. Besides the hostel I am staying in tonight, I have no accommodations reserved. Transportation arranged? None. Activities booked? Zero. Everything is shaping out perfectly (and by perfectly I mean I have no idea).
New Zealand has called to me for a long time now. It’s always seemed to me like a magical place on the other side of the world…a place where pristine wilderness meets sustainable community meets remarkable culture. And while I am fully aware it has long been well explored and claimed- by native Maori, by European colonists, by a plethora of adventurous tourists, and by any filmmaker creating an epic fantasy tale- New Zealand still feels to me like a part of the earth that has yet to be tamed. And that speaks to my very core and begs me to come visit.
Now romanticism aside, I am finally here and eager to make my own discoveries by allowing myself to wander about the country as freely as budget and time will allow. Which is why most of my plans are so….non-existent. A lack of itinerary forces me to rely on my own resourcefulness in the spur of the moment and also forces me to interact with and depend on other travelers and locals more than I usually would. It bumps me out of the comfort zone of just dutifully going from one place to another, seeing exactly what I want to see, and knowing just how my trip will unfold. Of course, not having clear plans and not knowing where you may be sleeping that night does add more stress (I’ve already had a couple ‘what the hell am I doing’ moments today, though I think that was a lot of the jet-lag talking), but that certainly does keep me on my toes and make me extra aware of my situation and surroundings. I do have a rough plan which basically involves working my way down the country to Queenstown, my ending point on the South Island, while hitting many of the major cities along the way.
So my trip thus far has included a 13 hour flight from LAX to Auckland on Air New Zealand, which was comfortable and passed quickly, then managing to find my hostel after taking the airport express shuttle into the city centre, and wandering about Auckland a bit. The hostel I am staying out is called Verandahs Backpackers Lodge and it is very lovely. Quiet, clean, and right next to a park, it is the perfect place to unwind and gather my thoughts after the long day travelling. Verandahs is part of a New Zealand-specific hostel network called Budget Backpackers Hostels, which has a fantastic website that makes it easy to find and book unique, independent, and well-acclaimed hostels all throughout the country. If you buy the BBH card, you get $3 knocked off each night you book and it doubles as a $20 phone card. I did purchase the card (for $45 NZD) and while I’m not sure it will entirely pay for itself, I am looking forward to staying in more BBH hostels, since my experience so far has been positive (though I did have to wait a while for Verandah’s office to open so I could check-in even though it was during office hours…but it turns out the manager was getting himself some porridge, and you can’t blame a man for that).
More about Auckland and the surrounding areas coming up once I’ve actually spent time here that isn’t part of a woozy, post-flight fog. In the meantime, enjoy what has to be the best/scariest/disturbingflight safety video, by Air New Zealand.