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If all had gone as planned, I would still be living in Wanaka, New Zealand right now – nestled in the winter wonderland of South Island. But in May, I re-routed, re-evaluated, and embarked on a new journey because my heart knew that I would be happier in Australia.
I spent a full week in Wanaka back in early May, attempting to job hunt and see if I really wanted to stay. Within a few days, I appreciated Wanaka’s beauty but realized I couldn’t live there – not even for a season. It just wasn’t my thing – and you can’t really force yourself to stay if you can tell you don’t fully want to be there. Again, I think it’s a BEAUTIFUL place to visit for a few days, but I wasn’t keen on settling down there.
Influenced by all the articles online and feedback from locals, I thought that Wanaka seemed to be the best fit for a meditative homebody like myself. When I toured South Island back in April, I loved Wanaka despite the mere short hours we had to explore it. It was so refreshing to go there after Queenstown, just to get away from everything and relax for a bit.
And as luck would have it, our tour guide arranged for our group to meet with Young Adventuress herself that night. Talk about amazing. Having the chance to talk to Liz was really inspirational and eye-opening for me, just because she was so raw and genuine about everything.
We even went to this cute little 20s bar, LaLa Land– and we were the only ones there. It was a little comical. With a population of barely over 7,000, I guess that’s to be expected. After all, central Wanaka is only five streets. FIVE. Bigger than Queenstown’s central area, but still tiny. Definitely a transition from Wellington, even.
My time in Wanaka ended up being rather shorter than expected once I moved there on my own a month later. I still managed to hike and explore the area quite a bit (especially with all my free time). I came across trees that were going through change in foliage – I don’t see that often in California. It was so beautiful. The reds, greens, yellows, oranges – all the color combos made for perfect photo ops to showcase autumn in Wanaka.
Some of the shrouded cloud overhang above the towering mountains eerily paralleled The Misty Mountains, straight out of Tolkien’s descriptions from The Hobbit. What a treat. I knew Wanaka would be good to me because of all the beauty in nature everywhere. But in the end, perhaps my heart wanted more stimulation than just trees and lakes every day…
Arrowtown, a tiny town adjacent to Wanaka, was also a gem. It was filled with beautiful trees in similar fashion – reds, greens, yellows, oranges. Truly spectacular. It reminded me of a little Danish village outlined with broad mountains, streams and scenic nature views.
I have nothing bad to say about Wanaka – in my eyes, it’s tied with Abel Tasman National Park for my favorite region of South Island. It just ended up being a place to collect my thoughts and realize I wanted more change in my travels. My leap to Australia, while earlier than anticipated, has been far from regrettable.
And to the great people I met along the way in Wanaka (you all know who you are) – thank you for everything. It was actually the “longest” I stayed in a place without truly settling, and you guys made each day count.