Vacation Chronicles from the Southern Hemisphere

Oh hi there, bloggity blog. It’s been so hard to keep up with chronicling the most exciting tidbits of my life in the past six years of my travels. Seeing that I’m a girl who wants to kickstart my career in working remotely and writing for a living, I should improve on this… so here goes.

I’m currently in Queenstown, one of the most stunning cities in the entire world. It’s day 28 of my vacation after a behemoth 9-month ship contract, and I couldn’t be happier. And despite some of the odds against me: Typing this in the dark of a $30NZD hostel on shoddy WiFi; my brand new phone being defective and incapable of cellular service with any carrier (thanks for lending me your phone, Eden – what a champ you are); accidentally goofing twice and planning 9-hour drives in one day (thank you, booking.com and your generous free cancellations); having anxiety attacks whenever I need to drive through roundabouts; overpacking and paying excess baggage fees yet again; and learning that the literally coined “El Cheapo” rental car is not worth the bargain rate when you’re missing Bluetooth, functioning charging ports, smooth steering and acceleration, and proper door lights and mirrors – I’ve managed to still be alive and in an absolute state of bliss.

My last ship contract was a literal dream as portrayed on social media. We sailed through the Med, South America, Antarctica, Hawaii, Alaska, Canada, and even my neck of the woods. I reunited with my family in Hawaii and showed them my life on the ship – and that in itself was worth extending my contract to 9 months.

I’m too lazy to type out a brief recap, so here’s me being a basic California girl and screencapping my Instagram post:

I met lifelong friends, had a dream team for most of the time, and saw incredible places, most definitely. But this was my fourth contract, and it almost destroyed me in every way possible. I both grew immensely as a professional but also felt like my body was giving out sporadically. I had raging, unexplained fevers my last cruise and could barely walk off the gangway on my signoff date – the absolute worst I’ve ever really felt while flying.

Stepping back onto land – and into vacation mode – is exactly what I needed to bounce me back into my real, spastic, food-happy self.

G’day, Sydney!

I stepped off a 15-hour flight to Sydney and into the arms of a dear best friend whom I’ve known for years but never really had the chance to hang out with until now.

We had a week together in Sydney, and it was truly the best. We packed in all the adventures thanks to his meticulous planning, yet also made time for nerdy things like gaming and watching Star Wars.

Vivid Sydney was one of the highlights for me – an annual nighttime spectacular of dazzling light/laser/projection shows across the city – for FREE. Pixar’s tribute to 30 years of animation was a giant montage projection displayed in a tunnel – a real treat. Is there anything more beautiful than walking Circular Quay at night, seeing the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House lit up in color and LED lights!?

We also went to Taronga Zoo (and saw all the adorable animals – including quokka and a lone platypus), SeaLife Aquarium (KING PENGUINS! STRAIGHT FROM ANTARCTICA!), did the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk (probably the nicest walk I’ve ever done in my life), roadtripped to Eden’s hometown (Terrigal) as well as the Blue Mountains, reunited with some of our cruise ship musician pals, caught a few Pokémon, walked through the Botanic Gardens and almost the entirety of Sydney CBD, and definitely indulged in copious amounts of ramen. Eden proved to me why Sydney is considered one of the most gorgeous cities in the world.

It was the first time I’ve been properly shown around Sydney, and through the guidance of a local was the best. I even practiced (or teased) Aussie slang and the accent with 0% mastery.

New Zealand: Ewe should come here

We’ve been extremely fortunate with the weather on South Island thus far. New Zealand is exactly as beautiful as how I remember it being in 2013 and 2014… but it’s so much nicer getting to explore it for such a long time now. Little things have been added here and there (most notably the $1mill bridge in Tekapo ND multimillion dollar shopping complex in Queenstown), but it’s the same picturesque New Zealand.

In 12 days, we stayed in 7 beautiful Airbnbs and explored Queenstown, Wanaka, Te Anau, Milford Sound, Mt. Cook, Lake Tekapo, and Geraldine. Hardly anyone is on the road and in town the same time as us.

Milford Sound was like one of those fairytale places you think are made up because it’s so beautiful and perfect in every way. The only place that gives it a run for its money is Iceland. All the towering mountains, crystal clear reflective water, huge waterfalls, and the way clouds floated perfectly in the middle of the air for picture opportunities – everything was just made up of immeasurable beauty. The cruise through the sounds (or fjords – since it actually isn’t a sound) was incredibly cheap and reasonable, given that you cruise through some of the most stunning scenery for 1.5 hours. We saw plenty of bottlenosed dolphins and a fur seal next to our ferry – and despite the bone-chillingly cold frigid air, it was a marvel to stand on the upper deck and take in all the incredible sights. We woke up at 5:30am just to ensure we made it on time, so the only tradeoff was that we drove in the dark and didn’t see anything on the route from Te Anau to Milford.

Milford Sound really is like the Eighth Wonder of the World.

All you cruise ship people, forget the Solstice, do New Zealand ON YOUR OWN, because you’re missing out on unequivocal beauty that you can’t get by sailing or working on a ship. The drive from Te Anau to Milford (and back) is incredible, and you’ll want to just record the entire journey because it’s so surreal. Yet, it’s the type of beauty that can’t be captured through a lens – you really need to see all of this in person. Hell, isn’t that why half of us travel in the first place!? Photos are great, but none greater than the memories and images seen with our own eyes.

Mt. Cook was also mesmerizing. I hadn’t been before, and our hotel was nestled inside Mt. Cook/Aoraki National Park. Thus, we had a view of towering snowcapped mountains and forestry for two days. There really are no words to describe how much happiness and awe were bubbling up in me throughout this stay.

And who could forget that I’m one of the biggest Lord of the Rings geeks in the world?! Eden thankfully loved and appreciated all my efforts to find as many Lord of the Rings filming locations (as long as they fit into our route). Isengard, the Dead Marshes, the Ford of Bruinen, and even horseback riding through backdrops that definitely could have been used as filming locations – we’ve definitely had our share of Middle-earth fun.

Queenstown and Wanaka are obviously the gems of South Island, and we had the most incredible Airbnb in Wanaka that everyone should stay in (thanks so much for the recommendation, Laura!). I can’t even possibly write down how perfect it was because I’m going to shed tears of sadness that we’re not staying there anymore.

Back to Backpacking

I’m traveling alone again for the next month, hostelling and backpacking it up the best ways I know. I’m grateful to Eden for being the very first travel partner I’ve had – everything was perfectly perfect. Thanks for cooking for us, driving, planning all the Sydney stuff, and for putting up with all my worst habits (most notably, my hunger pangs every hour). You’re kinda great.

Cheers to more adventures in the next month, and let’s all pray that I don’t cause chaos on the roads of New Zealand for the rest of my holiday.

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