If you have ever traveled with me you know that I love planning trips. The process of researching, planning, and then implementing travel plans allows me to maximize the amount of time I am spending actually doing things vs. standing around twiddling my thumbs -- and its fun! While in many circumstances this is a great thing, I have grown to recognize that this is not always the case. Sometimes I need to stop and ask why it is I am planning things out so extensively. One of the reasons why I tend to plan is that I tie my value to the experiences I am offering. If my friends are having a good time, they are going to think highly of me. If they have a bad time, then it must reflect poorly on me. When I plan like this I lose sight of the opportunities to actually connect with the people around me. If your day is planned out minute to minute it means you don't have time to explore that side trail, or you have to cut short a great conversation with someone because you need to move on to your next task.
As I try and meet my travel goals of doing something new or exciting each weekend, I am tempted to plan out every trip and make sure I cram as much in to the time here as possible. Two weeks ago I was reminded how awesome it can be to do something totally unplanned. I was sitting in my room on a Tuesday playing my favorite video game, Excel & Google Maps, and I saw that there were cheap flights to Wellington over the weekend. Without much thought I book a flight and the cheapest AirBnB I could find and decided I would just figure out the rest as I went. While I will always be a planner at heart, this experience has encouraged me that I can make less of an effort to do things the "perfect" way.
After Friday morning class I headed home to grab my bags and set off for my flight to New Zealand's capital city. Coming from the US I am used to extensive airport security measures--Displaying IDs, shoe removal, pat downs, long queues, etc. With this in mind I made sure to leave extra early to account for public transportation and any airport related issues I might encounter. I was shocked to find out that traveling in New Zealand is way more relaxed than back home. I walked in and within a matter of 3 minutes I found myself sitting at my gate. Now I still think it is prudent to be well ahead of schedule on any airport adventure, but I probably wont leave three hours ahead of time again! Upon landing in Wellington I hopped on the first bus to the CBD with no real purpose or plan. While on the bus I looked on a city map and identified some good starting points for my afternoon. The first thing I did was head up a short hike at one of the area parks and take in the views from Mt. Victoria, followed by a short walk along the waterfront and a glass of apple cider. Pretty exhausted from my travels I Ubered to meet my host Francesca, and head to bed early.
I woke to the smell of breakfast and walked out to the dining area were Francesca and Dolf (her husband who I had not yet met) had prepared a meal for me. I was unable to take in the view the night before, but the sunrise revealed a beautiful marine reserve and island just outside the breakfast table. It is safe to say that I could get used to waking up in a place like this! Francesca gave me a map of the city and helped me plan out my days adventures. We settled on a figure eight through the city that would show me all the sights, sounds, and tasty food.
I had perfect weather for wandering and started out at the pier by Te Papa, a free museum in the CBD. Different artists and vendors had set up exhibits inside shipping containers that lined the waterfront, which was a cool environment to explore before heading into the museum itself. I made my way farther north and eventually caught the historic cable car up to the botanical gardens at the top of the city. I spent the next few hours in gardens and windy forest pathways before emerging on the other side. I continued on to check out the "Beehive" which is one of NZ's government buildings, and taking a nap under a tree in front of parliament. Finishing off my loop I strolled down Cuba Street -- full of food carts and street performers. It was getting to be close to dinner time so I hopped on the next bus south and started back towards the bay.
I spent the evening dining and chatting with Francesca, Dolf, and Friends. In the morning I had just enough time to go for a snorkel and kayak in the marine reserve, with a quick exploration of the island in the bay. The water was pretty chilly so early in the day, but fortunately Dolf and I are about the same size and I could fit in his wetsuit! After packing up Francesca drove me to the airport (45 minutes before my flight) and I was off to Auckland. This was definitely one of the most relaxing weekends I have had since being here, and I think a large part of that is due to the lack of timeline or travel plans.
As I weaved in and out through the streets I stumbled upon an underground market near the wharf. I am usually not much of a shopper, however I snagged some dumplings and an egg roll from one of the vendors before perusing the booths.
Walking back from the parliament building, my sweet tooth was craving something. I picked up my favorite sea salt and caramel ice cream from a waterfront shop and sat with my legs dangling off the dock to enjoy. There isn't much that will come between me and ice cream.
Year of The Dog
The night I returned from Wellington Josh, Anna, and I toured the finale of the Lantern Festival. We spent the evening wandering around the food booths, admiring the craftsmanship of the lanterns, and enjoyed a fireworks show to conclude the event. Living In a city like Auckland it seems there is always some kind of festival or gathering going on. While I tend to find myself exploring the outdoors, I want to also take the opportunity to explore some of the culture and experiences the city has to offer!