BEHIND THE VLOG: Welcome to New Zealand

Get your cups of tea/coffee/whatever beverage you'd prefer to consume, and prepare to get comfy because this is about to get weekly! Wait, what? Carolyn is going to actually blog weekly for once in her life? Yeah, that's right, I'm sticking around to annoy you every Friday with content from my trip to New Zealand in December. Deal with it.

*SNAPS FINGERS*

So this is how it's going to work: Each week I'm going to be uploading a new blog post chronicling my time in New Zealand. Sometimes these posts will have vlogs to accompany them, and other times it will just be words and images. I wish I could have vlogged my entire experience for you but I honestly struggled a lot between wanting to create content and wanting to enjoy the moment, letting it pass without having to worry about sharing it with anyone. 

I have arranged these blog posts in the order I'd like them to be consumed. My vlogs will always be the first thing you should watch as they are somewhat more chronological than my writing and photography, and will give you a better overview of whatever it is that I'm trying to convey. 

The other thing to note here is that I actually have a full and honest dislike for myself in front of the camera rather than behind it. So just know that the process of filming, editing and posting my vlogs is both humiliating and horrifying for me. Please be kind.

I guess you’ve realised by now that this isn’t going to be your usual travel blog. Sure, I could spit out my recommendations and reviews for you, but where’s the fun in that? If that’s what you’ve come for, I suggest you quit this tab and head on over to Tripadvisor now. My style of travelling isn’t something you can find a review about. 

In fact, I looked at no reviews prior to leaving Australia. Because I left the country with nothing but my flights and my car hire booked. I had no plans. No accommodation. No friends. And I had the wildest time of my life.  

I woke up and my eyes automatically directed themselves out the window, forgetting that for the majority of the flight, we were just flying over the ocean. However, to my surprise, the sky was littered with bright lights beaming down from every direction. From the horizon to as high in the sky as I could look at through the minuscule plane window, starlight was filtering through the earth's atmosphere, brighter than I had ever seen before. I couldn't help but press my forehead against the hard plastic, my eyes wider than ever, trying to absorb everything in. What a miraculous thing the universe is; being able to make us feel incredibly small when really, we are open to an infinite number of possibilities. Nothing felt real, yet at the same time I had never felt more alive whilst I viewed these small shining lights, which travelled millions of light years for me to witness at this specific point in time. I breathed deep, inhaling all my feelings and exhaling everything negative. I knew I was on the right path. 

(I should mention, that whilst I was feeling all of the above (and furiously writing down these thoughts in the Notes app on my iPhone) I was actually silently balling my eyes out. I wasn't sad, I just get overwhelmed by stuff easily. If the perfect song comes on at the perfect moment, it's hard for me to hold back the tears. Heck, I was sitting in Moana last week with my best friend and I was crying because everything was so beautiful and I honestly just wanted to be back in Hawaii, a feeling I haven't been able to shake since leaving the island state at the end of June.)

I couldn't sleep for the rest of the flight. Anticipation was pulsing through my veins, thoughts racing a million miles an hour through my head. I'd like to say that I was just wildly excited but I was also nervous beyond belief. I'm not one to always make plans whilst traveling, but a little bit of research beforehand never goes astray. I was flying into a new country blind. Albeit, New Zealand is very safe and very similar to Australia, but I still jittered at the thought that once I landed I had no idea where I was going to go next. 

My feet hit the ground running, racing against all the other passengers to get through customs as quickly as possible. I hooked up to the wifi, messaged my mum to tell her I had arrived, bought a sim card and sat down with a filtered flat white coffee from McDonald's. I tried to sit out of the way so that I could pull out my laptop and camera without disturbing everyone, something that I unsurprisingly do frequently. 

"Whoa, nice camera!"

I turned to my left and smiled. A young-ish guy was nibbling on a hashbrown and eyeing off my gear. His name was Josh and he was from California. He was visiting NZ for the first time and staying with some family friends three hours south of Auckland. We exchanged numbers with the promise of hiking later in the week.

Beyond Auckland city, rolling hills cascaded as far as the eye could see. I quickly learned that flat land in New Zealand just doesn't exist. You were either driving up a hill or down one. I snaked around bends and over ridges behind a convoy of cars heading for the Northland.

Everything was an electric shade of green and more beautiful than I could have imagined. Every turn brought new vegetation, new sights and sounds and smells. One moment I'd be overlooking vast farmland, and the next I'd be viewing an archipelago of islands through my windshield. My breath was constantly taken away by the wild natural beauty of the Northland. The phrase, 'oh wow,' passed my lips multiple times throughout the day.

As I rounded a corner, I spied a sign with an arrow pointing to the right. WATERFALL it exclaimed. I quickly turned and found myself standing at the edge of a cliff, watching water rush over boulders and into a pool below. After what felt like hours, Whangarei Falls were a blessing. To stretch my legs, I climbed over rocks and perched underneath the falls, cooling off on the light mist that was drifting upwards as the waterfall pounded the river below. The light was glorious, the air was fresh and I felt content.

Spending my first night at Uretiti Beach was the perfect end to a very long day. I sat on the edge of a sand dune, my feet buried in the sand with a really big grin on my face. This is why I had come to New Zealand. This is why I booked no accommodation. I wanted to experience the unexpected and learn what I'm capable of, both physically and mentally. 

Would I get lonely? Would I be homesick after a few days? Could I actually survive without washing my hair every two days?

All very legitimate questions that flashed across my mind multiple times during my first 24 hours in NZ.

And by the end of my first week, they were all questions that seemed stupid to ask myself even to begin with. Of course I was going to be fine. In this moment, whilst I was sitting on the beach watching surfers retreat back into their cars, I knew it in my heart too. The sun dipped below the horizon behind me and I walked back to the campsite, zipped myself up in my thirty dollar sleeping bag from Kmart and drifted off to sleep on the backseat of my rental car. 

 

MAP OF ADVENTURES

travelCarolyn West