One of my favorite parts of having a blog is being able to learn about other people’s experiences in different places around the world. While it might be a bucket list goal of mine to visit every continent, every country, every city, I know that’s not necessarily realistic, and its for that reason I love living through the stories that others are able to tell me about these places. Plus, I love passing on this information to share with you all, too!
Earlier this summer, one of my friends from high school took a trip to New Zealand with several other students from her college (Gannon University in Erie, PA). As she posted pictures of her adventure and the gorgeous scenery on her Instagram account, I knew I had to ask her more about her trip, and she was gracious enough to take some time since then to answer the follow questions for the blog (thanks Liv!):
1. Why did you travel to New Zealand?
I attend Gannon University to study occupational therapy. It’s a pretty demanding major which made it hard for me to find a school that I would be able to study abroad through without getting behind. The amount of students at Gannon studying to go into the medical field is so significant, so knowing that a group of students suggested a program that would make traveling easier. This became the T.R.A.V.E.L Program about 5 years ago. This was a huge deal for me because it allows students to choose a place they want to go and provide them with the guidance to get there. There are numerous trips every year that go to different places at some point after finals for about 2 weeks. I chose New Zealand because it has been at the top of my bucket list for as long as I can remember. I also chose it because the focus of the trip was adventure and wellness, which is also right up my alley! We don’t get any credits for going on these trips, but the experiences I had with the people and the skills I gained throughout the process were worth so much more.
2. What was your favorite part of the trip?
I’ve been asked what my favorite part of my trip was so many times already, and each time my answer has been different. I’ve said bungee jumping because that was a brand new experience for me that brought out a little bit of an adrenaline-junky side out that I never knew I had. I’ve said Queenstown because I can honestly see myself going back and living there some day. It was the place I felt most comfortable, and it was also the most beautiful. Another favorite was Cathedral Cove which is at the Coromandel. It was the most amazing and unique beach I have ever seen. I could have spent years just sitting on that beach. Overall, just experiencing the culture there and living the way the kiwis live was amazing and that was what had the strongest hold over me.
3. Can you tell me a little bit about the process of getting there (since it’s just about halfway across the world).
Getting to New Zealand was a long process. I have always loved to go to new places and experience/learn new things, but I’ve always just done road trips for that. This was my first experience flying ever. Go big or go home right? We had a total of 8 flights throughout the trip. It’s safe to say I’m a pro now! We took a bus from my school in Erie, Pennsylvania to Toronto, where we flew out of. We flew from there to San Francisco, California. Then from California to Auckland, New Zealand which was a 14 hour flight. From Auckland we took two flights down to Queenstown where we would start our trip and make our way back up for two weeks. About 2 days of traveling and the time difference…you could say we were exhausted, but that would be an understatement.
4. What are a few things people might want to know before going to New Zealand?
If you are planning a trip to New Zealand, be prepared to never want to leave. I can’t tell you how many people I met who said that they were only supposed to be there for a couple weeks and now they’ve been there for two years. It really is an amazing place with amazing people and they seem to have it all figured out. It helps to talk to people who have been there because you can pick and choose from what you personally like to do. I was there for more of the hiking and scenery, so I would tell people who want more of that to stay in the South Island. Auckland City wasn’t really for me, but that’s only because that is my personal preference. My final tip is do your research and stay in hostels, they are money savers!
5. What were some of the other highlights of the trip for you?
We had packed days every day, so highlights are hard to choose! I would say Milford Sound was a big favorite amongst my group. We did the cruise and it was breathtaking, no pictures could capture the beauty it gave off. The wine tours in New Zealand were all really amazing. I brought back a bottle of pinot noir from Gibston Wines, where they store all their wine in a huge cave. The cave keeps the wine at a perfect temperature and makes for a pretty cool tour! We also went to Rotorua which is basically a volcanic valley. The hikes were amazing there. The rocks were so many different colors and you could see the markings and ridges of the lava flow on ledges. I know I’d really like to go back and see the Emerald lakes there. We didn’t get to go because it’s a hike that takes a few days to do. In Rotorua we learned about the ancient Maori tribe which is still present in New Zealand. It’s a really amazing culture that people are finally embracing rather than trying to oppress which was really amazing to see. Their customs include a lot of singing, dancing, rituals, and amazing food. What’s not to love?
6. Could you talk about Huka Falls a little bit? I saw some of your pictures from your trip there and the water looks absolutely beautiful!
Huka Falls was another place I wish we could have spent more time at. This set of falls is located on the Waikato River. What attracts people to it is how blue the water is. It was unbelievable and yet another place where the pictures just don’t do it justice. There are a lot of celebrities from the U.S. that have summer homes along that river not just because of the water, but all around that area is so beautiful! There is kayaking and a jetboat that goes up stream to the falls that would have been a really cool experience! The blueness of the water is completely natural and just another unique place in New Zealand that you wouldn’t find anywhere else.
7. How did you plan what excursions you were going to take/what sights you wanted to see?
Making our itinerary was very difficult because we obviously wanted to do everything, but that’s just impossible. We decided we would hit the big places (Queenstown, Wellington, and Auckland) and then talk to our contact in New Zealand to see what she recommended based on our focus on adventure and wellness. We ended up doing a lot of tours which made things a lot easier. We lucked out with how amazing our tour guides were! For Wellington to Auckland we were with an older couple for about four or five days and they were so knowledgeable, not to mention they loved us and said any of us could stay with them if we ever came back and needed a place. Picking the right tour guides helped us out a lot because they just fit everything they could in to help us get the best experience possible!
While I wanted to know so much more about the trip (and let’s be honest, wish I could have taken it myself), I almost feel like I was able to live out the experience just through these photos alone by hearing her talk so highly about it.
To see/read more about their adventure, check out the group’s blog at https://gannontravelnz.wordpress.com/ !