When do you learn more about yourself and the world than you do when you are in school?
From my experience, it happens somewhere in between a first-night 5.0 earthquake, falling in and out of love with an Aussie-Brazilian, jumping off a 440 foot balcony, and touching the clouds as you fall through the sky.
New Zealand changed me; it morphed my outlook on life, and over the next few blogs I plan to share all of the best experiences with you. In addition to this general New Zealand post, I will have separate posts based on my glacier hike, bungee jump, skydive, and Milford Sound cruise. So here we go...the start of my posts about the place that changed my life.
Our group started off in Christchurch, New Zealand; a town lifeless due to a major earthquake a year ago and 1000 smaller earthquakes since then. In fact, at 3am our first night in the hostel, a 5.0 earthquake shook me out of bed and gave us all a pretty good scare. It was an "extreme" way to start the trip. The next morning, we were anxious to get the trip started so we got on "The Black Bullet": our bus and home for a good portion of the trip -- so much fun.
And I guess its about this time that I should address the first life lesson that I learned: Girl Group Dynamics Are Nucking Futs. Our group on the trip consisted of myself, our tour guide Chappy (who I will talk about later), another male named Matt, and 12 girls. Yes...you read that correctly, 3 males, 12 girls. And for all of you who know me, to answer your question: yes, I was excited once I learned this. Hence where lesson one enters the picture. When you are traveling with a group of basically all girls, male social norms go completely out the window. Sex and the City and sororities became the main topics of discussion, there was enough "chill" music to cause Jack Johnson to change to heavy metal, every bad smell was blamed on the boys, and I overheard a few...shall we say "female" conversations that I can never un-hear. When there is that much estrogen in a group, testosterone quickly gets put on the backburner and everything becomes girl-time. And you know what? Despite some of the awkwardness and conversation monotony, I made some GREAT friends and I couldn't have asked for a different group of people to travel New Zealand with. The girls were phenomenal and always kept me on my toes while trying to learn how to work my way into conversations and be social.
|The group jetboating. I am at the top left corner, two males in the middle, and the rest are all girls|
Continuing on from Christchurch, we went to Fox Glacier which I will discuss further in detail in an upcoming post. But it is at this hostel that I discovered my supposed love for hot tubs. It was so relaxing to sit in a nice hot tub in a mountain town before dinner, and I continued this tradition for about half of the nights of the trip at the various hostels and lodges we stayed at. It is why I was awarded the "Most In Love With Hot Tubs" award at the end of the trip, among one other award which I shall discuss later.
From Fox Glacier we continued to Wanaka and stayed there for a night. It was this night where I began my 7-night New Zealand pub crawl. I have never been one to go out every night of the weekend, but I figured, "What the hell? Im in New Zealand -- its Spring Break -- lets do it"...Best. Decision. Ever. The amount of people that I met from night to night was absurd. Girls and guys were so friendly, even more so than in Australia, and almost instantly people were interested in hearing about your life and you were interested in hearing about their's. This was especially apparent when arriving in Queenstown which has my vote for the best place on earth. Here are some photos of our trip to Queenstown as well as Queenstown itself.
|Who is that stud? ;-)|
|The most infinite I have ever seen the ocean...took my breath away|
|Panoramic of Wanaka|
|Almost to Queenstown|
|Panoramic of Queenstown -- taken from my iPhone|
Queenstown is known as the adventure capital of the world. And trust me, it is rightfully so. To explain every extreme activity they offer would be a blog in itself. To me, it consists of some of the nicest people in the world. And just like that, we are at life lesson number two (and its a simple one): Be Nice. Every night I went out to the bars and clubs, I met someone significant: two Australians with whom I had a chinup contest in a bar (I got second with 16 in case you were wondering ladies), two American dudes travelling the world who were some of the funniest people I have ever met, numerous people at Reavers Lodge (the place where we stayed in Queenstown) who I became good friends with, and a Bradley Cooper look-a-like from Perth traveling with his parents who we instantly invited to come out with us. After meeting several of these people at bars is when I realized that the U.S. has it all wrong, and so does Australia to a certain extent. At a bar, you should be able to interact with almost anyone there and discover an interesting person. This is achieved by BEING NICE to other people at bars. All too often in the U.S. people are too weirded out by another guy talking to them, almost to the point that they get annoyed. In Queenstown, everyone is your "mate" and you are all there to have a good time together, whether you know the guy next to you or not. If you are the quiet one off drinking by yourself, YOU are the weird one.
The same applies to ladies, which allows me to brag about the second award I received on the trip, "Biggest Stud and Romancer". I mean really, does that surprise anybody? Haha all jokes aside, it was a humbling award, as much as I tote myself around, that is not how I really view myself. It all started the night I met Isabella (who probably wont read this blog, but if she does then yipee!) who is a Brazilian living in Australia, visiting New Zealand. She was at the Buffalo Bar the same night our group was there and she looked drop-dead gorgeous. Because of my new "Everyone's a Mate" attitude (and that is mate in the Aussie way such as friend, not like a baby-making mate...get your mind out of the gutter...geesh) I went right over and talked to her. She had a cute accent, make-you-cry-they-are-so-pretty eyes, and my God was she fun to dance with. If any of you have ever seen how I dance, she might as well have been the female version of me. I couldnt tell you how many dance-offs we had, the crowd making circles for us to show off our Step Up moves. We danced close, we danced like we were black, we danced the Samba, we danced for 4 hours. The night eventually ended, we said a significantly long goodbye, and I never saw her again (but we are Facebook friends so who knows?). The following night our group went out again, and this time I met two very attractive sisters. We talked over some drinks for a while and meanwhile Chappy (our tour guide) stared on in disbelief as I was schmoozing with these two pretty ladies. Eventually they said to me, "We understand if you want to leave after this statement, but we are both married with kids". The old me would have thanked them for their time and left, but I enjoyed their company and they were fun so I stayed and I was their "creep-repellent" and they became my "wingmen". Transferring from Cowboy Bar to the Buffalo Bar for a second night, the married sisters and I danced the night away. Granted there was not chemistry like there was with Isabella due to their relationship status, but it was a hilarious time, and they said I made them feel young again. Although, I kid you not, they did not look a single day over 25. Trust me people, I couldnt make this stuff up if I tried.
|Minus 5 Ice Bar -- so badass|
|Cold and intoxicated?|
|Cowboy Bar's Awesome Beer Taps|
|Haha...ummm, cool moose head?|
The next nights were less female-active, but just as fun. With the Rugby World Cup starting in New Zealand, the place had ultra rugby-fever, more so than usual. So I decided to join in and buy an All Blacks jersey (the New Zealand team that is currently favored to win the Cup). This team makes any NFL team look like a bunch of Paris Hilton wannabes who lost their panties. And their opening ceremonial Haka? Oh my word is it awesome. If I was playing against them I would literally poop myself seeing that. So for your entertainment, here is me in my All Blacks jersey and the opening World Cup 2011 All Blacks Haka (the Tonga team does their Haka first, just keep watching until you see the team wearing all black):
Yeah...pretty intense. The All Blacks destroyed Tonga that night so everyone was happy. But now we are almost near the end of my New Zealand trip and the last few days consisted of visiting a glow worm grotto and a sheep farm which were both really fun in their own right. Unfortunately I could not get a picture of the glow worm grotto because we were not allowed to. Regardless, here are some pics of the trip to the glow worm grotto as well as the sheep farm:
|Which one is cuter?|
And that brings me to the end of our trip, but not the end of this post. I have a personal thank you to extend to our tour guide Chappy. He and his always positive attitude and nearly-perfect outlook on life, influenced me more than he will probably ever know. So here is the third and final lesson: Be Consistent. Since we were two of the three guys on the trip, he and I had some time where it was just us and we talked about a multitude of things, but the one thing that will stick with the most is to be consistent in your attitude. If you are going to be rude, be rude all the time. If you are going to be kind, be kind all the time. It is exhausting for people around you to guess what type of mood you will be in in a day by day basis, so you might as well stick with one, and to make life even easier on yourself, you might as well always be in a good mood. I know that personally I do not always do this, but during my time in New Zealand I really experimented with this and you know what I found? Chappy hit the nail right on the head. If you are consistently a happy person, you really start to notice how little some of the annoyances are in life and how they dont matter AT ALL. I challenge anyone reading this to just have a positive outlook for a week, see how it fits, and then tell me that it wasnt rewarding.
|Chappy in the middle with two of the girls from our group|
So...when does a vacation transcend into a life lesson?
And when do you learn more about yourself and the world than you do when you are in school?
When you are in New Zealand with the best group and tour guide anyone could ask for, that's when.