The year was 2003. I had traveled to a few countries at the time, but nothing all that adventuresome. Then, I got a call from an old friend saying "I'm getting married...in Australia" Could I come? Of course my answer was yes!!! So, I started planning. I wasn't going to fly all the way to Australia and only stay for a few days, so after begging and pleading with my boss I was able to take 5 weeks off from work. The world was my oyster or so the saying goes. I researched Tahiti, but decided that was a little too romantic of a location for a single woman on an independent trip. Next I looked into the Cook Islands--sounded wonderful. Next a stop in Fiji...then New Zealand and finally the wedding in Sydney, Australia. I learned a lot about planning travel...and traveling....on this journey.
My time in the Cook Islands was spent on the beach, in the hills hiking and eating lots of local food. One day as I was returning from a hike I saw a sign for an animal rescue. I have always been an animal lover so I peeked my head in to learn what I could do to help. I was able to spend time with some dogs and give a donation to help keep the operation running. This was my first lesson--travel opens doors to opportunities. Opportunities to help as well as opportunities to learn.
After a week or so, I moved on to Fiji. I was trying to get off the beaten path and succeeded. I enjoyed great conversations with a local family and enjoyed seeing rarely visited parks. However, I learned that off the beaten path is often shorthand for have to take 5 buses and a taxi to get where you are going. I felt like I was always traveling and not really in a good way. This lesson has helped me plan my time more wisely.
Next was New Zealand. I decided on the way to Christchurch from Fiji that I wanted to add a flight and explore another area of the country. The spontaneity paid off by me having a really fun experience at Cadbury World...a chocolate factory tour. This is not something I would normally do on my travels, but in the moment is sounded like the best idea in the world. New Zealand offered my a safe place to be spontaneous and I was rewarded in many other ways. One more example was instead of the typical experience of a cruise on Milford Sound (often crowded), I could learn from other travels that the nearby Doubtful Sound was so much less crowded and less touristy. This was my first chance to kayak in the ocean. Everything was so peaceful and still and I will hold this memory forever.
I like traveling by myself...even now that I'm married, but I can tell you I was so happy to see people I knew when I got to Sydney. Meeting new people is great, but sometimes you want the comfort of the known when traveling. I didn't have to plan everything--I could tag along with others to Bondi beach or for a tour of the Opera House. That took the weight off my shoulders. Of course my friends (Jeff and Liv) had a beautiful wedding ceremony and I'm glad I took the time to enjoy my journey getting there.
I already loved to travel, but I think this is when I was officially bitten by the travel bug and have been exploring often ever since.