It’s FriFotos and the word is “Adrenaline”. Playing word association, say “adrenaline” and I’ll reply “adventure”. Say “adventure” and I’ll reply “New Zealand” with a smile on my face. Planning a trip to New Zealand generally ticks off many bucket list items that folks have. For me, it was chock full of adventure – all new to me and all scary exciting since my biggest adventure here at home is the morning commute into Philadelphia each day.
I spent only ten days (not enough!) on the South Island of New Zealand in December a few years ago but the memories, like the photos, are priceless reminders of the stunning beauty of the island and the travel bravery that enveloped me each day. Travel bravery dares you to break out of your daily routine/box/image you have of yourself to try something new, be it food, sport, art or public transit (if you’ve navigated the London tube after a few pints at the pub and found your hotel without incident, well travel bravery my friend).
So what do you want to do today? What will you cross off your list? Do you want to hike, bike, bungee, jet boat ride, hang glide, jump from a mountain, kayak in a lake or act like a kid in a go cart on the side of the mountain? Fly in a helicopter, hike on a glacier, ride a cable car or try a new food or wine? These are only a few of the many adventures to choose from on the South Island of New Zealand. I mixed in a bit of adventure to my travels, some that many still question, but hey I have a photo to prove I did it!
Franz Josef Glacier (take a glacier, add a pinch of fear, a dash of extreme beauty, a helicopter flight and get adrenaline flowing)
Glacier hiking sounded good in theory as I had done this in Alaska a few years prior. So in the early morning, I suited up in the many layers of gear (think stay puff marshmellow man), happily jumped on the scale (no one lies on a helicopter, heck I wanted to add extra kilos just to be safe) and waited in my assigned helicopter line. We flew up to the top of the glacier where it was sunny and bright with a bit of cloud cover in the early morning. With full gear we started our hike only to be interrupted about an hour in – we had to go back asap as the weather had changed and we needed to fly back down to town. Getting stuck on a glacier? That definitely spikes your adrenaline, thankfully we were flown back down to the base without incident. A bit of stress, a slight refund and a reason to find a massage, biscuits and wine to process the interesting glacier adventure.
The day before the glacier hike, I would embark on my very first kayak adventure with Glacier Country Kayaks Not sure why I thought it would be easy – jump in a single kayak and paddle in a lake was how it was explained to me on the bus (I’m a city girl, a lake, in theory, is bigger than a puddle). I wanted to try this for such a long time that travel bravery won out this time. The afternoon tour is a sporty adventure (unlike the morning glide) as the winds ripple the waters according to the website I didn’t read ahead of time.
After getting sorted in the kayak and a few strokes in, I realized that this was a bit more than I envisioned and I was stuck for the next three hours! Trying my best not to give into the thoughts in my head “this is one massive lake about the size of Texas” (not really that large but my mind was yelling), “you fall walking straight, how are you balancing in this plastic toy?”, “try not to flip over”, “fail”, “fail”, “fail”. I tried my best to keep up with the group and near the guide (I was last as they patiently waited at each stop for the old lady -I was in my 30’s, they were all on gap year) and not freak out.
It was the most beautiful, serene place I’d ever been and I had to remind myself to breathe it all it – it was really amazing. We were able to glide calmly (after the water ripple workout) into the Okarito state forest and Kiwi bird sanctuary. Gliding through the water with only the birds (and some ducks) providing background, I forgot about the difficulties crossing the lake.
Once I stopped freaking out (slightly) and over thinking it all, I was able to enjoy the kayak and create a rhythm for myself. The trip back across the lake was a fantastic arm workout where I was determined not to be last. Having accomplished my first kayak adventure, it was a mix of so many emotions. My idea of what I could accomplish once I quashed the negative thoughts (sadly no cookies to feed the monster in my head) exploded with so many possibilities as my vision of who I was continued to change with each new, clumsy, not perfect adventure attempt.
After glacier hiking and my kayaking adventure, I was embracing the new me – the fearless person that apparently I kept well hidden in my day to day city girl routine. Good thing travel bravery exists.
The epicenter of adrenaline experiences. The main street is filled with storefronts selling adventure as easily as the pub sells beer. I had booked the Shotover Jet, a crazy fast boat ride through the River Canyons (too fast to take photos sadly as you hold on trying not to land in your neighbor’s lap or fall out of the boat). That is one action packed adrenaline ride!
After the jet boat experience, once back in Queenstown, I walked a short way uphill to the gondola. I rode the gondola to the top of the mountain to have a bit of fun on the Skyline Queenstown Luge (cross between go-kart and toboggan).
You retrieve your plastic car and attach it to the chair lift to go to the top starting line – a bit of a ride before the ride. Once I was at the starting line, I quickly jumped in and started the trip down. This was such fun, I felt like a kid again (how often do you get to feel that way in life anymore after work, bills, family, gym, repeat?). I wasn’t the fastest kid (I was passed by actual kids) but I didn’t care as the setting was perfect – the Remarkables, Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu – I think you would forgive me for going slow to take it all in a few times. Really, look at the track and the lake, mountains, etc. and try not to imagine yourself having fun here. One run, I did let it go all out and fly down the track in a bit of a “wheeeee”
These are only a few of the adrenaline packed adventures from my South Island, New Zealand trip. They may not scream “adventure” to you like bungee from a cable car over a canyon would but for this city girl they screamed “freedom” from my bubble of city life. Travel bravery won out as it always does, why can’t I add a dash of that in my daily life?
Have you had any brushes with travel bravery around the world? What did you do?