New Zealand’s beauty never ceases to amaze me. The beauty I see on a daily basis is astonishing. Being surrounded by beauty has created a soft spot in my heart.
It is fall now and we are heading into winter. Yesterday was the first day I really noticed the leaves changing to shades of yellow and red. And last week there was snow on the Southern Alps, which is quite unusual for April.
For the past two weeks I was traveling around the south island. My university has a long fall break (April 4 to April 26) so I have time to explore NZ. I’ve pushed myself to try so many new things. Everything I’ve experienced has been amazing and life changing. At the end of every day, I say, “today was an amazing day.”
I’ve hiked through a few rainforests and a glacier. I went bungy jumping, white water rafting and climbed massive rocks at a place called Castle Hill. I’ve jumped off a few 30+ foot cliffs and went boating through the clouds. I’ve seen the Tasman Sea, Mt. Cook (the tallest mountain in NZ) and the steepest street in the world. NZ has the prettiest beaches, waterfalls and trees.
Each day I experience is just as perfect as the next. It’s sounds too good to be true. And it is. I’ve never been so happy in my life. Monday I hiked up a mountain that looked over gorgeous Wanaka Lake. I laid at the top of the mountain for a couple of hours to meditate. It was so nice to listen to the wind gusting the trees around me. At night I laid on a beanbag outside my hostel and star gazed for a few hours. I saw three shooting stars.
Being surrounded by beauty makes me a happier and more peaceful person. In New Zealand I’ve found my inner peace and tranquility. Traveling around NZ has taught me more than any college education ever could. I think Americans sometimes don’t understand the true meaning of education.
I’ve noticed that every European I’ve met traveling has seen the world and they’re the same age as me. They are so well rounded and have prospective. Traveling before starting college is acceptable in Europe. Americans see young travelers as irresponsible kids who don’t know anything about finances and a proper education. Americans only see it acceptable to travel at my age if you are studying at a university. Even then, my family wasn’t too keen about me studying abroad.
I’ve learned more about culture, life, happiness, love and education just through traveling and experiencing a different way of life. Americans often forget that there are other things to learn about life besides getting a degree to make money. Traveling has brought me more happiness than I even know how to experience. I’ve learned how to love life, people and myself. At home I always had a problem with fully opening my heart to people and myself. But being in NZ has taught me how to love completely and without hesitation. I constantly feel so incredibly free.
I don’t know how I will bring myself to leave New Zealand. I love it so much. And I love the NZ Alissa. I don’t want to return to my busy American lifestyle. It has been so nice not working for once in my life. At home I have never been unemployed since I was able to start working. I thought it would be hard for me to be unemployed in NZ. But it actually was exactly what I needed. I needed to learn that it’s okay to take a break and relax.
Before I left the states, I knew the value of hard work, but I didn’t know the value of relaxation and true inner peace. Both are needed to have a balanced, happy life. So many Americans have no idea how to relax. Even American vacations seem like are chore. Americans plan every detail of their family trips and follow a schedule. The hard working parents often don’t turn off their cell phones and take business calls. If you’re going to take a vacation where you worry about work, responsibilities and stress then you might as well not even go at all. People need to learn how to embrace the power of silence and self-reflection while on vacation. I know doing this has completely rejuvenated me when I travel. I still manage to do the touristy things, but I take time everyday to relax and forget about responsibilities.
I was traveling over Easter weekend, which was weird for me. It was the first holiday I’ve been away from my family. My family has an Easter egg hunt and a meal at my grandparent’s house. My grandparents hide eggs for all the adults too, but they’re not too hard to find. Usually one of the adults (usually my dad) shows up early to grandma’s house and re-hides everyone’s eggs in harder spots so my aunts and uncles have to look for ages. It’s quite funny.
This Easter I went on a two-hour cruise through the Milford Sound. Milford Sound is located in a rainforest and has beautiful rocks and waterfalls. It’s often mentioned as one of the prettiest places in NZ. The clouds are so close to the rock formations and there is a lot of fog from all of the rain. The Milford Sound cruise boat sails right through the clouds. I felt like I was in heaven. The sun peaked through the clouds; I was sure that God was going to appear. The view was breathtaking.
Easter night I ate dinner with my friend Stephanie’s family in Queenstown. Steph’s parents made us a delicious meal in their hotel that had a great view of Queenstown. It was a great Easter and I didn’t feel as home sick as I thought I would. Steph’s parents are great.