As a recent graduate from the University of Colorado, I was faced with what some might consider a challenge: finding a job and “starting” my life. I found a job, actually three—working part time for elephant journal, serving at the Lazy Dog, and catering weddings on the weekends. People would often ask me, “so you graduated college and this is what you do??”
A while before graduation I decided to take a different path than most people. I knew I always wanted to travel-see the world and experience new cultures, but I had no set plans of where I wanted to go. I knew I needed to start saving money if I wanted to set out for a few months so from May until the middle of September I had no life besides work—whether it was at 2 am closing down the bar, or setting up a wedding at 8 am, I was always working. At first I was planning on working until November and then heading down to South America, but when a friend randomly called me up and asked me if I would be interested in meeting him in New Zealand, I simply couldn’t say no. My spontaneous edge kicked in and soon I was on the phone with a travel agent booking flights. I seemed to have saved more money than expected, so I figured why not go to New Zealand and Australia before heading to South America?? Two months later I was on a flight heading across the Pacific to a far away land otherwise known as New Zealand. I found myself alone in this strange world-my friend had visa problems and had to head home, so I decided to just go out on my own in hopes to meet people to join up with.
At first the trip was a bit rocky—I didn’t do much research about New Zealand but I knew that it had a lot to offer. The beginning was frustrating because it seemed as if there were too many options to choose from-should I rent a car? Do a tour bus around the country? Try and find people to get a caravan with? Where should I spend more time? North Island, South Island, who knows! After about a week, I met three guys who I got along with quite well from the start. They offered me to join them and I agreed right away since we shared a similar mindset– going with the flow but also hitting up some major hikes around the country. We decided to buy a car, which turned out being the cheapest way to travel here and soon after we started heading south. While driving along the country, we had to make many stops to take in the views and of course get some photos in as well. We were in awe of what we were seeing. I have been to many places, seen many mountains, swam in many lakes, but never have I seen such vibrant colors and such different terrains in one area. Such a beautiful country untouched by humans with never ending greenery and brilliantly colored rivers and a whole lot of sheep. I quickly fell in love with the cleanliness of the country and the generous people who seemed to respect their land like no other. People here are a lot more mindful of their doings and are grateful for all they have. Otherwise known as ‘kiwis,’ the locals are warm hearted and inviting, and are very passionate about their country and all that it has to offer. New Zealand was the last country to be discovered in the world and therefore a lot of geothermal activity and active volcanoes still exist all over the land and many parts are still untouched by mankind.
I came here because I knew there were a lot of outdoor activities that I love to do like hiking, skiing, rock climbing, and biking, but I realized soon after arriving that this place is more than just that. It is a place where you feel connected to nature, almost a way for you to thank Mother Nature for putting this stuff on earth. It made me realize the beauty of the world before humans arrived, and what we as people have done to ruin all that Mother Nature has given us.
If you would like to read more about my travels, visit my travel blog!
Michelle Gutierrez is an empowered woman and freelance writer.