The Lord of the Rings. That’s what we’re all envisioning here since I’ve tagged New Zealand in this post, right?
Rolling green hills, fields housing more sheep than there are people in the country, beaches and blue waters littered with surfers. An island far enough away from anywhere else that it is often forgotten on maps, a home to welcoming Kiwis and native tribes as well as backpackers from across the globe. The rainbow happy dreamland that has taken root in my head over the past several months is my new home, but something feels a little off.
Sure, I could have researched a bit more thoroughly before flying nineteen hours to live alone for 5 months. I could have simply Googled a picture of the University of Auckland, or conducted a basic search of “things to do in Auckland.” Did I prefer the gem-colored ambiguity of a mysterious adventure that would certainly unfold over spontaneous road trips across mountains and valleys with companions who would last a lifetime? Certainly.
See, I’m the type who refuses to watch movie trailers. I’ve personally outlawed reading the back covers of books, and I most definitely do not skim reviews for plays or films before attending them. I like a surprise. I possess that naive and rosey outlook on all things exciting and new that guarantees I will enjoy whatever experiences roll my way; more specifically, I will enjoy those undeveloped dreams much more authentically than if I had searched them online first. I’ve only just landed in New Zealand, and already I can see my mistake.
An urban campus wedged within the country’s largest city, the University of Auckland crouches between Queen Street (the 5th Avenue, the M St, the hub of city life) and Quay Street (an endless waterfront boasting more happy hours and rustic coffee shops than a millennial’s heart could desire). My flat is down a steep but short hill from campus, a bit closer to the harbor and surrounded by corporate high rises. Did I expect more of a cottage shared with rambunctious uni students, edged by green farms and a short walk away from tramping trails? Yes. This was a bit of a surprise.
I chose New Zealand because of the wild, to hike and surf on the weekends and be struck daily by that natural beauty I was unwilling to dilute over a screen before. As a biology student, I have the opportunity here to take ecology classes that study the exotic evolutionary patterns that characterize such a unique island, then walk outside and see evidence of them myself. I’m seeking out other souls who remain restless. New Zealand is a bit of a melting pot — its adventurous attractions draw people from all over the world who are looking for that joy of feeling lost in order to find something new.
That’s probably what I’m the most uncertain about. That in avoiding ways in which I might take away from the spontaneity of my time abroad, I’ve limited myself to a narrow idea of constant stimulation and daring travels. However, I’m starting to realize that whether I had memorized a 50-page guidebook or didn’t even know where New Zealand was, this country is bound to surprise me in the best ways possible. I’ve just landed, so now it’s time for me to go meet those people, find those mountains, and start living the reality that will most assuredly be better than I’ve imagined.