Text and Photos by Maren Rhodin
On my 26th birthday this year, I (intentionally) lost my job and home and found myself on a 16 hour flight to New Zealand. It was a trip that was largely unanticipated. One evening, a week before my birthday, I was sitting in front of the fire in my living room and looking at flights for a spring vacation. The two weeks I’d be able to take seemed so paltry. I didn’t want to just play the role of tourist for a smattering of days; I wanted to get past the small talk and the trivialities and really get the sense of a place. Two weeks wasn’t going to cut it. So my fella and I bought one way tickets, found a relative willing to take our dog and packed our bags.
A brief history of my 20s: lost, found, lost, found, lost, found, lost, found. —B.G. Bank
We touched down in Queenstown and within 24 hours we were climbing up Ben Lomond Peak and getting firsthand experience of the temperamental weather that is so characteristic in New Zealand. Ben Lomond inaugurated a trip whose theme was mountains: ooh-ing and aah-ing at them, traversing them and navigating through them.
Our mode of transportation was first hitching rides and then in a beat up old toyota van that had been ingeniously retrofitted to have a convertible bed, a kitchenette and a pull out stove stop. We travelled the entire length of the country either in our van, on foot or in a kayak. We passed the long stretches of driving in awe of the towering mountain peaks, the yellow tussock grass that covered the mountains at high altitude and that gave the mountains a velvety, constantly shifting surface, and the peaked and striated clouds that are the country’s namesake.
We ate more gas station meat pies than I care to admit and pizzas loaded with whitebait fish and green mussels native only to New Zealand. We collected stones and feathers and travel acquaintances and sandfly bites and sunburns and sore feet and overflowing journals. We got stuck in sheep traffic jams, slept amidst the creaking glaciers of Mount Cook and paddled through colonies of seals in Abel Tasman’s turquoise waters. We got lost in the neverending contours of mountains and coastline and found ourselves somewhere in the midst of it all, knowing our presence here would only be brief but New Zealand would always be with us.
Photos (C) 2015 Maren Rhodin
Maren is a yoga instructor, blogger, and big idea enthusiast residing in the Pacific Northwest. She spends her free time in the mountains, sailing on Puget Sound or in the kitchen – preferably all with friends, her furry sidekick Loki and a chocolate bar tucked into her pocket.