A Kiwi On The Loose – My Travel Story So Far

I’m not sure when I first started travelling but one of my earliest memories as child was when I was on an Air New Zealand plane flying from Christchurch to Auckland, and I was allowed up in the cockpit.

I remember it was a night flight and the pilot pointed out the distant lights of New Plymouth and other North Island towns. On another Air NZ flight, I was chosen to hand out the lollies just before landing – a tradition that Air New Zealand still upholds today (the lolly thing, not the cockpit thing). As a kid you felt like you has so much control – you were in charge of the lollies!

Air New Zealand
I’ve been flying Air New Zealand for a long time – I even worked for them at one point

My grandparents lived in Auckland and I spent a lot of school holidays flying up there to stay. I don’t remember much about the time I spent there expect that their house was green and it was near a tennis court that I remember going to with my cousin. They moved to Whangamata, a small seaside town about a 2 hour drive from Auckland on the Coromandel Peninsula, in the early 80’s. I remember one hot summer visiting with my mum. I got horribly sunburnt and my nana made me sleep on the lounge floor.

Another time my mum & I went up to Whangamata, we flew from Christchurch to Wellington, got a bus from Wellington to Tauranga and then another from Tauranga to Waihi, where my nana picked us up in her little orange car. There were no seatbelts in the back seat and the road from Waihi to Whangamata is very windy.. I got a little car sick and my nana couldn’t understand why. That was a mammoth trip!

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This was a long journey when you’re a kid!

For my nana’s 90th birthday my mum, dad & I flew up to Auckland and then rented a car to drive to Whangamata. We had a great time at my nana’s birthday and then my dad & I decided to take a drive up the Coromandel Peninusla (mum had stayed behind with my nana for a few extra days). We drove up to Whitianga, stopping at Hot Water Beach and the giant Kauri trees before heading back to Auckland for our flight back to Christchurch – it’s one of my most favourite travel memories.

My sister moved to a tiny West Coast town when I was about 13 and so began numerous road trips with my dad to visit her & her kids (including driving from Christchurch to Greymouth return on Boxing Day one year). My sister’s house backed onto the beach and I can remember going down the back path to the pebble beach, watching the waves & the kids running around. I’m pretty sure we had a few bonfires down on the beach too.

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My dad on the beach behind my sister’s West Coast house in the 80’s

The road trips with my dad were quite the event. I hated my dad’s music. He loved all this classical stuff and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to survive a 5+ hour drive through the middle of the South Island listening to it. So he was only allowed to play one cassette whilst I was awake – The Irish Rovers (I would have to take motion sickness pills because I got very car sick & they sent me to sleep). And there was one song that we both loved. The Unicorn Song, when I hear it now, I am transported back to those long road trips. Another favourite was Drunken Sailor – maybe that one transported Dad back to his navy days 🙂

There were other trips around New Zealand at various times – just to name a few of the more memorable ones:

  • A road trip to Dunedin with my parents when I was 15, where I tried to photograph Larnach Castle and realised I had the lens cap still on the camera.
  • Flying up to Auckland to stay with my eldest brother & his family when I was around 11, where I can remember watching the Bugsy Malone movie on video (still one of my favourite movies).
  • Driving up to Picton in the back of a bread van with my youth group (yes an actual bread van! A 6 hour trip with no windows or seatbelts and COMPLETELY illegal), then getting the ferry to Wellington for a youth group conference, and having to sleep all the way on the ferry because I got seasick.
  • Spending 3 weeks in Invercargill house sitting for a former colleague. Longest 3 weeks of my life. I couldn’t drive at the time , meaning I couldn’t really go anywhere so I watched test cricket… voluntarily! But I did go down to Bluff – the bottom of the South Island and the original home of Fred & Myrtle’s Paua House, thanks to a friend of my mum’s who drove me around one day.
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Fred & Myrtle’s Paua House when it was on display at the Canterbury Museum

It wasn’t until I was about 27 that I actually flew outside New Zealand.

Being at the bottom of the world meant that airfares to anywhere were pretty expensive. I can remember a time when a return flight to Australia for $800 was considered cheap! Now I object to paying over $400 for a return flight.

My first international trip was not to some far flung place on the opposite side of the world. It wasn’t to a big city like London, NYC or even Sydney.. nope. My first international trip was to Tasmania.

Yep… that’s right Tasmania, that small island at the bottom of Australia. To be fair though, I was travelling solo too. I had to fly from Christchurch to Melbourne and then catch a connecting flight to Hobart all on my own. I can still remember being at Melbourne airport and ringing my parents because I had just seen a police office with a gun… just like the Aussie cop TV show Blue Heelers that I use to watch with my dad. Seeing something like that was kind of a novelty for a kid from NZ.

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Port Arthur Penal Colony

I remember that trip so well. The memory of going to Port Arthur – one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. Driving from Hobart to Launceston. Visiting the amazing historic Ross region. Staying at the very cool Leisure Inn Penny Royal in Launceston. I’ve been planning a trip back to Tassie ever since.

After that, as part of the two year travel course I got to go to the Gold Coast and Sydney for 5 days each. I can remember being driven down to the Gold Coast by my brother and seeing a massive traffic jam going the opposite direction of the motorway. I remember the first time I saw the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge – I still get a bit of a thrill whenever I see them now.

Sydney
Iconic Sydney Harbour from the air from a more recent visit

My niece and her family moved to Brisbane in 2000 and I visited a couple times before I moved there myself in 2002. One of the most epic journey’s I’ve had was going from Brisbane to Melbourne in September 2000.

I had the bright idea to get the train down to Melbourne from Brisbane. What I didn’t know was that I would have to get the bus from Brisbane to Mullumbimby, just over the NSW border, because the train tracks in Queensland are different to the rest of the country; then I got the train from Mullumbimby to Sydney’s Central Station – I arrived in the middle of the Sydney Olympics and had an 8 hour wait for the train for the next leg to Melbourne. Each train leg was 20 hours overnight and it was freezing so I ended up getting a blanket from Paddy’s Market in Sydney for the next train journey. When I finally arrived in Melbourne, I found the city grey, huge and for me, unwelcoming. I hated it!

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That was an epic journey!

On that trip though, I did do something that I had always wanted to do. I got the bus to a little town near the Victoria/New South Wales border, Echuca. I had wanted to visit Echuca because it was the setting for a TV mini series from the 80’s that I had loved, All The Rivers Run. One of the highlights was going on one of the paddle steamers up the Murray River that had actually featured in the show some 15 years earlier. I still have the little card in my wallet that I got from the Sharps Magic Movie House and Penny Arcade that “Reads You Like a Book” and told me that, among other things:

“You are a lover of social pleasures and travel, and will enjoy these pleasures later in life”

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Steamboats on the Murray at Echuca

Since moving to Australia I have been to Melbourne & Sydney numerous times, Adelaide, and a couple road trips down to Byron Bay. Living here has also given me the desire to see more of New Zealand, the country that I grew up in, and I’ve done a couple of road trips around the South Island.

It wasn’t until 2006, when I was 34 that I headed further afield than Australia or New Zealand and that was to Vietnam for my brother’s wedding. To be honest, Asia has never really been one of those places that I felt I just had to visit. Yes I would like to eventually but I have a lot more places on my travel list before I do get there. But when the opportunity presented itself, I decided to go for it.

Admittedly, it was not my favourite holiday. It was hot (even hotter than Brisbane, which gets REALLY hot!!); as a bigger woman I was stared at a lot to the point it made me feel very uncomfortable and there were loads of people.. more than I had experienced before. To say it was a massive culture shock was an understatement. But there were moments of enjoyment as well. If you want, you can read more about that trip here.

Ho Chi Minh crazy traffic
My first experience with Ho Chi Minh traffic

In the past 10 years since that trip to Vietnam, I have been lucky enough to be able to go the UK 3 times (well London 3 times will other parts of the UK thrown in for good measure); parts of Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, France and Denmark. I’ve been on two cruises – one to the South Pacific and one to Alaska (the latter was definitely the better one  & incorporated a few days in Vancouver & Victoria too). And to round out the list was my 40th birthday trip to the USA – Hawaii, NYC, Washington DC & Philadelphia.

I haven’t loved every place I’ve been to. I did not like Paris – it seems weird to say but after London, I found Paris a little blah. I found New York City completely overwhelming and don’t even get me started on Cologne. But one thing I have learned over the years is not to write off a place after the first impression. I mentioned before that I hated Melbourne the first time I went there, now it is one of my favourite cities – definitely my favourite Australian city.

So what are my favourite places? Well that list is long but probably my top threes places (apart from London & Christchurch) would be:

  • Alaska – especially Juneau. I really loved that place!
  • Lake Tekapo – it is a place I could see myself going back to time & time again
  • Washington DC – I loved DC – the buildings, the monuments, it was just a great place to visit.
The Monument
Looking up The National Mall towards The Monument in Washington D.C

Where to next?

Well, if you follow my blog regularly you will know that I am always planning that next trip (and the one after that; and the one after that; and the.. well you get the drift). Next trip is in 4 months to, where else, England for 3 weeks. I’ll be spending time in London (of course!), and York (ticking off another bucket list item).. in between I’ll be doing a road trip through the Cotswolds, Peak District and the North Yorkshire Moors – yes I know it will be cold and yes I know it will get dark early but that’s ok.. it’s all about the experience. So far I have been to England in the autumn, spring & summer so now I will be experience an English winter.

My motto is:

“Once a year, go someplace you have never been before”

That doesn’t have to mean a new international place. It can mean a new city or town in the country I live, or even a new suburb in the city I live. The point of the quote is to get out there and see the world you live in.

So there you have it, my travel story – hope you enjoyed 🙂

Top of the Rock
Travel for me is seeing the world from my own perspective & not through others eyes

 


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