I’m an impressionable person, especially when it comes to travel. It doesn’t take a lot to inspire me to travel, to build that sorrowful nagging feeling of wanderlust deep within my soul. A feature in a movie, a mention in a book, even a well done photo can all prompt me to book a trip. As much as I look forward to a trip though, I don’t always walk away falling in love with the destination.
I can’t predict what will or will not be a trip that leaves me breathless with that sense of joy and contentment only a new experience can offer. I enjoy every trip, don’t get me wrong, and am always thankful for the opportunity to see new parts of the world. But, it takes a lot to make me fall in love with a place and even want to return. New Zealand managed to accomplish all this, but why?
1. Leaving the bubble – I think that leaving one’s comfort zone a few times on a trip is important. It helps us grow personally and it usually leads to some memorable travel experiences. Leaving the bubble doesn’t have to be dramatic, you don’t have to get lost in Marrakech or try your hand at cat juggling to push your boundaries. Anything new and different that at first makes you a little nervous is always the mark of a great travel experience. I had a lot of these in New Zealand, starting right away with driving. I had never driven on the left hand side of the road before, and my first attempt was on a rainy, dark pre-dawn morning in Auckland. I drove a lot in New Zealand and was always pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Driving was only the start though. New Zealand is the capital of adventure travel, and I found myself doing things I loved but which were out of character. I conquered a lot of fears on that trip, each time finishing with a smile and memory to last a lifetime. This is one of the main reasons why I think New Zealand left such a great impression. Throughout my trip I constantly left my travel comfort zone only to enjoy amazing, once in a lifetime experiences. I’m not alone though, this more than anything is what I think propels most people to visit Kiwi Land and why so many walk away so very content.
2. Reinvention and diversity – New Zealand has an incredible ability to reinvent itself, even though in truth it’s not that large a country. Reinvention in New Zealand takes a few different forms. The first are the stunning natural contrasts found throughout the island. Modern urban cityscapes, glaciers, fjords, soaring mountains, lush farmland – nature in New Zealand takes a million, equally impressive forms. Along with this fabulous diversity of natural wonders are an equally diverse number of things to do, see and explore. New Zealand allows you to be as active (or as relaxed) as you want. The country itself lends to a sense of exploration and wonder hard to find elsewhere. The people who live there add to this, through their sharp wit, warm hospitality and knowledge that you as a visitor are soon to be felled by the shock and awe of the Land of the Long White Cloud.
3. Trip umami – In a recent post I described something I call travel umami. The Japanese have a term for a fifth taste, Umami, a mysterious sensation applied to things which are delicious. New Zealand is my travel umami; something I can’t define but which is one of the best experiences I’ve ever enjoyed. This isn’t meant to be a cop-out answer, but it’s just how travel goes sometimes. There are situations when we like, or don’t like, a new place but can’t explain why. It’s the feel, the smell, the sounds – something tells us at a base level whether or not it is a place meant for us. This sixth travel sense doesn’t always rear its head, but when it does there’s no denying it.
Upon reflection, these are some of the reasons why I think New Zealand appeals to me so much, why I fell in love with it only after a short visit. Hopefully I can return and put these feelings to the test to see if my travel Spidey sense truly works.
Have you been to New Zealand? What do you think makes it so special?