As I sit in my seat aboard our Qantas flight from Sydney to Los Angeles after completing what my husband, Tim, dubbed the “Trip of a Lifetime”, I have to say that he nailed it. We just spent one week in Australia and three weeks in New Zealand. It has been an amazing experience.
It is a trip that Tim has wanted to take for twenty plus years. But four weeks away from home; away from our kids (even if they are now basically grown up); away from work? It was a big step (and a big investment), but we took the plunge and it was well worth it. I enjoyed it so much and while I’m certain tidbits about it will creep into future writings, I wanted to share the top highlights: the 5 most interesting things I learned on our “Trip of a Lifetime”.
1. I have the ability to disconnect from technology and my office for prolonged periods of time.
This was a big step for me on so many levels. I can actually remember when people, including myself, weren’t connected via technology 24 hours per day, but it has been a very, very long time. Confidence in my team, age, and the opportunity to share this incredible time with my husband gave me the ability to relax and enjoy it!
2. New Zealand is an unspoiled, non-commercialized, magnificent country.
The four million New Zealanders are far out numbered by 10 to 1 by the number of sheep they have. It is a very agricultural-based country with breathtaking scenery, from mountains to lakes to farmland to the Pacific Ocean. Neither words, nor pictures, can begin to describe the beauty. The air is clean, light and refreshing and the sky is pure blue…everyday. In addition to the natural beauty, it is an immaculately clean country – everywhere! Literally, no one litters and there is no trash anywhere. Lake Wakatipu set against the glacier formed mountains in Queenstown is very special, but I think my favorite settings are beautiful vineyards and the farms where sheep, cattle, and deer abound.
3. There are no snakes or predator animals in New Zealand (big bonus given my abnormal aversion to snakes).
How cool is that? It definitely makes the outdoor experiences much more enjoyable. You can hike the mountains without seeing bears. Play golf without alligators slyly surfacing on the 9th green. And ride horseback without it being spooked by a snake. There is just really something interesting about being outdoors in any setting and feeling no danger or threat.
4. I can climb Passage Peak (Hamilton Island, Australia) without dying of a heart attack and actually feel great about the accomplishment.
I would love to be able to say this was a breeze. It wasn’t. I don’t think it would have been easy for an accomplished hiker, much less someone whose exercise routine is limited to 3-4 Pilates and occasional elliptical machine sessions per week. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Pilates and it makes me feel great, but I am coming home with a commitment to mix in a few real cardio workouts here and there! Just to put it in perspective so as not to overstate or understate my personal feat – Passage Peak has an elevation of 782 feet and the trail is 1.64 miles straight up and the same straight down. And if that wasn’t enough outdoor activity for a girl whose workouts usually take place in an air-conditioned workout room, we also had a blast kayaking in the ocean off the beach at our lodge.
5. Whale watching in Kaikoura, New Zealand is very unique.
We learned everything about giant sperm whales. I agree with Tim, who said “There is a world of very intelligent mammals that live in the ocean that we don’t consider on any regular basis. “ The giant sperm whales are attracted to this area because of a canyon in the ocean off the coast of Kaikoura. The only sperm whales in the area are males. That’s because it’s cold, and the males have more blubber to insulate them than the female. Giant sperm whales eat a lot of fish and sea animals and grow to 18 meters plus and weigh 60 tons or more. The giant sperm whales live to be 70-80 years old. Wow!
As a bonus we spotted a pod of Orca whales that played joyfully for us right up to the side of our boat and one that carried its recently caught shark dinner in its mouth. It was really special.
BONUS Flavorama machines are awesome!
Flavoramas are very simple machines manufactured in Australia that basically whip hand dipped ice cream with frozen fresh fruit to make a delicious treat! We saw them used at roadside fruit and vegetable stands in New Zealand. We had fresh mixed banana one time and fresh mixed strawberry another.
We are incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to make this trip and share this amazing experience together. We met so many people along the way, the very hospitable Aussies and Kiwis as well as Americans, Canadians, and British, to name just a few. Ate a lot of delicious fresh grown, free range, grass-fed and natural food. We visited dozens of cities, towns, and farms. Stayed at so many amazing lodges, inns, and hotels. Asked hundreds of questions and learned as much as possible. Tim even got to play golf twice! Although we loved both countries, we have already started talking about our next trip back to New Zealand, a country rich in beauty. I don’t mind leaving the work at home, but next time I’d love to bring the kids along!