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Nathanael Martin 

In November 2016, I embarked on my second international solo trip–this time to Australia & New Zealand. My primary destination was New Zealand, but I couldn’t pass within a 3-hour flight of the last continent I hadn’t been to (besides Antarctica) and not stop for a couple days. I flew into Sydney and spent two days touring the city and area. Sydney is very beautiful, as cities go–the opera house and bridge are impressive. Also the Royal Botanical Gardens are beautiful and a very nice escape from the artificial buzz of the city. I took a full day tour into the Blue Mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage area–just a couple hours drive from the city and more beautiful than I expected!


After hopping over to Christchurch, on the South Island of New Zealand, I got started on the main part of my trip. The weather in New Zealand is very localized and notoriously poor much of the year. It was cloudy much of my time there, and I dodged some rain but I was blessed with some incredible weather and gorgeous scenery in between it. After I realized how localized the weather was, sometimes I was able to reroute myself just a few miles, taking different hikes than I had planned resulting in beautiful weather instead of pouring rain!


My trip proved a bit more exciting than I anticipated as well. My second night in New Zealand I was rudely awakened at midnight with the entire building I was in shaking with a major earthquake! It kept going for a long time (3 minutes I would later learn)–really scary! I’m still reading news about this earthquake now–it was a magnitude 7.8, centered only about 60 miles from where I was. Thankfully the bulk of the energy went in the opposite direction so there wasn’t any damage near my location.


Other than the earthquake my trip was amazing. I completely fell in love with New Zealand and really want to go back. I hiked several gorgeous trails, spent a night on the amazing Milford Sound, and even toured a famous filming site from Lord of the Rings, Mt. Sunday. After a week on the South Island I hopped to the North Island and spent a couple days there, touring the glowworm caves, a kiwi farm, Hobbitton, and Rotorua. I also hiked the Tongariro Crossing which is rated one of the top 10 day hikes in the entire world.


I would highly recommend New Zealand for anyone who enjoys the outdoors and natural beauty–it literally cannot be compared to anywhere else in the world. I don’t tend to be someone who repeats the same experience over and over–but in this case I want to go back so bad I almost dropped what I was planning for 2017 to return to New Zealand. I will definitely be going back before too long! When I return though, I really want to rent a small RV (they are inexpensive) so I can have flexibility to follow the fickle weather wherever it’s decent at the moment rather than being stuck to a set itinerary.

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