I spent a month in Middle Earth. No, make that Narnia. Or maybe it was a place made for Heavenly Creatures, or perhaps it was the territory of a pair of Concords. Or maybe, just maybe, I spent one of the best months of my life in one of the best places on planet Earth – New Zealand. I've traveled to many places in the world, and one or two of them have made me question my desire to return home. New Zealand didn't offer me that question; it grabbed me by the wrist and demanded that I stay there for as long as it could keep its hold on me. Because of that, walking onto the plane to LA was one of the hardest decisions I made. Not only because I love the country so much, but because being disconnected from my normal life for a month made me question what I was really doing. If I had stayed, let go of what I'd been told was the right path for me to take, the accepted course of action, would I have become a spiritually richer and more complete person? Or would I have crashed and burned and come crawling back to my family and friends in the United States? I stepped on that plane and returned as I should have, though, so I don't know the answer – at least I won't until I return as a backpacker, which I am determined to do. It seems like this trip was a dream – I left dead trees and snow behind, and then I came back to the same thing, making the month inbetween feel like it never happened. I've left New Zealand for now, but New Zealand will never leave me – Aeotearoa, the Land of the Long White Cloud, its people, its nature, its heart and soul will be with me forever, and will keep pulling me back for the rest of my life.
But enough with the philosophical stuff. I had a great time, I met great people, and learned a lot about similar and different cultures all on one tiny landmass. The feeling of walking into Cathedral Cove was one thing I will never forget, as is pushing myself to do the 18.5km of the Tongariro Crossing, which in the end was worth more to me than I could have ever dreamed – from the times I was left speechless by the scenery to the moments I thought I was going to die! Every second of every minute of every day was spectacular, even the times when I was tired, stressed out, or frustrated. I learned in class, out of class, about myself, and about other people. It was a strange feeling waking up the Friday after we landed and not being in a room with 7 other people and all of their luggage, but I guess I'll get used to it soon enough. I'll always have the pictures, the memories, the friends I made, the knowledge I gained, and the desire and will to return. One of the most important things I learned was to let myself have fun, and that I can do anything as long as I have the willpower to see it through. I've taken those lessons home with me, and I will take them back to New Zealand the next time I step on those fair shores, however soon or distant that may be. I'm just grateful that this trip was made possible, so thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to everyone who had a hand in creating it and everyone who shared it with me.