Earlier this week Steve and I headed a few hours north of Wellington to Tongariro to do the Tongariro alpine crossing. One of the highlights of the North Island, this 19-kilometre hike is known for some pretty epic natural formations including turquoise-tinted geothermal pools and the intimidating Mount Ngauruhoe—or as you might know it, Mount Doom. It’s also known for its changeable weather, especially this late in the season. When we arrived at our hostel, we were told by the owner that the shuttle hadn’t run for a few days, but that the forecast was good for the following day and she was optimistic we would be able to do the hike. The next morning, under an overcast sky, the shuttle operator told us that he would take us up but that he recommended we wait for a less ominous day. We decided to go anyway and luckily—after two hours of rain—the skies miraculously cleared up and we were rewarded with incredible views.
Going on a holiday often means stepping out of your comfort zone. Sometimes it means trying new cuisine that kinda grosses you out, sometimes it means navigating a country where you don’t know a word of the language, and sometimes it means venturing into the great outdoors when you’d normally rather be at the mall. There were definitely a few people we saw doing the crossing who weren’t particularly well prepared—like the folks on the shuttle with us who had to be driven to a local gear shop so they could rent rain jackets! While Steve and I only did our first overnight hike a few months ago, we’re experienced trampers and were ready for anything. If you’re thinking of exploring New Zealand or anywhere else known for its hiking, here are a few tips to help your tramping experience:
One year ago today, Steve and I left our apartment in Vancouver, moved into a 2003 Ford Windstar, and began the most amazing experience of my life so far. After we convinced the US border officer that yes, even though Steve was arriving with no job, no visa, no ties to his home country, all his belongings, and his American girlfriend, he really *would* be leaving on the flight to Ireland he had booked for 88 days in the future (a few days short of the 90-day maximum to account for any potential flight delays), we began our three-month road trip around the United States.
Now, I’ve talked plenty about this trip, here and to pretty much anyone who will listen, and I’ll probably continue to do so for the rest of my life. Mostly I’ll be sharing the highlights–the amazing moment when we saw the Grand Canyon for the first time, the beautiful sunset we watched from a BLM campsite on a hill in northern California, how surprisingly nice and clean truck stops actually are–with a few of the lows (how inevitable it is that you’ll fight on the road, for one). Today, with the benefit of a year’s hindsight, I’ve been thinking about a few things that I’d do differently if I ever had the chance to embark on such an amazing journey again (and since we’re planning to go on the road in New Zealand at some point, I’m hoping to get to use these tips in the future).
When I first moved to Seattle, I started following a ton of Pacific Northwest-based photographers on instagram. While obviously most of their photos were of places like Olympic National Park and the Oregon Coast, there were also some amazing pictures of places outside of the PNW. And the one place that it seemed like everyone loved more than any other was Alberta, Canada. I must’ve spent hours looking at photographs of Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, the Icefields Parkway, and more, and visiting Alberta—particularly Banff National Park—rose higher and higher on my bucket list.
A few weeks ago, Steve and I made the trip happen. We rented a car, made the 9-ish hour drive from Vancouver, and spent four nights camping in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
Well, I’m back in the United States, and I’m looking back on the amazing time I had in Europe. This past semester in Sevilla has been my second study-abroad experience; last spring I studied with the Ithaca College London Centre in England. At the end of my semester there, I knew I was going to miss Europe when I went home, but I was also nearly positive that I would be studying abroad again this spring, so I didn’t worry too much about all the countries I wanted to visit that I had yet to see. However, this semester (with the CC-CS program in Sevilla) was different. Although I’m sure I will return to Europe someday, with my senior year coming up and who-knows-what on the horizon after that, I have no idea when I will find myself on the other side of the pond again. I tried to make the most I could out of the thousands of amazing things Europe has to offer and now that I’m home, I’ve been reflecting on my favourite places I’ve visited in the continent (in chronological order of when I visited).