For my birthday this year, I bought myself a trip to Vanuatu. It is a small, island country in the South Pacific that I would have never imagined going to but I am grateful that I did. When I studied abroad in Costa Rica, there was a part of me that felt really guilty about going to a place that, on the surface, seemed less fortunate than the country from which I come. Vanuatu, instantly, reminded me of this. The roads are damaged, the buildings dilapidated, and the pace of life is much slower. All of this contrasted with a harbor that is various shades of blue, verdant hills for miles, and a smile on the face of the people that is of genuine happiness. For me, the people made Vanuatu. They are incredibly friendly and carry themselves with a sense of inner peace that those of us from the "developed" world will never be able to have. Whenever I travel anywhere, the most important adventure for me is to see how people really live. I don't need to stay holed up in a resort or be constantly entertained by sights and sounds, I like to see real life. In Vanuatu, I had the opportunity to visit three local villages and it was eye opening. 78% of people in Vanuatu are unemployed but not because they aren't capable of working but because they are completely self sufficient. They live off of their land and use it for every aspect of life. Many homes are, by our standards, shacks. Some sleep on the floor with only a mosquito net to cover them at night but they aren't poor and they aren't meant to look like "charity cases". These are normal people living their lives and happy with it all. On one day, I was walking through a market and some ignorant woman who had come off of a cruise ship stopped a local and asked him, "If you could choose, would you want my life or yours?" and he just looked at her confused because, I am sure that he thinks that our lives are bad. Sure, I do not want to sleep on the ground but to go through life with a simplistic approach and manner is to be envied. There is no mad dash for money or power. There are no deadlines and social ladders to climb. As long as the sun rises and the food is plentiful, life is good. Beyond all of the people watching and social observations, I did get the chance to go buggy riding through the rainforest and abseil down a 180 foot cliff. I was surprised with myself when it came to the abseil. I had zero fear. I am not a chicken but I am no daredevil yet I just walked to the edge of the waterfall and down I went. I think it is safe to say that Vanuatu is a place that is a once-in-a-lifetime trip. I saw and experienced what I needed to there and I am happy with it. For me, seeing a new place is better than any material object and I happy that I was able to experience Vanuatu.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
"...you say, you're identical to none, but you're identical to some, who wants to be a some? Not me..."
This past weekend, I took the hop over the Tasman Sea to New Zealand. For years, when I had spoken to people who had been to Australia and New Zealand, I would ask, "Which did you prefer?" and without a doubt, they always said, "New Zealand." For me, Australia has always been where I wanted to explore but now having gone to New Zealand, I understand what they all meant. The place is stunning. Every time that you turn a corner, there is another picture perfect shot. The green is greener than I had ever seen, the blue bluer, the mountains higher. It really is an amazing place. I arrived in Christchurch and spent a very cold night there before taking, what was supposed to be a quick flight, down to Queenstown in the middle of the Southern Alps. However, after a two hour airport delay and 20 minutes on the flight, an announcement was made that we would have to fly to Dunedin instead due to a snowstorm in Queenstown. Some people were ticked off but for me, it was a free tour. We landed in Dunedin and then took a four hour bus ride to Queenstown. The ride went through some very remote mountain roads but the scenery was worth it all. After arriving in Queenstown, I explored the town and nearly froze. It is a quaint, little town surrounded by the Remarkable Mountains and on the edge of Lake Wakatipu. On Sunday morning, I took a tour to Milford Sound. We encountered a random snowstorm, so like the toddler that I am, I jumped off of the bus and wanted to have a snowball fight. Upon arriving to Milford Sound, I took a boat tour and we were surrounded by a pod of dolphins at the beginning of the journey. They jumped along in the wake of the boat and added to the views that were too much to take in because everything was eye catching. There was something amazing around each and every turn. After the tour ended, it was back to Queenstown and the following morning, I went to the top of a mountain and got a full, aerial view of the town. I feel like my photos look like I was photoshopped into some crazy scene because it is that surreal there. I have never seen a place that was so picturesque. After Queenstown, a short mid-day flight lead me back to Christchurch and I ventured through the Botanical Gardens and the Canterbury Museum, which is a nice, little place that tells the story of early settlement in New Zealand. Then, it was off to bed and prepping for a 6am flight back to Sydney and then straight to work because I am a champion. I have to say, Australia is still my favorite for sentimental reasons but New Zealand is a must see place for anyone that wants to be charmed by awesome scenery and friendly people.