3-2-1-BUNGY!

Ever since I've been a kid, I've always been adventurous. My dad and I would always try to sneak me on the big kid roller coasters even though I was still slightly too short. When my travel buddy, Viktor, said the #1 thing he wanted to do in New Zealand is bungy jump, at first I brushed it off.

I already went skydiving at over 10,000 feet with a 50-second free fall--bungy jumping should be nothing comparatively. The Nevus Bungy is the largest bungy jump in New Zealand. It used to be the biggest in the world until a bigger one was built in Macau, China. Even so, at 134 meters (440 feet) with 8.5 seconds of free fall, I thought it still couldn't compare to skydiving.

However, since a couple of my excursions in Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier were cancelled, I had some money left over and decided to go for it. 

Queenstown is the home of the first commercial bungy jump in the world.  If I was going to bungy anywhere, it should be there. 

After meeting at the bungy office in Queenstown, I was weighed and signed some "I won't sue you if I die" papers. We were driven about 40 minutes out to a canyon that, apparently, we were going to jump into.

Yeah, that white thing on the top left? That's the gondola I jumped out of.

Yeah, that white thing on the top left? That's the gondola I jumped out of.

The Nevus Bungy team was great. They paid a lot of attention to us, our harnesses, and our questions. Finally, we headed out to the canyon. There was a cable wire connected to both sides of the canyon with a seemingly small gondola in the middle which hung about 350 meters above the river.

While waiting for the mini gondola to bring us to the big, stationary gondola in the middle of the canyon, we got to watch a couple jumpers. They fell so much farther than I expected they would. From that angle, you could really see how much the bungy stretched once the jumper got toward the bottom.

It was pretty scary to watch but I was excited! Viktor has been talking since the day I met him about how afraid he was and how big of a deal it was. Well, it was obvious as we looked over the canyon, that that feeling didn't go away. 

We took the little gondola to the stationary gondola in the middle of the canyon. It was a very small and open gondola. Only about four or five people fit in it and we could feel the wind sway us back and forth.

Fun fact that we found out when arriving to the stationary gondola: IT HAD GLASS FLOORS!! That was something we were not expecting.

When we got to the stationary gondola, there was loud pump up music playing. I'm guessing it was supposed to get us PUMPED UP to jump into a canyon! A woman that I met on the Milford Sound cruise, and knew was bungy jumping that same day, was all set up and being coaxed to jump by one of the workers. Apparently, the pump up music wasn't working for her because she must have been up there for 15 minutes.Her husband video recorded every second of the coaxing to make sure he didn't miss her bungy. He didn't.

The gondola roared with applause as she jumped and when she was brought back up. She was so happy when she noticed we were behind her the whole time. I had to ask, "What did they tell you to get you to jump?"

She smiled a quivering smile and said, "The guy finally asked me, 'Other than fear, what is preventing you from doing one of the coolest things you can do on this planet?'"

It made sense to her then. After she thought about her kids and how proud they would be of her when she jumped, she bluntly replied, "Nothing," and jumped!

We were all so proud of her!

Viktor was next. I'm surprised he didn't piss his pants. He kept repeating how terrified he was. I told him that if he keeps talking it up to himself it'll only make it worse! To be honest, I think it was more fun for him to make himself as afraid as possible. Makes sense, I guess. 

Viktor jumped with his GoPro in hand and then it was my turn. Well, here it is in photos. 

Getting strapped up while Viktor is brought up.

Getting strapped up while Viktor is brought up.

See ya!

See ya!

Disclaimer: Bungy jumping is more scary than (tandem) skydiving.

It was amazing. It was truly an out-of-body experience. As they were setting me up in the chair, there was a big gust of wind that shook the gondola. They are very careful about high winds so I had to wait a few seconds before they gave me the OK. 

The guy took be by the back of my harness and basically walked me off the plank. When I got to the edge, they dropped my bungy cord which gave my ankles a small, yet terrifying, pull. It was time.

3 - 2 - 1 - BUNGY!

I didn't jump. My body did. At least, that's how it felt. It was amazing. I free fell for a total of 8 seconds, which was plenty of time to comprehend what I just did. Unlike tandem skydiving, I did all of this myself. I shuffled my way to the edge of the gondola basically by myself, I looked down, and I had total control. With tandem skydiving, you really don't have a choice. You have very little control where with bungy jumping, I stared at the river 488 feet below me and just went for it. Yeah, I might have had a thought or two that jumping would result in whip lash or a broken bungy cord, but I'd have a pretty boring life if I don't scare and surprise myself sometimes.

Bungy jumping 440 feet didn't leave me in pain like I thought it would. The only thing that was a bit uncomfortable, and totally wicked, was that it was hard to breathe for a bit mid-jump. It's weird because I don't remember that feeling when skydiving. I couldn't have had that much trouble breathing while skydiving, though, because I free fell for almost a full 60 seconds. 

Long story short, bungy jumping is incredible. It is a must-do when visiting Queenstown. 

See the full video below!

Cheers,

Shelly

I (almost) stayed in Australia

During my travels through New Zealand, I learned quickly that Americans have a stupid idea of "traveling." 

I received almost no support when I told family and friends that I was traveling solo. I even received backlash when I said I was traveling solo for a month. 

A whole month? What if you get robbed? What if you run out of money? Won’t you be lonely? You can’t trust anyone. You might get taken or raped. I don’t think you should go.
— A family friend, 12 hours before my flight to Auckland

First of all, I'm more likely to get hurt or robbed in Philadelphia (my workplace) than I would anywhere in New Zealand. It's probably the safest country in the world. Second, I have always been smart with my money. I choose to spend my money on traveling (and sometimes shopping when I'm sad). 

I have been working since middle school and have spent my money on a big trip almost every other year afterwards (Australia twice, Spain, California twice, Argentina, New Zealand). I even had enough money left over this time to buy myself a car when I got home.

Lindsay, Davis and I at Byron Bay in Australia.

Lindsay, Davis and I at Byron Bay in Australia.

At first, I thought a month was a long time away from home. But I knew I had to stay that long in order to truly experience the country and still go and visit my college friends, Lindsay and Davis, in Australia.

When I got to New Zealand, though, I didn't meet one person that was traveling for a month or less. Every backpacker I met was planning on traveling for three months, six months, a year, undetermined. Backpackers would feel bad for me because I'm American and most Americans have it in their heads that they can only travel for two weeks at a time. I was naive about traveling before this solo trip.

After a couple weeks in New Zealand and meeting so many people working and traveling around the country, I started thinking about what it would take to stay longer. The idea never became serious, though, until I met Viktor at a hostel on the South Island and started talking to Lindsay and Davis more about my work options in Australia. Viktor is an American that planned to travel around New Zealand for 5 weeks then spend a year in Australia to work. During  his time traveling around New Zealand, he decided he would probably just keep traveling through Asia and Antarctica for an extra year or two. He bought a one-way ticket so his options were unlimited. I, unfortunately, booked a flight home.

A couple days before I left for Australia I was video chatting my parents. I wanted to tell them my thoughts of me traveling a bit more, but I really wasn't sure how to bring it up or what their reactions might be. 

My mom then said, "So are you ready to come home yet?"

Well, now that you mention it....

After I told them about my plan, they laughed. Then they kinda got quiet. Then my dad left the screen. Then we hung up. 

To be honest, it wasn't the worst reaction I could imagine. 

Even though my parents helped pay for my trip, I received zero support from my mom after that conversation. I told her that Lindsay's restaurant (which pays about $30/hour on the weekends, not including tips) is looking for more waitresses, I would have a place to stay, I already had friends there, and I would probably stay for the summer then travel a bit more with the girls. 

My mother was not having it. Even after the 1,000 questions, she didn't give me an ounce of understanding. She just couldn't comprehend that I decided to change my plans. I can understand why she would have so many questions; she expected her only daughter to come home in a week and a half then finds out she might not come home for 6 months. She would have missed me like crazy.

To be honest, I did not handle it as sensitively as I should have. At one point, after days of no support and frustration, I finally said, "I'm not coming home."

I love you and know that you want this. I thought about it and I would want you to support any decision I make. Why shouldn’t I support yours? I would hate to be the person that stands between you and your dreams. If you do decide to stay longer I will be upset because I’m going to miss you and worry a lot. But what is life if you can’t live it the way you want to?
— My supportive boyfriend, Steven, after telling him I'd be traveling for 6 more months

I had 2 jobs lined up in Australia and I already talked to the travel agency from which I bought my tickets. It would cost me $200 plus the price difference. My boyfriend, Steve, was incredibly supportive. 

After a while, I was feeling guilty. I gave my mom a week's notice that I wasn't coming home for a few more months. That sounds a little immature of me, I know, but I'm my mom's life. She's my best friend. She loves to live vicariously through me, especially when I went to college and when I travel. Out of respect, I accepted her request to text her everyday and let her know what hostels I was staying at. She would even research the hostel and tell me things about it. One person I met called her a "Helicopter Mom." 

Ouch.

But really, it's just because she wanted to experience New Zealand with me.

I started telling Steve that I was thinking about just coming home. It would be much less complicated. For example, if I stayed, I wouldn't get any support from my parents which means I would feel guilty even asking them to send me things as simple as my birth control pills. I would also have to fly back to New Zealand, spend US$400 to get an Australian working visa, then come back to Australia. If I were allowed to apply for the Australian working visa in the country, it would have been so much easier. I just didn't feel like backpacking New Zealand again. Because I probably would have to wait a few days for my visa, I figured I could take that opportunity to see everything I couldn't get to the first time on the North Island. However, that just sounded exhausting. I was getting comfortable in Brisbane with the girls. 

Byron Bay with Davis, Nicole, Gibbons, Harry, Leroy, and Lindsay

Byron Bay with Davis, Nicole, Gibbons, Harry, Leroy, and Lindsay

I still wanted to do it, though. I wanted to work in Brisbane for 3 or 4 months then travel South East Asia with them for 3 months. I knew I would miss my family and my boyfriend, but I knew they'd always be there. Working and traveling more sounded like something I truly wanted. I was happy in Australia and I knew I would feel like I chickened out if I went home. Steve kept encouraging me to stay, though. He said he knew I'd regret it if I came home just because it would be "complicated" or "too hard."

#HesAKeeper

I knew I had to choose: Do I want to go home to the people who make me happy or do I want to do what makes me happy?

The morning I was flying back to Auckland in order to apply for my Australian working visa, I got an email from the travel agency from which I bought my Air New Zealand tickets. Previously, I told them I'd like to change my tickets to sometime in May. Because the agency was in the USA, the time change made conversing difficult. That morning, the email said that for me to change my tickets, it would cost between US$700-$900, which included fees, penalties, and the price difference. I was devastated. That along with the $400 working visa and flight back to Brisbane would put me out over $1,400 overnight. I decided I would just go to the airport and talk to Air New Zealand in Auckland directly.

Long story short, I decided to check my bags to Philadelphia. It was a really weird feeling. After talking to Air NZ and not getting anywhere, I knew that if I checked my bag in Auckland, I wouldn't see my belongings again until I landed in Philadelphia. There would be no going back.

I just stood there at the airport. On my left side was a line of cabs that could take me into the city where I could find a hostel, apply for my visa, and book a flight back to Brisbane. On my right side was Air New Zealand check-in that wouldn't take any more of my money if I simply checked my bag. 

It would have just been too much money to change my ticket. To get my Australian visa, I would have had to prove I had "sufficient funds." That means I would have to prove I had at least $5,000 in a bank account to keep me afloat if I couldn't find a job in Australia. After paying for my visa and flight change, I simply wouldn't have that money.

Lindsay said she didn't think they even checked her bank accounts. Viktor said he had his bank accounts checked but he had his parents lend him the money for a week then transferred it back into their accounts after he received his visa. I knew I couldn't ask my parents to do that. In no way would they proactively help me stay. 

I'm still feeling uneasy about my decision. I'm spending my days in Philadelphia writing, exercising, and networking in order to truly start my career. On the bright side, I'll be able to save and travel again. On the not-so-bright side, I might have a job that will deter me from doing so.

 

Cheers, everyone,

Shelly

Wanaka

Viktor booked us a hostel at the Flying Kiwi Backpackers.

Thanks, V. 

Our bus drove us along beautiful Lake Wanaka and allowed us to jump off the bus and take some photos before we got into town. The bus dropped us off in town right next to the lake. It was gorgeous! 

We wanted to walk around a bit but we first headed to our hostel to put our things away.  One of the main things I wanted to do in Wanaka was hike Roy's Peak. Apparently, the view is amazing overlooking the mountains and Lake Wanaka. But when we got to the hostel, the receptionist said that the trail was closed due to lambing. There was another hike that she suggested that has a similar viewpoint to Roy's Peak, but it was a 40 minute drive and we would have had to hitchhike.  I feel like after walking for 7 hours, hitchhiking that distance just to get back to town wouldn't be the most fun.

In Wanaka, you definitely have to check out the Paradiso Cinema. It's so cool. For seating, they have so many different kinds of chairs like airplane seats, a dentist chair, couches, etc. The previews include lots of local shops and excursions, which was different than the traditional movie theater.  

I went to see The Martian (highly recommended). During intermission, we left the theater room to grab our dinner that we ordered when we arrived. The hot cookies looked incredible. I was told (after the fact) that I should have got one. 

Paradiso Cinema, Wanaka, NZ 360queenstown-wanaka.com

Paradiso Cinema, Wanaka, NZ

360queenstown-wanaka.com

The Paradiso Cinema is a must-do in Wanaka.

 

Cheers, 

Shelly

Small World, Small Island

 

In Franz Josef, a couple friends and I went to Monsoon, the "club" of Franz Josef. We walked up to the bar to get a drink when two brothers, Josh and Jordan, started making conversation with me. They said they were from Wanaka, my next destination.  

Small World, Weird Story Time: 

On the plane from Philadelphia to San Francisco, I met a guy who I sat next to on the plane who was also traveling to New Zealand. He was staying with his uncle in Wanaka to help him build his new house. I never heard of Wanaka before but I told him that if I traveled there, I'd let him know. Turns out, we never added each other on Facebook. I tried to find him but the only two things I knew is that his first name was Ty and he was from the Lancaster area. Short story short, I couldn't find him. 

Now, this is a couple days later at this bar in Frans Josef talking to these two brothers who own a bar in Wanaka. I told them about this kid who is living with his uncle, and Josh said, "Oh, Tyler!"

Ummm... What? Is this country seriously this small? Apparently, Ty's uncle goes to Josh and Jordan's bar all the time. Josh had Ty's number so he said he'd tell him that I would be in Wanaka in a couple days. The next day I woke up with a Facebook friend request from Ty.  So bizarre, right?

Viktor, Ty and I met up at Lake Bar, the one that Josh and Jordan owns. It's a really cool bar/restaurant with great drinks. Josh gave us pints for $5 and a bunch of fun free shots. I guess it does pay off to make friends with the bar owner, not just the bar tender. 

After Ty, Viktor and I split an amazing plate of fries with sweet chili sauce, cheese, bacon, etc., the bar emptied out a bit. (Side note, sweet chili sauce is huge here, they put it on everything). We had a drink at Post Lane that had a few nice bars in it but I went to bed shortly after. Speed traveling is exhausting!  

Drive to Wanaka from Franz Josef

Drive to Wanaka from Franz Josef

Cheers,

Shelly