Tag Archives: Backpacking

This Is How Much Money I Wasted During My Trip Around The World

This Is How Much Money I Wasted During My Trip Around The World

You would think that after almost a decade of travels, I would be a travel pro.

I’m no amateur, but I wouldn’t consider myself a master in the art either. I still make costly mistakes.

Stupid ones.

I recently went on a 20-month long trip around the world to every continent and made a ton of mistakes regarding expenses. I do learn from my mishaps, but then I go ahead and make new unforeseen ones. It’s like a never-ending cycle. I also learned a lot of neat ways to save money during these adventures that I will highlight on a future post.

Always remember this: There is no such thing as a perfect way to travel adventurously around the world. That’s what makes it an adventure.

With that said, during my recent trip I jotted down all of the costly mistakes I made while traveling along with tips on how I could have prevented it. I hope my blunders set an example of budget mistakes you can avoid on your next adventure.


Missed my flight from Dubai to Tajikistan because I didn’t have a visa. -$400

United Emirate Airlines wouldn’t let me board my flight to Tajikistan because I didn’t apply for a proper visa to enter the country. I guess I missed the part about having to apply for a visa in advance. Whoops.

This almost happened again for my Brazil tourist visa. Thankfully, there was a Brazilian embassy in Cape Town, where I was situated at the time. Dodged that bullet!

Always, always remember to check the visa conditions for a country far in advance. In Tajikistan’s case, US citizens need to apply for one in advance and pick it up at the airport.


Went to the wrong bus station by accident in Germany. -$25

I needed to get to Cologne, but I went to the wrong freaking bus station. You should have seen me wandering around trying to find my bus that didn’t exist. I later checked the reservation email on my phone and found the address to the correct bus station listed at the bottom of the email.

I had to catch a more expensive train to another bus station, to catch the connecting bus I already booked prior.

Do read your email reservations carefully. Many travel reservations will have the direct address of where you need to be.


Ignored flight alert from South Africa Airways. -$340

This was pure procrastination on my part. While walking across Spain, I received an email alert from South Africa Airways that my credit card didn’t go through for my flight to Johannesburg in a few months and that I needed to contact them soon. I ignored it, thinking I would get to it later. Well, I ignored it for too long!

When I later tried to rebook the flight, my original departure was filled up. Thus, I had to book a new, more expensive ticket on an earlier date than I planned for.

Don’t put things like this off or it may deter your travels. If you get an alert from an airline saying to contact them immediately, then do it immediately!

402918_4608662940758_2082124377_n.jpg

This is me kissing my hard-earned cash goodbye!


Took an Uber to the wrong terminal in Mumbai. -$10

This is another example of not carefully reading my email reservations. It clearly stated to go to Terminal A on the bottom of the ticket. I didn’t see it until my driver dropped me of at Terminal B and I was wondering why I couldn’t find my airline. No problem. I ‘ll just walk to Terminal A.

Sounds simple enough if Terminal A wasn’t all the way on the other freakin’ side of the giant airport. I had to catch a taxi to get there.

Another case of reading your email reservations carefully. For flight reservations, check and see if there is any text imprint about which terminal you should depart from.


Accidentally stuck the wrong Aussie note into a ticket machine. -$30

I just landed in Melbourne from Tasmania. I needed to catch a train into the city. I went to the ticket machine to load up my Myki card (the cards locals use to get around on public transportation) and instead of putting in a smaller note, I accidentally stuck in a $50 note and I couldn’t get it back! There was no way I was going to be using this card all that much unfortunately. I used only about $20 of it. I gave my Myki card away to a backpacker I met in India who was on his way to Melbourne.

This I could have EASILY avoided if I just paid attention to what the heck I was doing. To be fair, it was an Australian note, which I wasn’t used to. Not a great excuse, I know.

Familiarize yourself with foreign currency. It can be confusing.


I have cheap friends. -$30

During my birthday in Nepal, my friends were so broke that I bought THEM drinks.

I’ll be honest. I didn’t want to be the only drunk one…That’s just no fun.

Don’t have cheap friends.


Dropped new iPhone into ugly water in Fiji. -$1,100

This was my biggest budget blunder I made during my trip and it happened fairly early into it.

I had my new iPhone I just bought a few months ago slung around my neck in a waterproof shell. I stood on the top of a cliff on a gloomy day, ready to rope swing into a pond of poopy looking water. I knew darn well that the day was unfit for recording any awesome footage, but so I went anyway. I rope-swung into the poop water and as I fell in the air, my iPhone came loose around my neck and landed into the water as I plunged into it. I quickly surfaced to try to retrieve it, but the water was so brown and 15 meters deep. I couldn’t see nor even attempt to get it.

It was still early into my trip. I needed to have a phone and more importantly, I needed my music. I had to buy a new iPhone in Suva, Fiji’s capital which costed me way more than it did at home in the States.

I still kick myself for that one.

Don’t be a dingus like I was. Sometimes it’s not worth risking your expensive gadgets. Think about it first. I knew perfectly well that there was no need to have my phone with me that day. My gut told me to leave it behind, but no. I just had to show off.


Wasted Airbnb’s in South Africa. -$300

I left too much in the hands in one my travel buddies. I left it to him to book our Airbnb’s in South Africa and boy did he splurge. The accommodation’s looked stunning…but perhaps too stunning and way too big for just three of us. I knew this from the get go. We would spend most of the time out and about and wouldn’t be able to properly utilize our accommodations. Now if it were a larger group of us to split the costs, then yes, I’d be all for it. The other third traveler in this group and I were fine with being in hostels, which turned out to be a lot more fun.

To be fair, my friend did ask us for our permission and thoughts before he booked them. My gut was telling me to say no because it would be pointless, but I let it be. My own fault for not speaking up.

His budget was only for South Africa. My budget was for the whole world.

If someone in your travel group is being too extra and wants you to be extra too, then let them know because we all have different budgets.

img_6435

There’s no doubt this pricey place was amazing. But we were barely there and it was way too big for just three people.


Bought wrong type of visa in Zambia and Zimbabwe. -$30

Victoria Falls is claimed by both Zambia and Zimbabwe in Africa. A buddy and I went to Zimbabwe to visit the falls, not realizing that the fun part of the falls was on the Zambia side. By fun part, I mean swimming in a pool on the edge of the waterfall. We couldn’t miss this so we repaid for another visa to get us back into Zambia and then back to Zimbabwe. Then we had to cross back into Zambia the next day to catch a flight. I never crossed a border so much in such a short amount of time.

Once again, pay attention to visa requirements and also do your research when booking excursions on your own. Being that Victoria Falls was in both countries, we should have checked which side had access to the pools.


 

Total Amount Wasted (in USD) = Approximately $2,265+

Ouch.

I put the “+” because I’ve made a ton of smaller scale mistakes, among these bigger budget blunders. Like accidentally using my non-travel credit card on a foreign purchase resulting in foreign transaction fees, getting ripped off while bargaining, etc.

Heed my advice and avoid my mistakes well for your own adventures! If you made any costly blunders on your own and would like to share, then please do!


For more posts like these and everything related to ADVENTURE TRAVEL, please subscribe by clicking the Follow button on this page and also follow along on Instagram and Facebook! I’d love to hear from you! 🙂

 

Advertisements

Top 10 Moments From My Quest to the Seven Continents

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I began and ended this quest in ice…

…from the Arctic north of Alaska to the frozen continent of Antarctica. In between the two poles, I largely ventured in warm, subtropical climates. From the East to the West, the journey from the oceanic islands of the South Pacific all the way through across the Atlantic to the eastern coast of South America was enlightening, spur-of-the-moment, and the most adventurous of all my tales.

After a little more than a year and a half of constant travel, I successfully completed my Quest to the Seven Continents: North America, Oceania (Australia), Asia, Europe, Africa, South America, & Antarctica.

These are the TOP 10 Greatest Moments from that journey around the world. 

 From August 2016—February 2018

#11. Celebrating New Year’s Eve in Rio de Janeiro  (Honorable Mention).

adventure born

I had to include this as an honorable mention because it was just so damn special. Attending New Year’s Eve on the exotic beaches of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil has been on my ATLAS (bucket list) for years and for good reason; it was truly something remarkable. Coming off the worst hangover of my life (lasting two days!) with a bunch of party-hard backpackers and insane Brazilian locals—I donned in mostly white attire and got silly again with them on on the eve of the New Year. I stood in the shimmering ocean as fireworks were booming and each jump over an incoming wave signaled all the best luck heading into 2018. I was sandy, soaking wet, and buzzed, but on a personal high I haven’t experienced in a long while. Rio delivered to the quest.

(I have yet to publish a post about this moment. Look out for it soon!)

#10. The Gift on the Great Ocean Road

img_0170

Some of the best moments are the unexpected ones. A few years ago while backpacking through Laos, I met an Australian traveler by the name of Alison who taught me how to ride a motorbike for the first time. Fast forward to November 2017, I still haven’t seen her since. Knowing she lived on the East Coast of Australia, I contacted her and asked if she was around to reunite for a bit. Unfortunately, she was working on assignment in the Middle East.

However.

Completely out of nowhere, she offered her entire home to me while she was away and encouraged me to bring my friends. It was a vacation style house, an utterly perfect luxury abode sitting right at the start of Australia’s Great Ocean Road. I graciously accepted her generous offer, heeded her advice, and invited a handpicked selection of trusted friends who were around the area along. To say our weekend there was a blast would be an understatement. Even more amazing, was the fact that this woman, Alison, whom I’ve only met once in a random country years ago, trusted me with her home. I took great care of it and still plan to one day return the very generous favor to her in some way. This was a very unexpected, yet appreciated compliment to my quest.

 

#9. Diving With Bull Sharks

Bull Sharks in Beqa Island, Fiji while Scuba Diving

The only thing I wanted to do in Fiji was scuba dive with bull sharks. I got the opportunity on my first day there when a group of scuba divers at a beach house I was staying at randomly asked if I wanted to join on a shark dive the next day. What luck! You would think seeing a gang of ferocious sharks underwater, just a few meters away from you would be terrifying, but not in this case. It was thoroughly mesmerizing in every way. I did three more shark dives in Fiji after that one. One of my most desired travel dreams was accomplished very early in the quest.

 

#8. Finding A Needle In a Haystack (My Lost Passport in Ukraine)

img_7308-1

This can also count as one of my most tense moments during the quest. The lengths I went through to find my lost passport to get out of Ukraine is nothing I will ever just shrug off. The complete language barrier, the bizarre police rides, the mysterious messages from Russian women, the apartment complex puzzle-solving, and of course, the shady man in the trench coat who tried to kidnap me in his alleyway vehicle…I still give myself a gratifying pat on the back for a triumphant ending. When I nearly gave up hope, I miraculously found my passport and was able to leave Ukraine in the nick of time. This quest was not without its trials and this is one unforgettable example of that.

 

#7. Summiting Annapurna Basecamp

fullsizerender-171

The Himalayas are perhaps the most fearsome mountain range in the world and I wanted to trek it. Not Mount Everest though, I’m not ready for that yet. Instead, I opted for its smaller-scale neighbor, Annapurna Basecamp. A buddy and I trekked up through vivid scenery for nine days until we peaked at 4,190 meters in the cool snow with relative ease. Annapurna Basecamp is the second highest climb I’ve ever done (Kilimanjaro is the first) and the highest summit I’ve conquered on this particular quest.

 

#6. Lost in Indian Mountains During Christmas

fullsizerender-52

I was sitting in a hostel in Mumbai minding my own business until a local Indian man came up to me and asked if I wanted to hike Fort Torne with him and his friend on Christmas Eve, which was just a day later. I gave an immediate “yes”. Fort Torne was a small mountain range just a few hours bus-ride east of Mumbai where tourists don’t usually go. We left late in the evening and had to sleep on the concrete floor in a small temple at the base of the mountain to avoid wild leopards during their primal hours. We got lost in the pitch black during the hike up which resulted in us sleeping on a random villager’s stack of hay we stumbled across, alongside a stray dog who kept us company the entire night; all while keeping watch of any looming leopards. The next morning, we found our way through Fort Torne. I wanted to do something unique for Christmas, but never could I have expected this. This would have been my favorite Christmas ever, but the Christmas of 1998 still reigns supreme—the year I received a Nintendo 64.

 

#5. Sparking The Most Colorful War On Sarangkot Mountain

17362816_10212274752650137_6068832218479011128_n.jpg

I just so happened to be in Nepal during their Holi Festival. A holiday where everyone celebrates life by throwing colored powder at each other among other traditions like shooting water guns and lobbing water balloons at everyone. Once I found this out, the child in me came all out. I bought a ridiculous amount of colors and water guns, bazookas, balloons, and even silly string and snow spray. I was completely ready to wreak the most colorful havoc on my village and they were prepared as well. It was me versus nearly the entire lot of kids in the area in what was the most polychromatic, rainbow war that I’ll ever participate in…at least until next time when I exact revenge. They completely destroyed me. On that day, Holi Festival became one of my new favorite holidays I was fortunate to experience for the first time ever during this quest.

 

#4. Walking 500 Miles Across Spain

21432772_10214032642316280_705733765386886908_n

A friend in Manchester told me about El Camino de Santiago; an 800-kilometer pilgrimage from the France border across most of northern Spain. Many do it for religious reasons. Others do it to find themselves. I did it solely for the challenge. On the way, I met an eclectic range of personalities while walking through whatever the camino threw at me: villages, mountains, highways, forests, cities, farms, grasslands, and the nefarious Meseta region, a hot and dry portion that required all of my mental prowess all while eating rock-hard bocadillos every single day. I completed the camino in 32 days along with the group I met along the way. It was a gracious feeling knowing I could achieve such a major accomplishment to close out the European portion of the quest.

 

#3. Creating The League of Extraordinary Events

img_1439

The idea of removing three of my American friends from their normal everyday lives and throwing them into one of the biggest unexpected twists of their lives sounded like complete brilliance. For months, they were certain I was taking them on a special road trip down to Florida. Instead, I pulled the rug right from under their feet by flying them out to Alaska and then immediately to Hawaii to participate in eight extraordinary events and activities I’ve been planning for months. Little did they know that the unknown events involved sharks, icebergs, mountains, booze, ATV’s, rapids, oceans, and so much more. This extraordinary feat kicked off my quest around the world.

 

#2. Voyage To Antarctica

IMG_1264 2-2-2.jpg

Learning how to sail the Europa, a tall Dutch ship across the infamous Drake’s Passage into the icy wonderland that is Antarctica is arguably my greatest adventure of all time! I’ll never forget stepping foot onto the continent for the very first time, completing the short, yet arduous list of the world’s seven. Over the span of 22 days, I learned the basics of sailing and became a crew member for the Bark Europa vessel. Add on the abundance of wildlife, mountainous glaciers, icebergs taller than skyscrapers, the nights of unavoidable sea seasickness, and the natural beauty beheld…the voyage to Antarctica was truly the ultimate pinnacle of my entire quest.

(I have yet to publish a post about this moment. Look out for it soon!)

 

#1. Nepal

16831183_10212031420766992_958529909818298156_n

It was the most heartwarming decision I made on this quest.

The only reason I went back was to fulfill a promise I made two years ago to the class nine students; to take them on a field trip, fully funded by me. If it weren’t for that sole purpose, I probably would have never returned, but I’m so glad I did.

I kept that promise and took that same class, plus a couple other classes on a special trip, but what I didn’t expect was to gain a family while I stayed in the villages in Sarangkot Mountain. I got to know my host families much better this time around and in the process created an unbreakable bond with the people there. I gained a few new “brothers” and never once did I feel like a tourist. I stayed for three months, much longer than I anticipated, and even returned for two more months, just a short time later. I felt completely at peace.

The family foremost culture in Nepal is something I don’t really have back home, I hate to admit.  I always think about the country and how it’s now one of my absolute most favorite places in the world. I already am looking forward to my near future trips to see my “family” and friends there once again. My newfound love for Nepal was the best gift this quest presented me.


 

Here are some other interesting numbers:

-I visited 26 countries during this quest. Not including airport layovers and transfers. 8 of them are ones I’ve been to before.

-I spent the most time in Nepal (5 months total), which also means I spent the longest time in Asia out of all the continents.

-Not counting being home, I spent the shortest amount of time in North America out of all the continents.

-The longest consecutive time I went without any internet is 22 days.

-I flew on 36 different flights around the world (not yet counting the ones taking me back to Michigan)

-I spent 35 consecutive days without eating meat.

-Out of all of my travels, I’ve been sick the least amount of times during this trip. Only a 24 hour flu and a brief stomach bug. Both occurring in Nepal.

-The absolute worst hangover in my life occurred in Brazil. (Lasted for two days.)

-I learned to say basic phrases in 6 new languages. (Hello, Thank you, Please, Excuse me, etc)

-I held 6 different phone numbers total during this quest.

-I’ve driven a vehicle in 6 countries during the quest. Only one of them was on the right side of the road.

-Around month number 9 is when I first began to feel travel fatigue.

-I always accidentally receive some sort of semi-permanent scar on my body from a trip. With this quest, I came out unscathed.

-I stayed in a total of 104 different hostels, hotels, lodges, and airbnbs. A bulk of this is from the camino in Spain. This doesn’t include homestays, volunteer houses, and friends homes.

-I vomited in 3 different countries during this quest: Poland (intoxicated), Brazil (very intoxicated), and Antarctica (seasickness) (I’m also counting that as a country).

-“Despacito” and “Shape of You” are by far the two most popular songs I’ve heard during most of the quest in many countries.

-The highest altitude (without flying) during this quest was 4,190m (Annapurna).


 

And now my watch quest has ended.

What could possibly be next? I have no clue. But, I still have a bucket list to complete…

 

For more posts like these and everything related to ADVENTURE TRAVEL, please subscribe by clicking the Follow button on this page and also follow along on Instagram and Facebook! I’d love to hear from you.  🙂

The Future Looks Good: The Quest Continues

I’ve been ready to leave Fiji days ago.

I chilled out way too much. I didn’t think that was even possible?

Most of my core group of volunteers were gone and my students wore me the hell out over the past couple weeks. I’m telling you, handling 47 individual eleven and twelve-year-old kids was not an easy task whatsoever.

Though curbing to them was a challenge that ultimately reaped benefits. I’ll be leaving Suva as a much more proficient teacher thanks to my students. They taught me just as much as I taught them. I bet they have no idea about that. I was ready to leave Fiji, but the only reason I would stay longer would be to teach them more.

IMG_1020.jpg

On my final few days, class 601 threw me a special party, thanking me for taking the time to help them learn. I appreciated them and the main teacher, Mrs.Kurisaqila, for entrusting me on my own numerous times to handle the kids for sometimes close to seven hours straight in a single day.

IMG_1140.jpg

On those long days, I taught English vocabulary, Mathematics, Geography (my best subject by leaps and bounds), and a mixture of Sciences, Art, and Logical Thinking (a subject I created for them). The general consensus was that they liked the logic puzzles I threw at them the most because it inspired them to “think outside the box”. They particularly loved the Price is Right style game I introduced which brilliantly blended mathematics and economics along with some neat prizes to win along the way.

IMG_1012.jpg

Saying goodbye to the students is always a lot harder than saying goodbye to the volunteers. Odds are that I’ll never see them again.

img_1134

The volunteers on the other hand, they were a really amusing bunch. It took a little longer than usual to warm up to them, except for one in particular; a legend by the name of Hamish. He hails from Sydney and is the quintessential Australian I’ve ever met in all my travels and has a great lease on life. He’s become a good friend of mine and someone you’ll be hearing from later on this blog in just a few months. After I told him about some of the cool places I plan on going to during my quest for the seven continents, there was no way he could resist to join in for at least a chunk of it.

The majority of the other volunteers were also a pleasure to be around. There are way too many to name but they made my trip to Fiji extra special. They know who they are! I plan on visiting a handful of them during my quest to the seven continents. Two of them even share my home state of Michigan.

IMG_0708.jpg

IMG_0750.jpg

IMG_1093.jpg

I spent the last couple of days lounging around, saying my farewells and “see you laters” to the coordinators and my fellow housemates. I eventually hit the road, about a four-hour bus journey across the island from Suva to Nadi. I stayed in a 16-bed dorm in a cheap hostel near the airport. Normally I would NEVER stay in a dorm with that many beds, but since I was only there for the night, I thought I’d be able to manage.

While I was in the room, a nameless backpacker laid his bag on the bed next to mine. We didn’t introduce ourselves but made quick chit-chat about where we were from and where we were headed. He had just come from Australia and was about to begin a trip through the Fiji islands. I mentioned to him that I was on my way to Australia to backpack all around the country. He then pulled his wallet out of his back pocket and handed me three individual cards.

“You can use these on your travels in Australia,” he said. “I won’t need these anymore.”

I examined the cards and saw that they were city cards used for transportation via train or bus in Australia. One card was for Brisbane, one for Sydney, and the other for Melbourne; three of the largest cities in the country. All of the cards were loaded with a little leftover money the nameless backpacker didn’t use. I thanked him promptly.

The dorm full of 16 backpackers, including myself, fell asleep silent. Not a single person snored or made disruptive noise during the night; an absolute rarity in the world of backpacking, especially in a room as large and filled as this one.

IMG_1161.jpg

My time in Fiji ended on a wonderful note. My teaching game has grown stronger, my network of international allies has strengthened, and this nameless backpacker already made my upcoming travels in Australia that much easier, even as simple as his gesture was, it will help in the most convenient ways.

Goodbye Fiji. The quest to the seven continents continues in Australia. 🙂

IMG_1179.jpg

The Smelliest, Muddiest Day of Our Lives: Rotorua, New Zealand

“Alright, who farted?!”

Chelsey uttered suddenly as she covered her nose with the top of her sweater.

To be fair, it could have been any of us guys. We’ve been torturing her during our whole drive in New Zealand so far, but none of us made claim to this particular accusation. If any of us farted, we’d definitely admit it. However minutes later as we drove on, the smell still lingered and soon realized that none of us were the culprit. It was Rotorua in all her sulfuric glory.

Rotorua smells like freakin’ rotten eggs!

Seriously it reeks!

“How come no one warned us about this?” I gagged, mistakenly inhaling a big gulp of air in my mouth.

Even Chelsey, the group appointed New Zealand expert (she’s been happily reading her New Zealand Lonely Planet Guidebook for months), wasn’t aware. Ryan said that this was the worst smell he’s ever smelt in his young life. The smell grew worse once we checked into Four Canoes, our pseudo hostel/hotel hybrid. There were pockets in the vicinity that smelt like absolute death. The people who live here must have noses of steel.



What To Do In Rotorua?

Appropriately nicknamed Sulphur City and less appropriately RotoVegas, Rotorua is the epicenter of volcanic activity in the North Island. What attracted us here were two things: the Maori Culture (which we’ll get to later) and Champagne Lake. What is Champagne Lake? A boiling multi-colored lake hidden somewhere in the region with edges of orange, turquoise, and green fuming with toxic gases. We had to see it for ourselves, but where was it? We researched on google and found that Champagne Lake resides in a place called Wai-O-Tapu National Park.

We had the day all planned out. Wai-O-Tapu–> Kerosene Creek–> Mud Baths, with bits of stuff in between. Since we were booked solid, we departed early in the morning to Wai-O-Tapu–so early that we were the very first to arrive. We parked the car and stepped out into what felt like the set of the original Jurassic Park. I’ve never been in an environment quite like this. We could have swore we heard a Dilophosaurus and a few Velociraptors in the distance. FYI, a Dilophosaurus is that small dinosaur that sprung opened its frills and shot its poisonous gunk into that fat guy’s deserving face. Yup, we heard those. Even the trees felt prehistoric in front of the vaporous backdrop.

Were we at the right place? 

Wai-o-tapu

We walked around as awestruck as we were, to the parks entrance. We were definitely the first ones there which meant complete freedom to explore and take photos without anyone else to stand in our way. What we didn’t fully anticipate to see was how completely unique this park was compared to any other place we’ve been in the world. This place was the primary source of that rotten egg smell, from all the toxic pools and gaseous ponds releasing fumes into the air. None of it felt real.

Wai-o-tapu

Wai-o-tapu

Wai-o-tapu

To complete the entire circuit of the park would take about 75 minutes according to the guide map we received. The length of the trail is about 3km and highlights 25 different hot spots to see. The hot spots were all completely unique but the one that caught my eye first was hot spot number 25: Devil’s Bath, a giant bowl of boiling neon green liquid. The color is the result of excess water from the nearby Champagne Pool mixing with the ferrous salts and sulfur.

Wai-o-tapu, devil's bath

The Champagne Pool is what attracted us to Wai-O-Tapu in the first place and it too also captured my attention.

Wai-o-tapu

It was large and smokey, about 65m in diameter and 62m deep! You could feel the heat from the never-ending spouts of gas erupting from the center of the pool. The edge of the pool is lined with palettes of oranges, reds, yellows, silvers, and browns. The ledges are plates resulting from earthquake activity. There was a silly little rope that blocked park guests from getting too close to the pool. The blockade, if that’s what you want to call it, was so laughable that it was practically asking me to trespass and get as close to the pool as possible. And so I did. We all did.

Wai-o-tapu

No one else was around, except for a couple of tourists who happened to show up and caught us being bad. They were so impressed that they copied what we just did. No harm done though. We just wanted a few cool shots.

We split our time at the park in half. After Champagne Pool, we high tailed it Lady Knox, a nearby geyser that was set to erupt at 10:15am. How can they predict when a geyser will erupt on a daily basis? Turns out all you need is some environmentally friendly soap to break up the surface tension to cause a chemical reaction which results in a giant continuous spout of sudsy liquid! A few of us were sprinkled with speckles of the geysers fury, but thankfully it smelt like soap and not eggs.


We went back to the park to continue our walk through one of the most geologically fascinating places on Earth.

Wai-o-tapu

Hofstetter, one of our dive masters in Paihia, tipped us about a creek nearby we could swim in that produced hot water. It’s called Kerosene Creek and was super close to the park, so we made our way there.

We secured our valuables and walked a few minutes through a muddy forest to find other people in the creek that we were looking for. A small waterfall delivered the warm water we desired as we lolled in the creek for a bit.



We planned on hiking up Rainbow Mountain, but time had other plans for us. We were scheduled to go to Hell’s Gate, a geothermal reserve park, for a proper mud bathing. The place was just a bit north of Four Canoes and time only allotted us to bath in some mud for about 20 minutes.

It was hot to the touch at first. Sinking your feet in the mud Jacuzzi was the hottest part, but once your body settled into the gray ooze, you became one with the mud. Giant clumps were placed in boxes on the rim on the baths that we could use to smother ourselves. It’s said that the mud has age-defying properties ( I feel like every mud spa says that). We put it literally everywhere on our body except above our eyes as we were warned. We were also warned that the smell of the mud would take a couple days to wear off and not to put any mud in our ears. I put mud in my ears before I read that particular warning and suffered dirty consequences the next few days.

Once our 20 minutes were up, we rinsed off the mud and entered a boiling pool of sulphur to relax in. It was definitely soothing but extremely hot and pungent. I still had mud lodged in my nose and crammed deep in my ears, so I got the heck out of there and into the showers after about ten minutes of bathing in the sulphur.

The warning heeds correctly. I soaped and scrubbed my body to the max, yet I still reeked of foul mud. When I woke up the next day, all I could breathe was the smell of mud all over my face, hands, and now my pillow and blanket. Throw in the smell of Rotorua’s ruthless rotten egg stench, I was a stink. But there was nothing I could do about it. Not for the next couple of days since we decided to extend our stay in Rotorua based on how absolutely fun today was. Queenstown may be the adventure capital of the South Island but Rotorua is absolutely the adventure capital of the North, and yet we had so much more to see!

We were beginning to embrace the rotten egg stench of Rotorua that paralleled a world full of unique recreation.

Road Trippin' New Zealand's North Island…In The Winter?


My trip to New Zealand will be different compared to my usual gallivants across the countries. For one, I’m driving all over the country on the wrong left side of the road for two weeks. Two, it’s the middle of freakin’ winter. And third, but most importantly, I’m traveling with three friends from home who are relative newbies to the whole traveling thing.

Enter Chelsey, Ryan, and Mike–three of my American friends who were brave enough to join me on one of my trips to wherever in the world. This is the furthest away and longest they have ever been from the States, so the trust they have in me to guide us on a trip of this size is truly endearing but I’m confident things will go well. I also usually don’t plan my solo trips much, but when traveling with people you know from home, planning is crucial so everyone remains on the same page. Our plan as a group is to road trip through the North Island of New Zealand. It won’t be as cold as the South Island and two weeks is too short to visit both islands, so we decided to stick to the north. I’ll have to come back to the south island another time, during the warmer months.

New Zealand is split into two islands: the North and the South
New Zealand is split into two islands: the North and the South
We decided that two weeks should be adequate enough to only explore the north island as opposed to both.
We decided that two weeks should be adequate enough to only explore the north island as opposed to both.
Since I am in Hawaii, the flight to Auckland won’t be nearly as long as the others. They’re flying from Michigan, which is way on the eastern side of the mainland U.S. They will arrive a day before me, prior to my flight arriving later in the evening.

Enter New Zealand

Some call it the adventure capital of the world and I’ll have the opportunity to judge that for myself, though I have no doubts. New Zealand is known across the world for its breathtaking beauty every which way you turn. The inspiration behind The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, New Zealand envokes a magic unlike any other country I have been to thus far. The people there have the distinction of being referred to as a ‘kiwi’ based on the flightless, long-beaked kiwi bird native to the two islands. The majority of the nations population live in the capital of Auckland in the north, our start and end point for this two-week long road fest.

The League of Eight Extraordinary Events was indeed extraordinary in every sense of the word, but I was ready to begin the next phase of my quest. My flight from Honolulu to Sydney and finally to Auckland was simple. I landed during the dark hours and darted immediately to pick up the rental car I reserved months ago. Driving on the left side of the road was something I always wanted to try but was apprehensive to do so. It’s completely opposite of everything I’ve learned from driving in the States and I would for sure hit another car or forget that I’m not supposed to be on the right side of the road whenever I make a turn. But so I drove, but made sure to get full coverage insurance on it prior, you know for the inevitable. And yes, driving on the left side is uncomfortably strange at first and will take some getting used to. 

I cautiously drove to Borders Beyond, a backpackers hostel in the middle of Auckland to join my friends. When I arrived, they were already dead asleep in our six-person dorm. They have to be super jet-lagged! I didn’t want to disturb them, so I chatted a bit with the backpackers who were still awake in the lounging area before I eventually went to bed.

The four of us reacquainted the next morning with no plan as to where we would go first. Chelsey suggested we start in the north in a place called The Bay of Islands that she’s been researching and to start from there. Just the name alone, The Bay of Islands, sounded great and so we went! Specifically to a sound place called Paihia.

I’ve heard about the scenery in New Zealand being amazing but to actually experience it first hand is a whole other entity. Everywhere we drove was like driving through a dream world you only see in the movies. Some of the greenest pastures and linear hills of land I ever did see existed here. Cows and sheep galore passed by the hundreds and the sun shone majestically through the scapes of leveling earth. The roads were so smooth it felt like our car was gliding at times. Our drive to Pahia was as viewtiful as could be, but a ridiculously constricted, topsy-turvy hell to maneuever in.


Poor Mike and Chelsey were getting car sick as I would have been if I too were just a passenger. Part of it was my inexperience driving on twisty and narrow roads like these, not to mention driving on the left side of the road. But eventually, after just a few hours we made it to Paihia and the Bay of Islands.


The Bay of Islands

We settled into Saltwater Lodge, an empty backpacker joint we found for cheap. Empty because it was winter and no one was around which also meant costs were cheaper compared to the busier summer seasons. But although it was winter, the weather wasn’t the winter I’m used to. There was no snow in sight and the sky was of a summer blue. It actually felt more like a mid autumn or early spring. Perfectly doable for our road trip through the North.

Now that we were in Paihia, we had to figure out what we would do next. The lodges office had dozens upon dozens of brochures of different activities to partake in, but the one that caught our eye the most was the deep sea scuba diving adventure that took place in the bay. Not only a deep sea dive but a dive through a shipwreck…

I could not pass this up!