Whale Watching & Sailing in Kaikoura & Christchurch

Okay, okay, so I know I’ve left you all hanging for quite some time while I’ve been on my trip but it’s not my fault, I promise! Turns out New Zealand has extremely limited wifi. Whoda thunk. It’s not like they’re like the furthest place in the world from anywhere else or anything..

But it’s okay because now I’m finally back in a wifi zone and can update you all on some of my travels over the past week. Last I left you I think was right after I’d completed the Tongariro Crossing. Phew, still tired a week later. Just kidding, it was easy peasy. I’m such a pro.

*cough* cough*


I’ve now landed in Christchurch for the remainder of my time in New Zealand and it’s been pretty chill and relaxed. Compared to the Crossing, that is.

But before I get to Christchurch, let me tell you about my time in Kaikoura – between the Crossing and Christchurch – because it was amazing.

So, I like the outdoors. I hope you’ve gathered that by now considering that the majority of my time here in NZ has been spent camping and hiking and exploring. Well..

It all got even better in Kaikoura when Rowena and I decided to camp out on a beachfront. We literally fell asleep to the sound of the waves crashing and woke up to the bright stars above and the sound of soft waves falling upon the shore. Oh my goodness, take me back right now. It’s only been a few days and I already miss that view. We were camped out on the sand of the beach with the mountains rising behind us and the infinite ocean before us. 

I say we woke up to the stars because we literally did. Our only morning in Kaikoura we went whale watching at 7am, which means we had to wake up at 5am in order to get ready, pack the tent and get to the boat on time. So pitch black night and bright white stars were the first sight I saw that morning. It was so beautiful that I just laid there for 20 minutes staring up. And after about 15 minutes a falling star shot across the night and began my day in the best way.

I was so sad to have to get up and pack that morning because honestly one night in Kaikoura was not enough. Seals and penguins and waterfalls and ocean were in abundance in Kaikoura.. I loved everything about that place. But I also knew waking up that morning that I was about to see my very first whale in the entirety of my life, so I was full of energy and happy as soon as my eyes opened.

Once we got to the boat and took off, I don’t think I stopped smiling for the rest of the day. They’d warned us that we might not see any whales but we were lucky and not only saw one whale but two whales and a pod of about 200 dolphins. 

 I literally can’t think of any better way to start a day than the way this one began for me.

Whales and dolphins and falling stars?

Why doesn’t this happen every day?

Even though it was just for one day, it was amazing.

I had the best morning ever that day and it only got better.

After the whales, we headed to Christchurch to have lunch with Rowena’s parents at the pub. While we were there eating, I experienced my first ever earthquake. I think her dad said it was a 5.7 so it was pretty big, especially for someone who’s never been in one before. It literally shook our entire table and the patio we were on at the time.

I didn’t even know what was happening when it happened, I just grabbed the edge of the table and looked around terrified. After it was over, everyone was fine so that’s good it wasn’t enough to hurt anyone but it was so crazy to me! Small town American girl from the Midwest? Yeah, earthquakes aren’t a thing to me..

But anyway..

After lunch, her dad took us out on his sailboat and I got to go sailing for the very first time in my life! It was amazing and so pretty out on the water. I obviously sat up front, happy to have the salt water spray me with every wave we hit. Again, I was still wearing a permanent smile. I even got to drive the boat! 

And I’m happy to report that I did not tip it over or crash it at all. There was just one point when the boat tipped all the way on its left side but hey, no one fell out so I think I can call myself a professional. Right.. ?

Yeah.. I think so.

After sailing, my nose is still sunburnt two days later but I don’t care whatsoever. I saw two whales, hundreds of dolphins and sailed a boat that day. 


Time of my life.

Abseiling & Black Water Rafting in Waitomo Caves; A True Adventure

Ever wanted to rope down a 50 foot drop into a cave and then go black river rafting and rock climbing? Then Kiwi Cave Rafting in Waitomo Caves has got you covered because this is exactly what I did today and it was phenomenal.

 Rowena and I had discussed wanting to go caving in some aspect when she came across the Kiwi Cave Rafting company. They take you abseiling (the roping down into the cave that I just mentioned), exploring through the cave, black river rafting and rock climbing. 

 All day we got to feel like true cave explorers as our guide, Harriet, took us through the darkness.

It all began when we hopped into an old van, all our clothes and belongings in hand. Harriet told us the drive would be 15 minutes as we all piled in. Sat in the middle, Rowena and I prepared for our adventure into the cave.. A few minutes later we pulled up to a series of old sheds and were told to get out so that we could get our wetsuits and gear on.
Oh my goodness.

Those wetsuits are incredibly tight. Tight. So tight.

After wrestling those bad boys on, we put on our “sexy pants” – some old mismatching sweats that went over the wetsuit. Finally, the harnesses and helmets.

We were all ready to go. 

 We piled back into the van for another 5 minutes of driving to the mouth of the cave. Harriet told us we didn’t need our seat belts because we were wearing helmets so we’d be fine.

Apparently that was a joke.

Because sat in the very back and 30 seconds into the drive it started getting bumpy. And by bumpy, I mean that I think we were driving over the equivalent of walking on a Lego. We’d hit one bump and Rowena and I would go flying. Then, before we’d fully come back down into our seats, we’d hit another bump and go flying again. Good thing we were wearing those helmets because I bumped my head on the ceiling a good 12 times in those 5 minutes.

But anyway.

87 headaches and 5 minutes later, we got to the cave. Harriet went through the safety rules and taught us how to connect the rope to our harness to abseil. Earlier in the van, I’d made a joke about hoping I wasn’t going to die. Shouldn’t have said that because for the rest of the day, Harriet didn’t let me forget it. We get up to the bridge and I just so happen to be the first in line. Did I do that by accident? Nope. Although I was nervous and she thought I was terrified, I couldn’t wait to get to the crazy adventure part. 

 I step up to the ledge..

I bend my knees..

And fall.. 

 ..in a good way.

From the second my feet left the ground, I was dangling over 50 feet of jagged rocks.

It was exhilarating.

I begin to let myself down the rocks via the rope and couldn’t have felt more free.

That being said, Harriet was actually more in charge of the rope than I originally thought, so I guess I wasn’t as free as I felt BUT STILL.

Once at the bottom, I waded through the icy cold water to a ledge of rocks to sit on and wait. After everyone arrived, we got going. Harriet grabbed a bunch of tubes for us to float on and we waded further into the cave, tubes in hand. 

 A ways inside, we dropped the tubes and started walking uninhibited in the cave and were told to turn our lights off.

What we saw was mesmerizing. 

 Thousands of glow worms sparkled against the roof of the cave and glittered in the blackness.

It was beautiful.

Harriet let us sit in the darkness and stare while she told us about how glow worms are actually maggots in their first stage of life. Not as pretty as glow worms, but we’d all probably rather call them “glow worms” as opposed to “glow maggots.”

Seriously, it was such a spectacular view to behold. 

 After a few moments in the black, we got up and walked back to our tubes. Harriet had us all get ready and on the count of three, we were all going to fall into the tubes and float down the river.





We were off.
The water was still incredibly icy but at this point it was a frosty refreshment.

We kept our lights off and floated under the glowing worm sky.

Then, once the water became shallow, we got out of our tubes and started exploring the cave. Harriet told us where to walk and then had us “squeeze” through tight spaces in the cave. By “tight,” I mean minuscule. 



 But it was so fun.. I just channeled all of the horror films I’ve seen set in caves and did what they did to escape whatever creepy creature was chasing them.

So basically I’m saying that I pretended I was being chased by mutant creeps in order to get through the tight spaces quickly. And I think I did quite well in regards to speed and technique. Because Harriet told me she liked my technique.

*cue the proud, blushing I-learned-this-from-horror-films smile*

After about 30 minutes of squeezing and exploring, we headed back to the mouth of the cave to get out. Only problem is, there aren’t steps. 

 So yeah, we climbed our way out of the cave.

Rock climbing.. My first time.. In a cave.. In the middle of New Zealand.


Seeing as how I was first into the cave, naturally I wanted to be the last out.

I sat and watched everyone swiftly climb their way out, not being chased by mutants like I imagined I would be.

Finally, it was my turn.

I got up to harness myself to the rope and began to climb. Immediately I was off to a great start – none of those mutant creatures would be able to catch me. But then I got too cocky and going too fast because I missed a rock..

My foot slipped..

I fell.

Not in a good way.

Thank goodness there was (obviously) a safety harness that caught me, otherwise those evil imaginary cave monsters that were chasing me would have gotten me. So I would have died in that scary movie scenario. Such a disappointment.

Also, I was literally the only one who slipped and fell out of our entire group of 7 people.

So disappointed.

But! I immediately got myself straightened back up and finished up the climb without another mishap. I made it out of the cave alive!  

  It was such a marvelous experience. Seriously, I loved every second.

I’d definitely recommend this experience to anyone and everyone.

But the trip wasn’t over.

Kiwi Cave Rafting provided nice, hot showers for all of us after we got out and changed and then once we got back to the office, they even had piping hot cups of tomato soup and bread for us to chow down on while watching all of our photos on a slideshow together.

Obviously, I bought all of the photos and they’re the photos you see here now.

This adventure was so incredible and I hope to get to do it again one day.

And Kiwi Cave Rafting was an excellent company that provided all we needed and more. They were so kind and helpful and I’ll recommend them to anyone who ever needs an awesome cave exploration adventure in New Zealand.

Harriet was wonderful and so knowledgeable and I can’t say enough good things about her. 

 So, there you have it. An ultimate cave adventure.

And I didn’t even die. 


Hobbiton – The Shire





 I can’t believe that I was finally able to go.

I remember falling in love with Tolkien when I was just in middle school.

Now, here I am, years later and I saw where so many of the hobbit shenanigans were filmed.


It was everything I dreamt it’d be..

We started out our day with arriving on the grounds for our tour. Upon arrival, we were whisked onto a big, green bus plastered with The Hobbit logo across the back.

Slowly, the driver pulled out onto the road that led us down to the completed set and we were immediately stopped by about a billion sheep that were crossing the road. Literally. It was pretty cool, actually. 

 After patiently waiting for the sheep to cross, we were finally off. The drive down to the set was only about 15 minutes and our driver was hilarious and full of film trivia. Great start to the tour.

Once we arrived to the set, we exited the bus and began the walking tour. Our tour guide had introduced herself on the bus as Rosie and immediately my first thought was, “Oh, that’s gotta be some sort of a fake name joke thing.. No way is that really her name.. ” But it turns out that it was aaaaaaand get this, another tour guide’s name there is Sam and he just so happens to be her roommate. WHAT. Already this tour was off to a magnificent start. 

 Anyway, we start walking through The Shire and instantly, I’m mesmerized. Okay, actually I’d been mesmerized since I’d gotten out of the car.. But anyway..

The entire area was gloriously beautiful. Each hobbit hole was so intricately decorated and built.. All of the trees were vibrant and green.. Even the paths to walk on were bright yellow and colorful. 

  I was completely taken aback by the intricacy of the entire place and by all of the strenuous work that each member of the crew put into making Hobbiton vibrantly come to life. For example, the tree that sits behind Bilbo’s house was originally found elsewhere and then cut into 25 different pieces and then put back together on set. And then, later on when they wanted to start filming The Hobbit, they wanted to use the same tree but it had previously died and they still wanted to use it, so they sewed 200,000 fake leaves onto it. The whole process took two years to complete.



The whole of the set was just as detailed and meticulously perfected as that one tree. Such an astonishing thing to behold. Especially for a Tolkien lover such as myself.

Rosie let us meander as we pleased throughout the whole of the grounds (for the most part – some parts were roped off). Every so often, she’d pull us all back together to tell us more about filming and I learned so much that I hadn’t previously known but I’m still just so excited and over the moon right now that I can’t think of anything because my mind is a blur of colorful hobbit holes and bright pastures. 


At the end of the tour, we all met up at The Green Dragon, just like in the films and were given a complimentary ale/cider to gulp down like Pip and Merry (okay, maybe I was the only one gulping it down but that’s because I’m so dedicated that I actually forgot that I, in fact, am not Pippin or Merry.. ). 



At the end of the tour, there’s a cafe called The Shire’s Rest that has a gaggle of hobbit foods and snacks to gobble down if you so please. And of course I did. So get this, I actually ordered “second breakfast.” YES. It was literally an item on the menu.


 And I happily finished it all. Pip and Merry would be proud.

So, there you have it, today I became a hobbit. 
 My life is complete.

“Little by little, one travels far.” 


Two Days in Auckland

So, I’ve safely landed in New Zealand! I landed yesterday at 7am, ready to go. I even slept a whole five hours on the 13 hour flight! Wow (insert small levels of sarcasm here because I’m actually impressed I slept that much.. but also.. that’s not very much)!

As per my previous post on jet lag, I didn’t sleep after landing, we just went out and did things and it worked out great!

We saw the Sky Tower.. 

We explored the city center..

We went and got fish & chips takeout and ate it on the beach, Point Chev – apparently, “so kiwi.. ” 

We took a stroll on the beach and took crazy adorable photos..

And I’m sure we did much more but I’m just so exhausted after 24 hours of flying followed by two days in the sun & heat that I can’t function properly right now.

But that’s okay because it’s all been so incredible so far!

Moving on to today, we first climbed Mount Eden, the tallest natural point in Auckland, that also has a great view of the whole city.. 

And then.. THE BEST PART.. we walked the trail at Kitekite Falls to the biggest and most beautiful waterfall I’ve ever seen in my life. It was magnificent! 

Next, was Piha Beach.. Sprinkled with glittery black sand and filled with the sound of crashing waves, it’s one of New Zealand’s best & also most dangerous spots to surf.. Also it’s just plain gorgeous.. 

Finally, we went to Hallertau Brewey and tried some of their beers – which were super delicious. My favorite was #4, black beer.. 

And now, I need to go to bed because like I said, these past two days have been exhausting, especially with the heat and humidity.

My first two days in New Zealand are over, now bring on the rest!

Finding Flights

Continuing with the money and hard work theme from my post a couple days ago, I thought I’d share this awesome article that I found on aworldofcrazy.com all about how to find cheap flights for your adventures.

Not only is it hard work just being able to afford to travel, sometimes it’s also hard finding good flights on the cheap.. Right now I have about seven flight alerts set up through my Kayak app for places here in the U.S. that I plan to visit after New Zealand.. Colorado, Florida, Portland.. Everywhere basically.

However, “A World of Crazy” talks all about Skyscanner – a site that compares all the cheapest fares you could ever hope to find – & gives great tips on how to travel for cheap. As a spontaneous and free spirited traveler, I love Skyscanner too because if you’re flexible enough with dates, it can be a lifesaver.

I myself learned something awesome and new in this article.. I had never heard of Skip Lagged before but after reading this post I learned that there is a way to save money on flights by using layovers as final destinations! Which is awesome!

Read their article below to get the details and find some more awesome tips for finding flights!

Source: Finding Flights

First Step Toward the Next Adventure

As my waiting time for New Zealand was winding down, I decided to do something crazy and have my first adventure right here at home in the U.S. in preparation for the big adventure.

I decided to dye my hair pastel purple and pink.

Now, this was a huge deal for me. I’d never even dyed my hair in my life until I was about 21 years old. I mean, granted I totally went for it when I finally did dye my hair and went from my natural brunette to an all over Barbie doll blonde. But still, this purple was going to be a huge adventure in itself. 

 ..but I love it! It’s so bright and fairy-like and perfect for the month I’ll be gone.

There we go, first New Zealand adventure done!

It’s Almost New Zealand Time!

Six months ago I downloaded the app, “Countdown,” and set my countdown for the day I leave for New Zealand to be reunited with my other half. Back then it was almost 200 days until the countdown ended but now here we are, mere days until I take off and I can’t believe it’s finally time!

I’ve been planning this trip since the day I returned home from Paris. It’s taken me half a year, three jobs at once, no social life and some sleepless nights but now that it’s time to go I know that it was all worth it. I’ve worked my booty off so much to be able to save up for this trip and it’ll be so fulfilling to finally step off that plane in Auckland and into the arms of my best friend.  

 Now that it’s finally time, I feel like it’s okay for me to talk about how I got here. Once I decided on New Zealand, I started saving immediately. I figured up my budget – for my flight, for all things in New Zealand and for my bills while I’m gone – and knew that I wouldn’t accept anything less and would somehow make it work so that in six months, I’d have this much saved up for when I left. I got three jobs (most days I worked all three in a day) and saved every penny I made.

I made myself a DIY adventure jar that I put all of my loose change in (it actually worked – I’ve saved up almost $200 through that adventure jar alone) and started hanging out with friends mainly just at home in my apartment. It was certainly a tough last six months. Every time anyone would ask me to go out for the night, my response would always be, “Sorry, I don’t have monies.. Wanna come hang out at my place?” It got old pretty quickly but I didn’t mind, I knew what I was working toward. 

 Now look! I made everything I needed for my budget and I’ve saved up $500 more than the goal I set for myself. I am certainly well off on everything we have planned to do in NZ – AND for all of my bills back here in the U.S. Yeah, I saved up enough for a month long trip to New Zealand in six months – in addition to paying all of my living expenses on time that I already have while living on my own. YOU COULD SAY I’M A LITTLE PROUD OF THIS ACCOMPLISHMENT.

It was tough.. And I’m exhausted after everything.. But I did it.

Travel is everything to me so once I set my mind to something and decide on a new place to go – I make it happen. No questions asked. If you work hard for what you love, you can make it happen, too.


What to do When a Stranger Asks You to Bike Throughout Europe with Him

What would you do if a random stranger emailed you saying he’d just read a travel article you wrote for the paper and then told you he wanted to invite you on a 1,000 mile European bike ride and wanted to know if you’d like to get coffee in a couple days to discuss (Phewwww, loooong run on sentence!)?

Well, lemme tell ya what I did – because yes, this happened to me two weeks ago.

I went out for the coffee.

Yeah, the intrigue of such a different possible adventure was so exciting to me that I didn’t hesitate in accepting. In a world so afraid to live, I make sure not to miss out on life.

That being said, it’s not like I didn’t consider the consequences if this had gone poorly and didn’t make sure this was a real man reaching out to me – I did my homework. I’m always safe in my adventurous decisions.

So let’s get on to the story.. A few months back I wrote an article for the local paper about my time abroad as a nanny. This man found it online while visiting my town and apparently became intrigued with the way I choose to live my life. He asked me out to coffee and told me about these bike rides he does every other year and sent me links to his previous excursions that I could look into. I researched and decided it was a real opportunity, so I took it.

When meeting for coffee, this man bought me a latte and we sat down to chat about adventures. He told me how he’s been doing this for over 15 years and how he thinks it’d be right up my alley. He organizes these trips for people to just join him on – he gets nothing out of it other than the company of others for a month while biking throughout parts of Europe.

I’m not sure if this is something that I’ll for sure do but it’s definitely something I’m considering. And the only reason I’m able to consider it right now is because I said yes and took a chance.

So, there you have it.. I miiiiight have found yet another adventure that just so happened to fall in my lap. A perfect opportunity that I might have missed out on if I had been afraid to say yes. In life you have to take chances, put yourself out there! Don’t be afraid to live a vibrant and colorful life. You might look back to regret it if you are.

I’m Back! Just in Time for some New Zealand Updates!

Well, hey there adventurers! I know it’s been quite a while since I’ve been able to post but I’m finally back with many updates for all of you!

First off, it’s almost New Zealand time! I absolutely cannot wait for the adventures lying in wait for me. In just a few short weeks, I’ll be climbing the mountains of Mordor, bungee jumping in Queenstown and whale watching on the ocean – just to name a few things. I’m not going to lie, it’s been a tough struggle getting ready for this trip to the other side of the world immediately following my move back to the States from Paris but soon these past five months will have been more than worth it.

Now, let me delve into why I’ve been gone for so long. In order to provide myself the funds for this trip, I’ve taken on three (3!!) jobs that I work pretty much every day. I save every penny I make and this past weekend was the first time I’d gone out since moving back and that was only because it was a friend’s birthday. Needless to say, right now I have no social life. But honestly, that’s okay with me because it’s truly hard work getting to travel the way I do so often and right now my whole life centers on exploration.

When I signed a one year lease back here at home, I knew I’d be saving for this huge trip and then another in another six months. I work hard to travel as much and for as long as I do and I love it but I also want to utilize this passion as a career and am currently looking into writing for a travel magazine or blog or such, which is also taking up my time right now.

Basically what I’m saying is that my life has been one heck of a roller coaster ride of work and stress for the past five months and now that it’s almost New Zealand time (finally!), I’m bursting with excitement and anticipation! And this morning I finally had a moment to go out and break in my beautiful new North Face  hiking boots on the trails and I was so insanely happy out in the beautiful snow and nature, surrounded by the chirping of birds and crunch of ice beneath my feet. So naturally, I decided to take a minute to talk with all of you on how things have been going lately. 

 So there you have it – I’m sorry I’ve been gone so long but working three jobs while planning a massive trip is killer – BUT SO WORTH IT.

I’ve Always Depended on the Kindness of Strangers; My First Day in Philly

I’m in Philly!

This long awaited trip to visit my best friends on the east coast has FINALLY arrived.

It’s been a long day of driving, flying, walking and now train-ing (I think I just made that verb up). Mom and I woke up around 3am to get ready to drive me to the airport for my early morning flight.. Have I mentioned how wonderful she is lately? I mean seriously, that lady got up at 2:30 this morning to take me to the airport and then had multiple hours stuck in the city before needing to be at work and now she’s been working all day.. She’s amazing. Love you, Momma. 

 Okay, anyway. I landed in Philly this morning and have spent the entirety of the day exploring the city on my own – exactly what I love. Since Caitie and Mandy had to work today (which they couldn’t focus on as soon as I’d told them I’d landed in PA) I did my own thing in the city. I truly can’t explain the feeling of excitement and anticipation I get every time I’m alone in a new city.. So fulfilling being on your own and smiling down the streets of some place new to you. Gah, I love it so much.

But before I go into details on what I spent my day doing, I have to start with what happened to me on the train from the airport to the city center. So, picture me standing on the train platform studying the subway map with my floral backpack strapped on and jacket tied around my waist, practically jumping I’m so happy to be here. I notice a guy kind of noticing me and I decide to ask him,

“Hey dude, where do I buy a ticket for this?”

“From the conductor,” he says with a kind smile that I certainly was NOT expecting from a Philadelphia native. After all the Always Sunny that I watch, I pretty much expected everyone to yell at me and steal from me (which I actually secretly hoped for too, considering I wanted to see fiction come to life before my eyes).

“Oh, great.. Thanks!”

And I shuffle quickly back to the massive map board and continue studying. The train arrives and we all pile inside one at a time, and the kind man from the platform sits right behind me.

The conductor comes through to charge tickets and I notice literally everyone handing him cash. Uh oh. I don’t have any of that..

I turn to the kind man.

“I hope he takes cards.. ”

*Awkward smile* “I don’t think he does.. ”

“Uh oh.. ”

*Conductor comes by*

“Do you take cards?”


“Okay.. What will $4 get me?”

*Exasperated sigh* “I’ll be back for your driver’s license to bill you.”

“.. okay.”

Kind man interrupts.

“Where are you going?”

“Market street.. ?”

“Okay, I’ll pay the rest of her fare.”

He proceeds to pay for me and I get my ticket.

I blush intensely over the embarrassment of perfectly fitting the stereotype of a broke 20something traveling the world but also have a swelling and warmth in my heart over perfectly fitting the stereotype of a broke 20something traveling the world.

You see, when you live your life day to day going wherever the world takes you, you develop a sense of excitement over the unknown and a love for the people in the world who can surprise you.

And man, did that kind man surprise me.

After the conductor walks away, I turn to the kind man to ask his name to thank him.

“Don’t worry about it,” he says with a smile across his lips.

We continued to talk for the entirety of the ride and turns out he’s originally from the Midwest too. He talked to me about the city and gave me tips.

Apparently, I reminded him of someone.

He began my trip on the best note it could have started out on and now reflecting on the experience, I can’t help but think of Blanche from Streetcar..


I leapt off the train, gave him a quick wave and wide smile and turned toward Market Street.

After that kind of morning, the rest of my day was wonderful. Having lived in Paris, I have a deep love of walking so I decided to skip the subway and instead walk everywhere. I walked the entirety of Market Street, saw the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, toured Congress Hall, ate lunch in Washington Square Park, stopped by Mac’s Tavern (which I’ll be eating at on Sunday – and coincidentally stalking the Sunny cast) and explored the Mütter Museum

I had such a fantastic first day in PA and know it can only get better. As I sit here on the train, I’m counting down the minutes until I see my girls again (36, to be exact). They have a spectacular five days planned for us and I can’t wait.

Mainly though, I’m just excited to be with them again.