When my mom asked me in the summer if I wanted to attend our friend’s wedding in New Zealand and road trip around the South Island for a week before dropping my sister Emma in Dunedin for her exchange term, I told her that of course I wanted to, but I couldn’t. My work had already been so accommodating of my athletic schedule, allowing me to leave the office early for practice, work from home, and take time off for meets at a moment’s notice – it really didn’t seem fair to ask for more.
Then I left my job [read more about that here].
When my mom reiterated the offer to tag along in December, I started thinking seriously about it. But I had a new reason to hold back. I left my job to focus on running. Could I really justify a 10-day “vacation” with a 21-hour time difference and two 18-hour travel days? Well according to my new coach Lynn, yes, I could!
Best decision ever.
Out tramping! [Kiwi speak for hiking]
Not only have I dodged the Vancouver rain and snuck in some warm weather training, I was also able to attend Jenna and Nathan’s beautiful wedding and travel the South Island with my family. I’ve heard that “life is what happens when you’re making plans” and while anyone who has met me knows I love making plans, I also love jumping at awesome opportunities and experiencing what happens when you’re flexible while chasing your goals.
Part of the reason this trip was so special to my family is that Emma’s exchange marks the longest time the three of us have been apart, and my mom did an exchange in NZ when she was the same age. I also wanted to do a semester abroad in NZ during my undergrad, but ended up choosing co-op and running instead. I’ve never regretted that choice, but my desire to visit the land of the Kiwi hadn’t faded, and this trip has only made me want to go back again.
I can now say that I know my way around Hagley Park, have worked out in a vineyard, and accidentally found myself running on some of the most scenic mountain bike trails in the world. I can also tell you that Kiwis live up to their chill stereotype, venison tastes “gamy” and LOTR was filmed here for a reason. Also sheep are cuter than I ever realized, and flat whites rock. There’s some heated debate about how my family feels about “Weet-bix” but I won’t get into “Wheat-gate” right now.
Post workout in the POURING Rain. Shoutouts to Mama J + Emma for joining me!
In a lot of ways, this trip exemplified what the Brooks slogan “Run Happy” means to me. It doesn’t mean you’re grinning the entire time, feeling amazing and loving every step of the run (although that sounds pretty great). It means your exploring with every stride. Exploring how fast, how far, and how hard you can push yourself. Exploring a new city, a favourite training route, and new friendships/training groups. For me, the mindset of exploring is running happy – and it’s even better when you’re with your friends/family!
That said, as I did my last run in the pouring rain at Hagley Park I reached my limit for running/training by myself – good timing as I’m on the flight home as I write this post! I miss my group, and I miss my home. I love traveling, but I also love how when I reflect on what I’ve seen and experienced, my home still holds the same place in my heart – where I want to be right now.
New Zeleand is a phenomenal place. It’s natural beauty rivals BC’s claim to “the most beautiful place on earth” and everywhere we went I felt so welcomed. To generalize: the people here are chill, kind, and fit (we only made the mistake of taking an hour off the approximated hiking trail time once). Being surrounded by the incredible mountains made me feel very humbled by the power of nature. Emma pointed out so many cool geographical features in the different landscapes (#NerdAlert), and even the view out a car window truly leaves you in awe. Seeing the impact of the Christchurch earthquakes was also a powerful reminder of the power of nature, and the power of a community when it pulls together.
Downtown Christchurch, where street art eases emptiness
Jenna & Nathan’s Wedding. “Auntie Teri” (Mother of the bride) has been close friends with my Mom for almost 40 years and is like a sister to her. Her children Joel and Jenna each lived with us at separate times in Vancouver for a few months in their early 20s. It was an honour to attend Jenna’s special day as her “Canadian Family,”and it was even more of a privilege to meet their growing families!
I don’t know which was more beautiful: the bride, or the open bar of NZ wines
Milford Sound. W-O-W. My mom thought this was one of the Seven Wonders of the World and she shouldn’t have been wrong. The mountains rise from the ocean and it’s breathtaking to view from the water – even more so from the sky. We flew out of the sound back to Te Aneu [where we were staying] and the incredible views were worth the motion sickness.
What’s that sound? MILFORD
Food/Drinks. Ah the Flat White – Sauvignon Blanc’s only competition for the drink of the trip. Food here is crazy expensive. The standard option on any brunch menu is “toast and a spread” (legit just PB/jam on toast) for $10!!! I did eat the best salad of my life here… if you can call it a salad… it was chorizo, calamari, and roasted potatoes – but it came on lettuce so it still counts.
Driving in NZ. Aside from a few minutes in a residential area when Emma took the wheel, mom was our MVP and drove the entire trip. There were some supremely sketchy moments driving down two way streets that looked like back road bike lanes, leaving the car unlocked and running while we desperately wandered around looking for a brunch spot, and turning the windshield wipers on when she tried to signal…. But we made it out alive!
I especially enjoyed when the road signs just said “!”
Mt Isthmus Peak. Hiking is hard! I don’t feel bad that I didn’t get to the gym on this day – 16km feels FAR when you’re walking (and for the record, is further than I would run on a single day). I gained new appreciation for the fellowship’s quest (#LOTR) as we wound around an endless mountain, stepped over heaps of cow shit, and battled winds that grew in strength the higher we climbed. Thank god for protein bars and packable snacks!
“What a nice place for a hike with your sister” – Mom
The “Cottages.” For the most part we stayed in the cutest Airbnbs you ever did see. But one dark night…. We stayed in the middle of nowhere with no wifi/cell reception. Maybe it’s because I binge watched True Detective on the plane… but it was TERRIFYING. There were three tiny cottages/bedrooms that locked from the OUTSIDE, and it honestly felt like you were at the home of a serial murderer who attracts prey by luring tourists in desperate need of accommodation under the guise of “Charlotte the friendly Airbnb host.” As Emma would say: “no bueno.”
Not pictured: the “Kids” room (bunk beds that locked from the outside)
Kia Ora Dunedin! Mom and I head back to Vancouver, ditching Emma at the domestic section of the Auckland airport. I am so excited to hear about the adventures she’ll have over the next five months. If she can love camping in the jungle in Belize for six weeks, I think she can handle whatever comes her way. xoxo
“Do you think I brought too much!!??” – Emma