Trip Within a Trip

Outside of my study abroad placement, I travelled to New Zealand during our weeklong spring break.  As a huge fan of hiking and The Lord of the Rings, I knew this was a place I would have to visit in order for my study abroad experience to be complete.  I felt well prepared for all of the hiking that I planned to do – after walking to and from the central business district every day for work, I am no stranger to walking.  When booking the trip, my roommate and I were set on visiting the Milford Sound and hiking in the area, so we booked bus tickets right away.  Unfortunately, we found out that there are no hotels in the area, and our bus tickets, which were two days apart, would be useless.  We were disappointed, but our spirits remained high, Prior to leaving, I triple checked that everything I needed was packed, and that it would all weigh below 7kg, as the budget airline we chose to use had a strict weight policy for bags.  The trip got off to a rocky start, as our connecting flight to Queenstown had an overnight layover and we were forced to sleep in the airport.  Upon arriving in Queenstown, we were immediately awestruck by the beautiful scenery, and we knew our trip would be a success.  When we arrived in the next town, Te Anau, we happened across a discount tour of the Milford Sound, but in order to take advantage of the offer and still complete all of our planned hikes, we would have to hike 35km today.  We had resigned to the fact that we would be unable to visit Milford, but after seeing this opportunity we knew we had to take it.  We quickly bought tickets and supplies for the hike, and headed on our way.  The hike was a portion of the Kepler Track, which is one of New Zealand’s famous great walks.  After getting to the halfway point of our planned hike, we saw a further summit just ahead, and chose to add an extra 5km to the already long trip.  Because of this, the final hour of our hike was in complete darkness, but this turned out to be one of the best parts of the entire trip – the clear night allowed us to see the Milky Way completely unobstructed.  The next day, we were exhausted from our accidental marathon, and the relaxed tour of the beautiful Milford Sound was the perfect way to recover.  The rest of the trip went smoothly, and I won’t ever forget my trip to New Zealand.  My advice for others planning to travel while abroad is this: plan better than I did, but don’t be afraid to throw out the plan – unexpected opportunities can lead to the most unforgettable experiences.