After living abroad and traveling the world in short bursts, I can attest that there comes a point during travel when you have reached your peak.
(Sometimes but not always a literal peak like the Tongariro Crossing)
Although the time it takes to reach that pinnacle of experience varies, I can say that I usually reach my travel peak around the fifth or sixth day. After 5 days of a certain adventure, I feel like I have seen and done enough to placate my adventurous soul for a while. Then it is crucial to have plenty of space to properly decompress and internalize my experience. Often extending your trip too far beyond your pinnacle can result in a gradual decline of wonder, discovery and even physical ability which can negate the whole experience.
My highs and lows of travel also tend to track the physical challenges I undertake during my trip. I actively seek these experiences out because they have consistently been the highlight of my travels. However with these incredible physical accomplishments like trekking across the Tongariro Crossing in NZ, biking the Aran Islands in Ireland, and off-road biking to temples in Cambodia, comes extreme day-after exhaustion. The best way to end a trip is with this combination of a physical low and emotional high of accomplishment. Once you have reached your travel peak both physically and emotionally, you are ready to go home.
Thankfully our New Zealand bus tour was close to an end after our triumphant 8-hour Tongariro Crossing trek. The very next day we were on the bus all day driving to Wellington for one last night with the tour. While I mostly slept, we did stop for some side-of-the-road antics in Taihape.
Gumboot throwing! We had a little competition to see who could throw the gumboot (Wellington boot or “wellies”) the furthest. As the two token Americans, Linda and I stepped up to the plate (concrete slab), warming up before giving it our best shot. We take the competition very seriously.
Linda absolutely destroyed me with her magnificent tennis-trained swing. My throw was absolutely pathetic and does not even need to be mentioned. Linda was very close to winning farthest throw for the ladies! In general, everybody was a lot better than me and it was fun to watch.
The winners! I think they won a piece of candy. Legend.
4 hours of driving later, we pulled into Wellington, the southern-most city of the North Island. After dumping our stuff in our hostel, we walked along the harbor in the blistering cold wind to the Wellington Museum where we learned about the city’s relatively short history. But we had to rush back to the hostel to get ready for our last night with our Stray Bus buddies who were throwing me a “Hen Party”, aka my first Bachelorette party!
Our massive group gathered at the bar next to our hostel and we spent the night celebrating by drinking, dancing and singing along to ridiculous early 2000’s hits. Of course we ended up at karaoke and I wowed the crowd with a rendition of “I Want It That Way”. It was the perfect Hen Party and I felt so incredibly honored and moved by the support of my new friends.
After just 7 days of adventuring on the North Island, we were a tight-knit group of various ages and nationalities. While most of our friends were continuing on to the South Island, my journey was over. Linda and I were due on a 8-hour bus ride back to Auckland the very next day. We had reached our travel peak and were determined to go out with a bang in honor of my upcoming nuptials!
Although the Tongariro Crossing was the pinnacle of our trip, my very first bachelorette party thrown by my travel friends was the perfect ending to a wonderful journey. There is truly nothing better than a final gathering and celebration of the future.
I know that New Zealand will always be one of my favorite travel experiences, not because of the things I accomplished, but because of the people I shared it with. People like Linda, my amazing mother-in-law who made this trip a reality. Thank you for your unwavering support and your courage to follow me and my crazy travel schemes.
Cheers to you, my friends.
Catching up? Don’t miss anything…
New Zealand 1: Rain, Wine and Waiheke in Auckland
New Zealand 2: Boarding the Stray Bus and Raglan Beach
New Zealand 3: Waitomo Glowworm Caves and Doing the Haka
New Zealand 4: I’m Going on an Adventure… Hobbiton and Lake Aniwhenua
New Zealand 6: Horseback Riding and Lamb Cuddling at Blue Duck Station
New Zealand 7: The Tongariro Crossing… a Tale of ice picks and wet socks