Studying in America is great. In the three years I’ve been there, I’ve experienced a multitude of opportunities that would never have crossed my path if I had stayed in New Zealand: I’ve been to towns, cities and countries that I would have never dreamed about, and made some new best friends; but it hasn’t always been easy. Although I chose not to stay and study in New Zealand, that doesn’t mean I don’t love my home. I love my country, my city, my culture and my friends and family, and it has been almost two years since I have been back.
Although I love studying in America and the travelling I get to do while I am here, I was beyond excited to return home for five weeks over summer, even though it’s winter at home. It’s funny, the more of the world that I get to see and the longer I am away, the more I begin to appreciate home.
Preparing for my summer adventures wasn’t easy. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a hoarder, and a shopaholic – two qualities that are a deadly combination for an international student and avid traveler. Somehow in my three years at university so far, I have managed to accumulated three or four car loads of stuff…clothes, books, stationary, kitchen stuff, bathroom stuff, bedroom and living room stuff…you name it, I’ve got it, and when I leave for two months over the summer, I have to find somewhere to put it.
This year I tried to be a bit more ruthless and get rid of things that I knew I definitely wouldn’t miss next year. Even still, it took a whole week and then some for me to decide what needed to go into suitcases for the summer, and to box everything else up into storage.
As much as I tried to be organized, I was still packing right until the last minute…yup, I was that person at the airport tucked away to the side by the check-in desk, desperately trying to rearrange my suitcases so I passed the weight restrictions…and loading my poor friend up with stuff that didn’t make the final cut.
As well as being a hoarder and a shopaholic, unsurprisingly, I’m also a chronic over-packer. It’s something I’ve identified as a problem and I’m making a conscious effort to improve.
My flight map home wasn’t pretty. There are many reasons that it’s been two years since I last ventured home, with cost and travel time being the big two. All up, the trip took me over 30 hours in travel and I lost 16 hours due to the time zone difference. I left Pittsburgh at 2:40pm local time on Sunday, June 11 and I arrived in Wellington at 2:40pm local time on Monday, June 13.
My first flight was Pittsburgh to Dallas, which was about a three and a half hour flight.I ended up befriending one of the men sitting in my aisle, after finding out that his daughter also attends my university. It turns out she is also a varsity athlete and only recently had ACL surgery as well. It always amazes me in a place as big as America, how small the world can be sometimes. He ended up letting me join him in the airline lounge which made my five hour stopover pleasant indeed.
My next flight was the big one…17 hours from Dallas to Sydney, Australia.
I think the travel gods were smiling on me throughout this entire trip, because this long flight ended up being rather luxurious as well. I had booked myself an aisle seat in the second to last row of the plane, and I guess not many people are keen on flying 17 hours to Sydney in the middle of winter because the plane was nowhere near full and I ended up with an entire aisle to myself. I got to stretch out across three seats and sleep for most of the flight which was an absolute treat.
After a 3 hour stopover in Sydney and 30 plus hours of airports and planes, I was more than ready to catch my final flight from Sydney to Wellington.
This flight was below average compared to the luck I found throughout the rest of my journey, but I didn’t care. I was squashed in a middle seat, between two guys who had no interest in making small talk, and I had already finished the book I picked up in Dallas. Despite itching to just be home already, I didn’t care and the flight went relatively quickly.
Flying into Wellington can be unpredictable. Hit the wrong weather and you can end up sick with a queasy stomach, certain that you’re going to end up in either Cook’s Strait or the harbour. But for me, for my arrival home, it was an absolute cracker of a day. We landed from the South, which meant the view was absolutely spectacular.
I’d love to hear your travel stories as well! Good or bad, what’s the most epic trip you’ve made?