Regional Director Lynne visited New Zealand on tour and found the only way she could express her feelings about this country was in a heartfelt letter.
Dear New Zealand,
There is something I must confess. From the moment I landed on your shores, you changed my life forever. Now, I dream about the day I can see you again. It’s true: I have fallen madly in love with you. There are so many reasons why that I could fill an entire book. But in the interest of time, here are just a few…
Every single native I met touched my heart in unexpected ways. They were genuine, funny, caring and spoke from the heart. There were the owners of the farm at Walter Peak, who invited us into their beautiful estate for a grand dinner. They proudly demonstrated the talents of their shepherding dogs and their own skills and speed at sheep-shearing, while making sure the sheep was calm and comfortable.
Then, there was the incredible family in Nelson who opened their home to our group. Three generations had spent the entire day cooking a delectable feast of lamb, fish, roasted carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes and pavlova for us to share over stories and songs from our respective countries. While they put the finishing touches on dinner, their daughter introduced us to their pet sheep and family dog. We parted with hugs and promises to keep in touch and truly felt like part of their family.
Finally, there was the Maori family in Rotorua, who not only shared stories of their ancient cultures and traditions, but actually tried to teach us (quite unsuccessfully) some of their crafts and dances as well. Their pride in their country was contagious and warmed my heart. I long for the day when I can interact with more of these fascinating people.
Your stunning natural landscapes
Your country is the most beautiful I have ever laid eyes on. Each place we visited was more stunning than the last. The South Islands’ lakes were the bluest blue I have ever seen. Slowly sailing through the misty fjords and seeing hidden waterfalls around every turn was truly one of the most magical experiences of my life. Watching the sky turn stunning shades of purples, pinks, oranges and yellows as the sun set over Punakaiki literally took my breath away. Hiking through the nature trail at Abel Tasman National Park left me feeling at peace, although at the same time excited by what stunning view might be just up ahead. At the end of the hike, my cheeks were flushed and my heart was racing, but I had the feeling I was exactly where I was meant to be at this moment in time. I knew then I was in love.
Your challenge to try something new
Queenstown is known as the adventure capital of the world, and for good reason. Its many adventure options challenged me to open myself up to new experiences and try something new. While bungee jumping was still a bit too far out of my comfort zone, the thrill of a new experience called out to me. As I was flying through the shallow turquoise rivers through a narrow gorge on a jet boat, a little fear (but mostly exhilaration) pumped through my veins. I was really living! I could conquer anything! So I stepped onto the Skyline Gondola and ascended the 450 meters to Bob’s Peak. My reward was a breathtaking view of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu.
But I wanted more. So I headed to the Skyline Luge and climbed in. The ride down was elating and I felt like a kid again. The smile on my face was genuine. I was truly happy. I had to stop myself from literally running back to the entrance to ride again. Throughout the trip, I continued to push myself. I ate new foods, drank new drinks and started conversations with locals. I walked farther than I ever had before. I climbed higher than I ever had before. I looked around every corner. I challenged myself because you challenged me first.
Thank you, New Zealand, for opening yourself up to me. Because you welcomed me into your heart and your home, I have returned to mine a different person. You have stolen a piece of my heart. I miss you every day. I am in love with you, New Zealand, for all time. I am also more in love with traveling than I ever thought possible.
Have you ever felt this strongly about a destination? Tell us in the comments below or email firstname.lastname@example.org with your story.