Week 44: I Canceled Plans Six Months in the Making... and Went to New Zealand!
If I could vote one month off Annual Island, it would be February.
I believe it’s a short month for very good reason: living well north of the Tropic of Cancer in Central Indiana, February is reliably cold, wet, icy, and gray, gray, gray. I find it miserable, and I’m a generally optimistic person.
For this reason, I’ve made it my mission the last two years to escape to warmer and sunnier climates in February for as long as possible. Spending the month working in Florida—a doable drive with Copilot Mylee in tow—has done wonders for my psyche. It was my time in St. Augustine last year, after all, that inspired me to start this intrepid year.
My plan this year was to make my third annual trip to Florida, spending it this time in Jacksonville. I knew it would be good for me, but as 2018 arrived, I was surprised to find myself feeling less than excited. I couldn’t figure out exactly why: was it the fact that I felt like I’d be missing out on some great activities at home? Did it feel too safe and uninspired compared to the previous 10 months of adventure? I still don’t know the answer, but my gut was telling me I wasn’t 100% on board.
Then, just after midnight on January 4, I got this text from my friend, Schuyler: “I’ve been thinking. Regardless how intrepid you want 2018 to be, you should find two weeks between mid-Jan and mid-March and connect with us in New Zealand.”
Hold. The. Phone.
Allow me to back up a bit.
I’ve been friends with Schuyler and his wife, Sarah Lynn, for about ten years. A work friendship with Sky gained me a new girlfriend in Sarah Lynn, and we’ve spent countless hours hanging out over picnics, symphony performances, Euchre games, glasses of wine, cookouts, and last fall a baby shower—their first. The two of them are world travelers who make at least one or two international trips a year, and they spent about a year together living in New Zealand after they finished school fifteen years ago.
I’ve seen (too) many people put their adventurous lives on hold when a baby enters the picture. I’ve not had one myself, so I can’t personally attest to the challenges that come with that bundle of often-screaming joy… but I find the hitting of this Life Pause button to be sad. Yes, traveling and adventure have to change and do become more challenging and incrementally more expensive. But does that mean you have to stop altogether? I think in many scenarios, the answer is no if you have the right attitude, a strong partnership, and a healthy dose of creativity.
When I learned that Sky and Sarah Lynn decided to take two months of their parental leave—escaping the misery of Indiana winter—and spend it with Baby in New Zealand, I smiled and knew that I should have expected nothing else.
And then they invited me to join them.
My first reaction was, “No, I can’t.”
Why? I already had my Florida plans, reserved six months in advance, and I expected the cost to be prohibitively expensive.
But the curious, adventurous part of my brain wouldn’t let it go. About 12 hours after receiving that text, I’d come around to the decision that I needed to say yes to this opportunity. Within five days, I’d sketched a plan with Sky and Sarah Lynn for places I needed to start researching and bought my plane tickets.
Five weeks later, I was ready to board a plane heading to the southern hemisphere to join my friends for my first-ever two-week vacation.
What I’d been lacking in excitement for my trip to Florida, I made up for in spades planning an adventure in New Zealand. And it didn’t disappoint.
Over the next few posts, I’ll share some of the highlights. We covered a lot of ground (literally), and we hit it running on Day 1. We started on the North Island, where I flew into Auckland, and trekked southward and finally over to the South Island. This map will give you a visual reference for the trip:
One thing I feel is certain: if not for this intrepid, challenging year of pushing myself to step outside my comfort zone, I wouldn’t have truly considered canceling my Florida getaway with any seriousness. I’m usually someone who makes a plan and sticks to it, even if there’s a more fun option tempting me outside it.
The fact that I said yes to such an invitation—which did involve some tough decisions about priorities—and planned an international trip to the other side of the world in just over a month… who is this woman I see looking back at me in the mirror?
Whoever she is, I like her. A lot. And I can’t wait to see where else this takes us.
Airbnb Traveler Tip:
I’m an avid traveler with Airbnb, so allow me to share a big tip: when you book your rental, pay attention to both the host’s cancellation policy and Airbnb’s fine print. Your host may have a Flexible or Moderate cancellation policy (awesome when you can find them), but for any reservations over 28 nights, the policy automatically flips to Airbnb’s “Long Term” policy. In that term, the first month is non-refundable.
I understand the need for this—in most cases, we’re dealing with a person, not a corporation, who depends on the income—but I learned the hard way. I thankfully had booked my Florida stay with an accommodating and fair pair of hosts who was willing to negotiate with me.
I know now to be more cautious… and will consider booking stays of 27 nights or less.