It’s easy to dream really big. I dream, for example, of winning a multimillion dollar lottery. I dream of being a published writer. I dream of being the world’s biggest philanthropist. Part of the fun of dreaming big is that little flit of knowledge that those dreams won’t ever actually come true. They can’t! If you fulfill your dreams, what else will you do with your daydreaming time? Plus, who am I, after all, to envision myself at the pinnacle of a possible life?
This is what I used to think. As recently as 8 months ago my dream of being an international teacher, and traveler, were just too big to swathe into a giant hug. 8 months ago, with a phone call, someone told me I could do that. And so, a 15 year old dream came to life, like the Velveteen Rabbit, who, being so well loved, finally takes a breath. So it is with dreams.
It’s funny, though. Once alive, that sucker first crawls, then walks, then sprints from the spark that gave it life. Case in point: After getting the opportunity to move to Korea, we just spent Christmas in New Zealand and New Year’s Eve in Fiji. If that doesn’t sound like I woke up inside a dream, I don’t know what does.
But I’m just going to give you this in one fell swoop, so as to spare you multiple entries about our 3 week trip.
Deep breath – and here goes: While living in our rental RV for 10 days, we first mastered the roundabouts in Auckland, on the North Island, then witnessed the wonder and peace of the glow worms in the caves at Waitomo. We ventured along winding and narrow roads on to beautiful Lake Taupo, first passing countless gorgeous rolling, hilly farmlands spotted with sheep. Once there, we took a day trip into the world that is Rotorua, where we bathed in mud heated by underground volcanoes: the same pools used by indigenous chiefs after the battles of long ago. After that, we found a place to go zorbing where the kids and I rolled down a hillside in a giant ball in warm water, like cartwheeling embryos. We also luged down the side of a mountain and ate delicious meat pies bought at a roadside cafe. At this point, our RV decided it needed a new clutch and we were stuck, albeit poolside, for an entire day awaiting a different one.
Another deep breath. After Taupo came a 2am arrival in Wellington, a stunningly vibrant and friendly city on the sea. Here, we met up with a colleague from school and spent Christmas Eve with him and his sister’s friends and family on their deck overlooking the “bush” of New Zealand. Morning took us to the ferry terminal, which carried us to Picton, on the South Island of NZ. On Christmas Day, we drove to Kaikoura. Our favorite. We had good pizza for the first time in months, discovered a beach and spent a lot of time in the heated pool. We cooked fresh salmon on the grill and just hung out. But – also in Kaikoura, my lifelong dream of swimming with dolphins came true! 300 of those amazing creatures came to play that next morning. If I live to be 110 I will never, ever forget that experience.
More deep breathing. After the dolphins, a scenic 5-hour drive brought us into Greymouth and an RV spot beside a path that, whaddaya know, led to … one of the most beautiful beaches any of us had ever seen. One night in Greymouth and we were off to Fox Glacier where the male Hamlins took a helicopter up and away, to walk on the surface of the glacier itself, which of course, is, very sadly, disappearing. After this jaunt, another few hours and we were in Wanaka where we treated the kids to a trip to “Puzzle World” which was an entire building devoted to optical illusions, and which, despite that trite description, was awesome. Then, alas, on to Haast, where we spent one night, caught up on laundry and had a quiet and leisurely dinner at a place where there were 30+ antlers hanging from the rafters and where there were awards on the wall, dating back a dozen years, for “Best Rack of the Year.” We were tired enough to laugh quite hard about that.
Sigh. Our plan was to get to the base of Mt. Cook, the highest mountain in NZ, but the driving was getting old. We lucked out and got the last RV spot at much closer Lake Tekapo, which turned out to be golden. We spent an hour or so in the hot pools staring up at the stars, while the kids went rollerblading. We slept like rocks in our last night in the RV. It rained the morning we left, which matched our general mood, as we were not happy to be leaving New Zealand. We flew out of Christchurch and didn’t have a chance to see any of it, due to the destruction of the recent earthquake.
New Zealand was 10 days of fun, adventure and constant activity. Fiji, on the other hand, was meant for sitting on our butts. And that is just what we did. The kids swam and we relaxed, often in our bungalow, which had A/C and a breeze blowing in off the water. Fiji was nice. But it’s New Zealand that stole our hearts. We would love to have the chance to go back and explore the Milford Sound area. But this will have to wait. Besides, a person must have a dream and this one will suffice to keep me motivated on this international adventure.