New Zealand’s Wine Country: The Island Of Waiheke

New Zealand’s “winter,” I learned this past summer, is essentially a Michigan Spring. Grey, wet and you’ll definitely need a jacket.

I visited in July this year after my trip to Australia and flew from Sydney to New Zealand’s capital, Auckland. When the lovely Simonne (who is featured in my post about bungee jumping) offered to show me around, I leaped at the opportunity. I booked a super cheap flight ($175) via Virgin Atlantic and made it to Auckland in about 3 hours.

An important thing to note when traveling to New Zealand is that they have some serious customs laws and enforcement – and they don’t mind side tracking your itinerary to ensure you’re clean. In the interest of protecting their wildlife and renowned natural beauty, they strictly abide by regulations on meat, nuts, vegetation, etc. I was unfortunately placed in a massive line where they searched through bags and carry-on items. Make note of this potential time-stealer when traveling internationally into NZ.

I was sadly in this incredible country for a mere 3 days, and with that, Simonne mentioned she had the perfect plan for me as we settled into our hotel in Auckland: We were going on a boat to the island of Waiheke, which boasts of some of New Zealand’s most amazing wine country – something I could not miss while visiting, even in the winter.

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A Breeze Through The South – Atlanta & Dallas

For those of you who know me personally – I am not a very “Southern” type of person/traveler. There are many reasons for this: I hate hot/humid places, I disagree with far-right thinkers (and the use of the Confederate Flag in Southern-inspired interior design) and I prefer a more fast-paced lifestyle, among other reasons. I think this stereotype I’ve built up over the years of this region added up to why when I had a chance to travel, I tend to volunteer specifically for West Coast, East Coast or Midwestern metropolises rather than the slower yet charming South (yes, I know what you’re thinking – is the Midwest that different from the South? Yes, yes it is.)

I finally was exposed to more Southern living and lifestyle through work when I visited Atlanta, GA for the first time and Dallas, TX and now have a special place in my heart for both cities.

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A Glimpse Into Sydney’s Night Life

When I catch up with old friends or make new ones, people tend to ask: “what exactly do you do for a living?” or “what is your job…?”

When I first entered the professional world, I will say it was something I tended to gloss over or stutter out some topline answer because I didn’t even know how to explain it. But really, what I personally do is only one portion of the industry people are so curious about.

The experiential marketing industry is what has granted me the opportunity to travel (whether that be in San Antonio, TX or Sydney, Australia) and with that, I really do try to make friends wherever I go and see the town when I have completed work. Each city has such a unique personality, it would be a major shame to allow “being tired” or “being too busy” to prevent someone from embracing each place. How do you know what’s cool about a city (beyond tourist attractions!)? Make friends and ask questions! I made a personal vow that anyone who helps me in a city I visit, I will help them in New York or in Michigan should they visit as a favor – and this summer alone, I’ve been able to return the favor to my friends I’ve made in Australia and Norway by hosting them in NYC. See below for a visit from my Australian friend, Aundrea, this past week for NY Fashion Week and check out her line called Isabel and I:

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“That Is So Unlike You” – Bungy Jumping In Auckland

I finally did it.

Being entirely drunk and high on pure life is something I will never let myself forget. I can officially say I bungy jumped off of the Auckland bridge.

And the fact that a lot of people told me “that is so unlike you” only makes it that much more satisfying.

In Auckland (the major city of New Zealand), my fantastic tour guide Simonne spoiled me rotten. We knew each other in high school (she went to Catholic Central and I went to City High in Michigan) and had a strong friendship chemistry that has lasted through college to now. Upon graduation, she moved to New Zealand with her family and has been there ever since.

Without her, my trip would not have been nearly half as successful – her friends welcomed me with open arms, taught me a lot about the Maori/Kiwi culture and made my quick three day trip so fulfilling. Simonne works in the fine dining industry and we literally had the best meals in the entire world, including my first Executive Chef’s dinner experience with the food prepared right in front of us (will write a post on this!).

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Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb

What kind of American tourists would Dani, Jess and I be without taking some kind of adventurous excursion? 

Luckily, this is one even native Australians suggested we do and I will say it was 100% worth it.

On one of our free days after a crazy (yet fun) week of work, we decided to commit to a climb on the Sydney Harbour Bridge at twilight. Twilight was suggested by one of our team members who had been before and we are so glad we did as booking at twilight provided an opportunity to see all of Sydney and the Harbour in daylight, at sunset and at night. The bridge is 440′ tall from the top to the water and would be the height of our peak views. The trip itself took about 3.5 hours from training to completion.

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KiaOra & G’Day United States!

“Holy @#$!” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

I am currently writing this blog post on the plane from Sydney to Los Angeles (which will then take me to New York) while the flight is dark and every passenger is asleep. I’ve tossed and turned for the past hour but cannot seem to put my thoughts to rest.

Although I have left “down undah” with great sadness from saying goodbye to my new friends and having a whole lot less money in my savings account, I have never felt so fulfilled and rejuvenated in my life. A newfound vigor has been instilled in me in what I want to do and see in the miniscule bit of time we have in this world. I really hope it’s not “just a phase” but instead, a new outlook I will keep with me for a long, long time to come.

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