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Without ever having visited, New Zealand has always felt a part of my history and held a special place in my heart. My father grew up in a tiny timber town in the Bay of Plenty regions, called Kawerau. As a little girl, I listened to him tell me stories of an evolving childhood in this small town in Northern New Zealand; stories of him as a boy running through mud pools, of the old Finnish lady who lived next door, and even to stories of his young adult life traveling the country. This place already felt like home to me. 

From the moment we arrived I was amazed. It seemed that every where you looked, or every turn you made, was more beautiful than the last. I had done my research, and had seen the magnifiicene of places online, but it was nothing compared to standing there in real life, experiencing the way light and nature interact.

Spending eleven days road tripping the South Island with Lauren, makes it nearly impossible to chose highlights. The entire country feels like it was sculpted purely for the intention of beauty, but there are certain places that left an incredible impact on me. Walking around the trails of Lake Matheson, the path opened up to what looked like fairy floss interlaced between mountain peaks. I physically dropped to the ground in awe. It was everything I had ever dreamed of seeing in real life. 

Another day that will forever be one of my favorites was the day we hiked Roys Peak. The 5.5 mile straight uphill hike through sheep tracks and and meadows was tough, but ultimately worth every bit of muscle pain we endured the following day. The view from the summit was insane. The only thought running through my mind was how beautiful our planet was, and how more people need to make trips and hikes like this to see and understand that. 

I could go on for ages about the magnificence of the South Island, but what truly made the two weeks in New Zealand so remarkable was the chance I had to see my father’s childhood town and family home. A home and town I had only ever seen photos and heard stories of came to life in front of my eyes. I pulled up to Whittaker Street, and without even seeing the number on the house I knew it was the one. I also was able to visit the cemetery where my grandfather, whom I was never able to meet, is buried. After two beautiful weeks in this country, seeing the ties that connect me to it was so special.