I have two days left in New Zealand. I’ve been here for three weeks now but feel like I’ve practically moved here. Cars driving on the left side is expected now. Replying “kia ora” or “hello” to locals is second nature. Seeing dozens of sheep everywhere you turn isn’t as startling. This is New Zealand. And it has already started to feel so familiar. Not quite like home yet but it has begun to. It’s wild how connected you can feel to a place when you’ve been here this short of a time, but it all makes sense when you hear of my experiences here.

We’ve traveled to fifteen different places. In Queenstown, I paraglided. At Waiheke Island, we walked 13 miles to a winery. In Wellington, we visited the workshops where they shot Lord of the Rings. In Hanmer Springs, we hiked among towering pine trees and ended the day in thermal pools. In Lyttleton, we bought local food and danced to a jazz band at a farmer’s market. We’ve done this and so much more. I’ve never felt more drained but it’s for all the right reasons. Adventure and exploration has defined my trip here and I couldn’t be more grateful.

More than anything, I will miss the friends I’ve made here. This group of 22 strangers has bonded quicker than anything I’ve ever seen. We’ve become a family. Having to depend on one another to navigate a foreign country and join you on excursions certainly has helped in this. I never imagined myself opening up to someone I just met while on the side of a mountain, but this trip has led me to that moment several times.

I’ve never been to so many new places so quickly with so little control or time to slow down. But I’ve loved it. And doing it all with truly great people I would’ve never met otherwise has made it so much better.

My new whānau (family)