While on my flight to New Zealand, I created a to-do list that stretched from my hometown of Decatur, Georgia all the way to Palmy, my newly acquired residence for five months. I was determined to experience adventure, and foolishly assumed that I was prepared. I had packed for everything from rapid floods to sudden shampoo shortages, but the one thing I had not anticipated was conquering this adventure alone.
The people were friendlier than I could have ever hoped for and I was falling in love with the culture on a deeper level than I thought possible. I had hoped to spend my Easter break with my friends, but they planned to visit Australia and I wanted to see more of New Zealand. I started losing my confidence because I had never planned a vacation on my own before. I told my fears to a cousin and her words of wisdom were: “If you weren’t going to do something why the hell did you go in the first place?” Nice, I thought. And with that encouragement ringing in my ears I continued with my plans.
Queenstown was the fourth city I visited and it was the most “touristy” town I had discovered thus far. There were so many hostels and hotels in the condensed area; all the stores were either selling sporting equipment or souvenirs. It boasted skiing, bungy jumping, and cannoning as just a few of the available activities, christening itself as the adrenaline city of New Zealand. When I arrived I found myself feeling a little self-conscious. There were lots of things I wanted to try, but I felt awkward doing them alone. I had no desire to be the oddball and I almost considered spending my few days there window shopping, until I saw an ad for a horseback riding range at Ben Lomond Station Horse Trekking. The idea of trekking in New Zealand on horseback seemed magical. So I signed up for the almost unbearable early morning appointment, hoping to avoid the romantic couples that would definitely be signing up.
The next day, when it was time for my lesson, it was unbelievably cold. I was not used to New Zealand weather and all I had were two useless, light-weight jackets. So as I shivered at the bus stop waiting for my ride to the range I started having second thoughts. Surely I could crawl back into my warm bed and sleep an extra two hours, I thought. I almost left when the person sitting next to me asked if I was waiting for the same van as her. It turned out that she was also an American student who was going horseback riding by herself. We started discussing the regular student topics: universities, majors, and what we’ve seen so far. The van came much later than what had been predicted, but I had hardly noticed by then. When we finally got into the warm vehicle there was already a family inside, a mother and father with two little girls. They would be my fellow adventurers for the next three hours.
Though things were looking bright for my magical morning quest there was one foil in my plans, Scooby the horse. I was given Scooby to ride because he had a sweet temperament. Sweet Scooby was new to the ranch and was not yet accepted by his new horse family. I spent most of the time in a slow paced walk at the end of our group, far away from my new acquaintances. This became increasing frustrating, especially since Scooby would not listen to my pleas. Looking back I realize that my time with Scooby was probably one of the most rewarding experiences from my New Zealand trip. He never caught up with the others but after an hour he cooperated with me. I was finally able to really enjoy the mountains, the trees, the lake, and the quiet which was the complete opposite from the rustle of Queenstown. Some of my most treasured pictures came from this trip, including one of me and Scooby.
It’s funny how I went into this experience worrying that it would be strange for me to do this on my own. Yet, even with the amazing people I met on the range I still ended up being alone, just me and Scooby. Now, I believe it was better that way. It’s cliche to say that being alone teaches you so much about yourself, but it’s true. I learned that packing a real winter coat is necessary for such trips, that horses named Scooby can by shy yet entertaining and that taking risks can be rewarded in amazing ways. Because of the chance I took I gained a travel companion for the rest of my time in the city.