While living in Max, our home on wheels for 8 or 9 weeks, Life presented a number opportunities for me to get outside my comfort zone and do something that was a bit risky and required faith in the outcome, generally in the pursuit of fun.
These opportunities are probably the reason a number of people have labeled me “adventurous.” If only those people knew how much I fretted before doing any of the things they see as brave because I can assure you that I don’t categorize myself this way. I’m not scaling mountains sans ropes, or crossing deserts on horseback, or having babies. Those endeavors take chutzpah.
But if saying “yes” to doing things that scare you qualifies one as adventurous, then sure, fine.
Here’s the highlight reel of the best experiences that being open and saying yes brought me during our last two months of living in New Zealand.
Btdubs I save the best for last and should mention that, while I didn’t hesitate to answer – there was no fretting over it, I included it because in order to arrive at this moment I had (and have) to say yes over and over to stepping outside my emotional comfort zone by being vulnerable with another human. That can be far scarier than jumping off a bridge! Plus it fit nicely with the theme 🙂
Whitewater Rafting the Kaituna
The Kaituna River flows from Lakes Rotorua and Rotoiti to the Bay of Plenty on the North Island. This stretch of river is a popular spot to raft with dozens of outfits operating commercial trips and it boasts the world’s highest commercially rafted waterfall at 7 meters. I’ve never rafted before and was nervous about this whole “world’s tallest” business but I said yes and got in the raft.
There was only one other guy booked into our time slot so it was practically a private tour. Our guide, Jack, was lighthearted and so fun and the safety guy who accompanied us in a kayak is an amazing kayaker with world records under his belt. Suffice to say we were in great hands and it helped put me at ease about hurtling over a waterfall into giant jacuzzi jets of churning water.
En route to the Falls of Trepidation, we got to climb out of the raft and do front flips off a 15′ tall boulder jutting out over the water, stand up to “surf” rapids and even managed to get the raft pinned on its side, at damn near 90 degrees against the rock face. There were a couple little waterfalls to cut our teeth on before we got to the behemoth: Tutea Falls.
As you can see, we went over the edge, disappeared for a beat or two, then resurfaced sputtering water and all smiles. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Heli-hiking the Franz Josef Glacier
Did you know New Zealand is home to more than 3,000 glaciers!? The vast majority of them will never be touched, at least by a commercial tour group. There are, however, a couple on the South Island that are easily accessible to tour groups via helicopter and that’s just what we did.
I’d never been in a helicopter before and loved that experience nearly as much as being on the glacier itself. A few of my friends are helicopter pilots… now that I’m back on U.S. soil I might need to hit them up about going for a ride.
So I don’t want to depress you with stats about how much the glaciers have retreated in a very short amount of time. #globalwarmingisnotahoax
Nor freak you out with what it was like to watch a school bus-sized chunk of glacier split off and go thundering down the valley a mere hundred yards away from us.
Instead I’ll keep it light and bright and tell you that glacier water is the best water you’ll ever taste in your life. So fresh, crisp, and clean. I couldn’t get enough.
We were on the glacier for just over 2 hours but it went by in a flash.
Bungy jumping off the Kawarau bridge… twice
I made a deal with Mark before moving to New Zealand that he could push me off ONE bridge but that I got to choose which one. I chose to jump off the Kawarau Bridge, the birthplace of bungy jumping and a site still operated by its founder, AJ Hackett.
The OG Kawarau Bridge bungy is a 43-meter jump. I like to speak in meters because it tricks my brain into not fully grasping that 43 meters = 141 feet.
It was an experience I dreaded the entire time we lived there and then, inevitably, the day came where I had to put my feet on the edge of a bridge and plummet off the side.
I made myself a promise that when my time came I would jump on the first count of three, that I wouldn’t hesitate. And that’s exactly what I did. Counted to 3, took a breath, and soared headfirst into the air with arms outstretched.
Surprise of all surprises I LOVED IT!
I loved it so much that when an opportunity presented itself for me to do it again, I jumped at it (puns always intended) but with a spin. The second time around I did a trust fall, so I stood on the ledge with my back to the river and simply fell backward. I would bungy jump ever.single.day if I could.
If you ever have the chance, sign up before you can think twice, stand on the edge, take a deep breath, and just let go. It’s beautiful.
Some people will think I’m crazy for loving bungy (and that’s okay) but Mark is actually the crazy one. He elected the Nevis Bungy whose jumping platform is suspended in the middle of a canyon by wire cables and is New Zealand’s longest bungy at 134 meters! That’s about 440 feet! You have about 8 seconds of freefall before the rope runs out and brings you back toward the sky. It makes my palms sweaty thinking about it!
He loved it but wouldn’t spend that amount of money to do it again. Lucky for us, AJ Hackett offers a lifetime 10% discount to veteran jumpers!
Will you marry me?
It’s no secret that Milford Sound is my favorite place on earth. I managed to visit this wonderland 4 times in the 18 months we spent in NZ and know that I’ll be back again.
The last time we went was the culmination of a 4 day/3 night hike called the Milford Trek that we completed with our besties, Rob & Christy. It was our third and final Great Walk; the other two we did were the Abel Tasman and the Kepler.
I had long looked forward to doing the Milford because a) it’s in my favorite place b) two of our favorite people were doing it with us and c) I hoped Mark would propose there.
Before we started the hike I was chatting with our flatmate Stephanie about the hike and how much I hoped Mark would propose but didn’t want to be disappointed if it didn’t happen. She assured me Mark wasn’t a dum-dum and that he’d do it.
Fast forward to the last day of the hike, we’ve crossed awe-inspiring mountain passes, stood beneath the tallest waterfall in NZ, and gazed at green valleys that went on for days… but no ring.
I made peace with the disappointment I felt at realizing that it wasn’t going to happen and decided to make light of it instead.
About 2 hours from the hike’s finish I told Mark he was a dum-dum for not proposing and that the last 4 days had been the biggest tease of my life. He took it in stride and joked back that he planned to propose before 2018. It was only March. Helpful, right?
We finished the hike and were hanging out at the ferry terminal, waiting for the bus that would take us back to Max, about 90 minutes away.
We had time to kill so someone suggested walking to the end of the pier for pictures then grabbing a much-deserved beer before getting on the bus.
We got out there and were posing for pictures when I noticed Mark was breathing kind of funny (he refutes this) and that’s when I knew something was happening. I watched him dive off a 440 ft platform without a second thought but at the end of that pier, my normally calm and collected boyfriend was clearly nervous.
He started talking, saying sweet things, I don’t know what exactly because I blacked out, and when I came to he was on one knee, holding the most beautiful ring I’ve ever seen. I think I said yes. If not, my profuse nodding was answer enough.
This moment was extra special because we got to share it with Rob and Christy. We participated in Rob’s proposal to Christy on top of Angel’s Landing nearly four years ago and I am beyond grateful to them for smuggling this bauble over and keeping it tucked away until the very end.
And then we got beers and lived happily ever after.
The moral of the story, say yes to things that scare you whether they be emotionally or physically risky because the payoff is worth it.