After traveling for 3 months in my backpack I missed van life, so I shifted into sales mode and talked my friends into renting a van to travel across New Zealand. I flew from Australia to New Zealand with Ryan and his friend Ryan (not to be confused with the Ryan I traveled with in Vietnam, or the Ryan who introduced me to the Ryan that I traveled with in Vietnam. Yeah, I need to diversify my friends names). In Christchurch we picked up our Cruzy Campervan at the airport. It had space for 3 to sleep, and 3 to ride, although all 3 seats were in the front. We were definitely going to get close on this trip.

Ryan, Chris, & Ryan

From Christchurch we drove north, camped in caravan parks along the beach, and aimed for Abel Tasman National Park. The park was excellent for hiking, trail running, and bird watching, though, you didn’t have to search for birds, they found you. I slept in my tent and each night I woke to wekas, colorful chicken-like birds, pecking at me through the nylon walls.

We turned the van south and rambled across the island toward Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. From our caravan park the two Ryans booked a helicopter tour to walk on the glaciers, and as a budget traveler I hoofed it a few miles down the highway to hike the Mount Fox Route, which climbs 3,840 feet in just 2.2 miles, probably the gnarliest trail I’ve ever experienced. The view form the top was more than worth the beating I took to get there.

We checked out Queenstown for a few days before our next adventure and I was able to meet up with my Appalachian Trail buddy Smiling Joe and his wife Katie who were also traveling around New Zealand for a few weeks. Before leaving town for our next caravan park we needed to get groceries. It just so happened that the last grocery store on the way to our campsite was a Countdown Supermarket. So….did that mean…that it was the Final Countdown??? (see the video below)

Final Countdown New Zealand Film

I often wonder what would happen if I spent more of my time on productive pursuits…

The Ryans and I drove down to Milford Sound to camp a few nights. We took a boat tour, they went scuba diving, and I climbed another steep (albeit not as gnarly) trail to Gertrude Saddle.

We returned to Queenstown and one Ryan flew home. I had a choice to make. I was planning 2 more weeks vagabonding around New Zealand with the other Ryan, but Grandpa had been moved into hospice care, and though they weren’t sure how long he had left, I decided to change my flight and head home to see him while I could. Ryan continued on in the van by himself, and I landed back in the States for what I think is the biggest benefit of being homeless and self-employed, the opportunity to spend time with the important people in life before it’s too late. Grandpa eventually passed away, but I’ll never regret ending my trip early and spending the last few weeks with him in his hospice room. New Zealand will always be there, and I hope to return to the South Island again some day!

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