So for the first time for my entire duration in New Zealand, i.e., 16years and after a 4 month solo trip last year in the northern hemisphere, I decided to travel solo within Aotearoa. The first of a series of solo trips lined up over the next 3 months and I chose to view the Southern Lights from possibly the best place here, Catlins in Otago. I spent 8 days between Dunedin, Catlins and Invercargill all by myself (mostly) and wow ! what an incredible experience it was. No wonder people from all around the world come to do solo travelling here in NZ as it is probably one of the safest, if not THE safest countries to travel alone. Yes there are bad incidents here too, but that’s just everywhere and cannot be stopped. Just wrong people, wrong time and wrong place with sheer coincidence of events can lead to some bad examples. But majority of the time it’s extremely safe to travel alone within NZ.

I flew into Dunedin, hired a car and because I had no plan as such I drove off from the airport thinking if I should spend time in Dunedin or drive towards Invercargill and what route I should take. And with a flick of the switch I decided to head southwards. No sooner had I driven about 30mins or so, than I saw a beautiful lake in the distance. With no one to ask if I should stop or drive on, I had the liberty to do whatever I wanted wherever I wanted. So I pulled over near the Lake Waihola and spent a good hour or so admiring the silence and the natural beauty. This was just one simple example of how amazing it is to pack your bags and leave alone on a journey where you don’t know what the destination is like. With a bit of reading and researching you can expect a few things but without having anyone to discuss stuff it’s always an anticipation about the journey as well as the destination and that’s the beauty of it !! 

And this time as I was on my own I wanted to backpack. I can’t even remember when I backpacked last and stayed in a hostel. It was only during the travels in the early days as a student when I had just arrived and since then the ‘cost of accomodation’ always kept getting higher and higher, not because the prices were increasing. But because of the CHOICES we make. As I earned more & more the brain always said to spend more to get the better of the best. And this applied to the style of travelling and choice of stay too. While the purpose of travelling is to enjoy the journey more, as the phases of life pass we end up wanting to enjoy the destination a lot more instead !! 

Anyway coming back, this time I had no one to question my choices, nor anyone to complain ! And so I chose a private room in a hostel. Thanks to my love for travel and the joys of meeting people, I couldn’t have chosen any other choice of accomodation as a better option to stay. I stayed at Tuatara Lodges in Invercargill and Geeky Geckos in Dunedin !! Very apt names huh.. Like most backpackers/hostels in NZ both of them were very neat & tidy and had a very interesting mix of people from all walks of life. Construction workers, office workers, people who were looking for houses to buy, someone who had made a sale and waiting to move in, business people etc. We often think it’s only the budget travellers who end up at these places but nope, it’s all sorts. And none of them I came across treated anyone differently at all. In the evenings, all of them were open to conversations, open to sharing a meal, a drink or just a friendly conversation. 

While most people were in the age range of 20-45, it was easy for me to pass of as a 30yr old. Thanks to the abundance of hair on my head !! It naturally makes some of my peers wonder what’s wrong with me and why I don’t lose it yet as they do 😛 With that being said, I made some real good ‘friends’ in a very short span of time wherever I stayed. From a very young & friendly Spaniard to a very old but wise German Cyclist to a bunch of 20yr old German girls !! Everyone with a different reason to travel and an exciting story to tell. I had plenty of my own stories to share and it was never a problem to start a conversation, irrespective of who it was 🙂 Am sure to cross paths again with a lot of them in the months to come… At times the conversations revolved around the food I made. For a lot of them who watched me prepare my meals, I was almost like a Masterchef, specially on one of the nights where I made some steak & steamed cauliflower with coconut puree !! Other night I was a ‘big spender’ cuz I got myself a KFC meal 🙂 Its always interesting to see the perspectives of different people about the same things. Of course everyone’s situations and background are not the same as the rest and nothing is wrong either. 

So before I knew it 8 days of travelling alone came to an end in no time. I wish I had done more of these earlier too but hey better late than never right. I have more to look forward to now, than I ever had before. So the moral of the story is the same as wrote in my ‘first ever solo trip blog’ – If you have never travelled solo, pack your bags and just head off somewhere with no plans and you’ll learn a lot about yourself. And if you are in New Zealand there’s no better place than our own backyard to kickstart your solo-travel itinerary. I have at least half a dozen lined up in the months to come and I’ll blog about them as I go. Feel free to be inspired.. or not… Or just ignore… Your life your choice !! Ka kite anō !!

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