Since childhood I have been told by dozens of people that my writing profoundly moved them, that it illuminated something for them that was hidden, that it wrapped them in a visceral experience they were not expecting. Two unrelated Masters degrees later (Music, and Disability Studies), I still write primarily for my own enjoyment, as well as for the handful of friends and family that read my travel blog.
Winning would be a validation of my skill as a writer. If my words truly have the ability to transport people, I would like to turn that skill into more than just a hobby.
I believe I should be chosen because I am the kind of person that will sit for two hours in a wooden shack to wait for the rarest penguin in the world to emerge from the sea. I think voices like mine don't often make it into the mainstream. I am quiet, hesitant, and cautious, which are traits that many individuals who don't travel can relate to. And yet, I seem to possess an insatiable desire to immerse myself in the unknown, discover, jump into situations despite fear, and experience even the simplest things as profound.
I can step off a boat in rural Fiji, bewildered and scared, which all my readers can naturally relate to... and then have them travel with me through words as I slowly emerge out of my shell into a fascinating and delicate exploration of an unknown culture. Suddenly, travel becomes accessible because readers think, if SHE can do it, maybe I can, too.
New Zealand: Remote, wild, & stunningly beautiful
Winding roads that twist through hills upon hills tinted with hues of green I've never seen, scattered with sheep that would rival any postcard. Leaping lambs. Grazing lambs. Sleeping lambs. I’ve given up on the camera – every sprawling hill, every curious stare of a cow, every baby lamb's baa, is forever ingrained in my mind.
And then suddenly – the ocean. Appearing out of nowhere after a wrong turn, I saw it from high up, and held my breath at the sight of the crisp endless blue. Down the windy roads I went, tightly holding on to the wheel of my trusty old 1997 sleepervan. The way down was a blur of trees in bloom with delicate pink blossoms, an endless amount of tiny lambs running after their mothers, and the spectacular blueness getting ever closer. Finally I was there. A secret beach, ocean waves crashing against rocks, against the shores, against my heart. This is what I came for – these wrong turns. I walked along the shore in the lapping waves, savouring the solitude of a beach all to myself.
I even made coffee with my coffee plunger, and took my mug with me as I walked in the waves. This is the way to do New Zealand. Don't just rent a car and stay in hotels or join a tour. When you carry your kitchen and bed with you, you're free for things like spontaneous lunches by secret remote beaches. The winding roads decide where you end up.
After a day's worth of driving through the beautiful North Island, I finally reached New Zealand's northern tip - Cape Reinga, a sacred place for the Maori people. It is from this tip and through the roots of an ancient tree that they believe their ancestors return to their ancient homeland when they die. A year ago, I spent a winter morning searching the internet and happened upon photos of this incredible location, never imagining I'd one day soon experience it for myself.
I reached Cape Reinga just as the sun was setting. I can't possibly describe the emotion. As the red, purple, and gold danced across the sky over the green rugged tip and the impossibly huge mountains all around me, I just stood there, a few tears escaping my eyes as I contemplated the incredible journey that took me here. New Zealand to me was like a fairy tale, an impossible-to-reach place like the fabled Avalon. And now suddenly here I was.
Why did I travel here? Perhaps it was for this one moment. For the stunning moment of breathing in this remote, ancient landscape, and feeling as if I was home.