Wanderlust: a strong, innate desire to travel or rove about.
Not many of you know this: I am a huge travel-nut. I love it. I had my first taste of travel when I was young. Born into a catering business, I was dragged around the countryside every weekend as we catered for weddings, reunions, and other large-scale events. Of course, work didn’t lend itself to a lot of time for exploring New Zealand in-depth, but I loved seeing snippets of our country. It is beautiful.
I got my first taste of international travel when I moved to America. I got to experience the whole shebang: early call times, upgrades, LAX airport, and running through the airport to catch connecting flights. It was a whirlwind, but I loved it. I loved people-watching at the airport. I would make up stories about all the people bustling past, wrapped up in their own little world. A woman waiting for her husband to get back from deployment. A man sneaking away for a weekend rendezvous with his ‘other girlfriend’. A girl going to visit her boyfriend on the other side of the country. Some stories were more colourful than others, but all of them were fun to create.
Again, I didn’t get to see much of the country. Not in the traditional ‘tourist’ way, anyway. I got enrolled in senior high school, and I caught mononucleosis not long after that. Needless to say, I slept away the rest of my time in America.
Coming back to New Zealand was bittersweet. I was happy to be home but returned with a case of wanderlust. This showed as I continued exploring New Zealand, moving to places like the Coromandel, Tauranga, Hamilton, Auckland, and back. I’ve escaped to other places in books – reading about different cities and times, and living vicariously through fictional characters. However, I am a visual person. Painting a picture in your mind is nothing like seeing the real thing.
I realised this as I started planning my latest trip: Wellington.
I was told that I had to see the government buildings, botanical gardens, and Te Papa. Suddenly, I absolutely had to get coffee from this place, go there for brunch, and had to see the cable cars. All the advice was great (and appreciated), but daunting.
Luckily for me, I was talking to the kind folks at Lonely Planet, and they decided that a bookworm like me was most comfortable with exploring and planning with the help of books. I received two books: Culture Trails and The Cities Book. Finally, I could breathe and research Wellington in a way that was comfortable for me.
Lonely Planet makes exploring New Zealand easy. Too easy.
The Cities Book highlights the best cities in the world. It even has lists of the best cities for coffee, bookworms, wine, and adventure. Just to name a few. New Zealand gets three mentions with pages on Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin being found in the book. Naturally, I flipped to the ‘Wellington’ section first to find two vibrant pages filled with pictures and information about the city. The pictures alone were enough for me to decide that Wellington was definitely the city for me. The information you get is a quick snippet, but it’s all you need to know about the town. It gives you the strengths and weaknesses of the city, and ideas of what to do to make sure you have a perfect day. It’s all you need to give you the building blocks for a perfect trip to Wellington.
I flew to Wellington on Monday evening, so I got in late; however, I wasn’t alone. I flew down to Wellington with my son, but we managed to pick up an extra person on the way. Our flight got delayed. Not something you want to hear on a Monday evening. Or any day, really. I was wrestling with my bag to get our tickets out when someone came to my rescue. Just like the film cliché, I had a stranger grab my bag and help me get on the plane. Swoon moment, no?
It gets better. We got off the plane together, he got my number and we grabbed a coffee while I was in Wellington. It wasn’t a drink on Cuba Street, but it was good. I mean, anything for a cup of coffee 😉
Exploring New Zealand was the point of the trip, so I got the train from Lower Hutt and ventured into Wellington. The government buildings were on the top of my list… because they were closest to the train station. Done. I spent another day wandering through the city and popping into any (and every) café and bookstore that caught my eye. I started walking towards the botanical gardens, but I got distracted by a café. Naturally, I had to go inside.
Needless to say, I didn’t get to see all of Wellington that I had planned. I guess that means that I just have to go back.
Culture Trails is another stunning book produced by Lonely Planet. I found myself absolutely caught up in the chapters on New Zealand. I live here, but I have a very poor understanding of the culture and historical sites in my country. I’m simply in awe of how much there is to do in this country. The chapters in this book were longer and packed in more information than The Cities Book, which is good for a research-oriented person, like me. It has a section in every chapter that includes places to stay, places to eat, and any celebrations or events that occur in the area. I mean, New Zealand Whiskey Collection? Count me in! Let’s not forget the photos. Oh, the photography. Lonely Planet knows how to do photography because I want to buy a ticket to every city in every book. Right now.
I think we all know where I’ll be heading next.