“We’re spending too much money.” We were only a couple of days into our two-week Kiwiana Panorama adventure through New Zealand with Contiki and already this seemed to be the theme of our trip.
He wanted to go out to eat with the rest of the Contiki group, I wanted to save money by buying ramen at the supermarket.
This trip would mark the first time that my partner (Dallas) and I were travelling together. I mean, we’d been on road trips before, taken family vaycays, and moved across Canada together, but we’d never travelled to and explored a new country as a couple. What more could there be to learn? A lot, it turns out.
Taking a trip to the other side of the world, 11,351 km from home to be exact, and exploring the entirety of New Zealand is a bit of a different ballgame than sipping cervezas in a resort in Mexico. For starters, the flight to ‘Middle-earth’ would be the longest we had ever taken. I though the flight to Europe for my first Contiki trip last year was life-changing, but this flight with Air New Zealand on their direct Vancouver to Auckland (and back to Vancouver) route took the cake. You see, I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, particularly surrounding flights and travel, which means that flying for close to 14 hours over a swath of the Pacific Ocean is no easy feat.
I can honestly say that it’s thanks to the incredible Air New Zealand cabin crew, who literally pampered us to sleep (their Premium Economy seats were a blessing – Dallas has never before been able to sleep on a plane and he slept like a baby) and fed us delicious vegan meals, that I was able to get to New Zealand with zero tears. That’s right, I said ZERO. Fear of flying? What fear of flying?
Over the course of two weeks, we explored everything New Zealand had to offer, and I quickly realized that this island nation taught me more than I thought it could about life, love, and travelling with your significant other.
1 – Travel can bring you together, or pull you apart
Dallas and I shared so many beautiful experiences together during our time in New Zealand. We climbed to the peak of a dormant volcano in Rotorua, we explored the glacier water canyons of the South Island, and we threw ourselves off of a cliff together at the famous Canyon Swing in Queenstown to name a few. Sharing these moments with a partner made them all the more incredible, and I don’t doubt that these are memories we will carry with us for the rest of our lives.
So, when the disagreements over spending continued to pop up we knew we needed to nip not let disagreements over ramen taint our trip. We decided to sit down and come up with a solution.
Instead of keeping our money in a collective pool and spending from that pool as one unit, we decided to separate our money and each spend from our own individual budget.
This worked perfectly. I let go of trying to control each penny spent, and Dallas paid closer attention to the money in his pocket.
2 – Connection with others is one of life’s great joys
Time to yourself to do the things you want to do is great, but it truly is the connections you build with others that give a trip real meaning. I’ve travelled alone before and found that during my time in Europe I learnt a similar lesson. Memories are only worth as much as the people you share them with.
Whether I was connecting with my partner, or with others in our Contiki group, sharing these new experiences and creating new memories together is what stands out to me when I consider the highlights of my time in New Zealand. I spent late nights bonding with strangers over our shared struggles and triumphs. After talking about everything from our battles with mental health, to our individual sexualities, to our love of Game of Thrones (Daenerys, you own our hearts forever), we went from strangers to confidants and friends.
3 – You don’t have to everything together
We were signing up for our South Island Free Time Add-On activities when he said: “I think I want to go skydiving.” My heart started to race. Just the thought of him throwing himself out of a plane made my palms sweat. Yes, I’d skydived once before (for no other reason than to cross it off my bucket list) – but once was enough for me. And I hadn’t expected to need to face that particular fear again. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to try, I want to cross it off my bucket list!”
In order to try and convince him against it, I started making excuses about the budget, and how skydiving was an expensive activity for us to sign up for last minute. He agreed to sleep on it.
The next morning I realized that just because we are a couple, doesn’t mean we need to be joined at the hip.
In the end, he went skydiving, and I didn’t. Later, I went and hung out with the girls, and he didn’t. We didn’t always do everything together, and that’s okay. In fact, being able to do your own thing while travelling with a partner is inevitable, and necessary.
4 – We push each other to be better
Dallas and I had the opportunity to take a helicopter ride up onto the Franz Josef glacier. Considering some scientists estimate that the glaciers are going to have completely melted away in the next 30 years, this was literally a once in a lifetime experience, and I almost missed out. I was so terrified of riding in a helicopter, that I considered skipping the excursion entirely. He supported and encouraged me, and (even with my tearful breakdown during take-off) I’m SO glad I didn’t miss out on what turned out to be one of the most awe-inspiring experiences of my life.
There were memories that each of us would have missed out on if we didn’t have the other there to push us forward. There were days when I didn’t want to go out, and Dallas pushed me to say yes. There were activities when he didn’t want to participate, and I pushed him to get involved. We both had a better trip for it.
ALSO FROM NEW ZEALAND: WHAT PLACE DOES A MAORI WAR DANCE HAVE IN TODAY’S WORLD?
5 – Lessons learnt while travelling can and should be brought back with you to the real world
You learn a lot about your partner while travelling, and how the two of you function as a team. Now that the trip is over, I want to remember these lessons and bring them back with us into the real world.Not only did Dallas and I discover a shared love of adventure while on our trip through New Zealand, we both recognized that this was something we weren’t pushing ourselves toward in our day-to-day lives. While travelling, we tried new things and engaged in new adventures each day. From big pushes like facing my fear and flying in a helicopter, to little adventures like trying a new coffee shop instead of just going back to the one we had loved the day before, every day was different. This is a habit I don’t want to lose now that we’re back at home.
We learnt about compromise, and the importance of making your own choices and having your own experiences, even when in a relationship. We discovered the joy of connection, with each other and with others on the trip. We pushed each other to be better, and to embrace each day to its fullest. But most importantly, we learnt that we only regretted the things we didn’t try.
Alayna Fender travelled with Contiki as part of The Travel Project. Has travelling with your significant other taught you things you never knew about yourself? Share your stories with us here and you could see your work published on six-two…