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Franz Josef, New Zealand

Franz Josef was my favorite part of New Zealand. From the glaciers, to the waterfalls, to the open valleys, it was a dream. I grew up with skyscrapers, bodegas, and screeching subways. For you, NYC is a dream. But for me, Franz Josef was therapeutic. The grass is always greener on the other side. 

It was going to be another long drive but far more coastal than our previous one. Usually, this would be a magnificent drive and I guess it still was but It was pouring so it was going to take us a bit longer than expected. We arrived late that day and all we wanted to do was kick it in the hot springs, grab some beers, and pass out. I actually have never been to a ski town and Franz Josef definitely gave off that vibe. In the background stood the Franz Josef Glacier towering over the small town. Walking home from dinner was absolutely stunning. Beats Third Avenue during rush hour that’s for sure. 

Perhaps we were spoiled by the onsens in Hokkaido but the hot springs at Glacier Hot Pools were just not warm enough. Offering three pools at 36, 38, and 40, it only felt like a luke warm bath, which might be fine if it was actually a bath in your own house. But when there are 100 people around, it kinda feels a bit icky. But after driving, walking, hiking, and kayaking for miles, we were content. 

If you’re lucky enough, or financially comfortable enough, you can take the helicopter to the top of the glacier. I had serious FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) not having the opportunity to do so. Suddenly, all my designer purchases in New York don’t seem all that cool anymore. Instead, we opted for the free Glacier Valley walk. The pictures just don’t do it any justice. It’s really something you have to breathe and experience in person. I’ve never felt so small in my life in such a good way. The clear, crisp water that you can drink right from the glacier and the sweet smell in the breeze energized me more than the strongest cup of coffee. (And I really like coffee). Even though I was raised a city girl, I never felt like I belonged in New York. I am forever grateful for my childhood but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it matched who I was and who I wanted to be. 

I could’ve sat in the middle of that valley for hours. New Zealand has given me so many images of Happy Places for me. It’s actually probably one of the better investments we made. Places like this remind me so much as to why I left New York. Or one of the many reasons why I left. The worst days were the ones where you wake up and immediately start to cry because of how unhappy you are with your day-to-day and how the escape of sleep would become such a momentary release. If you are experiencing that, you desperately need a change. During those dark times, you find ways to cope in the most healthy and non-destructive ways you can. For me, they were images of peace and space. And to me, Franz Josef was that dream that came to life for me. This is what it must feel like to fall in love at first sight. Franz Josef felt so familiar and yet it was the very first time I was there. 

There were times during the trip where I really kicked myself for not having done this earlier. But if I never experienced the hardship and trying times of my career, would I appreciate Franz Josef differently? And how? I will never know but life has an amazing way of making the most bizarre things make sense while simultaneously making us feel shorted sometimes no matter how hard we work, or try, or care, or love. 

Speaking of love, our hostel served the most delicious vegetable soup in the shared kitchen. Avery scoffs at anything vegetable only. The only way he will eat them is if they are the only option available. With a tight budget in New Zealand, I wasn’t going to turn down free food. I scarfed down about 2 gnarly bowls and then we went off for something a little more filling. If you asked me, I could’ve eaten the entire pot for the hostel but that would’ve been super uncool and super un-hostely. Yup. I made up a new word. 

And a word to Donald Trump, you’re kinda being a bit un-hostely if you ask me. 



Catherine JoeiComment