Everyone knows that the best nights out are unplanned and spontaneous. The ones you spend weeks prepping for and dreaming about are always a let down. Someone gets too drunk and you have to leave with them at 10pm, your shoes pinch, or the person you were planning on pashing finds someone else to bump uglies with. But when you head to the pub in your ‘washing day’ outfit for one drink? It’s almost guaranteed that you’ll end up dancing on a bar with two drag queens and the member of a 90s boyband.
The same goes for travel destinations too. When you have pages of pinterest boards dedicated to a place how on earth is it supposed to live up to your expectations? It will rain, the tour you’ve been looking forward to will get cancelled and you’ll find that a beautiful beach is filled with rubbish.
This is how I felt about Sydney, a city that had looked so shiny and bright in every single photo I’d ever seen. What no one tells you is that, actually, the Opera House looks a little bit yellow during the day and if you stay in the backpacker haven of Kings Cross your hostel will probably be next to a brothel and underneath a crack den. And if you’ve been looking forward to watching the NYE fireworks for half of your life? Well, you’ll end up with food poisoning and almost spend the countdown to midnight inside a portaloo after trying not to defecate in your pants all day. Lovely. Or was that last one just me?
Of course the city grew on me eventually, but it took a long time. I don’t doubt that the high expectations I had contributed to this – how can somewhere live up to a lifetime of dreaming?
Far better are the places you end up in on a whim, with no prior knowledge or expectations to cloud your judgement. That was how I felt about Mission Beach, a tiny beachside village which you’ve probably never heard of.
I hadn’t either until I went there for a whim one weekend. Floating in the warm ocean water, afternoon sun warming my face before dipping below the 16km long line of palm trees I felt something in my chest click in to place. Within 48 hours I’d secured myself somewhere to live and a steady job, barely going beyond the 200m high street for the next 4 months. When I had to leave, reasoning that I had to see at least some of Australia beyond this tiny piece of paradise, my heart broke and I cried for two hours. No joke.
Not bad for a place I’d decided to see on a total whim!
My first trip to Bali two years ago may have been booked on a whim but I’d researched and planned it to within an inch of it’s life. I had mind maps, pinterest boards, Trover lists and more. Every second of this holiday was going to be maximised, I had meticulously planned fun activities down to the hour.
The only snag? My mum didn’t actually know I was coming to visit… I was soon talked out of my ambitions to visit Nusa Lembongan in favour of taking a ferry to a tiny group of islands off the coast of Lombok. Somewhat grumpily I agreed – it’s hard to say no when your Mum’s just bought you several cocktails…
Thank God I did. Greeted by diamond clear water, white sand and the most insane sunsets I’d ever seen within hours of arriving I was already planning my much longer return. 18 months later I arrived along with two friends ready to begin my Divemaster qualification. Who knows what would have happened had my Mum’s stubborn streak not changed my plans?
I’m a planner by nature, and with only a limited number of days available to see as much of New Zealand’s south island as possible our schedule was tight. For our last night we’d planned to road trip from Tekapo to Kaikoura, keen to visit the amazing waterfall that is home to lots of tiny baby seals in the winter.
Gazing at the mountains surrounding Tekapo, evening light turning the snow pink, I felt suddenly very sad. These mountains had utterly stolen my heart, they were more beautiful than any scenery I’d seen before and I’d miss them when we left.
Scrolling through instagram while I waited for dinner to cook I happened upon a photo posted by a Wanaka based blogger. It was of a road winding past a turquoise blue lake towards the most impressive mountain I’d ever seen…
Just like that our plans changed. Sorry baby seals, Cheskie needed a little more mountain love.
And love I did! Mt Cook village is nestled at the base of the mountain itself, towered over on all sides by peaks that rise almost vertically upwards from ground level. That night, wrapped up warm, we watched as the stars lit up the snowy pinnacles. At one point I thought I’d seen a firework, but no – just a shooting star exploding as it entered the very cold atmosphere. Heaven! Baby seals have got nothing on natures pyrotechnics.