It's been a storm

I have been absent from my blog for the past 3 weeks. It has been a bit of a storm dealing with new challenges and roadblocks each day. I knew that this overseas traveling thing was going to be hard, but I didn’t expect this many tears, this many tests and this many challenges. Here are my rollercoaster experiences.


To start with, cancelled flights suck. Especially when you miss all connecting flights because there was no urgency expressed by the woman at the Avianca desk. I waited beside her desk, patiently at first, with only with mild panic and a few tears for the first two hours, watching other people being guided to other airline desks to check in to flights, before she told me there were no more flights to Lima from Cusco that day. She moved my flights to the following morning, which took another hour of me waiting, this time with much more panic and balling my eyes out. I am so thankful that Rudy (one of the roommates in the apartment I was staying in Cusco) had decided to stay with me the whole time. He was comforting, argued with the woman in Spanish for me to try to hurry her up, took me out for breakfast after and stayed with me the rest of the day as I sorted this mess out.

Because only my first two flights were booked with Avianca, I had to cancel my connecting flights and purchase brand new tickets to finally get to NZ. After spending most of the day texting and emailing back and forth between my mom and my wonderful travel agent, Dave, we finally decided it would be better to switch all my flights to a different airline, Latam (a Chilean airline company). Their attendants, planes, seats, tv screens and food were all much better than Avianca so I was pleased despite the day delay and big chunk missing from my bank account.

I DO NOT recommend Avianca. Although I have had some decent flights with them, this experience made me not want to ever see their name again. I was extremely disappointed with the service I received from that woman, and that these issues have not yet been addressed or acknowledged by the company even after I spent an hour on the phone with them, being transferred to 4 different people, contacting them through their website and Facebook, and writing several reviews on my experience.


Finally, I flew Cusco to Lima, Lima to Santiago, and Santiago to Auckland.


Arriving in Auckland was such a relief! Sheryle, my mom’s friend, picked me up and drove the hour drive back to her sheep farm in Orere, north east of the city. The drive was beautiful, such a shift from the browns and reds of Peru, to the greens and blues of NZ. It felt like I was back home in Canada, except there were hundreds of sheep scattered across the fields. When we got to her home, nestled away in the hills with a gorgeous ocean view, sheep baa-ing away in all directions, she fed me and let me sleep for 3 hours in a bed with an electric blanket. When I woke up, and came to grips with where I was, the culture shock set in.

I remember coming home to Canada from Nepal in 2013 and the complete shock it was, so I felt like I would be prepared for the difference between Peru and New Zealand, but it was still eye opening. They drive so tame here, no beeping, or crazy swerving or passing an inch from other car’s mirrors. The shower shocked me because it was instantly warm and stayed warm the whole time...In Peru, I had to turn on the fast dribble of the shower and wait a few minutes until it wasn’t completely freezing, then I would only have a minute, two if I was lucky, of warm water before it would turn cold again. The construction and safety regulation of buildings is also different - it feels safe and warm here, not all buildings are like that in Peru. I was very lucky to have stayed in the apartment I was in since it was quite nice and high class for Peru, but still had a different feel from North American and NZ construction. Being in the shopping mall was extremely weird. So bright and clean and space-age-looking. Being able to drink tap water, or eat fresh fruit or veg without worrying about getting sick. Using a toilet seat and flushing toilet paper down the toilet instead of putting it in the garbage can. Everyone should experience a lesser developed country...we forget so quickly and frequently that we are so blessed with the way we grew up, the life that we were given, and the luxuries we take for granted.

Continuing with the storm, the day after arriving in NZ I had a list of things to do. We went into town again to set up a phone plan - turns out my phone was locked and the man at the tech store said I would have to pay $160 and send my phone away for 2 weeks to get it unlocked. Panic. I need my phone to contact family and friends, take pictures, apply for jobs, be available for job calls, ect. Turns out I just had to call my mom, who called the Canadian phone company, who unlocked my phone right away, for free. Next, we set up a bank account. The man, Neil, who was helping me at ANZ was very kind and had great humor to lighten the boring process. That was all fine but the tricky part was transferring money from my Canadian account to the new NZ one. It looked like I would have to pay quite a big fee and my bank didn’t have a lot of other options so what I ended up taking chunks of money out of a WestPac ATM (where I don’t get charged a fee for withdrawals with my Canadian debit) and depositing it into the ANZ bank account. Following the bank account was applying for my IRD number so I could legally work in NZ with my WHV (Working Holiday Visa). That was a quick process at the Post Office - just needed proof of address (Sheryle), proof of an active bank account (a deposit and withdrawal statement), passport, WHV and all the signed paperwork.

The day after all that draining day, my bike had arrived in NZ. My parents had shipped the bike off from Victoria a week before I left Peru so it would arrive around the same time as me in NZ. I missed my bike so much and had been craving it for weeks now. We went to the airport after finally finding the right number to call to confirm it was there (they said they would call us but never did). Sheryle and I spend two hours driving back and forth 3 times between different offices and departments at the airport Customs area so make 3 payments, sign paperwork after paperwork, beg to get the bike inspected that day so I wouldn’t have to pay for overnight storage and finally get the bike home to discover multiple new scratches and a snapped derailleur. It truthfully wasn’t a big deal (about a $40 fix) and I didn’t really care about the scratches but I was still a mess from all the logistics and patience it required, and exhausted from trying to stay positive and composed.

Cathedral Cove (Te Whanganui Ahi), Coromandel, NZ

Cathedral Cove (Te Whanganui Ahi), Coromandel, NZ

So that’s that! I’m so grateful for my family and friends who have continued to support me and encourage me. One of them said, “embrace it”, another said, “breathe”, another said, “that’s why not everyone travels - it’s hard”...but that’s why everyone should travel. It teaches you about yourself, about this world, about what to plan for and what to pay attention to, how you adapt to change, how you face challenges, and most importantly, that things work out okay. Yes, a lot of it sucks and it hasn’t been a ton of fun over the past couple weeks, but everything always gets better in the end. My hiking buddy in Victoria said, “If it’s not better, it’s not the end”.

Skye Irwin