Tuesday, May 28, 2013

U.S. States Sell Their Qualities

While watching the news this morning, I saw an intriguing commercial that make me actually stop my usual routine. I knew it was a tourism ad, based on the imagery and commentary, but I had no idea what destination was being marketed until the final moments when "Missouri" was revealed. I know what you're thinking...Missouri? Really? That was my reaction at first, but then I realized, the state had accomplished exactly what it had hoped from the campaign: Surprise.

The summer travel season officially kicked off over Memorial Day weekend, and states across the country have amped up their marketing efforts to lure tourists to their borders. I have grown accustomed to seeing ads from a few states with big advertising budgets, such as Michigan (Pure Michigan, your journey begins at Michigan.org), Florida (Must Be the Sunshine), California (Find Yourself Here), and Colorado (Come to Life). I have also seen a number of billboards and outdoor signage for Montana (Step Out of Bounds), Wyoming (Forever West) and Arizona (Grand Canyon State). And now, other regions are stepping up their game to nab a portion of the lucrative tourism market, both nationally and internationally.

Missouri is targeting people in bordering states, encouraging them to discover the unexpected treasures that can be found there. The new campaign carries the tagline "Enjoy the Show," and includes television spots, print ads, billboards, a revamped online effort and social media strategy. It highlights a wide range of things to see and do in the state, such as the Bonne Tere Mine, an abandoned mine filled with water where an old village is preserved. Ads also include the Chaumette Vineyards, St. Louis Zoo, and Lake of the Ozarks State Park. What about that famous Arch? No where to be seen in this campaign. Why? Because that's an attraction everyone associates with the state. Sure, it's a popular site and thousands of tourists visit it every year, but had that been shown in the commercial I saw this morning, I would have known right away it was St. Louis, and my interest would have been lost. This strategy introduced me to all the places I didn't know existed, and stirred my curiosity.

Other states have launched new campaigns in recent weeks, including New Jersey, which emphasized the reopening of the Jersey Shore for the summer, seven months after it was crushed by Superstorm Sandy. The theme "Stronger Than the Storm" highlights New Jersey as a vacation destination, and features governor Chris Christie and his wife claiming that the horrors of the storm are behind the state, and that the shoreline is open for business. New Jersey set a record for tourism in 2012, generating close to $40 billion in demand. However, the state still faces challenges in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, and the new campaign is an attempt to convince visitors that it is just as good--if not better--than it was before the storm. The tactic is similar in some regards to what Florida and other Gulf Coast states had to do after the BP oil spill. Mass damage control efforts were employed in order to show that the areas were not hurt by the spill, and that they were still some of the most beautiful places in the country. Not only that, but they had to persuade people to trust the regional cuisine, insisting that it was safe to eat and still delicious. The impact of the spill is still being felt, but tourism has certainly returned to many major cities. While the Gulf Coast had to deal with a corporate disaster that hurt an ecosystem, the tourism campaigns held the same types of messages that New Jersey's does, highlighting the fact that a disaster cannot deter the state from being a prime tourist destination.

Many states keep their marketing at a national level, but with the introduction of Brand USA, a corporation for travel promotion to America, many regions are sending their messages to international countries to encourage those tourists to visit. Discover New England is a marketing group comprised of six New England states and its main objective is to appeal to overseas markets. The group claims that its relatively short flight time (seven hours to Boston from England) and its wide variety of options makes it an ideal location for international travelers. The group has reached out to international tour operators to help promote its destinations abroad, while also maintaining a U.K.-based website and a German-language version. The U.K. has been the biggest market for international travelers to New England, but the region has also seen an increase in Chinese tourists, who tend to spend a lot of time and money in the area. The end goal is to appeal to different cultures and personalities, and Discover New England believes it has all the elements to achieve that. The payoff is a possible boost in international visitors, which not only helps New England, but the U.S. economy, as well.

Tourism plays a major role in our economy. It generates revenue, creates jobs for millions of people, and helps to drive growth. Every state hopes to get a piece of the travel market, which is why they each employ their own techniques to attract visitors from all over the world. Sure, there are some states that will continue to see a large bulk of the action, but if any of the lesser known or visited states receive even a slight increase in visitation numbers, their efforts will have paid off. Because, if nothing else, the campaigns will boost awareness and expose more people to the wonders that diversify our country.
Brand USA campaign. Credit: Eclipse Creative




Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Challenge Unlike Any Other

Roaring cheers from the crowd fall on deaf ears as racers battle their way to the finish line. Mud is caked all over their bodies, weighing down on exhausted muscles. The goal is in sight, and nothing else matters more than completing one of the toughest challenges they have ever faced. At the end, they will find triumph, glory and pride. This is the Reebok Spartan Race.

But don't take my word for it (seriously, don't, cause I've never done it), why not check it out for yourself.


 But before sign up for the race based off this inspiring video, let me give you some background on what you're going to face.

The brainchild of seven "insane" ultra athletes and a Royal Marine, the Spartan Race is the world's leading obstacle race series, with events held all over the world. Each event is different, based on skill levels and styles of racing; so no matter what kind of athletic ability you have or the experience you're looking for, Spartan Race has something for everyone.

If you're relatively active, maybe run consistently a few times a week, and compete in standard 5k runs (like me), then the Spartan Sprint is probably your best bet. A three-mile run with 15+ obstacles, and the organizers of the event guarantee that 99.9% of all people who attempt it will finish (and that's backed up in writing on their website). But just because it's a shorter race doesn't mean it is a walk in the park. It is comprised of mud pits, trail racing, and extreme physical challenges, designed to push people to their limits and out of their comfort zones (and create some uncomfortable and humorous moments). Since this is the most "accessible" race, and considered to be entry level, I think this is the one I would compete in.

For those who are up for more of a challenge, the intermediate level Super Spartan is the next step up from the Sprint. This is an 8+ mile battlefield with 20+ obstacles that really test mental resolve, endurance, and physical strength. There are many trials to test a warrior's abilities, and those who do complete it will be able to enjoy live music and a catered meal (because we all know that post-race beer is the only reason we do this to our bodies). The Super Spartan might be too much for me, unless I could run it with a team, which is an option, but that may not be considered to be the Spartan way (so I'll probably just stick with the Sprint.)

The next level up is the Spartan Beast. If the name doesn't scare you, the description certainly will. Said to be a race from hell, this 12+ mile course includes 25+ obstacles that eclipse all other mud runs. This race is meant to shove participants way out of their comfort zones, challenging those elite athletes who think they can handle anything. This beast will begin with many contestants, but few may make it to the end. The Spartan Beast is the epitome of intensity...until, of course, you experience The Death Race.

The highest levels of extreme are reached during this +-48 hour adventure race that has no set mileage. Basically, those brave souls who decide to take this on will be released into the wild unknown, and many will not make it to the end. As the website states, "our physical challenges will make giving birth look like a walk in the park." As someone who has never given birth, I'll have to take their word for it (but I'm guessing some mothers might disagree). On a serious note, though, this is an intense race with unexpected obstacles and demanding terrain. If you are in the best physical shape of your life ( or you have lived a full life to date, as the website states), then, by all means, consider taking part in this race. Anyone else, I suggest the Spartan Beast as an ambitious alternative.

The Spartan Race has a goal to get people moving, get them excited about physical activity and change. The events are there to challenge modern standards of fitness, requiring participants to get in touch with the primal instincts of their ancestors who battled the natural elements on their own everyday (without the help of technology or fancy tools). The organizers of this race want people to get out from the behind the comfort of their computers or televisions, and get back to nature, get dirty, and have some fun. And at the end of it all, even if you don't come in first, there will still be that sense of accomplishment...


...knowing that you gave everything you had to complete that race, from the very beginning, and came out victorious at the end...

So how do you register for a Spartan race? Well, there are hundreds of competitions all over the U.S., as well as in Canada, the U.K., Australia, Mexico and even Eastern European countries, such as the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary and Poland. The Reebok Spartan Race is also ramping up its selection of ballpark sprint races, after incredible success with events at Fenway and Citi Field NY. They have created special sprints at Miller Park in Milwaukee on Sept. 7 (which I hope to attend), Citizens Bank Park in Philly on Sept. 28, and Fenway Park again on Nov. 16. Interested parties can visit the Spartan Race website and check out event locations and dates. The 2013 season has already kicked off with numerous events around the globe, but there are plenty more opportunities to get into the action.

For those who are really serious about competing in a Spartan event (and who live in the continental U.S.) I have a little proposition for you. I have an entry code for free registration for any race in the U.S., and I would be willing to share it with the person who can provide me with the best ending to this sentence: "I want to run a Spartan race, because..." Keep responses to less than 50 words, please, and include your first name and first initial of your last name.

Please submit your answers in the comment section below before May 24, and I will select the top three responses. Those will then be posted on my blog on Memorial Day, and readers can vote for their favorite until May 31.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Here's Your Diploma, Now Get Out of Here

After walking across the stage and receiving an empty leather folder impressively embossed with a college seal, students then walk down the steps and take their seat. It's over. They graduated. Now what? This thought crossed my mind as I watched my boyfriend receive his MBA over the weekend. While he has been in the working world for four years now and is much more established in his life, most of the undergraduates may not be so blessed. They face a new path ahead, one that is much less defined than the one that was laid before them in college. They studied, made friends, took tests, passed their classes and, this weekend, they completed the journey by getting their diploma. So what comes next?

Graduation with my travel companions

In the most immediate future, there's probably a long afternoon of picture taking and celebration with family. But the long term, that's a little less clear, and possibly less festive. For those lucky few, a full-time job awaits them once the caps are off. But in this economy, the likelyhood of that is not what it once was. This leaves many graduates grappling for answers. They have dedicated the last four years–or more–to school, and now the end has come, and there does not seem to be a set direction. If a job is not on the horizon, spending hours searching for one may seem like the best solution. However, there is another option that is–in my opinion–a much more valuable use of time: Travel.

St. Peters in Rome
That's right. Pack up your things, hop on a plane and get away. Whether it's for a week or a month or longer, it doesn't matter. A trip somewhere is not only a great way to celebrate your recent achievement, but also gives you a broader global perspective, which could help you stand out of the crowd of applicants when you do embark on that job search. Travel opens graduates to a completely new world, introduces them to people from all backgrounds, and pushes them to be self-reliant and independent–two skills that definitely come in handy later in life. 

I took a long trip through Europe after my graduation, and I don't regret it. In fact, I wish I had extended it a few more weeks so I could spend more time in certain countries or visit ones that I missed altogether. I also might have changed up how organized I was about everything. I planned it all ahead of time, from hostel reservations to departure dates. I could have probably afforded to be a bit more lenient and carefree with my agenda, but then again, I've always been a planner. The whole experience was educational, from the physical places we visited to the personal growth it provided and what it taught me about myself–and my friends. I would recommend a post-graduation trip to anyone. If my life plan had permitted, I might have even taken what the Brits call a gap year: A year of travel and adventure after secondary school before heading to university. Of course, mine would have been a year off before graduate school. 

If graduates decide to take a trip, the next task is figuring out where to go. Europe is a popular destination, but that's probably what makes it less appealing nowadays. Everyone's going, or has gone there. Why not do something a little different, something more exotic. South America, the South Pacific and Australasia are growing in popularity, but are still remote enough that they still feel exclusive.

Queenstown, NZ
Auckland, the capital of New Zealand, has a lot to offer visitors, most notably its rugged coastline. This region is well-known for extreme sports, such as boating, sailing, canyoning, parasailing, hang-gliding and white-water rafting. Auckland is certainly a good starting point for a journey around both islands, where travelers will enjoy immaculate views, dynamic adventures and eclectic food and wine. 

Patagonia, a region in the southern end of South America, is a must see for adventurers and nature lovers. This nature preserve is shared by both Argentina and Chile, and includes the southern section of the Andes mountains. For years, it has been known as a remote backpacking destination, but more tourists have discovered the beauties of this area in recent years. Many will come to see the immense sheets of glaciers, or the breathtaking mountain views and lake districts. 

Thailand provides a true culture shock, in some regards. Major cities are certainly different from those in the U.S., but they are becoming more Americanized and commercial. The remote towns of the country are much more appealing, as they remain more pristine, and certainly offer a more relaxing vacation. 

In the mountains of Peru sit the sacred ruins of Machu Picchu, atop the Inca Trail. This destination not only provides visitors with stunning views and ancient remnants of a once-royal society, but also another challenge to face...one hell of a climb. But it will all be worth it once the summit is attained, a sense of accomplishment and peace of mind. 

For something truly exotic, why not head to Bhutan, in the Himalaya Mountains. The landlocked Kingdom of Bhutan is a small state bordered by China to the north and by the Republic of India to the south, east and west. Bhutan offers guests a rich history and colorful culture, which has largely remained intact due to its isolation from other countries. Tradition is deeply rooted in its Buddhist heritage, and guests can experience this through tours of museums and architectural sites, as well as lessons on medicinal practices and agriculture. The problem with Bhutan is that is is not the most accessible place, due to its location and the cost of visiting. 


Venice
As I mentioned before, Europe is a common destination for recent graduates, and it certainly shouldn't be avoided based on that fact alone. There are some incredible sites and cultures that should be experienced at some point in one's life. Why not fresh out of school? Of course I recommend Italy, since there are so many distinct regions to explore, from the relaxing beach towns of Cinque Terre in the north to the rich mobster history of Sicily off the southern tip of the boot. Italy provides students with many options, all of which offer that "la dolce vita" vibe.

Greece is in the midst of an economic crisis, but that doesn't mean it isn't welcoming tourists from all over the world. In fact, the country needs your business, so why not go and check out a few of the Greek Isles, like Mykonos or Santorini. The islands can easily be reached by cruise ship, and prices are relatively cheap in the early season of May or late season in September. 

I would also recommend Dublin, Ireland, as a good starting point for any Irish adventure; or Paris, France, for a cultural experience unlike any other.

Puerto Vallarta
For those who would feel a little more comfortable staying in North America, Canada and Mexico provide some wonderful destinations that are just as educational, relaxing and thrilling as those that take longer than five hours to reach. I highly recommend Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Montreal, and Toronto, for possible getaways to the north. And if you're really feeling adventurous, Nova Scotia is meant to be a tremendous city, and not many people think to go there. In Mexico, you really can't go wrong with any of the beach resort towns. And you can even party like you're still in college at many of the locations around the country, including Cancun and Puerto Vallarta.

Obviously, there are thousands of other options for a post-graduate trip, and I certainly couldn't cover all of it here. If anything, I've provided some inspiration. I suggest doing a bit more research and looking around for the best prices before jetting off to parts unknown. But take a note from my experience, give yourself a little freedom with your itinerary. If you have every day planned down to the last detail, then there is no room for a random boat ride over to Croatia or a last minute trip to Vietnam. Flexibility is key in making sure you get the chance to see everything you want, even if you didn't know you wanted to see it when you first booked the trip. That's the beauty of travel, it can take you to places you never expected. And perhaps that's just the direction new grads are looking for.

Friday, May 10, 2013

A One-Way Ticket to...

An interesting article came across my news feed this morning, and it really got me thinking. If you could pack up everything, purchase a one-way plane ticket and start a whole new life somewhere else, would you do it?

It's a thought that has crossed many minds over the years, especially those still searching for something--an ideal job, a soul mate, adventure, happiness, or maybe just unique food. Travel can often provide the answer, or hit you with dozens of new questions. Either way, the unexplored life can be scary to think about, and thrilling at the same time.

For many, it will remain unexplored, forever trapped in a dreamscape, inevitably part of the phrase "one day..." But for those who decide to make it a reality, it can be truly liberating.

As my five-year anniversary of my arrival in Chicago approaches, I have found myself contemplating this very idea. Could I drop everything and jet off somewhere to start a new life? Am I ready to leave Chicago, or are there still things keeping me here? And if I did leave, where would I go?

It's actually more difficult than I thought. I assumed my mind would immediately scream ITALY! But strangely enough, that didn't happen. I don't think this means my dream of living in Italy is dead, I just think my life has changed to the point that other places seem more appealing for where I see myself down the road. But please don't ask me to tell you where I would go, because there are about five places bouncing around in my mind right now. This is just a sign telling me I'm not quite ready to leave Chicago, there is still unfinished business here.

But for those looking to jump ship, where would you go?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Planes, Runways and....Goats?

After my previous post about O'Hare implementing a new system that would cut the wait time at customs, I thought officials at the airport were thinking clearly. And then I heard about this...

On Wednesday, Chicago's Department of Aviation announced a contract with the operator of Lincoln Park restaurant Butcher & The Burger to bring 25 goats to the airport to graze among the runways. Yes, you heard me right, goats. I figured they had to be out of their minds. But then I continued reading the article and found that this is actually a pretty interesting idea.

The goats are part of the airport's pilot vegetation-management program, which means the animals will act as natural lawn mowers. According to the city's request, the goats are expected to clear 250 square feet of vegetation per day. (Whether or not they will be fired if they fail to accomplish this is unclear.)

So, why goats? Well, two reasons. First, the embankments, rocky terrain and hilly areas are tough on the airport's machinery, and can be difficult to reach. The goats can easily walk around these areas and eat away at any overgrowth. Second, it is a good way for the airport to be more sustainable and eco-friendly.

So what about safety? I mean, how are these little goats going to match up to massive planes, not to mention all the vehicles that zip around the runways on a daily basis? O'Hare has that covered, too. The goats will be shepherded by the woman who takes care of them out on the farm in Barrington Hills, and they will roam 120 acres at four different sites on the property. Those sites will be kept secured via fencing to make sure no goats wander onto the runway.

As far as innovation goes, this is bleating genius!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Noteworthy Travel News: O'Hare Goes Paperless at Customs

Tell me if this has every happened to you. You disembark from a plane after a painfully long international flight, your legs are still gaining the feeling back after being cramped in a tiny seat for hours, and all you want to do is get your bag and go home--or to your hotel if you're just getting to your destination. And then you come upon the longest line you've ever seen just to get into the country. There is no way the wait will take less than an hour, and you are forced to shuffle slowly behind the mass of people in front of you. And it is inevitable that more than one of those travelers in front of you will have filled out their customer declaration form incorrectly or lost it all together, causing even more of a delay.

Well no more!

That scenario will hopefully become something of the past at O'Hare International Airport thanks to the introduction of a paperless customs system. The airport is the first in the U.S. to go paperless in an effort to cut down on wait times. Instead of filling out forms before landing, passengers with U.S. passports will scan their documents and answer questions at self-service kiosks before seeing a customs agent. This allows arriving passengers to skip filling out the form in favor of answering questions on the kiosk. When done, a receipt is printed and passengers present their passport, travel information and the receipt to the agent, who should take about 15 seconds to review it all, a fourth of the time it usually takes, according to O'Hare representatives.

O'Hare took a page from Vancouver International Airport, which established a similar system over a year ago. It also just launched the first Automated Passport Control kiosk program with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency. Those Canadians are certainly on top of things. Heck, Vancouver was recently named the best airport in North America by Skytrax, a passenger survey.

O'Hare will install 32 kiosks and the system is expected to up and running by July 1, just in time for the height of the summer travel season, which has seen wait times last several hours in the past. Officials had been looking for ways to reduce delays, especially considering four more international carriers will start to serve O'Hare in the summer.

Read the article here.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Discovering A New World in New Zealand (Part 3)

Rows of old barrels lined the walls of the cave tunnel leading back to a cool, moist cellar. There, sitting atop a red table cloth, were glasses filled with wine; and two more bottles waiting to be poured. Our group stood among the barrels, waiting to sample our first tastes of some New Zealand wines. The perfect antidote to the chilly, cloudy weather outside.

It was raining and miserable on our first day in Queenstown, but it didn't kill the vibe and spirit of the city, considered to be the adventure sport capital of the world. And there were certainly extreme sport operators riddled throughout Queenstown. After dropping off our car at the hotel, we explored the town while enjoying some coffee. At 12:30, a bus picked us up for our scheduled wine walk, where we were meant to take a trail between vineyards. However, given the rain, we opted for the guided tour instead, so we could stay in the comfort of the bus.

Our first stop was Gibbston Valley Vineyard, where we got to experience one of the largest wine caves in the country. One of the workers at the vineyard handed each of us a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, and we happily started sipping away. He explained to us the process for making the variety, and the flavors and textures we should have been picking up. I will admit, I'm no sommelier, but I would like to think that I have a pretty mature palette when it comes to wine. The next one we tried was a Pinot Gris, a variety of which I have never really been a fan. But I took a shot on this one, but found it just did not have an appealing flavor. Next was the Pinot Noir, the variety the region is known for, and it was delightful, just light enough that it could be enjoyed mid-afternoon, but with a flavor profile that was still bold and complex, perfect for food pairing.

After our tasting in the wine cave, we hurried through the rain to the restaurant, where we enjoyed a wonderful lunch complete with squash soup, bread, hummus and veggies, and cheese and crackers, and, of course, a glass of wine. We conversed with the other members of our tour group, most of whom were from North America or England. After a brief visit to the gift shop, we hopped back on the bus and made our way over the second vineyard, Waitiri Creek. The tasting room was actually an old church transported from Wangaloa, another region of the south island. We sampled about five different wines: a Chardonnay (phenomenal), a Pinot Gris (not so much), a Riesling (pretty good, not too sweet), and two Pinot Noirs (both delicious).

The third winery we visited was Mt. Rosa, located further up the hillside and in a much more modern warehouse style facility. We squeezed into the room, which felt a little cold and cramped, but the array of wines in front of us certainly made up for it. We tried about eight or nine wines--and yes, you can bet I was feeling it a bit by now. We tried some of the standards--Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Noir--as well as some other varieties that were a little different--Gewurtztraminer and Chenin Blanc. It was here that we learned a little bit more about the wine industry in New Zealand, and how it is made up of many small, boutique wineries, and perhaps two or three large ones with high distribution. Since many of their operations are so small, it is difficult to produce enough wine to send to larger countries, and the regulations on trade and export make it very expensive. This is why many of these fantastic wines cannot be found in the U.S., which is a real shame. (But maybe if you ask your local liquor stores to stock them, there is a chance they could get enough demand to expand distribution.) 


The final stop on our wine tour was Amisfield Wine Company, considered to be a much larger establishment than some of the others in the region, but still exceptionally good. We met with one of the seasoned wine experts, who took us down into the wine cellar for a quick lesson on the wines, how they were made, and a tasting of about four wines. A Riesling, a Rose, a Pinot Noir and a Pinot Gris. By this point, I had disliked all the Pinot Gris varieties I had that day, but I decided to take one more chance, convinced that this one would disappoint, too. To my chagrin, it was great! I had finally found a Pinot Gris I liked, so much so that I dropped $30 for a bottle--yes, that is expensive for someone who usually keeps her wine purchases to under $10 per bottle.

We were dropped off at our hotel, where we quickly changed and headed back out for dinner. We enjoyed a nice meal next to a raging fire--yes, it was chilly enough for a fire--and then wandered back to our hotel to relax and head to bed.

The next morning, we grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel, and then ventured out to explore more of Queenstown. The morning was spent hitting up clothing stores and art galleries, where we found some pretty nice items. My parents picked up a couple gifts for friends, and I found a really nice purse at a cute little luggage shop. After a couple hours of walking around, we all started to feel a bit peckish, so we stopped into a place called Fergbaker, a little cafe and patisserie known for its meat pies. It also has a great selection of sweets and really good coffee. We each got a handheld pie--my mom got the vegetarian one, my dad got the lamb and stout and I got one of the signature one with ferg. Delicious! We wandered around for the rest of the afternoon, popping into stores, making a few final purchases and then headed back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. We enjoyed a simple dinner of pizza and pasta--and, of course, wine--and then relaxed for the evening.


As I sat on the plane the next morning, waiting to return to Australia--and eventually head back to Chicago--a sense of sadness started to creep over me. It quickly rippled through my body before settling as a tiny marble-sized ball in my throat. "No," I heard myself say, "do NOT cry." New Zealand held nothing but good memories, strange experiences and some of the most elaborate landscapes I had ever seen. So why was I sad? A trip ending always makes me a bit forlorn. It translates to packing--yet again--shoving every memento of the vacation into your bag (not to mention all the dirty laundry you'll have to do once you get home, which is depressing in itself); and dealing with airport check-ins and security lines. It means a return to routine, to the acts of the every day, where you know life will never be as exciting as what you just experienced over the last couple weeks. Because, believe it or not, sitting at desk typing away at a computer is not quite as stimulating as trekking through a field of vines or standing among barrels of wine discussing the process that got the liquid into those wooden containers. But mostly the end means goodbye; not just to a place, but to the people you spent the whole trip with and the ones you met along the way.

The only thing that can suppress this bitter marble...the thought of my return to New Zealand to see all the places I missed. Or the knowledge that I will be taking another vacation in a couple months to a new, diverse destination. Or the eye-catching survival expert Bear Gryllis leaping around the forests of Fiordland, tracking the extinct flightless Moa bird, all while delivering essential safety messages. Yes, those Air New Zealand videos certainly grab your attention, and I was super excited I got the chance to see one (I know I'm a nerd).