Month 54: Travel Summary and Statistics


Iorana from Tahiti!

What. A. Month. I don’t even know where to begin.

Over the past four weeks, I continued to stuff my face with delicious brunches in Melbourne, took myself offline to spend time with Dave’s family in New Zealand, and kicked things into high gear with a solo trip to the mind-blowingly beautiful Cook Islands.

The lagoon in Aitutaki, the Cook Islands. It definitely has to be the prettiest place I've ever visited
Aitutaki is PARADISE!

Swoon.

I wrote a lot about my time in Melbourne in last month’s summary, so I’ll kick off this one with my trip to New Zealand.

I think I must have cursed myself by publishing my travel lowlights for 2015 before the end of 2015, because of course I managed to squeeze in one final incident before the year was out.

I don’t know how it happened: laziness, probably, but two hours before our flight to Christchurch, I suddenly discovered that I hadn’t actually bought a ticket for our flight.

What am I even doing in life?

Fortunately, I managed to find a ticket at the last minute and our ride to Melbourne’s airport resulted in one of my favourite photos of me and Dave.

Lauren and Dave on the way to the airport

With my newly-purchased ticket to Christchurch firmly in hand, I boarded a different plane to Dave and made my way to Ashburton, Dave’s hometown that is as happening as a place can be that has a store called the Denim Den. And also: Annie’s Country Quilt Store.

As you can probably gather, this trip to New Zealand ended up being vastly different to my previous visit. Rather than racing around the famous spots and cramming in as many activities as possible, this time we took it slow. I visited only Ashburton and Hanmer Springs — not exactly places on the tourist radar — and I spent my time hiking, eating, and then gaping in horror at my rapidly-turning-black toenail because I hadn’t realised my hiking boots were too small for me.

Lauren at Woolshed Creek
Views over the Canterbury Plains from our Woolshed Creek hike

In fact, I had one activity on my agenda for New Zealand and that was hiking the Kepler Track. Which we then called off within a day of arriving. A southerly (i.e., antarctic) wind was blowing through the South Island at the time and the thought of hiking through snow, or cold rain, or in single-digit temperatures was all we needed to hear to cancel our plans.

Instead, we opted to walk from Woolshed Creek on the Mt Somers Track, a beautiful hike that’s popular with locals and nobody else. The track we followed can be split up over three days, but we did the whole thing in one, and, oh my god — it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

St James Way hike in New Zealand
Views from the St James Walkway

From Ashburton, we moved to Hanmer Springs, where I strapped on my hiking boots and stumbled my way along part of the St James Walkway. Then I fell over. And then my toenail turned jet black.

And that was the end of my hiking career in New Zealand. Afterwards, I spent my remaining time in the country eating, sunbathing, and visiting the hot springs.

Next stop: the Cook Islands!

Lauren in Rarotonga, the Cook Islands
Favourite viewpoint in Rarotonga

Everything I’d read online told me to leave Rarotonga as soon as possible and spend the majority of my time in Aitutaki, so I could hardly believe how incredible the beaches were on the former. Wasn’t this supposed to be the least impressive island?

I spent two nights on the west coast of the island and one on the east, exploring the island on foot, hunting down cheap eats, and swimming in the warm waters of the lagoon.

Cheap eats in Rarotonga, the Cook Islands
Cheap eats in Rarotonga

I threw up an hour before my flight to Aitutaki — I don’t know why — so that made the journey to the airport interesting. But not abnormal, because I’ve come to realise that everything seems to go wrong when I travel alone.

But the second I arrived? I gulped down the remnants of my vomit and smiled. I had just realised why exactly everyone says to leave Rarotonga as soon as possible.

aitutaki2

Aitutaki is seriously impressive.

The highlight from my stay had to be the full-day lagoon cruise that was all about the snorkelling and visiting islands that I was convinced were photoshopped, even though I was burying my toes in their sand.

I’m not one for boat cruises, because I get seasick and I hate snorkelling, but this one was so worth it. If you go to Aitutaki, you have to go on a lagoon cruise. I don’t know if I’ll ever visit anywhere as beautiful as this again.

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 12.40.48 copy
Snorkelling with giant clams
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Snorkelling with giant trevellys
tour1
The island where we ate lunch
aitutaki3
Favourite island we visited

I can’t wait to start writing about the Cook Islands in more depth! And on that note, would you guys be interested in me jumping ahead and starting writing about them next week?

Flying in French Polynesia: always spectacular!
Flying in French Polynesia: always spectacular!

With my time in the Cook Islands over, I hopped on a plane to Tahiti, where I spent as little time as possible (the best parts of French Polynesia are elsewhere), and onwards to Maupiti, a small island with friendly locals and a guesthouse owner who didn’t turn up to the airport to pick me up.

Just another day in the travels of Lauren.

On to the statistics for the month!

Month 54 travel map

Countries visited: 4

Australia, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, New Zealand

Places visited: 9

Aitutaki, Ashburton, Auckland, Christchurch, Hanmer Springs, Maupiti, Melbourne, Rarotonga, Tahiti

Distance travelled: 5483 miles

Number of photos taken: 2,101

Highlight of the Month

I’ve written about how I’ve been battling with anxiety for the past couple of years, and it’s been hanging around ever since.

This month, I finally managed to put it all behind me and it’s all thanks to my solo trip in the South Pacific. As always: pushing myself out of my comfort zone is so amazingly good for my anxiety, as much as I don’t want to do it at the time. As soon as I left Dave’s side and had nobody to rely on but myself, I somehow ended up feeling stronger than ever. I wasn’t broken, after all. I wasn’t having a breakdown I’d never be able to recover from. I just needed to start doing the things that gave me panic attacks to prove that I was more than capable of doing them and doing them well.

Now, I feel confident, I have zero anxiety, I’m so far away from having a panic attack, and I’m at the point where I don’t expect to have another one for a very long time.

Solo travel: it is so freaking great if you suffer from anxiety. I can’t let myself forget that again.

Lowlight of the Month

The three nights I spent at Ranginui’s Retreat in Aitutaki.

I booked this guesthouse because it said it had free Wi-Fi in the listings online, but I arrived to discover they charged a whopping $10 per 150 mb. My room had to be the most uncomfortable I’ve ever stayed in. It was so goddamn hot that I spent most nights in tears because nothing I could do would cool me down. I tried sleeping on the floor next to the freezer with the door open, I opened every window and door, I sat in front of the fan, I showered under ice cold water while wrapped up in the sheets. Nothing worked. It was budget travel at its absolute worst and I couldn’t wait to leave.

Fortunately, the place I moved to was cheaper and a million times nicer!

Incident of the Month

As always, when I travel solo, I always rack up an incredible number of incidents. This trip was no different. Rather than focus on one specific incident, I’m going to list out everything that went wrong over the space of my week in the South Pacific:

I got sunstroke. I threw up. Somebody put their hand through my window while I was sleeping and touched my head. I fell off my bike. The bike was such poor quality, it destroyed the nerves in my hands — they tingled and ached for five days straight. I got seasick. I slid off the side of a boat, but got my bikini bottoms caught on a hook and ended up dangling over the water with a massive wedgie. Everybody on my tour saw my vagina. Our boat broke down in the middle of the ocean for an hour, with no shelter from the sun and no respite from seasickness. I caught two colds. I got a weird rash all over my body. I’m currently convinced I have dengue fever. My bank blocked my debit card. I had to deal with a stalker in Tahiti who I discovered had been following me all over Aitutaki and wanted to follow me to Maupiti. My guesthouse in Maupiti forgot I was arriving, leaving me stranded at the airport. And then, when I finally found them, told me they’d lost my booking and were fully booked.

Jesus.

But there are worse places to be cursed.

Instagram of the Month

I’m focusing on improving my Instagram account this year, and I’m excited to share my progress in my summaries! This month, my most popular photo was taken on the flight over to New Zealand, and rocked up 524 likes.

Flying over New Zealand

Money Spent:

Accommodation

Thanks to the generosity of Dave’s friends and family, I didn’t have any accommodation costs in Melbourne and New Zealand.

Rarotonga: $117.38 over 1 night = $39.13 per night

  • I stayed in two different places on Rarotonga. The first was Rarotonga Backpackers, on the west coast of the island, which came in at $25 for a dorm and $35 for a private single room. The staff were friendly, it was easy to meet people and make friends, and there was a swimming pool and a gorgeous beach out front. The only downside was the worrying reports of robberies along the stretch of beach outside. If you stay there, make sure you keep your valuables in the lockers or your room!
  • On the east coast of the island, I stayed at Raina Beach Apartments and loved it even more, though it came in at almost $60 a night. It was located opposite Muri Lagoon, which is one of the prettiest parts of the island, and the apartment was enormous. Great location, friendly staff, cheap eats nearby: it was great!

Aitutaki: $205.64 over 4 nights: $51.41 per night

  • I also stayed in two different places on Aitutaki. The first was Ranginui’s Retreat. See above for my not-so-wonderful experience.
  • Next up was Gina’s Garden Lodges, which was so much better. I wish I had stayed here from the start. For $50 a night, I had an enormous bungalow with five beds! Gina was lovely, even giving me a hug when she sent me off at the airport, and the bungalows were peaceful and surrounded by jungle. The room was spacious, had a huge balcony, working Internet, and a big kitchen for cooking at home.

Tahiti: $24.40 over 2 nights: $24.40 per night

  • In Tahiti, I stayed at Pension Te Miti, a fairly standard hostel on a nice stretch of beach. I booked it for the free airport transfer (and free breakfast) as I was only staying for a night on the island. It was clean, the owner was cool, and the beach in front was nice. Not amazing, but good for a cheap stopover.

Maupiti: $74.35 over 1 night = $74.35 per night

  • Note: the $75 included a large breakfast and dinner, so covered all of my meals on the island. In Maupiti, I stayed at Pension Espace Beach and absolutely adored it! The staff were friendly (although nobody spoke even a word of English, so I had to communicate through the other guests), the room was modern and clean and located on the best beach on the island. The food was delicious! Any downsides? The fan wasn’t particularly powerful and the showers were cold water only. The Wi-Fi was free and fast.

Transport: 

  • Flight from Melbourne to Christchurch: $300.89
  • Flight from Christchurch to Auckland: $123.20
  • Flight from Auckland to Rarotonga: $206.35
  • Airport transfer in Rarotonga: $13.32
  • Flight from Rarotonga to Aitutaki and back: $359.71
  • Bicycle hire in Aitutaki: $6.66
  • Airport transfer in Rarotonga: $13.32
  • Flight from Rarotonga to Tahiti: $304.84

Food: $325.05

Activities: 

  • Lagoon cruise in Aitutaki: $79.32

Miscellaneous: 

  • Insect repellent: $10.00
  • Aftersun: $15.00

Business Expenses: 

  • Monthly hosting with WP Engine: $49.00
  • Monthly email newsletter service from Mailchimp: $40.50
  • Monthly Feedblitz RSS service: $1.49
  • Social media scheduling (the best!) with CoSchedule: $15.00
  • Pinterest scheduling with Tailwind: $10.00

Total amount spent: $2178.04

Month 55 Travel Map

My Next Steps

I have an action-packed stint of travel coming up over the next month!

I’ll be starting with a continuation of my Society Islands jaunt in French Polynesia: after Maupiti, I’ll be heading to Raiatea, Huahine, and Bora Bora, researching how to visit the islands on a budget and cramming in as many fun activities as possible

Then: The Worst Travel Day Ever.

From Bora Bora, I fly to Tahiti and onwards to Auckland, where I’ll spending the night sleeping on the floor of the airport. Next stop: Fiji. I was originally planning on spending ten days exploring the Yasawa Islands, but I’ve decided to cut them from my plans and hit up Nadi on a 48 hour layover. Why? I’m tired and this trip was too ambitious with too much movement. I miss Dave. I miss sitting still. I miss being able to write on Never Ending Footsteps.

After those two nights in Fiji, I’ll be taking an overnight flight to Los Angeles, spending the entire day at the airport, then taking another overnight flight to Mexico City — landing at 3 a.m., which I’m sure will be wonderful.

Then onwards to Oaxaca, where I’ll be based for the next month! I’m so looking forward to hanging with friends and sampling as many different dishes as I can!

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46 Comments

  1. Kevin
    February 3, 2016
    Reply

    Those pictures definitely looks like paradise. Worth visiting indeed.

    • Lauren
      February 3, 2016
      Reply

      I highly recommend visiting! :-)

  2. Leonie
    February 4, 2016
    Reply

    WOW! Very jealous of your travels. Ive always wanted to visit French Polynesia. It just looks soooo out of this world!

    • Lauren
      February 4, 2016
      Reply

      It’s incredible. I can’t wait to start writing about it :-)

  3. illeseés
    February 4, 2016
    Reply

    I too struggle with anxiety and depression. And even though I know it will do me good to get out there and do some living when I feel my at my worst, it can be so hard to leave my comfort zone. When I do manage to force myself to do something I don’t want to, I realize how stupid I was for being afraid. It’s so inspiring to read how you push yourself and it serves as a reminder that I’m not alone and that I need to keep pushing myself too.

    • Lauren
      February 4, 2016
      Reply

      Oh, absolutely. I’ve known that leaving my comfort zone always helps with my anxiety, but I haven’t felt strong enough to do it for MONTHS. I really needed to take this trip on my own to prove to myself I wasn’t as broken as I thought, and I struggle to do that if I’m having panic attacks and have someone like Dave to rely on.

  4. Andrea Anastasiou
    February 4, 2016
    Reply

    What a month! I just wanted to say I so identify with what you said about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and how you always feel better for it afterwards, as I was thinking the same thing in January. I wanted to book my ticket to Berlin but I was putting it off, procrastinating, worrying about a million and one things even though I knew in my heart I really want to do this. I got so fed up of the anxiety that I just went ahead and booked – and guess what? I felt MILES better instantly.

    Cannot wait to read about Oaxaca!

    • Lauren
      February 4, 2016
      Reply

      Yes! It’s crazy how tough it can be to work up the courage to leave your comfort zone, but as soon as you do it, you nearly always feel amazing! :-)

  5. Katie
    February 4, 2016
    Reply

    Oh Lauren, I laughed out loud when I read that everyone on your tour saw your vagina (sorry). I’m going through a tough time personally at the moment but reading this cheered me up. Hope there are less mishaps for you next month. I would love to read more about Cook Islands, bring it on! :)

    • Lauren
      February 4, 2016
      Reply

      Yay! I’m happy I could cheer you up! Oh man, I can’t wait to write about that incident in detail — it was ridiculous, haha.

  6. Natasha
    February 4, 2016
    Reply

    Would love to hear about the South Pacific as soon as you can !

    • Lauren
      February 4, 2016
      Reply

      That seems to be the consensus, so you can expect the first post on Monday! :-)

  7. Aisling
    February 4, 2016
    Reply

    Its raining and cold here in Ireland. So yes, please skip ahead and write about the cook islands. I need some sunshine in my life…even if its through you! :)

    • Lauren
      February 4, 2016
      Reply

      You’ve got it! :-)

  8. Rachel @ Betty LIVIN
    February 4, 2016
    Reply

    I can’t tell you how much I love your honesty on this blog! So many travel blogs eliminate the bad parts and glamorize travelling so much but you keep it real which I appreciate so much!

    • Lauren
      February 4, 2016
      Reply

      Thank you so much, Rachel! Travel is probably the least glamorous thing I’ve ever done!

  9. Natalie
    February 4, 2016
    Reply

    You and my best friend need to be friends. You could swap bad luck stories endlessly for hours. :)

    • Lauren
      February 4, 2016
      Reply

      :-D

  10. Michaela
    February 4, 2016
    Reply

    Can’t get over that blue! And snorkelling, I Looove snorkelling how can you hate it! Ha! The first time we went we saw a massive napoleon fish. I screamed, Jamie screamed and you have never seen two people jump out of the water quicker! The instructor just laughed. Turns out they are super friendly and really harmless. It was on the up from there :) I would love to get my PADI now!
    Still can’t believe all those mishaps you have! Amazing! :) Happy Travels x

    • Lauren
      February 4, 2016
      Reply

      I think I’m just really bad at snorkelling! I always end up swallowing so much seawater that I feel sick, and my mask always seems to fit so badly that I end up with a bruised forehead and a headache that lasts for days. Likely user error, haha.

  11. Lotte
    February 4, 2016
    Reply

    Laughing out loud behind my laptop, how can one person have so much bad luck!!!

    The surroundings make up for it though, amazing photos!

    • Lauren
      February 5, 2016
      Reply

      I know! I think I jinxed myself by telling Dave that I didn’t think I was going to attract any bad luck on this trip before I left!

      • Lotte
        February 6, 2016
        Reply

        Haha, that’s always a bad idea;-) But that’s just superstition talking… Hope the rest of the year involves less accidents!

  12. Claudia
    February 4, 2016
    Reply

    I so hear you on the sea sickness. I would hate staying on a stranded boat. Oh my. And poor you having to deal with such terrible heat. I have had the same problem regularly when I visited Nicaragua and other places in Colombia. So bad it was that at some point in Colombia I decided to skip Tyrona National Park in order to head south, to the Andes, because I could not take that heat anymore.

    Great that you are going to Mexico. I don’t know how long you are staying in Mexico City – if at all. But I know a great hostel there in case you need it and actually, a taxi to the city shouldn’t cost you too much (I can double check if you want, I have an expense sheet for when I worked as a tour leader).

    I have a friend that lives in Oaxaca. Let me know if you could do with a local contact (though he’s Italian, but his partner is Mexican and their child was born there). I have passed the same info to Jodi so I am sure she can share it with you – in case, I don’t mind forwarding it to you :)

  13. Jayne
    February 4, 2016
    Reply

    I can’t wait to read your tips for visiting the Cook Island and Bora Bora on a budget. Everything you mentioned so far (apart from the hand through the window and vagina flashing bits) sound incredible!!

    • Lauren
      February 5, 2016
      Reply

      I’m excited to start writing about them! :-D

  14. Amy
    February 5, 2016
    Reply

    Wow, those are some amazing incidents! Did you maybe dream the one about someone reaching their hand in the window? Seriously though, those islands look amazing and I’m glad that you’re feeling in top form.

    • Lauren
      February 5, 2016
      Reply

      I don’t know! I did wonder if I did, but apparently robberies were common at night in that area, so it could have been someone. I didn’t attribute it to a specific guesthouse in case it was something I dreamed, haha.

  15. Dominique
    February 5, 2016
    Reply

    What a great month! Those islands look like a dream! It’s a pity they’re so far away when you live in Europe! I can’t wait to read the posts and dream… :)

    • Lauren
      February 5, 2016
      Reply

      Definitely worth the long journey to get to them, though. I rank them higher than the Maldives! :-)

  16. Rosamund
    February 8, 2016
    Reply

    I love how you included Ashburton in places visited. I’m from Christchurch and seeing Ashvegas listed next to beautiful Aitutaki made me smile.
    And side note, I loved your book!! Just finished reading it and it was so refreshing to read about someone who struggled with travel (I mean that in the nicest way possible). I traveled through South-East Asia for 4 years and found it really hard sometimes. This was due to my own issues with anxiety as I was always worrying about what could go wrong which made me hesitant to do much whenever I arrived in a new place. Each time I encountered other travelers, I would feel like I was doing something wrong as they were always so comfortable being in a strange place and never seemed to stress about anything. I sometimes felt like I didn’t belong in the travel community at all. Things got much better and I gained so much confidence from my time away, but I was never one of those totally carefree amazing travelers I always seemed to encounter or read about. I really loved that your book was totally honest. Travelling can be hard and scary for some people, and that is okay! It doesn’t mean we have less on an experience or don’t belong, but it does make it all the more worthwhile and special when we start to conquer our fears and take on new places. You’re book has stuck with me much more than all the other travel blogs/memoirs I have read, so thank you :)

  17. suraj
    February 10, 2016
    Reply

    WOW! Very jealous of your travels. Those pictures definitely looks like paradise. I’m glad that you’re feeling in top form.

    • Lauren
      February 11, 2016
      Reply

      Thanks! It feels so good to be back in a happy place :-)

  18. Sofia Palomino
    February 12, 2016
    Reply

    There is so much to discover, that in any part of the world is something new, I had no idea of those places, thank you for sharing your experiences with us

    • Lauren
      February 12, 2016
      Reply

      Glad I could introduce you to a new part of the world! :-)

  19. Yok
    February 12, 2016
    Reply

    I have been waiting to read about this! In retrospect, and given your limited schedule, if you were to head back would you have spent more time in French Polynesia or the Cook islands but cutting one or the other out?

    • Lauren
      February 12, 2016
      Reply

      I ended up moving too fast for my liking, so if I could do the trip again, I would cut out the Cook Islands. They were beautiful, but French Polynesia has so many more islands to explore and a lot of diversity.

  20. Samantha
    February 18, 2016
    Reply

    The picks look like a Paradise,really beautiful photos,really thanks for sharing your experience with us..

    • Lauren
      February 18, 2016
      Reply

      No problem! It’s the closest to paradise I’ve ever been.

  21. Maggie
    February 25, 2016
    Reply

    Wow Aitutaki really seems like a paradise and worth visiting!! Thanks for sharing your Experience and detail review about your trip.Hope you had great time.

    • Lauren
      February 25, 2016
      Reply

      I did :-)

  22. Svenja
    February 28, 2016
    Reply

    Is it horrible of me to like the “Incident of the Month” part best?
    I mean, your monthly reports are generally very interesting and I like reading them, but those episodes of truly rotten luck and the way you write about them are epic!

    • Lauren
      February 28, 2016
      Reply

      Thank you! They’re mostly my favourite part, too. Well, once the incident is over and I’m safe and well again!

  23. Martin
    July 19, 2016
    Reply

    “Flight from Rarotonga to Aitutaki and back: $359.71.
    Flight from Rarotonga to Tahiti: $304.84”
    Ouch! That sounds like a lot for such short hops (the former being even one way only).
    I’m new to your blog and I love it. Hope you make it to Argentina one time, can’t believe you nevermade it down here! ;)

    • Lauren
      July 19, 2016
      Reply

      Oh, I meant a return flight to Aitutaki, so the $359 was for both flights. And it’s actually a three hour flight between Rarotonga and Tahiti, so not too bad.

      Really hope to get to Argentina (and the rest of South America!) sometime soon. I also can’t believe I haven’t made it there yet!

  24. Nomadic Foot
    August 18, 2016
    Reply

    such a beautiful and detailed post. images are also very beautiful..now its high on my list… thanks for the sharing this post.

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