My first overseas trip was when I was 18-months old, and I haven’t stopped moving since. I’ve learnt a lot already, even in my on-the-big-scale-of-things-still-quite-young 26 years on this planet, and every time I travel I learn something new.
1 | Travel taught me to be flexible
You never quite know what you’re going to get when you visit a new place. Yes, you can make plans and set out a course of action for your day (something I do quite often), but inevitably things don’t quite go the way you plan. And that’s okay. You learn, over a few trips like this, to be a little flexible, and go with the flow. It might not be perfect, but it’ll make a great story later.
2 | Travel taught me to be ORGANISED
I’m an organised person, though my organisation tends to be more chaotic than others. But travel taught me to have everything ready to go, visas completed, passports updated, vaccinations jabbed; the whole shebang long before they needed to be. Ticking things off lists is something I live for, and with travel it pays to be all that more organised.
3 | Travel taught me to try new things
Growing up in a family who had done a lot of travelling before I was around, and who were immersed in so many fantastic cultures already, I was used eating food from other countries on a weekly basis. But when you cook ‘foreign’ food at home, I think you tend to Westernise it a bit, even if you don’t mean to. While I haven’t eaten anything too weird, I have tried things that I wouldn’t normally, and I’m up for trying anything once.
4 | Travel taught me about the world
There’s nothing quite like stepping into another culture, another city, another country, and soaking up everything about the place. The big difference between reading books on countries, or Pinning ‘top 10 tips for travelling to X’ is that you don’t get the whole experience. You can’t hear the sounds, smell the scents, taste the food while you’re a step removed. I may have known about Japanese culture, but I didn’t know first-hand until I went to Tokyo.
5 | Travel taught me about myself
People often say that you return home differently than when you set out. And it’s true. Every time you travel you leave a little piece of yourself behind when you return, but you take with you all the experiences you gathered while you were away. You learn who you are through the things that happen and the way you deal with things. Perhaps you learn that you don’t function that well under pressure, or that you’re superb at reading train systems in other languages. Perhaps you’re great a picking up key phrases and words, but not so great at reading signs. Maybe you’re passionate, but not that patient; laid-back but not structured; willing to try new things … within reason.
Every time you travel you pick up new things, you learn new things, come home a little different to when you left. But that’s one of the joys of travelling; it teaches you something, no matter how small, and if that’s all you take from your trip, then it was all worth it.
When it comes to accommodation abroad, there is an abundance of choices. Normally it depends on what your budget is, or your particular travel style or needs. You have everything from luxury hotels to Air B&B, budget motels to sleeping on a friend’s couch. And there’s the hostel. A lot of the time the hostel is branded as for the ‘young people’, those intrepid travellers on their big overseas experience, or gap year. But it doesn’t have to be just for those people. It can be for you too.
1 | Saves money
Hostels are known for being cheaper than other accommodation, and definitely cheaper than hotels. If you’re travelling on a budget, or you’re simply a cheap skate like I am, then a youth hostel is the way to go.
There are usually a lot of different options when it comes to hostels. You can either get a large room, shared with other strangers, a smaller room (for example, 4 beds), or pay more and have your own room. Often you can pay extra for breakfast, but if you’re willing to wander in the morning you should be able to find food for cheaper than they might charge in their own kitchens.
If you want to do a city on the cheap, hostels are the way to go.
2 | Meet other people
Especially if you’re sharing a room with them. But even if you’ve opted for your own room, then you’ll be bound to meet people about the hostel. What I love about them is the range of countries and cultures that gather in hostels.
In my stay in Amsterdam, I met a couple of groups from England, and a brother and sister from the Netherlands who had just got back from Sweden where they had been hiking. Then there was a lady from Cyprus, and a girl from the Philippines who was travelling…and the list goes on. Not only is it awesome just chatting about this new city with them, but you also get to hear about their own countries and a bit of their stories.
3 | Central
Usually a hostel will be very central. The public transport, the main sightseeing places, are likely to be on your door step, or at least a short travel away. This is fantastic, as it means you can spend the entire day out exploring, and know that you only have to take a 10-minute walk or a short train ride at the end of the day to get back. The last thing you need when you’re travelling is a long hike back to where you’re staying.
When I was 18-months old, my parents decided it would be a good idea to move to Asia. Since then, I haven’t stopped travelling. While I’m no where near close to finishing my list of places to visit, I have been blessed enough to have opportunities to travel quite a bit, despite living at the bottom of the world (or is it the top? You decide). Travelling from New Zealand means the only option is flying, unless you pay for a cruise. There are no trains across borders, no busses to just hop on to pop to the neighbouring country for lunch. The only feasible option is flight.
That being the case, I’ve flown with quite a few different airlines, ranging from Qantas to Singapore Airlines, from Ryan Air to United Airlines, from Emirates to Easy Jet, and yet out of all these airlines, Air New Zealand comes out on top for me every single time. I’m not being biased – okay, perhaps a little – and I feel like I would think this even if I weren’t from NZ. If you’ve had a great experience with Air New Zealand, do let me know about it at the end of this post.
The worst thing you can have on a long distance flight is uncomfortable seats. Thankfully, Air New Zealand is top notch when it comes to comfort. They are leading the world in new innovative ways to design planes, and it definitely shows, especially in the large planes. On the 777-300 models there are now Economy Skycouch seats, which allows you to buy an extra seat, flip the bottom of all three seats, making a sleeping platform where you and your partner can actually lie down and sleep during the duration of the flight.
“The Skycouch is a trio of three Economy seats that together create a flexible space for whatever you want it to be – to relax and stretch out in, or for the kids to use as a play area.” – from the Air New Zealand website.
I’ve seen couples sleeping, children sitting together on two seats folded up, drawing and playing with toys, and one parent with two children comfortably spending time on the three seats. It is, in my opinion, an incredibly smart way of flying. If you don’t go for a Skycouch seat option, the normal economy seats are very comfortable, and have a lot of room both in width, and in depth, with a good distance between seats.
In the last few years, the large long-distance planes have really upped their entertainment game. The screens in the back of the chairs are all touch screen these days, with extra fun features like Seat-Chat (talk with someone in another seat, or another part of the plane), more TV shows and movies, more games (which, again, you can play with others), and are beautifully laid out and easy to navigate.
If you have a frequent flyer or Airpoints numbers, and you’ve logged that in prior to getting on the plane, then when you sit down and turn on your screen, it says ‘Welcome Anjali!’ You can then save your preferences, save movies for your next flight, send emails to yourself, and even order food right from your seat. It’s a magical, magical world up in the air.
The Simplicity and Efficiency
Speaking of navigating easily, compared to a lot of other airlines, Air New Zealand makes everything simple. Travel shouldn’t be stressful, and if it is then something or someone isn’t doing their job very well. From booking flights, to asking questions about baggage and dietary requirements, everything is answered for you, and if you can’t for some reason find the answers you’re after then the help desk at the airport is you next go-to place. Simple, easy, uncomplicated.
As well as being incredibly simple, once you start getting into the process of booking flights, and arriving at the airport, everything is so very efficient that you’re in and out of check in and bag-drop in a matter of minutes. Everything is labelled and signed, and it’s very unlikely that you get lost or don’t know what you’re doing. The lines are often short, and if they’re not then they’re fast moving, because of the efficient turn through of people, even off the full international flights.
One of the main things you notice when you’re flying is the attitude, the helpfulness and the professionalism of the air-hosts. No matter the time of day, no matter the destination, the start location, the length of flight, the amount of passengers, Air New Zealand hosts are friendly, helpful, professional. They always look like they love what they do, and they carry themselves with air (excuse the pun) of professionalism. They’re not afraid, however, to show their own personalities and to have a laugh with the passengers.
Returning home from living in England for 2 years, we flew various different airlines on the way back, but as soon as we got on our final leg of the journey, as soon as we stepped onto that Air New Zealand aircraft, it was like we were home already. It was incredible how different they were to the rest of the world’s airlines, and while I’m not complaining about the others at all (I have a few favourites out there), there’s a certain je ne sais quoi, a certain something-something about Air NZ.
The Welcome Home
My favourite thing about Air New Zealand (and forgive me if your home country’s Airline does this too) is the home welcome. When you step off the plane from an international flight into the very efficient customs line to get back into the country, they make conversation. They look at where you’ve been, they ask about your trip, they stamp your passport, and then smile and say
And it gets me every time.
There’s something about coming home that makes even the staunchest of people feel that warm fuzzy feeling, and being welcomed home by a stranger wearing the New Zealand smile and the Kiwi can-do attitude is the best feeling, and the best thing about coming home.
So why am I sharing this with you? Not only am I hoping that you too, one day, can experience the wonders of an Air New Zealander hospitality team in the air and on the ground, but also because I’m proud of my country and the high standard of welcome, of service, of efficiency and of warmth that they pour out into their highly-demanding jobs.
Here’s to you, Air New Zealand. Thank you for being an incredible company that does it’s country proud. Thank you for being one of the great things that puts our country on the map.
Disclaimer: Air New Zealand did not ask me to write this post, nor do they endorse it. It is simply a post about my favourite airline and their great service.