Hard to believe it had already been over two years since that fateful first solo traveling experience. It's hard for me to believe there was a time when I hadn't traveled solo yet. Oh I had so much to learn. And yeah, so much has been seen and done since then. So much.
I don't know how many of you know the story behind New Zealand. It was 2011, springtime. I hadn't had a vacation in over a year. I was starting to get antsy because I was used to leaving the country once a year or so (for business travel at the very least). I'd graduated university a few years back, was at a good job (I was working as a user interface designer in San Diego still at this time). I had broken up with my boyfriend about 8 months back and was just about hitting the mark where all I wanted was a beautiful new country and new experiences. I was getting tired of San Diego and all that it had held for me for the last 7 years. Sometimes you really do get tired of endless sunshine (seems ridiculous to me now that I could ever do such a thing but it's completely true).
Anyway, I'd decided to take a leap and plan a trip to Egypt. It'd been on the top of my travel list since I was a kid and I finally had enough money and balls to go traveling on my own. I signed up for a tour company that only catered to younger travelers (read: 18-34 year olds) and everything was settled. I bought it for myself as a Christmas present. Go me.
Unfortunately a week and a half before my trip was to take off (this was February), Egypt decided to have its revolution. I was floored. My first time for traveling solo and fate decided to throw me this bullshit. I was so angry. My parents didn't want me to go because they said it was dangerous. I stood my ground for as long as possible because it felt like a wall thrown against my independence. You're telling me I can't travel by myself? Worst timing ever. Should I ever become a parent I will do my hardest to take these things into consideration. I will try to remember that once I was a kid and things were not so complicated, that as a kid you only see things one way sometimes...stupid as that is.
Eventually I caved and canceled my trip. I wouldn't be able to see any of the sites I really wanted to visit with the 5pm curfew the country had enforced. My plans for Egypt were put on hold indefinitely. To this day I still have not made it and this makes me sad. It is still the #1 place I want to go.
Fortunately the tour company and the airline company I booked with were decent enough to give me credit for my trip. They agreed that since Egypt was now on the States' watch list it was okay for me to not lose money on something that was out of my control and potentially dangerous. So, I had some time to book another trip.
I took no time. I searched all the other possible destinations I could go to and chose the most remote and strange that I could potentially go for: New Zealand. I'd been to Europe before, I'd also been to Asia before. This tour company didn't go to Africa or the Middle East so...New Zealand here I come.
It was incredible. And that is where I met Sweden. I landed at 7am local Auckland time from a direct flight (San Diego to Auckland, 10 hours direct...I fell asleep before we took off and woke up when we landed...welcome to full-time working life). Since it was my first time traveling by myself I was afraid of missing our tour's meeting point, a hotel, (we weren't meeting until 9am) so I arrived at 8am. I took 15 minutes to wander the streets after I'd located the hotel but I wasn't taking chances. The second time I came back to the hotel I followed a gorgeous Swedish girl into the hotel. I asked her if she was there for the tour and she was. Instant friends. We were roommates the entire trip and had the most amazing time.
So that's the back story on Sweden. We've stayed in touch ever since and last summer I visited her for the first time since our trip. It was wonderful being reunited with her and meeting her family, visiting their summer house. Now it was her turn to visit me.
Her first reaction when she arrived at my apartment Thursday night?
Your apartment is so nice! I wasn't expecting that!
Haha glad to know that I can upclass anyone's expectations in that department. ;)
Apparently the British have the reputation of having horrible rundown apartments elsewhere in the world. I cannot say that I am surprised; I had the similar notion before moving. Glad to see that I made good choices in life, at least when it comes to living arrangements.
Anyway the first night we just stayed up talking, reminiscing and catching up. I had to go to work the next day but we had a jampacked weekend planned. The goodness was just about to begin.