Back in January, I had the pleasure of bringing you along on a Hawaiian adventure, courtesy of one of my nearest and dearest friends, Michael Graziano, in a post called Picture-Perfect Postcards from Hawaii. (If you missed it, check it out!) After Michael left Hawaii, he headed off on a six-week solo backpacking tour of New Zealand. He's been kind enough to let me share with you here the second leg of his trip. (Hang on to your hats! His photos are going to blow you away--and just might cause you to book a very long flight!)
While I can't wait to catch up with Michael again in New York, I'm really going to miss his updates from abroad. Strangely enough, even though he was on the other side of the globe, I felt closer to him than ever. I think you'll understand why, after you read his heartfelt and often funny commentaries on his travels.
The following quotes are Michael's updates from Facebook, and all of the photographs in this post are his, taken with his iPhone. (All text and photos were used with his generous permission, of course!)
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February 8, 2015: "People in New Zealand are so NICE. In comparison, I feel like such a cranky New Yorker. And Auckland is so clean. The trains smell like a sea breeze."
February 9, 2015: "Had an amazing time hiking the coast near Piha and Karekare Beach [above]. This is where my long-time favorite Neil Finn of Crowded House lives and creates some gorgeous music. Neil, why did you not invite me in for tea?"
February 17, 2015: "Just finished a five-day group tour from Auckland to Wellington. What was I thinking? I hate group travel. The sights were gorgeous. The people were out of a sit-com. I'll be happy not to arrive at the National Parks at the exact same time as three other tour buses."
February 20, 2015: "I depart New Zealand's North Island today for the South Island, which I am told is even more spectacular. Exciting!"
February 21, 2015: "I had such an unusual time flying to the South Island. First I had a long chat with my Cambodian van driver. He was a Vietnam War vet and was held as a POW for over 10 years. Surprisingly not bitter and in favor of that war. Then there was absolutely no security at the Wellington airport. No bag check. No taking off of shoes. No scanner. Nothin'. The pilot checked us in herself and there were three passengers in a six-seat plane. After a flight over gorgeous mountains and coast, we helped her push the plane into its hangar. Then she became the car rental agent and kindly got me my car without hounding me for extra insurance. I love New Zealand."
February 26, 2015: "Many of the people I've befriended over the last five months are young enough to be my children. And yet we connect. We are looking for the same answer to different questions. They are traveling to discover what they will become in the world. I am traveling to discover what in the world became of me."
February 27, 2015: "Just finished staying a couple of nights in a cozy little wooden cabin on the coast of Golden Bay. It had an outdoor kitchen and a compost toilet with a million-dollar view. It was a former Buddhist retreat and I was the only guest. I was able to watch this morning's sunrise while tucked under the covers."
"I am loving taking long solitary walks on the Golden Bay beaches with their dramatic tides and empty space."
March 3, 2015: "This is the closest I have gotten to snow this year. The Franz Josef Glacier [above]. Having lived most of my life on the east coast [of the U.S.], I thought I would miss winter and the change of seasons during my travels in Hawaii and New Zealand. But I don't miss them one bit. Not at all."
March 5, 2015: "I felt like I fell down Alice's rabbit hole today while hiking the Kepler Track. Mushrooms everywhere in the forest!"
March 8, 2015: "When I woke up this morning, it was 46 degrees in Te Anau and 50 degrees in NYC. The first time this winter it has been warmer there than here. Cheer up, eastern seaboard. Spring is coming!"
March 8, 2015: "Fiordland [above]. Actually I feel it should be FIORDLAND! First place I've been where the photos just can't capture the majesty."
March 10, 2015: "Much of my soundtrack here in New Zealand has been Crowded House, New Zealand's most famous band and one of my all-time favorites. I listen to 'All I Ask' from their 1991 'Woodface' album over and over. It's like I am in junior high."
All I ask is to live each moment
Free from the last
Take the road forgotten
Don't leave me here
Oh, please let me stray
Far from familiar things
All I ask is to live each moment
-- Neil Finn
March 11, 2015: "I am staying in a small cabin on a sheep farm on the Banks Peninsula for the rest of the week. This is my back yard [above]."
March 13, 2015: "I am going to get a bit mystical here. Ever since arriving in Hawaii six months ago, I've been absorbed in taking photos. This surprised me as I've never been interested in photography before. I last took photos with an Instamatic in 1985. And I had an iPhone for over five years before I ever used the camera on it. I was taking the photos of the evening sky below when it hit me that it was my elementary school art teacher, Miss Jankura, speaking to me. I took my first photograph with her when we made cameras out of oatmeal boxes in third grade. And she developed the photography program at my high school after I graduated so I was never able to take her class. She died from cancer without ever telling me that she was sick or that I was in her will. The money she left me allowed me to take this six-month adventure. I have felt watched over by her the entire trip. And the photos have been a way to say goodbye and thank you. Her spirit and imagination are in each of them."
March 14, 2015: "Today I am leaving the sheep behind and heading to Northland. I don't think the sheep ever warmed to me but they sure are fun to take photos of when they don't run away."
March 17, 2015: "Since I got to New Zealand, I've mostly taken landscape photos trying to capture the grandeur of the environment. Here are a few close-up pics of more humble things that caught my eye."
March 21, 2015: "I've had many insightful readings shared during my travels, but the one below, which I heard in January at one of Kalani's Monday Ohana meetings, has the most resonance for me personally."
In many shamanic societies, if you came to a medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited or depressed, they would ask one of four questions:
When did you stop singing?
When did you stop dancing?
When did you stop being enchanted by stories?
When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?
Where we have stopped dancing, singing, being enchanted by stories or finding comfort in silence is where we have experienced the loss of soul. -- Gabrielle Roth
March 23, 2015: "All journeys come to an end and mine is no exception. After six months away, I head back to NYC later this week. I am so happy to have seen many beautiful things and met many beautiful beings. This will be my final trip post as I am going to be quiet while I settle back into city life and see what comes next. Thanks to all who have followed me. The 'likes' and comments were always appreciated. I felt like I had a caravan of travelers with me."
Okay, how AMAZING was that?! Do you have a favorite shot? Let me know in the comment section! (Thanks again, Michael. I'm so grateful we've been friends for thirty-four years and counting!)
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Next week, I'll be opening Early Bird enrollment (with discount pricing)
for my newest photography e-course,
"The Charm of Children: How to Take Better Photos of Babies & Kids"
The online course will run from April 27-May 3, 2015. Watch for details!
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© 2015 by Joy Sussman/JoyfullyGreen.com. Photographs and quotations within this particular post: © Michael Graziano, except text where noted. All rights reserved. All photos and text digitally fingerprinted and watermarked. Please do not use any of my photographs from my blog--or Michael Graziano's from this post--without asking first for permission at JoyfullyGreen.firstname.lastname@example.org and then clearly linking back to this site with photo credits. Site licensed by Creative Commons.