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This is part 1 of my 2018 trip to New Zealand post covering my time in Hamilton, NZ.

Last month a dream came true for me. As you guys may know I spent half a year in New Zealand back in 2012 and 2013 – it’s basically what I did right before I started blogging. The experience of traveling this stunningly beautiful country on the other side of the globe changed both my life and me as a person and, to a certain degree, shaped the person that I am today. So for half a decade I had been longing to see this place again but the flights are long and expensive. Then the jackpot happened. If you’ve been following me for a while you might also know that I’m currently a computer science postgrad student and working at my uni as well. Without going into too much detail: I got a research paper accepted for a conference in New Zealand and got to go to the conference – all expenses paid. So I set out once more for my favorite country in June.
Now 35 hour flights are obviously a bit un-fun. I was really glad to already know what to expect so I could follow some guidelines such as: sleep as much as you can, order meals in advance and eat everything that is put before you, stretch regularly etc. (Good to know: if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, be sure to order your meals in advance. Not only will you always get your meals first, which is a plus, but depending on your airline there might actually be no veggie options on the regular menu.) On my flight from Singapore to Christchurch, which was operated by Singapore Airlines, I was even lucky enough to have an entire row of seats to myself, so I arrived fairly relaxed and well-rested. When I spotted New Zealand again from my plane window I really couldn’t help it – I cried. I was so happy and couldn’t believe I was actually there. For the past 5 years I had dreamt the same dream many a night that I was back in New Zealand, but time and time again I woke up just to realize I was lying in my bed at home. This time it was real.

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I arrived in Hamilton and checked into my hotel. Without further ado I went exploring – out of curiosity and of course to fight the dreaded jet lag. Okay granted, there’s not much to see or do in Hamilton on a rainy winter Sunday afternoon. However, I have a lot of fond memories of the town as I spent a very special day there – December 21st, 2012. You might remember that according to some Mayan calendar the world was supposed to end on that day. Of course I never believed this would happen, but my travel buddy Matt (in case you’re reading this – hi!) and I decided to actually spend the day as if it was the last day ever. We went blackwater rafting in the famous Glowworm Caves of Waitomo and had a total blast out and about in Hamilton that warm summer night. That day is, hands down, among the top 5 days of my life, so all those memories instantly came back to me as I walked the streets of Hamilton again. I eventually succumbed to my jet lag that day: it had started to rain so I couldn’t stay outside and night fell at 5 pm, which made it extremely hard to stay awake. After falling asleep three times while trying to write a single email I eventually went to bed.

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I enjoyed the conference a lot and got to meet so many fantastic people from all around the globe. It was both very fun and very interesting to talk to professors and PhDs while enjoying a fantastic meal at Bluestone Steakhouse (yes, I’m still a vegetarian – they had great mushroom pasta!) and it gave me some really good insight into my future #scientistlife.

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Conference-y hotel room selfie

One of the conference highlights though was definitely the trip to the Hobbiton movie set. Of course I had visited Hobbiton before when I traveled NZ in 2012, but I was so excited to go back. Also, this time the Green Dragon Inn was our venue for the conference dinner and I can tell you, it was even better than I anticipated. When we arrived at the inn, dusk was settling over the green hills of Hobbiton, with some wisps of fog already creeping through the valley. It was the perfect time for a weary traveler to find shelter for the night, with a hot meal and a cozy bed to rest in. A fire was already crackling in the hearth as we entered and the tables were already set. The buffet was being prepared and a cat was curled up in a chair by the fire purring peacefully (if this sounds too good to be true, feel free to look at the pictures – I’m actually telling the truth!). We enjoyed a delicious dinner accompanied by good conversations and left late that night to return to our hotels.

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On the last conference day there was some time left to explore the Hamilton Gardens. So five of us set out on a sunset stroll. We were very surprised by how vast, beautiful and instagrammy they were and we left very reluctantly as it grew dark. My favorite area was this Italy style garden – if I lived in Hamilton, I would so take my outfit pics there (Spoiler: this might become a reality rather sooner than later…).

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The next day was a day I had been looking forward to for the longest time. After the conference I had another week to return to my old home Wellington, the charming quirky little capital on the southern tip of NZ’s north island. Thinking of this place had made me so homesick throughout the past 5 years and I couldn’t wait to walk my beloved Cuba Street again – the place where so many awesome and ugly things happened half a decade ago. In my NZ dreams I mentioned earlier I would always try to get to Wellington, but would often wake up before I got there, the images fading as if my head was just playing tricks on me. Sometimes I even questioned that this city was real at all – maybe it just existed as some perfect fantasy in my head. But on that day I was going to find out – I had booked a flight to Wellington and was so excited when I headed to the airport on this cold, foggy June morning.

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It wasn’t long before I learned that my flight to Wellington had been cancelled due to the fog. And there I was – wondering whether this was just another one of my New Zealand dreams in which I never arrived in Wellington.
Read what happened next in part 2 of my 2018 New Zealand post. #crazyasscliffhanger

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