Our drive was long but stunningly beautiful. Although the volcanoes and earthquakes on the south island of New Zealand have killed and disrupted cities and their communities…they also have created such beauty. We drove through some of the most beautiful valleys, massive mountains and lakes with teal blue water. We had to stop along the way to take pictures…this was truly like sitting inside a painting.
The drive to Christchurch was fairly long but we left early and arrived in the late afternoon. When we arrived we saw that the driveway to our hotel was being worked on and construction workers were fixing it. The reception told us due to the earthquake, it had made their driveway un-even with the street and it had to be re-paved. The reception gave us a map of the city and informed us we still couldn’t visit the center of the city…it was still in shambles from the earthquake 8 months ago.
We threw our things in the room and decided to take a walk around the city center to see exactly how bad things were. As we started our walk, we realized it was not only the main cathedral that had been damaged by the earthquake, but many buildings and sidewalks were still a complete mess. It looked like a ghost-town, like people just up and left the city. There were a few construction workers but many buildings were just damaged and shut down. It was actually quite sad to walk around looking at what use to be a vibrant city. We wondered why after 8 months…there was not more progress in picking up the pieces and putting them back together.
There were few places to choose from for dinner, but we decided on an Italian place and ordered pizza and salad to go. There didn’t seem to be too many people out…where did everyone go?
Back in our room we watched TV and munched on pizza. The news channel was covering the Rugby World Cup being hosted by New Zealand and how the prices were ridiculously inflated. We nodded our heads in agreement…we had a blast feeling the pulse of the country come alive for rugby…we could feel the passion for the game just walking down the street BUT the prices we felt were way over-priced. The hotels had doubled and tripled their prices knowing people going to one of the games would have no choice but to pay the prices. The beers were $12 for a pint…the sandwiches were $10…it was actually a big turn off for us. The country itself is beautiful but how can they charge so much? Even the locals were complaining about grocery store prices going up during the big games. It wasn’t just inflated in the city of Auckland but all over both islands. We think, if you make prices fair…people will return…but if you take too much from tourists, they won’t return to spend more money.
We set our alarm and got ready for bed, tomorrow we fly to Australia where we are hoping to see a kangaroo!
Published by Giff Kabat
I grew up in Ohio as a kid, so of course I went to college at “THE” Ohio State University. I graduated in 2001 with a major in business finance. A month after graduation, I moved out to California with my college girlfriend (whom I married in 2005)…and started my career in sales (industrial sales for 5 years…then moved into medical laser sales for 4 years).
In 2009 I was 31 years old. I had a great job, a new house, and a beautiful wife. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better…my wife and I found out we were going to have a baby. Everything was going according to plan…and I couldn’t have scripted a better life for myself.
Then in the same year…everything changed. My wife, Brandey, called me when I was on my way to work and told me over the phone, something I never thought could be possible in a million years. My beautiful 30-year old pregnant wife was just told that she had breast cancer. At that moment, everything stopped all at once. I immediately went to her…and learned of our new plan…which began with her needing surgery immediately…and the rest we would find out later.
The day we returned from the hospital after Brandey’s surgery…my father died. He had been battling an aggressive cancer of his own…and although he was the one person I wanted to speak with about Brandey having cancer…I never told him. My sister, Brooke, had just gotten married a few months ago, and although he was weak, he was able to walk his little girl down the aisle of her wedding. On the night before my sister’s wedding, Brandey and I told him that we were pregnant and about to make him a grandfather. It made no sense to tell him that everything had changed for us…so he died in peace knowing everything was “the way it should be” for his only 2 children.
2010 was the worst year of my life. We had lost our baby…and for 12 months I watched my wife fight cancer with multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and drug therapy. It was a difficult year for us…but we made it. When you go through something like this in life, you learn a lot about yourself and the people around you. I was amazed at the strength and courage of my wife…and how many good people there are in this world. I will be forever grateful for the ones who never ceased to amaze me with their kindness during this hard time. Family, friends, and sometimes complete strangers…helped us make it through this. I am, and will always be especially grateful to my mother, who was with my dad at the very end, when I couldn’t be there, and when things were at their worst. She has been so supportive throughout all of this, and without her everything would have been so much harder for me.
It’s 2011 now…and the plan we have for our life this year…is to make it the best year of our lives. Brandey is officially in remission from breast cancer and she has a 95% chance the cancer will never come back. Besides the love that I have for my wife and family, the loves of my life are food, wine, and adventure travel. My wife and I love traveling to new places, seeing natural wonders, and meeting new people from different parts of the world. So for the next 400 days…we’ve decided to travel the world…and celebrate our lives. There are so many things I took for granted in life that I will never take for granted again. My father worked for over 30 years at the same job with the same company…rarely took time off…and died at 64 years old right after his retirement. For me, this trip is a combination of a tribute to him, along with wanting to spend the time of my life with the “love of my life.”
* The only thing I will miss while we are gone is our family and friends (who we hope will meet us somewhere throughout our trip) and especially our 3 little kitties we left with my mom in Ohio to catsit for the next 400 days. I will also miss watching “American Football” over the weekend…but I’ll do my best to check the scores in the middle of the night.
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