In classic Vince/Jess fashion, our arrival in New Zealand was last minute, rushed and a bit of a failure.
In Perth, we had been trying to sell our LandCruiser for over a month—the 4×4 that took us reliably around Australia. We needed to sell the truck in order to get to New Zealand, but it seemed to be taking forever to get rid of it. We had worked as long as we could based on our visa limitations, so at this point we were just sitting in Perth, watching our budget, waiting for the right person to buy our truck.
When we advertised the right price that was finally getting some real interest, we had a fairly seamless transaction with another backpacking couple from Europe. We were really happy to be sending another pair of travelers off in the Cruiser! We knew they would appreciate it in the way we did as nomads—we sold it with all our camping/living gear, fishing equipment, even our surf board. We were going, so everything went. We hoped they would enjoy it as much as we did!
Finally, we could arrange flights and plans to get ourselves to New Zealand, destination: Dunedin. We have been so fortunate to have family in amazing places, and New Zealand is no different. Our plan was to stay with Vince’s cousin and her partner in Dunedin, South Island, and we also had the option of staying with his aunt and uncle who live close to them, outside of the city.
We have certainly learned to practice an attitude of gratitude.
Our final day in Perth saw us enjoy an amazing breakfast with our friend and my workmate, Mel (shoutout to Sayers Sister)! Without a car and a few last things to arrange, Mel drove us around the city like the generous friend she is. We had a pretty cruisy afternoon packing and Vince visiting a friend, and that evening my cousin dropped us off at the airport.
We arrived in good time, but were a little unsure of which airline to check-in with as the flight had been booked through a travel agent and the airline selling the flight was not the same as the airline operating the airplane (confused yet?). Our first mistake was checking in with the wrong airline. Not too big of a deal, they seemed to be able to check us in anyway. We waited patiently while they did their magic computer stuff, anxious to drop our bags and be one step closer to New Zealand.
Then comes the moment you realize something has gone wrong. Upon checking our passports, they noticed that Vince’s name on the ticket did not match his name on his passport. This is a big no-no—and something we had genuinely tried to rectify earlier that day…
One of the tasks to take care of earlier in the day was to call the travel agency we booked our flights with and ask that they correct Vince’s name on his ticket. We noticed it was incorrect when we received the ticket via e-mail that morning. In retrospect, what we think happened was an auto-fill error when I was completing our ticket information. I had typed out our full names, but we are guessing “Vincent Felix” was replaced by “Vince” automatically by my computer, and we simply overlooked it.
*PALM TO THE FACE*.
As we ate breakfast with Mel, I was on the phone with Air New Zealand, Virgin Australia, and the travel agency that we booked the flights through. The airlines advised us that only the travel agent could correct the name on the ticket. The travel agent, however, assured me that it would not be a problem for us and even said ‘if you were traveling to the U.S., it would be different. But you are traveling to New Zealand…’
Okay. We knew that Kiwis are generally really laid back people, and this is what I believe the agent was trying to imply. I was anxious about this issue and I suppose just wanted a solution, so when he assured me a number of times over the phone that we would not have a problem at the airport, I was willing to accept this answer.
Again, *PALM TO THE FACE*.
Fast-forward to check-in at the airport where we are HAVING A PROBLEM.
We have to note how awesome the Virgin Australia stewardess was in trying to work out this problem for us. She was on the phone with a handful of different people, trying to get us on this flight. Essentially, airlines do not allow customers to do name changes on the day of the flight. This is why we weren’t able to fix this during check-in.
Because my name was spelled correctly, she was able to check me and my baggage into the flight at the very last minute. We waited together with hopes that Vince would also be issued a new ticket, but the crew were literally holding the flight open for us and in the end there was no time left.
The stewardess asked if we were willing to travel separately. We said yes.
There was a quick BYE VINCE and then I took off running. Remember, at this point I haven’t been through security and I had no idea how far away my gate was. I just ran.
Once in my seat, catching my breath, the emotions of the day came flooding out (as they tend to when I travel). Not only had I been waiting for our flight to process leaving Australia, leaving Perth, leaving friends, the unknown of the next step… but now I felt the deepest guilt about leaving Vince behind. Yes, he would get to New Zealand. But we had been building up this day and this moment for so long and one stupid mistake had thrown us into a spiraling, blameful, shameful whirlwind.
During my layover in Brisbane, Vince and I tried to figure out what to do next. He would not be able to catch a flight to Brisbane in time to board the final flight to Dunedin. He would have to purchase an entirely new trip. Luckily, the travel agency was willing to compensate us for one ticket because of all this. In the end, he would arrive 12 hours after me and we would try to put this all behind us as we breathed sighs of relief that we had finally made it to New Zealand.
This is travel. People make mistakes, shit goes wrong. It is not glamorous sleeping on floors and benches in airports. It isn’t a wonderful experience being left at the airport at ten o’clock at night while your partner travels on without you. What we had to do was move on from this minor hiccup (in the grande scheme of things), even though it felt like the end of the world at the time.
And we have.
New Zealand so far has been… wonderful. Freeing. Fun. Easy-going. Naturally beautiful. At the present moment, we are planning a road trip with Vince’s cousin and partner that we are so excited about! It’s always fun traveling with other people, but especially so with other people who know where the hell we’re going and can recommend things to see and do. This eliminates numerous navigational arguments and the stress of getting lost. *TWO THUMBS UP!*
Travel has taught us innumerable life lessons that (we hope) make life much more manageable once we’re home and a bit more settled. This is the case for anyone who travels, no matter how far you go. For a couple, there are challenges and opportunities galore that can literally make or break what you’ve got together. We are fortunate to have made it this far on ‘the road’ together, not without our bad days. But I can tell you without hesitation that the challenges of travel have forced us to grow in the direction of our best selves. That makes every tough decision, every slip-up, every uncertainty, every fear completely worth it because we know that these are simply fleeting moments of hardship on the road to being the best people we can be.
And you know what? So far, New Zealand has been the sweetest reward for toughing it out. SO excited for the adventures we’ll have in the Land of the Long White Cloud.