That trip was part of a Rotary exchange program, and I spent 3 months living with a host family in Westport, on the west coast of the beautiful South Island. In 2008, before I headed off to university after a gap year, my Mum and I went back to New Zealand, and this time we did both islands. New Zealand is so well set-up for tourists, and has so many amazing things to see and do. Often there are very cheap flights over there, and there are plenty of camping spots, so it can be done very cheaply. If you haven't been, start planning a trip!
In 2010 I signed up for a 3-week mission trip to Vanuatu. That was definitely a culture shock, as we were living on the island of Tanna without electricity, while we built a school for the Vanuatu people (Ni-Vans) who are some of the loveliest, happiest people I have ever met!
Later that year I also headed off on my longest flight yet to the United States of America! One of my best friends was doing an exchange in Virginia with her university at the time, and I also had 3 really good American friends that I had gotten to know while at college. In a month I travelled through many states including California, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington DC (and we travelled through North Carolina & Marylands as well). I absolutely LOVED this trip. I saw so much, stayed with all my friends, and because I only had 2 nights accomodation to pay for in the month, it was super cheap. I'd go back in a heartbeat!
At the start of 2011, a friend and I headed to Bali, Indonesia for what was a jam-packed and absolutely fantastic 2 weeks. I loved meeting the people, and seeing the beautiful sights, as well as lots of cheap shopping! I brought a whole extra bag back.
Last year, in 2014, my husband and I planned a month trip to Europe and the UK. This has been on my bucket list for years, and I wanted to travel there before we had kids. We got to see so many countries while over there - France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Italy, Vatican City, England, Scotland, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Wales. It was a very busy month, but absolutely the trip of a lifetime! I actually found out we were pregnant in our second week over there while we were in Belgium, which made it all very exciting, although I was sick A LOT, and this was a challenge! My favourite countries were Germany and England, and I'd love to go back and check out more of these places. It was obviously our most expensive trip, but definitely worth it, and we used our wedding gifts/money to fund part of it, which made it a special 2nd honeymoon. Because we wanted to see so much of Europe and the UK, we decided to travel the first couple of weeks by ourselves, and then join a Contiki tour of Italy (the 'couples' version of Contiki), and then a Trafalgar tour of Europe and the UK. As a lot of that part of the world was very unknown to me, I contacted Flight Centre, and our very helpful consultant walked me through the entire process, found some great deals for me, and suggested many cool things to see and do while over there. Do your research first so you know what prices are available, and make sure they price-match. And if you ever go to Paris, go on a bike tour, it was probably one of the best and most-fun things we did while there!
When you get home, the first thing I recommend once you get over the jet-lag is to organise your photos. I create a folder within my travel folder (in documents) and put the place and date I travelled. [Excuse the blurry photo, I took a pic of my computer]
If I have been to many countries or places, I create seperate folders and organise the photos into each one. I also create another folder titled 'best photos.' From each place, I drag the best photos and ones that will tell a story of our trip into the best photos folder. Then I'm ready to create a travel book!
I've created these 5 travel books with Big W Photos Online. I choose Big W because I can get free delivery to my local store, and then I just go and pick it up when they call me. The best bit about Big W is that you can spend almost as little or as much money as you want, depending on what type of photo book you want. I have been really impressed with the quality, and most of mine have only cost $30 each.
I think travel books are an excellent way to present your memories, and can be kept on the coffee table or in a bookshelf to be looked at at your leisure. I have chosen to keep mine looking the same, and have chosen black pages and white writing so the photos really stand out.
This is a page in my USA travel book:
Europe & the UK:
I plan to not only use this idea for travel books, but as a record of Miss M's 1st year. Every time I upload photos from my phone of Miss M, I add them to the relevant month's folder (e.g. January, February etc.) - this way I will remember how old she was in each photo. In December when she turns 1, I plan to create a best photos folder and create a Big W photo book. The plan would be to do this every year. A wonderful, easy to make, and cheap keepsake.