Coming from your all American kind of hunting family, being outdoors was always engrained in me.
On my mother's side, playing outside was not only encouraged, but also pretty much mandatory. I didn't have a lot of the electronics that kids these days have access to, I had toys and balls and neighbours with kids who liked the great outdoors. I also had a sports-mad brother. We were always outside and always very active.
Ours wasn't exactly your typical family "vacation at a nice hotel resort" type of family, we were a camping family. I always wanted to travel and see the world and have always been drawn to experience New Zealand after seeing The Lord Of The Rings films growing up.
This year I made the decision; I just had to go and couldn't wait to experience the stunning natural beauty for myself. I recently got an opportunity of a life-time to visit New Zealand after graduating from college when my family pulled together to get me a graduation trip down to God's own country, New Zealand, The Land of the Long White Cloud.
I couldn't believe it! There were so many places I wanted to check out and I knew I had to find some way to do it all! I was turned onto Kiwi Experience and I knew it would be the perfect answer. I signed up and I was good to go, filled with all the kid in a candy store excitement to see the land down under.
I arrived in Auckland and jumped on a bus to head out of the city. The first night they had us set up on Hot Water Beach and boy was it everything I imagined. After all the activities we got to sleep in these beautiful big bell tents called Lotus Belles. I think this was one of the best parts for me being into camping and all. But this wasn't just any camping experience. This was "glamping" otherwise known as glamourous camping and let me tell you, its hardly roughing it!
The term "glamping" is one that is very popular and up and coming in the camping world and festival circuit back where I'm from in California. Coined by American Mary-Jane Butters and made famous by Kate Moss at festivals like Glastonbury, glamping is the latest and greatest way to camp.
Now, getting to experience this first hand in the stunning surrounds of New Zealand's natural geo-thermal area of Hot Water Beach for myself was a dream come true. Being in a Lotus Belle was awesome and having so much room to move and sleep comfortably was refreshing. I have to say I had expected cramped conditions and smelly backpackers. Far from it! I was actually happy to have roommates to get to know and make my experience more personal.
It was not too hot in the tent, it easily fit 5 standard size twin single beds with plenty of extra room to boot. I had one of the best sleeps of my life after a delicious BBQ under a canopy of stars and saw the Southern Cross for the first time. After a scrumptious BBQ dinner provided inclusive in the package we pigged out on a true New Zealand delicacy Hokey Pokey ice-cream. I woke to the sweet sounds of the native birds and the sound and smell of the ocean drifting all around. With those kind of views I was in paradise.
I've made more new friends here in New Zealand then I did in my 4 years in college! I just don't think that would of happened without the close-knit family environment that Kiwi Experience provides. The "pop-up" accommodation in the Lotus Belles was a stand out experience, everything from the activities to the beautiful air conditioned buses which get you from A to B and all at a totally affordable cost.
I'm thankful for what I signed myself up for and all the magic the (kiwi) experience brought me. Something I will definitely be telling many of my friends to do as soon as I get home.
JORDAN HOSNER, 25, CALIFORNIA USA