Hobbits, Hills, & High Tide

Emily Doll thought she had it.

Step one: the surfboard was in the water. Step two: she pushed off, throwing her body onto the board as the wave crashed behind her. And step three: she stood up, and promptly fell into the freezing cold waters of the South Pacific Ocean. Apparently, surfing on Sydney, Australia’s Bondi Beach is not as easy as the locals make it look.

Emily, a sophomore studying Spanish and integrated media, had the adventure of a lifetime her senior year at Tippecanoe High School through one of the school’s program.

“I’ve always wanted to go to Australia because for me, it’s like that ultimate destination,” she said.

The lucky group flew from Columbus to Los Angeles, spent the day exploring Hollywood, and hopped a red eye to Auckland, New Zealand. Although the clouds and fog covered most of any land she could see from the plane, the country soon showed its true beauty through endless rolling hills and a bright blue sky.

The people of New Zealand proved themselves to be the friendliest people Emily had ever met. They asked all about the group’s trip and welcomed them with warm smiles.

“The people were all just so nice.”

In the three days she spent in Auckland, they traveled all over, stopping at Rotorua, a city in the heart of the north island, where there is a lot of geothermic activity, including geysers and hot mud pools. Hobbiton, the famous site of the Lord of the Rings films, was also on their list of places to visit. One that Emily couldn’t contain her excitement, or her inner nerd.

“I think I cried on three separate occasions,” she said.

Bilbo and Frodo Baggins’ house set from Lord of the Rings.

Following New Zealand, they traveled to Sydney for five days, where Emily learned to surf (sort of) after visiting the Sydney Opera House.

“I was riding these tiny waves and then I’d look over and see these professional riding these three times the size of mine.”

Since it was June, and Australia’s winter, it was cold. But that didn’t stop her.

“I would have done it for five more days if I could.”

Zoo trips, boat rides, and a visit to the Sydney Tower Eye filled the remaining days. On the final day, Emily’s group traveled to the Blue Mountains, where they hiked a couple miles and hopped on the Scenic Railway, which took them straight up at 64 degrees, the steepest incline in the world.

Even the hours of bus rides and flights couldn’t keep Emily from holding on to every second of her trip. She had the chance to throw herself into an environment that spoke to her.

“My favorite part (of traveling) is immersing myself in that culture.”

The final leg of the trip took them to Fiji, the popular tropical island destination in the South Pacific. There, Emily discovered a whole new lifestyle from the one she had always experienced. Everyone in Fiji lived slower lives, she said. There was no rushing, no time constraints, just simply life.

“I would give anything to go back. I can’t wait.”