Well, today marks the halfway mark of our trip. We are 12 days in. I can’t decide if I have felt like the days have gone by really quickly or slowly. For the most part, our days are quick and by the end of the day I’m exhausted. We traveled from Motueka to St. Arnaud today. The focus of the day was the Honeydew Trail. We also did a peninsula walk around the Lake Rotoiti. The other half of the group climbed to the top of a mountain while we did the peninsula walk, but I’ve been trying to fight off a cold for the past few days and it was raining and much colder than the last city so I decided against it. It was actually a pretty fun walk with Dr. Devlin (our NZ expert)! We “made friends” in the forest as he would describe as we became more familiar with the plants surrounding us. We learned some trees, a couple ferns, about why the trees collect honeydew, and more. The sun even came out towards the end which was such a relief.
During this walk, I started reflecting on the first half of my trip. Before I left, everyone said it would change my life and I would grow so much from this experience. As I was walking through this forest in the middle of New Zealand a million miles from home, I realized that I was already halfway through the trip. I was actively engaged with all the different plants we were learning about and all the things about the environment that these things could tell us. For example, indicator species like fuchsia and mistletoe can show whether or not a pest population is high or low. These types of problems can affect the existence of species that die off when predators come into their ecosystems, which ultimately changes the tourist’s final experience. If they have an expectation of a forest with birds and flowering trees, but all the pests have eaten them, there will be nothing left to see. I guess what I have come to realize is that even the tiniest bugs are relevant in the world we live in. While no one and no plant/animal/etc. are the most important, everything functions as part of a bigger picture.
This realization applies to my life back in Gainesville. College is such a time of selfishness because people are struggling to find out their interests, where they belong, and what they are ultimately meant to do in this world. While all these things are extremely important to a person’s development, realizing that you are part of a bigger picture is also very important. I am learning that being a functional part of society is not only knowing who you are, but also taking a holistic approach to situations. Just like in nature, even the bottom of the food chain is functional and crucial to the ecosystem.
I’ve also realized that learning things such about ecology, sustainability, and tourism are extremely helpful for expanding my knowledge for my future career. It gives me an advantage to be more eclectic in my range of experiences and knowledge.
I’m looking forward to what the rest of this trip teaches me, even if it’s hard lessons to learn. Tomorrow we’re moving again. We’re visiting the pancake rocks!