Stray Days: Straying with Laura

Laura Nalin - Willful and Wildhearted - Lake Wanaka, New Zealand

This month we’re Straying with Laura Nalin, a travel blogger originally hailing from the US. She decided to finish off her Working Holiday experience in New Zealand by getting off the beaten track on a Willy Pass around the South Island.

What things about Kiwi culture make you giggle?

After living in the country for a little over nine months, one of the quirks that always brought a smile to my face is New Zealand’s barefoot culture. It’s not to say I didn’t fully embrace it from time to time (I absolutely did), but it’s just that walking around barefoot is not something we generally do in the States – particularly not in business establishments.

I also mean no offence, but I really love the Kiwi accent. I love when they’d say words like “eegs” (eggs) or “breekfist” (breakfast.) Going out for a meal always put a smile on my face in that regard!

Laura Nalin at West Coast Brewery Tour with Stray NZ

What will you miss the most when you return home?

I’m actually not returning to my home country. I left the USA in 2013 to start working abroad, and in turn met a lovely British guy three years ago. We’re currently in Europe for a wedding and to visit his family, then we’re off to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam at the end of June. With that said, I’m going to miss how calm and peaceful New Zealand is, considering the traffic and general culture in Saigon is absolutely insane. We’re both eager for this next adventure, but it’s something that comes up on my mind often.

Finding peace and quiet in Wanaka

What is a handy tip for other travellers thinking about Straying NZ?

Go with an open mind! I literally never thought I was going to skydive on my trip, but I thought to myself, “when else can I say I jumped out of a plane over a glacier?” My partner James never thought he would take flying lessons on the trip either, but there we were in a plane above Lake Wanaka with him as the pilot.

My point is, there are many things you can do on a Stray trip that you might never be able to experience again in your life. Do it while you can and seize the day; relish in the adventure of it all.

Skydiving over Fox Glacier


What surprised you the most about your tour in NZ?

I’ll be completely honest: I wasn’t aware that there is so much freedom that came along with a Stray tour. Although it was sad to leave behind some friends after about a week and a half together, James and I really wanted to stay an extra few nights in Wanaka as we loved the peace and quiet it offered. The freedom with the ticket is there – it just requires a little extra patience and planning – and the willingness to say “bye for now” to some incredible friendships.

Laura Nalin & partner - Wanaka - Stray NZ Willy Pass

When you look back on your trip, what is the first thing that pops up in your mind?

Happiness! The trip was one of my favorites to date, and I’m really glad I did it as a final send-off to my Working Holiday Visa time. I will always hold New Zealand in a special compartment in my heart, and this trip really helped me experience more of the unique beauty that country has to offer. I cannot put into words how grateful I am to have seen this country as extensively as I did in a relatively short amount of time and the memories that I made with other Stray passengers as well. Rock on, Stray!

Thanks Laura for sharing your Stray Days experience with us! You can find more of Laura’s amazing photos on Instagram (@willfulandwildhearted) and read about her travel adventures on her blog, Willful and Wildhearted.