Let me tell you about my friend Walter Chang. We worked together in New York as A/V techs at Columbia University. Walter was always seemed reserved and went about his business quietly and competently. As we got to know each other, he would sometimes mention his plans for “a big trip” to Asia. Others would refer to it as “Walter’s Great Adventure”. He was pithy about plans and the eventual end goal. Little did I know that he was discreetly accepting all extra shifts, eating as many meals at work as possible, and couch surfing his final few months in NY to save money.
In September 2011, he had a going-away party before leaving to see family in South Korea. Over the next eight months, he hopped across to Japan, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Nepal, India, Turkey, Greece, Egypt, Jordan, and Israel. Then home for 2 weeks in May and back out across the US through Las Vegas, LA, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, back to S Korea, N Korea (crazy!!), Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, and New Zealand. Did I forget anything?!
You may have noticed we’ve traveled through a few of the same countries and in fact our paths have closely crossed. At our first stop in Delhi, we missed each other by one day (because we had to get the hell out of Delhi as quickly as possible). In Indonesia, we were always on different islands as he was moving east about two weeks ahead of us. Finally, in New Zealand we were in the same city at the same time! We made plans to meet up on a sunny Saturday afternoon in downtown Auckland and took a ferry to Rangitoto Island to hike the volcano.
I can’t tell you how amazing it is to see a familiar face on the road when you’ve been traveling this long. Despite everything he’s done and seen over the past 15+ months (and counting) he remains one of the most grounded and humble persons I know. I was oozing with questions about the things he’s done and grateful for the advice he passed along. Walter was a main source of information while preparing for this trip and certainly gave me some priceless tips.
We took a short ferry over to Rangitoto, a dormant volcano with an easy one-hour hike to the top. Along the way we shared stories of our travels and traded reviews about the different countries. The weather was perfect and the views were amazing. Once we were at the top, there were panoramic views of downtown Auckland and surrounding islands closely offshore. The water was a brilliant blue and…well, I’ll just let the pictures do the rest.
Afterwards, we walked around Auckland and continued our conversation about life on the road. The next day, Walter would take a flight back to NY, but only for a brief stay. Then it was off to Alaska for two weeks (so he could be in the North Pole for Christmas) and down to South America for four months. His overall plans include hiking Kilimanjaro in Africa, taking the Trans-Siberian through Russia, backpacking Europe, and pretty much seeing every place in this big, beautiful world over the next 2-3 years. When asked what his favorite places were so far, he answered: China, The Philippines, and New Zealand. It made us even more excited to get out and discover this country, and we just may have to tack on the Philippines to our trip…
So if you thought what we’re doing right now is a big, crazy adventure, you haven’t met my friend Walter. Safe travels buddy!