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First days in Middle Earth… I mean New Zealand

First days in Middle Earth… I mean New Zealand

Well, it certainly has been a pretty nutty first few days for Ariel and I on our trip. Our goal has been to combine the Tolkien stuff with some of the, you know, actual real New Zealand. Renting a car (or taking buses) is a great way to see how the country really works. This is a major reason why we didn’t just book ourselves on a Lord of the Rings type of tour. Also, we want to see what we want to see.

Having said that… NOT being on a tour has its disadvantages as well…

Like hypothetically, if you were a couple of not-quite-in-shape Americans with limited hiking experience, you might want to think twice before doing the Tongariro Crossing… I’m not saying it nearly killed us, but I’m also not saying it didn’t. We’ll have the full story (with some AMAZING pictures) on that later on.

In the end it was worth it both for the incredible views and the sense of accomplishment.

So here’s a quick recap of what we’ve done so far.

On day 1, after stocking up on kosher deli meats at Gray’s Deli in Auckland (where we went straight from the airport), we drove around Auckland and got some pretty scenic views of the city at the Mount Eden overlook. After some pretty awful driving (on the “wrong side” of the road mind you) experiences in the city proper we were off to our first major film location.


This place was pretty awesome and not that hard to get to. We stayed on the road to avoid the ring-wraiths. Actually it was private property. But the wraiths too.

From there we went to Matamata where we stayed for the night after our first decent meal in about 40 hours at the Redoubt Bar.

On day 2, it was time for our tour of Hobbiton.

Bag End.

There’s not much more to say in a quick summary like this other than that it. Was. AWESOME. I’ll do a full post on this later on when we have some more time, but suffice it to say, if you’re in New Zealand, you have to come here. Even if you aren’t so into the Tolkien stuff, what they did with this set is nothing short of incredible.

From there we went to Rotorua where we learned a bit about Maori culture and saw some amazing geological features.

Standing at the outskirts of Mordor. Or just a really cool park in Rotorua, New Zealand.

They have a couple of really cool geysers there (not QUITE Ole Faithful, but still…) and the whole area is a smoking, bubbling cauldron of boiling mud pits and steam vents. Really really cool.

We then stopped at Lake Taupo on our way to our destination for the next two days, Tongariro National Park. THE VERY SLOPES OF MOUNT DOOM.

On day 3, we did the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

Mount Doom. Both in the movies… and ALMOST in real life!

This will be fully detailed in its own blog post. But for now, suffice it to say that one really REALLY REALLY does not “simply walk” into Mordor.

That’ll do it for today. More to come soon!

If you had to bring one book with you to New Zealand

If you had to bring one book with you to New Zealand

It would kind of have to be The Hobbit, right? Lord of the Rings is too long/big/bulky to bring the entire three-book volume. And anything not Tolkien-related would be silly. This is a trip to Middle Earth after all.

Obviously, we’re not talking about a Kindle situation here (in which case bring whatever you want), but rather a scenario where you’re carrying everything you need for weeks on your back and have to make some hard choices. And if you’re still into actual, physical books, the “deluxe pocket edition” of the Hobbit is a pretty awesome choice. It’s leather-bound, which means “cool” (but also “expensive” and “easily damaged” apparently) and has gold trimmed pages. There are also some really nice old school illustrations, including maps and hand sketched images of locations and creatures from the book.

The adventure and travel themes of the story make it easily adaptable to any journey.

Because The Hobbit itself is such a short book, having a small version like this means it can easily fit in the smallest backpacks or even in a cargo pocket.

Ain’t that the truth…

And as a fun bonus, when you bring a physical book like this, you can mark up passages or even take notes on some of the blank pages at the end. Pretty cool thing to do while actually being in the actual locations described in the book. Well, not REALLY the ACTUAL locations I guess. But still…

What books are on your must-have list for travel?

Here we go…

Here we go…


I’m Liran.

This is me today. Getting ready to go on what is likely to be my last adventure for a while.

Over the past few years I’ve been bitten by the travel bug in a big, big way. For most of my life I was content to live a pretty sedentary lifestyle, spending the vast majority of my time in New Jersey and the surrounding states. Outside of some regular travel to Israel to see relatives, I generally was confined to my own “Shire” – much like Bilbo Baggins, the hero of JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit. I would get up in the morning, go to school, go to work and then go home and go to sleep.

But at the end of 2009, I decided to blow up the quiet life I had built for myself and see what was outside my comfort zone.

Since then, I’ve been to 44 US States, 3 Canadian provinces and 19 new countries. I embarked on an epic 14,000 mile road trip to every corner of the United States, stood on the deck of a ship along the open seas and was blessed to see some of the most incredible sunsets this planet has to offer.

I also met the love of my life, Ariel.

This is Ariel and I this morning.

Ariel has been an enthusiastic partner on my adventures over the past few years. In fact, it was on a road trip together to the Pacific Northwest that I realized I could marry her. We were married in 2015, combining my passion for exploration with her impeccable planning ability, we have become the perfect travel team.

Now, as we begin planning for a future family, we are on the eve of what is likely to be our last true “adventure” trip for a while. This time to New Zealand, or as I like to think of it, Middle Earth.

Even before the movies and before I began my own adventuring, the works of JRR Tolkien always held a very special place in my life. Luckily, while Ariel isn’t quite the Tolkien nerd I am, New Zealand happens to be one of the most beautiful countries on Earth. So it made sense that this would be the place to indulge our wanderlust one more time before making considerations beyond ourselves.

So we hope you will join us on this journey with us and stick around afterwards as I reflect on past travel experiences and try to find a little adventure in everyday life. I’ll also be talking about hard lessons I’ve learned in my travels so that you can avoid making the same mistakes I’ve made over the years.

Now we’re about to board the plane. The trip of a lifetime is about to begin.

Here we go!