This last January we hosted our New Zealand Photo/Video Retreat and it exceeded ALL expectations! A group of 10 strangers from all over the world met in Queenstown New Zealand and became instant best friends! We stayed in a beautiful home overlooking Lake Wakatipu and from there explored the incredible country of New Zealand and had the time of our lives!!
For this trip, we rented a big 12 passenger which allowed us all to be in one car and made the whole experience feel like a great big family road trip!
DAY 1- On the first day, we picked everyone up from the airport or from their Airbnb’s and brought them to the house. Once everyone had a chance to settle in, Josh and I taught our first class about manual camera settings for photo and video. We had a good range of skill levels and it was really fun for everyone to share what they knew with the group! After the class, we drove to the heart of Queenstown (which was only about two blocks away from our house) so everyone could walk around the little shops and get a bite to eat. Lots of us tried the famous Ferg Burger and Ferg Baker to fill our bellies with burgers, pizza, and pastries. Once we got our fill, we drove off to see the Glenorchy drive. About 20 minutes into the journey, we found out that the road had been closed due to an electrical wire that had fallen with one of the strong winds that had passed through. As we were turning around the car, the back wheels of our 12 passenger bus got stuck in a little downward slope in the grass. After a moment of panic and some nice people helping to push ourselves out of the ditch, we managed to get back on the road and decided to stop and take pictures at two lookout spots closer to Queenstown!! The two lookout spots ended up being AMAZING and we had a really fun time practicing manual camera setting and getting to know everyone even better!!
DAY 2- We started off with an early morning drive to the AJ Hackett Bungee jumping bridge. The whole group decided to do the zip swing, which was a fun little zipline ride. Afterwards Alyssa, Josh, and myself ended up taking the leap of faith and bungee jumped off the Kawarau Bridge!! I still don’t know how I got myself to do it. Definitely scary but totally worth it and now i’d do it again!! We then headed home where we ate some snacks and had a lesson on lighting and composition. Afterwards we headed to the the Blue Pools which was about a two hour drive from our place in Queenstown. Along the way, we stopped for lunch at Wanaka and saw the famous tree that grows in the lake. We took the drive slow, and made a few stops seeing sheep and taking in the scenery!! About an hour later we got to the Blue Pools trailhead and took the short 20 minute walk to the bridges. The water at the blue pools was so beautiful and so so cold. The river comes from the glacier runoff making the water freezing. Alyssa and Elise decide to brave the coldness and jumped off the second bridge which is around 35-40 feet high. After taking some pictures and video, we headed back to Wanaka to grab some dinner at the food trucks and then made our way back to our house to get some sleep. The next day was going to be a jammed pack day of adventure and we were going to have to wake up early.
DAY 3- Next morning we woke up really early to make our 5am pickup. This morning we were going to start the day with a hot air balloon ride overlooking the countryside of Queenstown. After arriving, we helped inflate the hot air balloon with air before all loading into the basket and taking off! It was everyone's first time in a hot air balloon and the whole group was ecstatic. I can’t think of a better way to start your day then to be floating above the New Zealand countryside as the sun comes up. Once we landed, we helped pack up the big balloon and then shared pastries, champagne or sparkling apple juice with the group. I guess it’s a tradition to have champagne after a hot air balloon ride! After arriving back to our house at around 10am, we quickly packed up some snacks and our things for the day because we had to make our 3:35pm boat tour at the Milford Sound. Considering Queenstown is 4 hours away from the Milford Sound and we still wanted to stop for lunch, we all got comfy in our 12 passenger van and we had our lesson on Social Media and Building a Brand as we made our way to the Milford Sound. It was so fun to learn from all the girls about their experience with this and how to make social media a more positive place! After getting lunch in Te Anau, we made it to the beautiful Milford Sound and boarded our boat! The huge mountain ranges and waterfall falls going straight into the ocean made for beautiful views as we boated through the canyon. Alyssa, Beks, and I stayed on the outside deck of the boat as the boat inched toward one of the huge waterfalls drenching ourselves in the process. After finishing the boat tour, we piled back into our family bus and made the journey back to our house to get some rest.
DAY 4- After three really busy days in a row, we decided to let everyone sleep in a bit. Once everyone was awake, we had breakfast and then a class on Accounting and Business Tools. After class, we made a quick pit stop in Queenstown to get some yummy lunch and then headed to Bob’s Cove for a little hike. We made it to the summit of Bob’s cove (which was about a 20 min walk up) after which we play at the dock and watched Alyssa, Elise, and Jess jump off the dock into the beautiful and very cold water. Those girls are so brave! After some amazing times at the dock, we decided to get some Thai food and bring it back to our house for our last dinner as a big happy family!
DAY 5- Next day, check out was at 10am which was so so sad! The time had definitely gone by way too fast. We dropped off most of the girls at the airport. Jess, Elise, And Lyss had later flights so we decided to do the glenorchy drive before they took off! We were so SO sad to see every single person go!! It honestly went by way too fast!!!
💛My very favorite part of the retreat was the friendships we made. Each amazing person who came has a piece of my heart 💕💕💕
Josh- I just gotta give this guy a shout-out because, first of all, he put SO much hard work and patience into planning this with me! 💕 Josh was pretty much the ultimate instagram guy for the trip. Not only did he take all the shots of all the girls , but he actually doesn’t mind doing it which is a rare quality in a guy! He had lots of good times spending long car rides talking about makeup, hair, and boys. ;) He is so amazingly encouraging, sweet, and kind to everyone and that’s what I love about him!
Becs- Becs is and Interior Designer/Photographer from Australia. The more I was around Becs the more i\I felt lucky to be around her! When we taught the classes she was always smiling so big and nodding her head in encouragement! She uplifts everyone and makes everyone feel good and special 💛She literally is such a sweetheart and I just absolutely adore her!💕💕 I love her creativity and passion for photography and art! She is so talented!! I seriously love her!💛
Nicole- Nicole is from Washington. She is the girl that just automatically is best friends with each person in an instant! She was the total life of the party for sure!! One of my favorite things about Nicole is just how real and full of life she is💛 She is so much fun and I truly believe the retreat wouldn’t have been half as fun without this girl!!!! The first thing I thought of when I met Nicole is, this “girl is a Boss BABE!” She is former Miss Washington, killing it with blogging and YouTubing and I learned SO much from Nicole! I am so inspired by her.
Jillian-This beautiful girl came from California and was actually Miss California last year! There are so many amazing things to say about her. I look up to her so much!! 💗First off, she is so sweet and kind. But I was also so impressed by how humble and selfless she is. She truly puts other needs before herself. The more I was around Jillian, the more I felt lucky to be around her! I just love her so much!💛
Joy- Joy came the farthest from home, all the way from Germany! Her name says it all- She is pure JOY! I seriously love and ADORE her! She is such a cutie, literally best style ever and also she is hilarious!! She had the most randomly funny comments and just kept me laughing!! She is an angel💛✨ When she cried, saying goodbye to everyone, I seriously got so sad thinking how far away she lives because I wish I could see her again sooner! 💕💕
Jess- Jess is just pure goodness. She is the most loving, caring and sweetest person in the world. She was such a good friend to everyone on the retreat and so so kind!! She inspires me so much with how she shares her faith and heart online!! I just know she is such a bright light in the lives of so many 💛 The world needs more people like Jess
Ari- Ari is a Canadian currently living in Australia. I instantly connected with Ari! She is literally the most adorable ray of sunshine and so chill and easy going! She is so positive and it makes me so happy to be around her! I literally just wanna be like her 💛 She was the last to get a spot on the retreat and I am sooo happy she came! It really wouldn’t have been the same without her beautiful smile and happy spirit 💛💛
Lyss- Lyss came from Colorado! I was blown away by what an angel she is!! 😇💛 She literally has the biggest heart in the world. And the best hair in the world. Josh and I legitimately kept calling her Ariel haha. She was so inspiring to me on the retreat- because she faced SO many of her fears going to New Zealand! She is terrified of flying- and flew across the world! She bungee jumped 144ft, jumped 45 feet into the ice cold blue pools, she wanted to experience everything she could! I love how she just lives and loves life to the fullest!! I love this girl with all my heart!!!
Elise- Elise came from Hawaii! Elise is such a beautiful, amazing soul. She has a heart of gold and is just pure goodness 💗💗She is also sooo creative and artistic and super humble about it! She is an amazing photographer and a true artist in every sense of the word. So much raw talent!!!! Every single photo she takes is pure art. I learned so much from her and her experience as a photographer on the retreat and I’m so happy she lives so close to me (in Hawaii) so we can continue our friendship!💛
Overall, the whole experience was even better than we could’ve ever imagined.
It was so fun to meet all these amazing people and connect in an environment where we could learn and have so much fun. I feel like I left the trip with so many new best friends 😭👭 and it’s been amazing to see the friendships they have created amongst themselves. It’s been so rewarding seeing the amazing videos and photos these girls have been creating. My heart is so full from this experience 💛Josh and I will remember it forever!