Aroha Drinks

2013; New Zealand

“You booked three months in New Zealand with no plan, just a tent and a plan to hitchhike? That’s amazing mate!” - Airport Security Guard

My first true backpacking trip was still my favorite memory. Not only did I jump out of an airplane over Lake Tahoe, jump off a bridge in Queenstown, and walk 6 of the 9 Great Walks, but I hitched into a job!

It was pouring down rain in Kaikoura. No cars stopped. Buckets of rain drenched everything. I couldn’t get my pack cover on fast enough. My clothes were soaked by the time I put my raincoat on. After roughly fifteen minutes of a Mother Nature beatdown, a white truck pulled up. He cracks the window to shout, “Throw your pack in the boot and hop in mate.” I hoofed my pack beside his two dirt bikes catching a rain bath on the back of his truck. The driver’s name was Lochie, but I’ll forever call him Lucky. 

I didn’t have a destination so Lucky convinced me to catch a ride all the way to Christchurch. When we arrived to town, he revealed, “Don’t worry about getting a Backpackers hostel. My mate’s going to take you in.” We roll over to Mark’s house, where we’re greeted with a joint and a tea. He pours his self made cordials in the tea to make it that much tastier. When Lucky continued his journey to Queenstown, Mark and I connected on life, travel, and sales strategies. He grabbed me a bottle of Aroha’s Elderflower Juice, telling me this juice won New Zealand 2013 drink of the year. He asked if I’d be able to sell it in which I responded, “The product will sell itself, but I can deliver it if that’s what you’re asking.” 

Mark set me up with a van, a place to sleep, and cases of product to deliver to cafes around Christchurch. Mark made an offer, “A case costs $35 N Zed. You give me the $20 it costs me to make the case and keep the $15 dollar profit.” It was brilliant for both of us. I gained so much from that experience. I learned to drive stick shift on the left side of the road and right side of the car in a city still recovering from earthquake damage. 

Mark invited me to work a wine festival where he created an alcoholic cider, which undoubtedly sold more than any wine stand on site. Our line stayed consistent the entire afternoon. Everyone was smiling, especially Mark. I view this as my first time working a live event, which would obviously become a big part of my future. 

Mark is a very special person, but it’s his parents that made my time so memorable; the sweetest people on Earth. I ate breakfast with them. I watched television with Paddy, “Tell him he’s dreamin!” I hung laundry with Kiwi Mama. I fed horses at sunset with Bridgie. It was a very unique experience where I was invited to dive deep within this wonderful family in New Zealand. 

One Friday in late November, I walked in for dinner. The entire family was there and more food than I could imagine. I asked what was going on in which Kiwi Mama said, “It’s Thanksgiving in the states. We wanted to give you an authentic family dinner.” I about flooded with tears. At the table, I stopped everyone before eating to say, “We have a tradition in my family where we go around and say what we’re all thankful for. I won’t ask you to do that, but I’ll I’d like to express that I’m thankful for this incredible experience. Thank you for welcoming me into your family. Mark, thank you for taking me into your home and your business and making my time in New Zealand even better than it already was. This has been amazing, and Lucky doesn’t even know I’m still here.” Everyone laughs. “Let’s eat!”

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