I have always been a strong advocate for travel as one of the most inspiring ways to broaden one’s mind and perspective. By the time I was a twenty-two, I had back-packed over a considerable part of the world. From that experience I learned the dangers of ignorance, narrow-mindedness and being too patriotic. Now, having just returned from New Zealand, the words of St. Augustine ring in my ears: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

Situated to the east and south of Australia, New Zealand is a relatively small country populated by just over four million people. Split into two islands, the south is where my wife and I spent most of our time. One cannot over describe how beautiful it is. Fans of The Lord of the Rings will get the picture as it is where the film series was made. Any digital enhancement is unnecessary as the landscape is simply spectacular with one awe inspiring, breathtaking view after another.

Being, however, a person who professionally and personally am intrigued by how people live their lives, I was particularly taken by the progressive nature of the country and what its people have achieved. Kiwis (how New Zealanders refer to themselves) are fond of saying they are a country that “punches above its weight.” Here are a few facts that might just prove their point.

a) New Zealand was the first major nation to give women the right to vote—1893.

b) New Zealand was the first country to have its three top positions of power held simultaneously by women: The Prime Minister, the Governor General, and the Chief Justice.

c) New Zealand is the least corrupt nation in the world (tied with Denmark), according to the Corruptions Perception Index.

d) In 2009, New Zealand topped the Global Peace Index earning the distinction of being the world’s most peaceful country.

e) In 1990, the NZ prime minister appointed a National Wizard. (I just loved this!)

f) Māori are the indigenous people, of New Zealand. They arrived more than 1000 years ago from their mythical Polynesian homeland of Hawaiki. Their history, language and traditions are central to New Zealand’s identity. 

g) New Zealanders enjoy one of the world’s highest life expectancy rates—82.3 years for females and 78.3 years for males.

h) New Zealand has won more Olympic gold medals, per capita, than any other country.

i) The New Zealand rugby team, known as the All-Blacks, are the most successful to ever play the game.

j) New Zealanders have invented the disposable syringe, the Navman GPS, and the child-proof top for pill bottle.

k) New Zealand-born astrophysicist Dr. William Pickering was a key figure in Apollo XI, which placed Neil Armstrong as the first man on the moon in 1969.

l) New Zealander, Sir Edmund Hillary, became the first man in world to summit Mt. Everest in 1953.

And now for one of my all-time favorites:

m) Recently, after losing a poker bet, a New Zealand man legally changed his name to Full Metal Havok More Sexy N Intelligent Than Spock And All The Superheroes Combined With Frostnova. The 99-character name was almost denied because the legal limit is 100 characters.

You just gotta love a people who are contributing so much to the world whilst maintaining their sense of humor.

(Note: this information was assisted by data from BuzzFeed.)

To read more inspiring stories about others who have left their mark on the world, read David McNally’s highly acclaimed New book: MARK OF AN EAGLE--How Your Life Changes the World. 

Find it on Amazon or MarkOfAnEagle.