Famed film director James Cameron shared a bit of advice with Travel + Leisure—especially for those who haven’t yet visited the otherworldly nation of New Zealand.

“Be prepared to show up,” Cameron said. And he doesn’t mean catch your flight. “This is not a sit on the beach while people wait on you hand and foot [trip]. This is a place where you’re active and engaged in life.”

While New Zealand has no shortage of stunning beaches, its best known for hiking, adventure, exploration, and discovery. Fun things to do in New Zealand include camping out to see the Southern Lights, venturing into the glow worm-filled limestone caves of the North Island, and taking a  trip by helicopter over Tongariro National Park.

On the South Island, meanwhile, creative Kiwi cuisine is pushing boundaries. After all, New Zealand’s dramatic landscapes yield everything from olive groves to stone-fruit orchards and some of the best venison on the planet.

It’s not just the thrill of New Zealand that lures Cameron back time and time again. It’s the people, who he claims are “the sanest in the world” and both forthright as well as self-reliant. 

“There’s a sense of independent spirit that I admire,” Cameron added. “I want my kids to grow up thinking that way.”

Melanie Lieberman is the Assistant Digital Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @melanietaryn.

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