The American winners of a worldwide competition to fulfil their travel fantasies are looking forward to a quiet Christmas in Havelock North.

Alex and Mark Ayling from San Diego won's Biggest, Baddest, Bucket List competition and are currently on the last leg of a life-changing, all-expenses-paid, six-month round-the-world trip based around their own bucket list.

The brothers are also acting as ambassadors and reporters for the My Destination brand, earning US$50,000 (NZ$60,491) for their trip which will end in Rotorua on Christmas Eve.

Alex and Mark hand-picked their entire six-month prize trip, including 25 Bucket List destinations.


They chose New Zealand as the final chapter of their incredible journey, so they could reunite with their New Zealand family and find out more about their heritage.

Their father, Robert Ayling, was born in Napier, grew up in Taradale's Church Rd and studied law at Victoria University before leaving to travel the world at the age of 27.

Alex Ayling said one of his highlights was going to be "learning more about Maori culture and hanging out with locals".

"In our eyes that's the real way to see anywhere, talk to the locals. Kiwis are known for their friendly nature and I'm just looking forward to meeting people and finding out more about each of the towns and cities we'll visit.

"We're really excited to come to New Zealand and even more enthused about the prospect of chillin' out in Hawke's Bay once this wild trip is over. We'll be spending Christmas with our family - Chris and Jayne Bain - in Havelock North."

His Napier father Robert Ayling met their mother Jill, a Californian stewardess, on a train in Switzerland.

"They moved to California and have been here since 1980," Mark said. Their father has been the Honorary Consul of New Zealand in San Diego since 1995.

The brothers' 12-day New Zealand trip started in Queenstown and includes trips to Wellington, Auckland and Rotorua.

The brothers are showcasing New Zealand as a tourist destination via regular blogs, videos, articles, social media posts and media interviews.

They said the chance to "find their roots" in New Zealand was the "perfect end" to their tour.

"Our family first came to New Zealand in 1875 when Nathaniel Ayling left Gravesend in London," Mark said.

"Unfortunately his wife Mary Mann died en route and was buried at sea. After a 144-day passage aboard the ship Adamant, Nathaniel arrived in Invercargill with his eight children, one of whom was our great-great-grandfather.

"We're just so excited to be coming to New Zealand, a country that we have a strong connection with. We won the competition in London and just like our ancestors did, our journey from London will be complete when we reach New Zealand".