It’s Easter. I am laying on a sheepskin couch watching the Final Four and surfing the web. I just got back from Easter service with Peggy and the girls. How did I get here? Where am I? Good question, it’s been a series of gifts over the past 2 months that have landed me here, and if I may repeat, on this sheepskin couch.
New Zealand has been wild. It deserves a full blog post everyday, but that would just be silly. I have been here for almost 2 months and for the first time I am in a place with unlimited and free WIFI, as well with intentions on staying put for a couple days. Let’s rewind to mid-February, shall we?
I arrived in Auckland at 4am after massive delays and uncertainty. I was really scared coming into New Zealand by myself, I had nothing planned and 3 months of it. I decided to let my excitement override every negative feeling I had, and not look so far ahead. One day at a time jules, that’s all, that’s it.
My moms cousin Kathy moved to NZ 40 years ago and she was kind enough to take me in for the first several days while I got settled and searched for a car to buy. I couldn’t be more grateful for Kathy and her home during that first week — we had great chats, wine, and she loaded up my brain with advice and crazy stories from when she was my age. Funny enough, her sister Linda came in from California for her first ever visit to NZ during the same week! What a treat! To start my trip with family instead of hostel stays was invaluable, and although they shook their heads at me when I told them my general plans (and clearly labeled me insane) they supported it and said go for it… They knew this was going to be the time of my life, and were really excited about it.. miss you guys!
After a few full days of car searching and test drives, I found the one. My only requirement was that the seats folded down flat in the back so I could sleep in it. Oh, and that it had an engine. I bought it off 2 German backpackers who were rather great. They gave me a ton of camping equipment and a cheese grater, I was set. For the curious, it’s a 1997 Nissan Avenir Station Wagon, with 185,000 kilometers on it. I paid $975 American, case closed. Goal met. Time to hit the road.
My general goal for New Zealand is simple: experience everything. Easy enough right? Wrong. Could I have made it harder on myself? I was all packed up, ready to camp, but sat in my car in the driveway frozen solid. Have you ever been so overwhelmed with ideas, places, activities, people, that you physically couldn’t move? I had no idea where to start. When I came back to life I decided to make it simpler, just head north, you’ll know what to do, and where to stay tonight once you get going. Just. Head. North. Go!
The entire population of the South Island and the population of Auckland are the same. It’s the only place in NZ with traffic, and that’s where I learned how to drive on the left side of the road. It came rather easily, and I tell people it’s because I’m left handed, and they seem to buy it, so I’m sticking with it.
The next 4 nights were spent doing a loop from west to east in the Northland. I camped on lakes, beaches, and saw the most amazing coastline and forests. Every road I drove on was comparable to the PCH back in California, really nuts. It was gorgeous, and as I sit here on this sheepskin couch (had to) the beauty resonates with me. I was blown away, I loved it.
I spent the next couple days with the one friend I have in NZ, Jade. I used to lead road trip tours across America and she was on one of my trips. The second I found out she was from Auckland I told her with certainty that I’d see her again. Jade took me right in, invited me to play on her soccer team, and showed me around Whangaparaoa where she grew up. We spent the next day around Auckland, starting the day with a paddle board session in her backyard. It was an awesome couple days and really good to be with a friend after camping by myself all week!
My first 2 weeks went as expected (which is a really good thing, I tend to expect a lot). I had tons of fun with the people I stayed with and learned a lot from the time I spent alone. This NZ trip is definitely going to be a solitairy one, and I have welcomed that. There is a lot of work to be done, a lot of things to be learned, a lot of emotions to be overcome, and a lot learning opportunities to be seized. I plan on meeting people, introducing myself where I feel both comfortable and uncomfortable, but for the most part, I will be relying on myself, and learning most of all, how to be comfortable with my own thoughts. When speaking about my upcoming months with my Moms cousin Linda she said, “there is a reason you are alone on this journey, you might not know what it is now, but it will become clear. There is a reason you are alone on this trip. You are going to have the time of your life.”