So there I was, sitting at a McDonald’s table in a sleepy New Zealand town called Nelson.
I sat, indulging in artery-clogging goodness, reflecting on being caught tramping in a cyclone the week before and thinking, “sweet memories are rather savory, like cheeseburgers.” Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” played obnoxiously loudly in the background, which got me to thinking my next thought… “Why is Gwen Stefani playing at 11:00PM in this McDonald’s right now? Isn’t it 2017?”
One of my favorite things about New Zealand is how trends move at a slower pace. I found that conclusion I had come to reinforced when I heard a Kiwi pronounce quinoa as queen-o.
Now, you might be wondering why I went halfway around the globe only to stoop as low as to eat at the Golden Arches.
Wi-Fi is a precious commodity when on the road, for one. And two, $0.80 NZD ice cream cones are objectively irresistible.
Anyhey, I’ll tell you what, I’ve sure missed you.
How is it that, without your noticing, minutes turn to hours, hours to days, and days to months? Future ambitions turn to the struggles of today.
I originally intended to do one blog per month while abroad, but that unfortunately went kaput. Since I’ve missed a couple of blogs and changed the titles from miles to kilometers, I’ve come to realize that my title theme has also become more or less useless. Aye, sometimes you swing and miss.
The thinking behind this title theme in the first place resulted from a hunch I had. I had this sneaking suspicion going into my exchange that New Zealand would, over time, start to feel like home. I’ve moved away from “home” a couple of times before, and in the beginning, it may seem like the sky is falling, but then you soon find that you can navigate the streets without Google Maps, you know where the farmer’s markets are, you know who makes the best cup of coffee (and you learn that drip coffee does not exist in Australasia) … a place on the map becomes home. So I had this feeling before, and it turns out I was actually right about something for once.
I’m “home” in Fort Collins now, and truth be told, it probably seems like it hasn’t been that long since I’ve seen you – that I was just away for a little while.
It seems that way for me too.
But, if I’m being truly honest with myself, and if I’m fully considering all that my five senses encountered in these new parts of the world, it’s been a wild half-year. More than a simple six months away from home.
It saddens me that I’ll never be able to share all that I would like to share with you.
I’ve been thinking about this blog post for a while now, and trying to formulate an answer to the question I’m frequently asked: “So, how was New Zealand?”
It was…good. Any other questions, or do we talk about the weather now? It is very difficult, dare I say impossible, to put the period on New Zealand with a simple response or silly blog.
But I suppose now I should get into the meat and potatoes of the matter.
I don’t believe New Zealand to have fundamentally changed me as a person (that I know of yet). I do not mean that in a negative sense at all. What I mean is that this time overseas I don’t anticipate I’ll look back on as a time that comprised a super life-changing experience, thereby opening my eyes to the world. Instead I think that I’ll look back at it simply as a time that I remember with immense fondness. A type of rare memory that results only from the most delicate minutes of time spent in the most serene of places with the most unforgettable of company.
New Zealand was special because it was real. The fun was authentic. The people I met were new and unexpected; in fact, I had prepared to spend a lot of time alone before my journey. I thought I would spend all day taking photos. But then I made friends. And had class to go to.
The mountains were taller. The living was carefree. I learned more about what adventure is to me.
I didn’t morph into a new person, but I got to exercise who I already was as a person. That is why New Zealand was awesome.
Three things that I thought a lot about recently:
- It is good to make a decision and feel confident about it, dammit. For anything, there are too many options out there, many of which are great. I’ve come to see that RESOLVE, a certain sort of sticking to one’s guns, is what I’m after. There is no time for indecision.
- Good land produces a good crop. The hope within you propagates hope within the others you meet. Where do you find your hope?
- “Be who you are, it shouldn’t be that hard.”
And so, here are some photos from May and June, the last two months of my time in New Zealand.
Favorite Thing I Done Seen:
The Tongariro Crossing: the most popular hike in New Zealand.
Favorite Aurora (And The Journey There):
Favorite Buddy I Done Explored With:
Señor Babcock, future lead singer of our soon-to-be shredding band: Immaculate Expression.
Mama. Came all the way to New Zealand.
Ultimate Theme Songs:
“Rocket Man” – Elton John
“Leaving on a Jet Plane” – Peter, Paul, and Mary
Favorite Real-Life Rocket Man:
Have you seen the 1997 film Rocketman? It’s my dad’s all time favorite film for the fountain of flatulence jokes. Well, David here is like a real life Fred. He even programs computers.
Top Question I Done Pondered:
Do you ever wonder if you’ve met a secret agent and not known it?
And so we’re nearing the end now.
During my last week in NZ, I saw this tree on the way to a place called Cathedral Cove. It has a soft, sandy beach with a cave that you can walk through and find some huge, rocky sea stacks. Google “New Zealand” and it’ll be one of the first results.
After we noticed this silhouette, and before we continued on, I asked Austin to stand by the tree, just to get a sense of scale. While the small man stood next to the beautiful, wise tree I thought to myself that I would much like to be that tree one day.
Too strong for storms to blow over.
A thing worth sharing a moment with.
Accessible. The sound of a breeze rustling the needles of a tree is universal.
Purposeful. Its branches shade passersby from the ozone-deficient New Zealand sun.
Whakapapa. The beautiful Maōri concept of family, and much more. The idea that you are built upon the knowledge, exploration, and legacy of those who came before you. You are of the Earth and eventually the Earth will be of you. Healthy soil.
I read in a book recently that a tree is a part of a forest, and each tree has a story to tell. But, the story of the forest is a better story. In a way, New Zealand was just a piece of a story I’m trying to tell, a really good one I hope. I’m not sure where it fits into the grand plotline quite yet.
And the people I met, we’re all just down a rabbit trail in the Southern Hemisphere, living this piece of our stories out together.
So as I descend into LA, I watch the smog paint the air flowing over the wing brown. I feel that odd emotion of bitter sweetness. You know, when you’re sure glad something happened, so glad in fact that you’re sad to see it end. Kind of like when you bite into a blackberry that is past unripeness but not perfectly ripe yet either.
I’m home now, and so I resume this process of forging a life of a particular thing that I’m after.
Meaning, perhaps. Thank you for tuning in and for following along with this grand expedition!
If you have any suggestions I’m open to hearing them, because the question has now become, what’s next?