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Here are a few pictures from my new home!

c/o N. McNamara

The Castle!

c/o N. McNamara

A Different Angle!

c/o N. McNamara

Lake Wanaka

The Family

The Family

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You know those moments when you feel like everything is as it should be? That all the good, the bad, the confusing, the funny, the in-between moments – that it’s all happened – is happening – in the just the perfect ratio? Like all the happenings have led to this point. Good and bad and neutral…it’s brought you to the exact spot you’re in, and that spot is exactly where you’re supposed to be?

I’m not talking about the physical spot either; I’m speaking more about one’s state-of-mind. I’m talking about growth and I’m talking about experience.

You know?

Some may call it wisdom – although I’m not feeling overly wise – definitely not.  But I’m feeling like I’ve come to a point where I am okay with myself and my feelings and I’m proud of the journey I’ve been on and it’s okay to be proud.

And although I’m not necessarily speaking in physical terms, the physical journey is not to be ignored. It’s been astounding! I’ve seen a whole heck of a lot of Australia and New Zealand. I’ve made my way through South East Asia and some of the South Pacific. I’ve even stopped off in Canada for a visit! This is some substantial travel. Considering my original trip was planned as six weeks in Oz and two in NZ, I think flying by the seat of my pants is an understatement. What an opportunity, and a gift.

I’ve kept my head on straight (or as straight as it’s ever been…this is all relative.. it’s a sliding scale). So many ups and downs; SO so so many decisions to make everyday. No routine means I can’t turn my brain off too much. Maybe this isn’t true, but I’m using my brain in very different ways than I did when I lived in a house, went to work everyday, and came home to a husband and cat. All these decisions I’ve been making have led to this spot. All my interactions, on the road and at home, have helped to bring me to this head space. And you know what? I can honestly say, for the first time in many, many moons, that it’s a good head space. The galaxy in my mind is good. It’s accepting and filled with positive ions. I’ve disproved dark energy…no antimatter here! (oh, oh…now I’m on an astronomy analogy tangent….this can’t be good for anyone…it could be never-ending..doppler effect…escape velocity….let’s change the subject, the trajectory, if you will).

Someone wise once said that we are never given more than we can handle (this is actually based on a passage from the bible [Corinthians 10:13] but I didn’t know that until I just looked it up). I heard this a long time ago, probably when I was a teenager, and it was one of those ideas that made sense to me at the time, but its poignancy was fleeting and quickly vanished into the aether. Well this small piece of wisdom was brought back into my life, by someone I love, when Kevin and I were battling that insidious f*#ker we call brain cancer. Kevin and I latched onto this idea; we embraced it whole-heartedly and it kept us going, especially through some of the tougher moments. I still think about it and I believe it and I hope that it brings some sort of peace to people going through something difficult. We, as humans, are tough and capable. I feel tough and capable.

I also have a headache, but I guess that’s to be expected. Gamma-ray bursts and supernovae have that effect.

I   have never pla...yed so many card games in my entire life up to this point. I think I dream about cards… Yahtzee too…my life is one big hand of cards. It’s not so bad.

So I’ve found myself in Wanaka – a very small town on a very beautiful lake. It sits, sleepily, amid mountains and rugged hills, on the southern end of New Zealand’s South Island. It’s beautiful; Charming even. It’s sucked me in and hasn’t let go!

After a few days in windy Wellington (first with a really nice Canucks fan who put me up for a few nights, and then at the worst hostel [backpackers’] I’ve ever stayed at. It was like a loud, messy frat house… one must learn quickly that there is a real divide in the world of hostels in this small country. Each type, each company, has a specific feel. Some are home-like, some are sterile, some are boring, some are frat houses filled with eighteen year olds that don’t do their dishes and have trouble cooking rice. I haven’t had the chance to do this interesting research in my previous travels because I haven’t been staying at hostels very often. After my few days in Wellington, I can see why I’ve avoided them…) I decided to head down to Christchurch where I had arranged to pick up a free rental car. I was given three days to make the ~500km trip from Christchurch to Queenstown. EASY! This was long enough, I reckoned, that I could forego the more direct route. Instead I would make my way along the wonderful, windy, wet west coast to explore some glaciers and some forests and get a little nostalgic at the similarity to our own west coast in British Columbia. It was a good decision.

My mind was clear after driving and music and I pulled into Wanaka on a sunny St. Paddy’s Day. I found myself a beer and a local paper and figured that I could see myself living in this little corner for a while. I just had to find a job and a place to stay. Where to sleep, where to sleep? A hostel would have to do.. at least for a night, then I’d find my own place. Right.

I picked a backpackers’ that looked nice, friendly… more-or-less at random, and I checked in. I haven’t checked out!

I couldn’t say no to an invitation to hear some Irish music, eat some Irish stew and drink some Irish beer (it was mostly Kiwi beer and Dutch beer, but who keeps track of these things?). It’s cool ’cause that invite paved the way for me; I found a place to stay, a bit of work, and even ended up with a few new friends as well. Good things always happen while celebrating the Patron Saint of Ireland.

Remember how I mentioned that some hostels are home-like? Yeah, this one tops that. It’s home! The people here are fantastic, the card games never-ending. There’s a hot tub… enough said. I haven’t necessarily met a lot of locals, but there are a lot of people who stick around for a while and a few people who keep coming back. I’ve found my little corner of the world to settle in for a little while and it’s comfy and it’s fun and it’s oh, so nice to unpack.

Who hasn’t always wanted to stay at a “BAR/Hotel/Campsite” in the middle of small town in New Zealand? Well, we stumbled across exactly this. We had been sent on a bit of a wild goose chase by a local….promises of the best campsite in town had us driving around aimlessly for half an hour. Only after realizing there were multiple bridges over the river (we had assumed there would be only one) did we decide we needed to stop for sustenance. A beer would work. Well, look at that – Bar/Hotel/Campsite….perfect!

Up On a Hill, North of GisbourneWe made our temporary home amongst the more permanent residences: the converted buses, the odd trailer, derelict vehicles, the goat tied to a rope. We skipped setting up camp and went straight for the bar. Our evening was spent playing pool with the locals, meeting a few characters, and learning the finer points of sheep shearing. Did you know that it’s someones job just to shave around the nether-regions of the sheep? This person has to do the dirty work so that the other shearers can get some “clean sweeps”…not having to worry about the messy bits. Makes sense hey? We spent some time asking all the questions that you, yourself, would want to ask. What a fitting and fantastic ending to our road trip across the North Island.

When Missy and I had set out from Wellington a week earlier we had high hopes of hitting all the Conservation (free) campsites. Just us, our tent, abounding nature…living off the land (canned tuna notwithstanding). So good!

Hahahahahahahaha….

So our reluctance to buy a proper map may have led to our downfall. That’s where I pinpoint the beginning of the end…the constant roaming; the U-turns. Although I’m not sure that either of us even considered using anything but the crappy maps they give out free at information centers. And actually – getting lost proved to be half the fun!

What’s a good road trip without a lot of unnecessary driving?

Our first night was epic. We drove up the windy roads on the East Coast…dusk was setting in, we had planned to be somewhere camp-able hours earlier, but due to a little bit of misinformation, shotty navigation (re: the aforementioned maps) and badly predicted driving time, we were miles from anywhere. We did consider just setting up camp on the side of the road, but the rolling hills enveloped the small road in an oppressive manner and were less than ideal. We persisted. After some swearing and some uncontrollable laughter, we were finally rewarded with a stunning sight. We wound our way down the cliffs to see the rocky beach and the surf and a few fisherman who would be our neighbours for the night. Could it be more perfect? It was cool and windy, but we were able to build a fire…ahh. Never mind that our cushy air mattress had a massive hole in it, and we ended up sleeping in the back of the station-wagon. The achy backs were worth it.

Our trip had many highlights, a few low-lights and an overall feeling of relaxed chaos. We walked away from our adventure with a better understanding of the Kiwi culture, pictures and memories of the beautiful and natural scenery, a few hearty laughs, sore backs, and a personal injury (trampolines are surely a death-trap)! Oh yeah, we also saw a hedgehog – he approached us in our camp – and I think that might be the cutest animal I’ve ever seen. They make sniffy sounds!

You know those times in your life where you can tell you’re making memories as the event is actually taking place? I have a lot of these…maybe it comes with going through something traumatic? Realizing the preciousness of each moment? I think we all do it at times, but I also think that we have more of an opportunity to do it at certain times in our lives. When we travel, our time is perceived as finite; we are experiencing so much in such a concentrated timespan. Every so often it’s nice to step back and get some perspective.

I’ve found from personal experience, that this is harder to do this when trudging through the routines of daily life, but I guess that’s the trick… NOT waiting for your life to start…you know that whole thing we all do? The thought process that confirms we aren’t quite living our real lives until some arbitrary date in the future? That whole: “when I finally get my promotion,” or “when I meet the right person” or “when the kids are older, and we’ve sold the house.” Even worse is when these life-starting events are so small as to border on ridiculousness… “once I get that new car” … “when I have my vacation,”….“when I lose 10lbs.”

Let’s try to enjoy our health, wealth (don’t forget your friends and family as the bigger part of this category) and happiness as it stands now.

We’re always waiting for the future, but it’s a pattern of thought that holds us back from enjoying our lives in the present. The future it so unpredictable, let’s just ride the wave!

Theme Songs of the Day:

Within You – Ray LaMontagne, from the album Till The Sun Turns Black
Lesson No. 1 – Viva Voce, from the album The Heat Can Melt Your Brain

Cook Strait

Cook Strait

As I write this, I’m enjoying my last solo night in New Zealand before meeting up with friends for one final adventurous week abroad.  Tonight I’ve decided to camp next to a little out-of-the-way geothermal hot spring.  I wanted to avoid the crowds and commercialism of some of the bigger, more established areas further north in Rotorua.  I made the right decision.  I feel I have my own private nook – a little piece of cold paradise (apparently it’s the coldest winter they’ve had here in quite a while).  It’s peaceful and natural and smelly (like eggs). I have spent hours in the water and when I’m done writing, I will hop right back in….ahhhh….

What an incredible country!  The people I have been fortunate enough to meet are fantastic!  I have belly-danced and learned the basics of medieval sword fighting.  In Christchurch I met a fascinating couple who took me in and were so hospitable – we ate too much seafood and made a break for the mountains.  I received insider information on the best powder in the area (not to mention the use of full gear! – thank you M. Lucas).  I met a friend of a friend and not only had a tour of the village and a hike through the surrounding hills of Lyttleton, but also had the pleasure of partaking if some great conversation (she’s walked thousands of kms all over the world and she makes the idea of biking from Melbourne to Sydney out like it’s not a big deal).  I was made to feel right at home in their lovely little cabin (thank you Joan & Bryon).  I was invited to accompany a beautiful family up to some thermal pools on the South Island. We chatted amongst the steam while looking up at the surrounding mountains – their three little boys keeping me entertained the entire time (thank you Angel family).

Hamner Springs

Hamner Springs

The people here are fabulous and the scenery isn’t bad either.  My drive over the last few days has been incredible!  First, I have my own music because of the ingenuity of an iPod adaptor.  Second, the campervan is free as it’s a ‘relocation’ which means I have five days to get from Christchurch (on the South Island) to Auckland (on the North Island) and I simply pay for petrol.  Third, most of the 1800km+ that I’ve covered in this beautiful country have been magnificent.

I have witnessed vast horizons, towering cliffs, the rugged snow-covered peaks of the Southern Alps, inlets and sail-filled harbours, black sand beaches, white sand beaches, and sprawling volcanic plateau.  I’ve seen more sheep in the last few days than I’ve seen in my entire life prior to this.   Wooly cows, lamas, pigs, ostrich, deer, porpoise, baby seals,  mama seals, hawks and a large variety of birds… lakes, hills, valleys and rivers – this lone exploration has been a time of beauty and reflection.

So what to think, or to do, as this chapter of my travels winds down?

I’m not sure how I feel right now.

I guess I’m caught up in trying to be in the present moment; enjoying my last few days in New Zealand with good friends…

All the while I feel as though my brain and my heart are being pulled in opposite directions – a conflicting feeling of numbness and painful sensitivity.  Actually “pulled” isn’t even the right verb…it’s more like my brain and heart are contained in that rare state we learnt about in science: homogeneity.  Everything is dispersed evenly – neither floating nor sinking (thanks high-school, for these random references).  I am not fully present in this moment – or really any particular moment; ‘not 100% in the room’.  I feel I am suspended.  I don’t even feel caught or stuck…I just am – just hanging out in that beaker back in science class.

What are the thoughts and feelings I see suspended beside me in this beaker – these particles that all take on the same weight – the same gravity?

A View of Picton from the ferry

A View of Picton from the ferry

I am thinking of home…of a home that is different now.  I am thinking of the logistics of travel and getting back to the island.  I am thinking about how I will spend my time back in Canada; seven weeks will fly by.  I am thinking about my journey up to this point: where I’ve been, what I’ve seen, who I’ve met, how I’ve felt, how some experiences have affected me more than others- and the reasons for this.  I am thinking of Kevin.  I am thinking of family, and friends that are family– many of whom I haven’t seen since the wake.  I am thinking about summer on the beautiful West Coast. I am thinking about my cat.

I am thinking of continuing forward, like we all must do

through all these incredibly hard things that punch us in the gut

they crosscheck us from behind

tear us apart

strip us down to the basics

and give us a chance to rebuild

to find strength from hidden sources

delve deep to locate power-buried

and rekindle our faith in the human spirit.

*A huge thank you to everyone who has taken the time to travel with me in real life and also via this website – your support is invaluable.

*My plan is to continue writing and sharing during my trip back to Canada – the journey continues…

Can’t wait to see you all.
Love and many hugs,

The Successful Traveler
~just a girl who has somehow managed to find a way to gear down to first~

Helmets!

Helmets!

Whale Watching in Byron Bay

Whale Watching in Byron Bay

Theme Songs of the Day:

Remember Me – Blue Boy (this song is for you, Alice)
Go It Alone – Beck, from the Album Guero

After spending many months with friends travelling through the vast and varying country of Australia, I find myself craving some ‘me’ time.  I’m ready to venture out on my own for a bit. 

On a contradictory note: this entire journey has been an individual one – there’s no denying that.

I am choosing my direction as I go and I’m making decisions on a daily basis that point me towards the light at the end of the tunnel; whatever trail my intuition deems best at the time.  With a few exceptions this had lead me to meet up with people I have known previously: the luxury of a large network of friends – I’m very grateful.  I have been able to get to know these special people so much better because of the time we’ve shared…the places we’ve ventured to together.   I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

Now it’s time for me to do some exploring without the harness.  It wasn’t long ago that the idea of venturing out on my own created some anxiety.  Although I do feel strong and independent, I have low moments.  It’s at these times when I have really relied on the support and understanding of friends – new and old – I’ve needed that support.

I have now reached a point where I trust myself to get through the rough patches without a safety net.  The lone traveler makes decisions on a whim without consulting anyone.  They are alone – but only as alone as they want to be.  Another potential friend is never too far away; it never takes long to meet good people, if you’re open to it.  Saying this, there’s no substitution for long-term friends that know you inside and out.  Confiding in strangers is easy and you may get some interesting and poignant perspective, but it doesn’t hold the weight of a hug from a good friend when you need it.

The most Eastern Point in OZ - Byron Bay

The most Eastern Point in OZ - Byron Bay

My last week in Australia was bitter-sweet.  I had some quality time with my buddies in Brisbane and had a blast down in Byron Bay with the girls.  We saw some kick@ss live music (True Live) and when we weren’t chillin’ on the beach and wandering the town’s haunts, we were out on the water, watching humpbacks do their thing – a great last hurrah before my departure.

When we got home I realized how I have really come to associate Brisbane with ‘home’.   I will miss it, but I will be back.

New Zealand: land of the long white cloud.… I sensed an adventure when I made the booking, and I haven’t been disappointed so far.   Trying new things, meeting locals – this is excellent.   I have made some new friends and I have fallen for NZ in a big way.  Life is good….great, actually.

 

Looking up at Mt. Hutt, Canterbury

Looking up at Mt. Hutt, Canterbury

 

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