We’re a lil’ over a month into our adventure, and we’re looking back on all of the revelry and ratchetry that has occurred.
And as I reflect on the geyser of antifreeze that fell upon Peter as smoke billowed from our car hood today (more on that later), I want to talk about UPS & DOWNS. The cute and the ugly. Because if the general travel blogging landscape is to be believed, it’s way too easy to think that this sort of indefinite travel, full-time nomad life is 100% cute all the time.
FACEBOOK NOTIFICATION: It’s super not. (But sometimes, it super is.)
Let me take you on a windy trip down recent-memory lane, y’all.
DOWN: Our first WWOOFing experience was… a journey. Let’s say that. We were total n00bs and didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t know that tasks for workers need to be at least vaguely connected to organic farming — so things like scrubbing closet doors and awkwardly-forced dance performances for visiting grandkids were wholly inappropriate for a host to request. Things like babysitting your elderly host during a night out at a bar was apparently not biz as usual, either.
It wasn’t all bad, so we shrugged and went with it until Day 8 when two super-experienced WWOOFers joined our crew. After spending one day with our… eccentric host, they assured us, wide-eyed: “Yeah. This isn’t normal.”
UP: We’ve gotten better at spotting quality WWOOF postings, and have landed some incredible hosts ever since.
Like Justin & Cynthia at Te Rata wines: The Cali-Kiwi couple in Matakana who by day, showed us how to market and maintain an organic vineyard, but by night led hilariously foul-mouthed family trivia nights.
Or Johnny in Waihi, a retired painter whose murals we still see crop up throughout New Zealand; a spirited art nerd and hardcore conspiracy theorist who loved taking us to the beach or swimming hole after work. Now we have little friends-turned-family all over the North Island.
DOWN: Mega-cyclone Gita is heading towards New Zealand as we speak — meaning the whole country is getting rained out for the next few days and, selfishly, we were advised not to attempt the full-day Tongariro Crossing hike we’d heard so much about (lest we die a cold, watery, tumbling-down-an-active-volcano death).
Nature gave our Emerald Lake crater dreams the Hard No.
UP: Armed with Millennial stubbornness and optimism, we took our chances at knocking a portion of it out in an early half-day hike, before the rain set in — and it was 100,000% worth it. (Peter even got to geek out at the real Mt. Doom, née Mt. Ngauruhoe, and all of this was $Free.99 compared to the $80 tickets for “Hobbiton.” NEXT.)
These were the unreal New Zealand terrain views that everyone talks about.
DOWN: Aglow with the success of our mini-Tongariro expedition, we were just 5 minutes away from wrapping up our day in some famous Taupo hot springs when Peter noticed our car overheating.
Cut to smoke seeping out of our hood (or bonnet, if you’re Kiwi). Cut to Peter burning his hand when an actual fountain of antifreeze burst from our newly-cracked radiator.
Cut to a mechanic doing that thing you never want mechanics to do: “(Clicks tongue)… (sighs)… Yeah.”
Send care packages to our temporary home in Taupo, y’all.
UP: It’s hard to assess, as this literally just happened hours ago and we’re still coming down from the stress, but there’s actually so much to be thankful for.
I’m thankful for this major mechanical boof happening in relatively-bustling Taupo, and not middle-of-nowhere South Island. I’m thankful for the random Kiwi gent who saw us sitting dejectedly on the curb and offered to have his dad, a tow-truck operator, come grab us. I’m thankful for the mechanic mere minutes down the road who, when realizing they couldn’t help, literally jumped into the back of our car to quickly navigate us to another that was closing within the hour (which was also minutes away).
I’m thankful for circumstance, but most of all, I’m thankful for perspective.
Here’s the thing: Shitty things happen at exactly the same clip as if we were still 9-5’in back in San Francisco. We aren’t at all exempt from the constant poke and slap of the universe. And being in a foreign land without consistent friends, family or any kind of familiar network can make solving everyday issues like car troubles feel catastrophic and overwhelming.
Then what’s the point? What makes traveling like this worth it?
I could tell you it’s the nature views, the food, the trappings of constant vacation-mode — that’d be partially true. I could tell you it’s the freedom of setting your own schedule, of picking and choosing any adventure you please, every hour of every day — sometimes it’s that, too.
But what makes it most worth it for me?
It’s knowing that Peter and I spent over a year building, planning, sacrificing and scraping for this. It’s knowing that we earned this life, as crazy as it gets, for ourselves. It’s knowing that the trip is paying us back a zillion times over by teaching us how to work better together, how to love better, how to take care of each other, against the backdrop of this obnoxiously gorgeous country and alongside its wonderful people.
And it’s knowing that every up, down and triple-lux kowtow on this weird ride belongs to us and us alone.
That’s a cute feeling.
Till next time,