There’s no simple way to sum up what New Zealand has been for me.
I just read through the blog posts from Hawaii and Bali, where this journey began, and it’s like someone else wrote those pieces. I know I was there. I can still feel the aftershock of that leg of the journey. I think I’m still trying to find my feet and find which way is up.
By the time we left Bali, I vowed to never return. I appreciated her for what she was in all her glory and beautiful ways but Bali is just not for me. I could not wait to get on the next plane and get the hell out of there so I could start fresh. I felt rather dark and brooding during that time so naturally I wanted to run. When it unfolded that New Zealand would be our next destination I felt excited and sure that this was exactly what we both needed.
We landed in the unsettling city of Christchurch, rented a car and began touring the South Island. New Zealand roads are unlike anything else; hairpin turns with cliffs up one side and the ocean lapping at the other but after Bali I knew I could handle anything. The road trip started out refreshing and rejuvenating; a welcome change to the mass chaos we had just come from.
From the South, we flew into Wellington on the North Island and continued to tour around. The freedom of a car and the open road was exactly what we were craving. We planned very little and let things unfold in whatever way they were meant to. This eventually led us to Raglan.
The surf town that attracts the bros chasing waves and hippies looking to make a dime. We met two characters that would unknowingly change the course of our journey. After staying at this campground five nights longer than expected and with a plan to travel further north with said characters, we felt like everything was unfolding beautifully.
It was beautiful; the way the synchronicities lined up, flowing us from people and places as if we were pollen dusted from one flower to the next. We breezed through hitch-hiking like it was the only mode of transportation we knew. We met people who welcomed us like long-lost family and settled in wherever we went.
It didn’t take us long to realize that hostel life is just not the life for us. My party days and lack of respect for basic human hygiene are over (don’t get me wrong, some hostels make you feel like you’re at home and for them I am grateful). This realization is what led us to buying a tent and pitching it in the far sunny corner of a Christian Holiday Park in Papamoa beach just outside the quaint Mount Maunganui. The Mount is surprisingly captivating and I understand how people get stuck there. We both ended up finding work and making The Mount home, as best we could. It was a challenge from the moment we got there, one obstacle after another.
Challenges. This seems to be the theme of our trip.
Every single thing seemed to be a test at this point. Whether it was a test of our character, our values or just basic life lessons, everything seemed to be working against us. Up until this point we had kept a smile on our face and just kept battling. We never expected this adventure to be easy. I knew it was going to make me question everything I had ever believed to be true about myself and my reality. I don’t necessarily think I expected it to be quite as hard as it was though.
And then I fractured my foot. This put me out of work and basically out of commission for quite some time. We had just decided to call it quits on tent life and go back to living in the car but for obvious reasons that was no longer an option either. We found a shared room to rent and a place to put my foot up. It only took a few days for the cabin fever to set in. I am the definition of a busy body. I’m a doer. Now I was basically being forced to sit and just marinate in my own thoughts and quietly be with myself. My travel partner was working full time at multiple jobs so I rarely saw her. Even the friends we had made could only offer so much of a distraction.
Eventually the smiles wore thin, we were both fed up with constantly being tested.I couldn’t stand one more second of “sitting with myself” and working through my shit. I think it’s safe to say we both found ourselves in a rather dark place. The Mount was this bubble that consumed you and sank its claws in deep. It was an extremely welcome notion when good friends of ours said they were going to begin travelling south and possibly hit the south island. In our minds, our bags were already packed. We counted down the seconds until The Great Escape. Maybe this is exactly what we need. Maybe everything will better once we just move on from here. This is going to be perfect!
We worked our way down the East Coast, stopping along the way to enjoy everything a tourist should see. Our souls were beginning to feel a lighter and our heads a bit more clear. Oh, but there was absolutely something dark still lingering.
We hastily made the decision to keep trekking down towards Wanaka on the South Island because we were both feeling pretty drawn there. A few days later we’re sitting in a cafe looking up potential jobs and accommodation. Both seeming more difficult than we anticipated. For reasons still unknown, we were both resisting Queenstown like it was a plague infested city. We made every excuse not to go there, mainly because it seemed like the winter version of The Mount; full of transient backpackers and tourists. We wanted to connect with people that weren’t planning on leaving in a month and settle in to somewhere that had more locals than gypsies.
As my partner breathed through a near-breakdown in the driver's seat, I looked at her and suggested the only thing that seemed right in that moment, “get out, we’re getting ice cream”. The realization crept up as salted caramel ice cream melted down the side of a warm waffle cone, Queenstown was where we needed to go. Sometimes the things you resist the most as the ones you so desperately need. I reached out to a friend who had just moved to Queenstown to see what she thought of living there. “Crazy timing, our flatmate is looking to fill a shared room in the house we’re moving into! We could be roommates!” Within 3 hours of deciding to take on Qtown we were moving into this gorgeous house in the middle of paradise. It felt so good, it felt so right. We had some space to breathe and rest, everything we needed in that moment. At least that was the idea we were so dangerously clinging to.
It wasn’t until I was sitting in this incredible home with every intention of basking in the sun and truly healing after the whirlwind of a trip we had just experienced that I truly saw myself and what I was going through. I was literally living the most surreal life in that moment. The house was stunning with the mountains surrounding us were therapeutic beyond belief I was supported by amazing friends and family. I should have been, by all accounts,damn happy and supremely grateful. But I wasn’t. I was trying my best to fake it. I was grasping at the idea that this would solve all my problems. I could sit here and blame the cast on my foot for this feeling of overwhelming helplessness and emptiness, after all I hadn’t worked in over 8 weeks or couldn’t partake in the activities I craved on a daily basis. But this was something more.
We both began to keep ourselves busy in whatever capacity we could. She began working full time and teaching yoga while I reconnected with my creative side, taking on pottery classes, writing again and even getting the paint brushes back out. The unnamed tension was still lurking in the background as we both tried to figure out what the hell was going on and why we still weren’t feeling like ourselves, or even happy for that matter. The second my cast came off I found myself a job and got straight back into hiking. I began making new friends and exploring as much as possible again. I so desperately wanted the darkness to lift with the removal of the cast but it continued to drown me.
This was the first time that I admitted out loud and to more than just myself that I was not ok. There was more to this story than just feeling beat up and knocked down at every turn. I felt exhausted and the lowest I had ever felt in my life. It was time to reach out. I went and saw a counsellor to try and begin to make sense of what I was going through. There isn’t a worse, more lonely feeling than going through hell with absolutely no one to turn to. It’s one thing to have friends and family on the other side of the world that you can call on the phone and tell them what you’re feeling but when they can’t truly be there for you it feels pointless.
When the person standing right beside you can’t begin to wrap their head around high-functioning anxiety and depression it becomes exhausting and excruciatingly numbing to try to explain it on a daily basis, trying to help them understand it’s not personal but it’s also not something you can switch on and off. I have no doubts that I was unpleasant to be around while I was going through this I mean at this point, I couldn’t even stand to be around myself. It came as no surprise to me when my partner said she needed to go back to Canada. That home, friends and family was what she so desperately needed.
There is obviously a million reasons she made that call. I know I played a part in the decision, I’m not naive, and that breaks my heart. But there comes a point when you need to remind yourself that your mental health comes first, always. How others react to you and what you’re going through in on them, they’re doing the best they know how with what they’ve got and just because they don’t have the capacity to be there for you through the darkness doesn’t change how much they care about you.
Her exit ended one of the most defining chapters of my existence. The last six months have been unprecedented in terms of personal growth, evolution and life-altering shifts. It has been chaotic and tumultuous but the skies are clearing. I am utterly grateful to those who have been there when I needed them most during this time and to those who may not have understood the depths of the void but offered solace nonetheless.
I’m not sure what New Zealand holds for me as I continue this journey. All I know is that I’m continuing to work on myself and find the inner happiness I’ve slowly been rediscovering. All I know is this, I’m meant to be exactly where I am. And for now, that’s enough. Be well & Live loud,