Pushing the envelope

This is the blog I wrote after completing a one-month/4000km camping trip around NZ, over summer/New Years break, almost a year ago.

This year I decided to do things a little differently. Whereas normally I would write my new years resolutions out, this time I decided to try my best to embody them. 

In the lead up to new years, I was at work one day and was chatting to one of the subcontractors about how it would be fun to kit out my car and go travel the South Island, to which he said “mate, you’re all talk, you’ve been saying that for ages?”

It must have struck a nerve because it stuck with me, and within a month I’d purchased a rooftop tent for my car, then sold my car and purchased a 4WD. But even as I went through the motions I wasn’t sure if I would actually go through with it. It’s one of those things that’s easy to make it look like you’re taking actions toward achieving, but the proof is definitely in the pudding when you show up on game day.

Flash forward to two days before New Year’s. I’m all set up, tents on, the truck is fully serviced, I’d built some storage, a basic kitchen space, and I’m headed to the grocery store to pick up supplies. The grocery store with an underground car park… As I enter I hear a metallic rattle and assume I must have a manhole cover. Then I reach the second floor and I feel a little resistance as Im rolling through the car park. I jump out of the truck and my heart sinks. My tent is hitting the steel fire hydrant piping hanging from the ceiling. I figure I’ve come this far so I may as well try to get back out again. I jump back in and begin edging my way about, trying to dodge the sprinkler valves as best I can, knocking one of those is the last thing I need. I get all the way to the bottom of the ramp, the final straight. I can see the light of freedom directly ahead of me. Then I feel the truck wedge itself. The cars are queuing up behind me, the ramp down is narrow and steep, there is no way out but forward, so I did exactly what you should NEVER do,I panic and give the old girl some curry, that three litre turbo diesel had us out in no time. For those unfamiliar, you should let the tires down to allow more room above. Anyway, like a complete muppet I end up tearing a huge hole in the cover of my tent, and breaking the tents ladder.

By some miracle (call it a daily meditation practice), I managed to remain pretty level-headed as I stood on the side of the road outside the supermarket, looking at my roof in dismay. I take a few deep breaths and thank the lord it’s not worse. Lucky for me I know my way around a roll of duct tape, a coal chisel, and a hammer, I head back to the workshop and manage to pull it back in line.

After a few almost sleepless nights, it’s one day out from my ferry booking and I’m some 600km away from the terminal in Wellington. Because instead of making my way I’ve convinced myself that the trip is going in the too-hard basket and I’ve decided that I’ll spend my time travelling locally, or park the truck up completely and stay at a friend’s bach (Kiwi for “holiday house”). Fortunately for me, after a morning meditation, this tiny voice chirps up the morning of and reminds me that this wouldn’t be the first time I almost missed out on what could have been an epic adventure by letting fear and anxiety take the driver’s seat. No pun intended.
So that beautiful sunny morning I decided, sleep deprived, nervous, and without any idea as to where I was even going to stay, I began the 10-hour, almost non-stop drive from the Coromandel to Wellington. Who would have thought the roads would be so busy on a glorious summer’s day, one day before New Years?
I arrived at 10 pm with my ferry booked for 2 am on the 31st. I figured I would get some sleep while I waited. I couldn’t, and I didn’t sleep on the ferry either. We landed in Picton in the early hours and all things considered I felt pretty sharp.  As we landed, there was a thick mist over the small port town. I had literally no plans whatsoever. Catching the ferry over was the furthest I’d gotten in organising what would be a month on the road. Rookie error. It was the first summer out of lockdown so everything was booked out months in advance.
We arrived at 6 am, so I did the only logical thing. I found a local bakery and got a pie then sparked up a chat with a local about his dog. Then he gave me the name of a local spot that was worth a visit. So I dusted the crumbs off my sweater and headed toward Pelorus bridge. This set the mood for the entire trip. The water was a crystal blue, straight from the depths of the mountains, the river was wrapped in native bush, and edged with enormous boulders, perfect for doing choice as bombs.

I spent a few hours there, had a (sleepless) nap, and figured out how my fancy rooftop tent went together so I didn’t look a complete dick when I was parked up with fellow campers would be spectating. I had grand plans of working that out before i left, at least doing a test camp, but instead used the time to work more in order to finance the trip.
I figured I’d head to Nelson since I was already going in that direction, and I had a friend who lived there. I flicked him a message, and it turned out he had gone home for Xmas, to my hometown, some 900km away.
Thankfully his landlord let me park in their driveway for the night, and thus my first night of accommodation was sorted. In true southern hospitality style his landlords invited me for dinner, and drinks to celebrate the New Year, followed by pancakes in the morning. I was so grateful to them for opening their home up to me that night. Although it was another night without sleep due to the insanely high winds.
At this point I’m not even sure how much sleep I’d gotten in the last four days, my estimate was a big fat zero, but I managed to stay surprisingly chipper. (A few months or so later, when talking to my therapist, it was brought to my awareness that the inability to sleep and heighten awareness in these first few days was most likely due to my body being in a full-blown stress response from a dysregulated nervous system. Either way, it helped me keep going). 

I was offered another night there but figured since the universe had already caught me once in this leap of faith, I’d step out once more, and see where I landed.

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
― Paulo Coelho

By a pure stroke of luck, or divine guidance I stumbled across a local accommodation spot on my way through an area called Golden Bay. It was a bouji eco-village, and unfortunately fully booked, but as I drove out, back toward the main road, passed the enormous manicured lawn with a single camper parked in the middle, I noticed a small convoy of cars headed further down the dusty narrow road and figured there was no harm in seeing where they were going. To my absolute delight, behind a large barred gate, under grand old trees, there was a beachfront campsite. But once again my joy was soon slashed to pieces when they informed me they were also fully booked. I started yarning to the young guy who was working there about my truck and potential local spots for parking up, his boss overheard and she must have taken a shining to me because she called me back in to her office and miraculously found a site in her system that was available for the next two nights.

It was the PERFECT spot. I had a corner site, boarded in luscious green trees, perfect for avoiding the immense heat, and I was surrounded by empty sites, which remained empty. I guess no one had explained to the owner what “full” meant. Anyway, from then on I referred to my tent as “the bird’s nest” on account of being so high up and positioned almost entirely inside the trees, for max nature vibes.

I think, at this point, it’s worth mentioning that on the way down toward the ferry, whilst listening to a podcast, I decided that that would be the last one of the trip, and marked an end to any other contemplative material too. I had spent years drowning in information from so many sources and decided it was time to sit with it all, allow some of it to integrate, and most importantly, develop my own perspective. That being said, the last podcast I listened to was about reprogramming the mind. What stuck out for me most in that podcast was the importance of doing things that you wouldn’t ordinarily do, in order to break patterns and allowing for growth, which leads me to my only regret of the trip.
I was about to get on the highway and passed a hitchhiker. My mind stepped in and said “no, we can’t, we have somewhere to be” and so I kept going (which wasn’t even true. I had literally nowhere to be, infact once again I had no idea where Id be sleeping). She was the quintessential European backpacker, with long flowing hair, draping earthy linens, and an oversized backpack.  It wasn’t even that she was attractive, it was that I missed out on the potential for a meaningful conversation, or maybe even an invitation to a new experience. So from then on, I decided that if there was something I felt called to do, whether it be making a random stop, chatting to someone, or diverting to one of the plethoras of majestic swimming holes, then I’d do it. Because it’s entirely possible there wouldn’t be another chance.

The morning of my final day at the campsite I awoke to a small tent set up next to mine. My fellow camper must have arrived late, as when I went to bed i’d still had the nook to myself. As I was packing up, a women stepped out of the teeny all-seasons adventure tent. She seemed quite shy but I felt called to spark up a conversation. We got chatting and we soon realised we were both headed to the same location that day. We compared notes and figured we would bump into each other again somewhere further north.

That day I drove all the way to the tip of the south island, met more travellers, and after a day in the sun, headed back south to try to find somewhere to park up for the night. There was nothing, and I somehow ended up further south than the previous campsite, in the only freedom campsite in the entire area. I figured that my time with the woman from earlier in the day had come to an end.
Fortunately for me, I had made some new friends at the roadside commune and had even been invited to dinner. By late afternoon the carpark was filling up thick and fast. After a few hours of chilling with my newfound friends, a familiar vehicle came circling past. It was my friend from earlier that morning, she parked up behind me and we bonded over our accommodation woes.

Seekers are offered clues all the time from the world of spirit. Ordinary people call these clues coincidences – Deepak Chopra

By nightfall, there must have been 50+ cars there and more coming, not to mention the tents scattered in the brush behind us. A festival had just ended so most were perched up, sleeping through their comedowns.

My new Chilean friend, and her green bubble-like SUV nicknamed La Cucaracha (The Cockroach. I actually named my car Guacamayo, Guaccy for short, after meeting her, on account of a Spanish song I had just found), and I spent a few days together and had a great time, enjoying natural springs, sunshine, freediving and relaxing.  We both decided to head south toward Christchurch, but somewhere along the way we lost contact, and quite fittingly, that was the end of that.

That first week really set the mood for the whole trip. I met so many amazing people, spent time in nature, did ALOT of driving, swam in every natural spring I could find and caught up with old friends.
On my way back north I stopped off to see some more friends and figured I’d go in for an interview for a role my friend had been insisting I apply for the last 12 months. I didn’t think much of it, in fact, at the time I didn’t really even want the job. But a few months later I decided there was no harm in giving it a go, so I moved cities and started my 3-month contract. Almost one year on, I’m still with the company and the move ended up being one of the best things I could have possibly done. The role developed and now Im doing some really interesting work. It also came with a huge pay increase which also birthed exciting new opportunities.

A few months after the trip I received a text from my Chilean friend, she had somehow missed my text while she was driving back south. She reached out and told me our time together had been hugely impactful, and she was full of gratitude for it. She then sent me a gift in the mail. A copy of my favourite book, The Alchemist, in Spanish, although I still haven’t mastered the language, the gift is incredibly meaningful and it fills my heart with joy every time I open it.

If I learned anything from travelling that summer, it was the importance of human connection, and fostering our connection to the natural world. Human connection helped to validate the importance of my own existence in the world, and the natural world filled me with life force energy. 

If I could do it all again Im not sure I would change a thing. Not stopping for the hitchhiker brought to my awareness the importance of seizing the moment, even when it conflicts with the future you have “planned”, and pushing myself on this journey helped to bring to light the power of ignoring the chatter in my mind telling me to play it safe.

“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.”
–Louisa May Alcott

A reflection one year on.
As I began typing this article out from the squirrelled-up sheets of lined refill paper found in the depths of my laptop sleeve I came to realise how important it was for me to revisit this message at the present time.
As I reflect on this current piece it has brought to my attention the value that I may otherwise have missed if I had posted it earlier. Most crucially, the knowledge that I always gain the most from an experience that I am excited by in the moment of planning, but then as the date looms closer I begin to dread. I am currently less than one month from heading to the UK for the first time since I returned to NZ in 2020. My reason for going is to catch up with friends, but also visit Egypt for 2 weeks. Egypt has been my dream for as long as I can remember, and as that date looms closer I’m starting to feel the apprehension of the impending launch date. All sorts has been coming up lately. I feel underprepared, overwhelmed, and underresourced. I have come extremely close to shifting the trip to the end of the year.
This is why it’s been so important to remind myself that my trip last year led me to; move to a stunning new location; build a like-minded community; and a more enjoyable/better paying job; and so much more. The fear is arising that maybe I am throwing it all away by leaving now. Fear is telling me that “the dream can wait” “It’s only Egypt” “I’m sure I can gain just as much from expanding my daily practise and watching videos on YouTube”.
All these thoughts have been spinning, and it brings me a little solace to see that this time, one year ago, I was feeling exactly the same, and the trip ended up being the best thing I could have done.

So I guess I’m getting on that plane next month.

If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.” – Anatole France

F.E.A.R – False Evidence Appearing Real

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