My last ten days in New Zealand encompassed 2,000 kms and too many connections to count. After returning to Takaka from Abel Tasman, I felt patient with the journey I was on – and excited to meet the many characters that would make my trip unforgettable. Unfortunate as it was that I wouldn’t have the luxury to stay in any one place for more than two nights, I resolved to make the best of my remaining time.
I spent the morning after my Abel Tasman adventure exploring Takaka, perusing local cafes and craft shops. Fatefully, a gallery run by two local artists caught my eye, which I dutifully pulled over to explore. A couple greeted me joyously as I explored their art garden paradise. They soon shared their life journeys and I learned that they had met travelling through New Zealand some twenty years ago – and stuck together when Lolli, the wife, fell pregnant. This wasn’t your typical knocked up story though, this couple was overflowing with joy. They built purpose together in the wake of chaos and found success in life sharing beauty with the world, building their dreams together. Their meeting appeared to be fate, just as ours felt the same. I was inspired as I left their gallery that I, too, would one day chaotically stumble into my muse. I departed Takaka confident that I would one day return – perhaps as an artist myself.
That afternoon, I returned to Moteuka soon to stumble into new friends at the local YHA Hostel – and quickly found myself trading wine, chocolate, and stories with travelers from Germany, England, and the US respectively. I was keen to share the adventure of my past week – which soon fell on wanting ears. That night, for the first time in my life, I felt like a proper storyteller – captivated by my own words. I relived the good and bad, relating my journey to a tipsy crowd as it grew in size and curiosity. That was the night that I fell in love with my story. I felt rich with experience and had too many philosophical anecdotes to share. I bid my drinking mates farewell that evening with a belly full of wine and wide smile, excited by my newfound verbal vigor.
An epic roadtrip and adventure unfolded over the next few days as I made my way from Monteuka to Wellington to Taupo to Rotorua to Whitianga, and finally – to Auckland. I made incredible new friends hostel hoping around the North Island, pulling over to explore quirky craft shops, day hikes, and every scenic view I could find. I shared dense intimate connections and long drunken nights dancing with strangers I’d never see again. I made friends with every soul that happened to find themselves in the same room as me – yet still found time to get lost in the wilderness at least once a day. It was the perfect conclusion to a grand roadtrip and wonderful adventure.
Finally, I rented a casita next to a butterfly garden on my last two nights in New Zealand. Fitting as butterflies are one of my favorite animals, and often a source of inspiration for my poems. If you asked me when I started my journey why butterflies exist, I would’ve said “to be blown around by the wind, victims to cause.” Now, after six weeks of “blowing around”, I’d say their true purpose is to give meaning to the wind and spread beauty. In the absence of meaning, life started to appear a lot more meaningful.
Six weeks in New Zealand occurred like the blink of an eye. I had no plans when I arrived into the country and would depart with more friends and memories than I could even fathom.
When I departed the US, I didn’t know what, when, where, or why – I just knew that I needed a change. However, after hitchhiking in the dark, intimate conversations into early morning, too many blisters to count, straining physical and social challenges, and an incredible adventure to behold I might answer that question a little differently.
The longer I travel, the more I realize that personal meaning in life is less important than the pursuit of the journey. Meaning will adapt as you change and grow. Life isn’t about finding the ultimate truth – it’s about finding a set of beliefs that manifest your best self in the current moment. Beliefs that help you jump out of bed, even when you’re tired. Some lucky souls walk their path in a straight line but that doesn’t mean you’re a failure if you’re playing pinball with your purpose. In fact, I’d argue that some of the most interesting people I’ve met redefine their beliefs, and existence, constantly. The goal should be action – not consistency. If you find yourself inactive, it’s time to recalibrate and change your thinking. And not just inaction in body – inaction in mind, spirit, and emotion too.
So, ask yourself – what gets me up in the morning? What am I looking forward to in life? Where do I want to be right now? What do I want from life? Why do I want it? How can I get it?
If the answers are work, weekends, not here, and freedom – you owe it to yourself to make a change, and it all starts with your thinking. The goal shouldn’t be to work – it should be to work hard; not to vacation – but to travel; not to love – but to love well; not to exist – but to live.
When you take the first steps towards any change, don’t be disheartened when you first meet resistance. Purpose and passion result from pursuit and practice. Pursue and practice and I can guarantee that you’ll achieve more than you ever planned for.
So, I say, in my infinite ignorance – be bold, be brave, love well – and get going. And for god’s sake, if you’re unhappy – Travel. Results may vary but you’re sure to discover a thing or two about what life means to you.
New Zealand opened my eyes to the sense of self I lost in 2017, and helped me regain it. Off to Japan I went…
Thank you Nora, Cornelia, Tom, Melo, Jannick, Celine, Kat, Sara, Fish, Tim, Wayne, Becky, Jitske, Mohan, and Chakara for making my trip an adventure.