"And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful, by which we arrive at the ground at our own feet, and learn to be at home."
Wendell Berry

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Month One

I stole this map from a google image search. Don't tell.

Well, I'm one month into my travels, with seven more to go. It's time for a general check in.

Overall, despite my continually evoking the wrath of Mother Nature, New Zealand (Aotearoa) was totally "sweet as" (second "s" intentionally missing, per Kiwi culture). In a country roughly the size of Colorado, there are mountains, beaches, glaciers, hot springs, volcanoes, rain forests, fiords, farms, islands, vineyards, impossibly striking roses and huge lavender plants everywhere, mythical Kiwi birds that New Zealanders believe in like American children believe in Santa Clause, 13 times as many sheep as people, and 70,000 working Germans. Also, everyone is fit. It's like Pleasantville, only in full color, and obsessed with rugby. My parents warned me that if I started in NZ, I wouldn't want to go anywhere else. While that isn't true, I did love the place, and hope to go back sometime.

Favorite place: Wanaka
Favorite experience: tie between skydiving and day two hiking Abel Tasman
Favorite meal: Ferg Burger in Queenstown, with a pint of Mac's Great White
Favorite saying: "Sweet as!"
Favorite lodging: YHA Purple Cow, Wanaka

As far as traveling in general goes, none of the issues I've encountered so far have been more than little hiccups, which I guess was the point in starting out in a very Western country--not too far from my comfort zone. Though I loved seeing so many different things in one month, I think in the future it might be better to stay in one area of a country, volunteering or finding another meaningful way to get to know a place a bit more. I'm really looking forward to the elephant sanctuary in Thailand for that reason.

I've gotten good at making quick friends and staying open to whatever new plans develop, but I'm savoring the time I have alone as well. There was definitely a period about three weeks in when I was already starting to feel a bit exhausted and overwhelmed with being constantly on the move, but a few days to recharge in one place worked wonders. The good thing about traveling alone is having the freedom to listen to yourself and make decisions based on what's best for you, rather than based on deadlines or another person's desires and itinerary.

That said, it does get lonely sometimes. I've never been homesick, really, more just peoplesick. I miss Ad and I miss my friends and fam. I miss having a community that is not so permeable, but I've also met some great people that I hope to stay in contact with and host in New York or Michigan at some point.

What else? Having a routine has been key to feeling grounded, and it's made me grateful to have work while on the road and have to set regular time aside for that. I've found that vanity is out the window. Hey, I'm still showering regularly--I'm not going for rank funk--but most of the time I don't bother with a mirror or a hairbrush. Dry shampoo is total bullshit, at least the one I tried. If I'm feeling particularly nast, red lipstick is a cure-all. Despite traveling light, my book addiction is still raging. It's becoming a problem. When I left the U.S., I had a guidebook, two novels, and a book of short stories, but I was determined to get it down to one novel and one guidebook. A month later and I'm done with the novel and short stories, yet I've somehow managed to acquire another three novels. I see good books just sitting there lonely at backpackers' book exchanges, and I just can't say no. Long story short: my back hurts.

On to the heavy stuff (besides books)... This past month has been vital for another reason. I felt like I had lost some part of myself in the past couple of years--a fundamental belief in myself, an independence--and I couldn't even say why, or how to change that feeling. I think traveling has restored some of that. I feel like I can do anything. It's made me remember that I am extremely hardy--a fact that I often forget when I'm in a position to rely on others who seem infinitely better at something. It's not that I feel invincible (that's dangerous), but rather capable again. And that feels pretty damn good.


  1. I went skydiving in Namibia (never thought I would) and I loved it!! Glad you had such a good time in New Zealand. And just so you know, brushing your hair is overrated ;)

  2. Hi Jill! I'm reading your blog.


  3. Laura, I never thought I would skydive, either, but this kid on a bus convinced me by saying he'd spent all his money jumping six times in two months. I won't go that far, by it was pretty incredible! On skype, my boyfriend keeps saying, "your hair is so long," and I'm like, "no, just huge and unkempt."

    Hey, Kot, thanks for reading! I have no idea who is, and it's reassuring that it's not totally in a vacuum.

  4. I prefer to use the term "handicapable."

    I love that you've tapped into yourself again. Although I do miss Ranting Jill.

  5. Jill, how about a Kindle for your reading habit?


  6. Pat, that's probably a good idea, but I'm afraid I'd probably keep picking up the hard copies as well. I can't resist that booky smell.