Nine days anywhere isn’t nearly enough time to discover everything about a place. You CAN discover a hell of a lot about yourself though.
After three days in Auckland, I had made four new friends, bought a campervan by the name of Grandpa Jimmy, and decided the first direction I needed to travel was north. Beyond that, my days stretched before me, filled only with possibility. I had no set plans, nowhere to be, and only my map and some basic googling to guide me. If I thought about it too much, I may have booked a flight back before I’d even made it out of Auckland.
I tried to keep the thinking to a minimum.
Instead, I took out my map -which I inherited along with Grandpa Jimmy, and which was filled with notes from previous users on interesting places, cheap campsites, and the best Kiwi-spotting trails – and picked a town with a beach as my first destination. That random town, called Orewa, marked the start of my real journey through New Zealand.
Over the next week, I kept driving north, turning onto roads with signs such as “Glowworm Caves” or the understated “Beach” as I went. I met a native Kiwi in Whangarei who had just returned from two years as a mountain guide in Norway, hiked the Whangarei Heads, learned how to say “love” in Maori (Aroha), and spotted a blur of a Kiwi on an island by Kerikeri. I kayaked across an inlet to hike the Houhora Heads, found the most perfect seashells I’ve ever seen, and saw the sun rise over Cape Reinga.
Alongside all those amazing experiences, came discovering the pitfalls of the unplanned. I took way too many wrong turns, caught myself driving on the terrifying (right is wrong) side of the road, accidentally bushwhacked my way up a mountain, and completely shredded my front left tire. Currently, I’m sitting inside a beautiful public library, having finally found free wifi, and I can seriously say that even the most – normally – stressful experiences have been enjoyable.
I said 9 days is enough to discover a lot about yourself. So after this crazy week, what have I discovered?
I discovered that my patience can last far longer than I expected. I’ve learned how to entertain myself for hours, or struggle through public transportation with a comically large backpack, or even survive without cell service (I think that will always be my least favorite).
I discovered joy in facing fears – by pushing myself to conquer steep scrambling, utterly destroying night hikes (I’ve always been terrified of the dark), and taking on the horrifying task of talking to strangers.
Most importantly though, I discovered how much I can trust myself – to find my way, be alone, and ask for help when I need it.
There’s something about having nowhere to be that brings life into focus.