New Zealand Road Trip: A lesson in letting go

Back to New Zealand. Where were we?

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Rolling green hills, glow worm caves, waterfalls, and a rainbow. I jumped out of a plane and soaked in a hot spring.

The next three days were a lesson in letting go.

A road trip is the perfect metaphor for life. Ups and downs, lefts and rights, always what you make of it, and even the tough times are tolerable with a little flexibility and a sense of humor. The end of this road trip was true to form.

We went to see the hot mud pools at Wai-o-Tapu, but missed the last entrance time. (Neither of us was wearing a watch and didn’t seem to care.)

This is what we would’ve seen.

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This is what we did see. A view from the hill outside.

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We shrugged. No worries. Much of the surrounding hillsides looked like this, like purgatory bursting out of its seams, and that was awesome enough.

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We stopped at some of the public viewing spots along the road to watch and listen to the mud blurping and blooping. .

The New Zealand Bermuda Tourist Triangle

Inevitably in any road trip (at least the ones I’m on) you’re bound to miss turns, get lost and change plans.

The day after our mud-chasing misadventures we drove north to Cathedral Cove and the Coromandel Peninsula. First Christoph fell asleep in the passenger seat with the road atlas on his lap. I drove along the windy roads lost in thought and forgot to make the turn.

By the time we arrived at Cathedral Cove it was pouring. We got out to stare at the coastline, wind slapping our cheeks with rain and cold.

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Cathedral cove, sans rain and wind.

Christoph took the wheel next. This time it was me who fell asleep in the passenger seat and he missed the turn for our lodging for the night.

Neither of us were phased. We looked at the map and got ourselves to the nearest town (Thames) and found somewhere else to stay.

Did it Even Matter?

Does it matter that we missed the places we meant to see? Does it matter if we didn’t stay at the most perfect hostel or find that amazing hidden gem of a cafe?

Simply, no.

Road trips are about being on the road, about the lessons and breakthroughs that come as you cover long stretches of highway and feel the earth zooming under you. Something about that motion is enough to shift one’s life in magical ways.

In between the missed turns and dozes, I had plenty of time to clear my head hypnotized by the dreamy green and blue New Zealand landscape. We stumbled across incredible vistas and had our breath taken by stunning scenery.

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Strangers Turned Friends Turned Strangers

Six days ago I’d picked up a stranger at the airport and we’d spent nearly that entire time in each other’s constant company. We’d talked about life, shared aspirations, dealt with each other’s morning grumpiness and (mild) personality quirks with care and patience. We’d navigated supermarkets and cooked nearly every meal together. We’d befriended other backpackers and shared rides, stories, travel tips, and bottles of wine over conversation late into the night.

There are so many ways it could’ve all gone very very wrong, but thanks to the fact that we’re both pretty even-keeled people it all went very right.

Now that it was over, we were strangers turned friends about to turn strangers again. I pulled up to his hostel in Auckland and we exchanged an awkward hug and fumbled over goodbyes.

Off to Dubai

In the next few days more goodbyes were said.

I’d been lucky to base myself out of a friend’s house while in New Zealand, an old friend from my graduate school and teaching days who was now living in Auckland with her husband and kids. We finished catching up over cups of coffee, took the kids out for ice cream cones and one last romp on the beach (for me at least).

Again I found myself grateful for the serendipity of friends living around the globe who have given me home while I travel.

My last night in New Zealand I repacked my bags for the 20 degree Celsius temperature difference of Dubai. Goodbye depth of winter, hello height of summer. Goodbye southern hemisphere, hello northern.

Here we go again.

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  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

    The thing I really connected to in this post was the talk of missing out on the intended attractions but discovering other ones along the way. My favorite places we have been on this trip have been the ones where the “main attractions” wind up being secondary to the things you stumble upon along the way. Not every city we’ve been has that; some have certainly inspired us to explore more than others, allowed us to be better able to simply “be” in the moment and open to whatever comes our way. Those are the places I know I will want to return to again and again because they are the ones where I feel I’ll always be able to discover something new and where the journey won’t ever come to an end.

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