When I think back, and reflect upon the different places I have been, the people I met, and the many, many beautiful adventures I have been blessed with experiencing, I can see that since I left behind what was my life, I have come a long way, and yes, maybe also have been subjected to a sort of metamorphosis. Possibly. Some say that trips are life changing; they are. Travelling is.
I can’t go back to yesterday – because I was a different person then. – Lewis Carroll
Fundamentally though, we don’t change, we grow through and with our experiences, and if anything, I would say that they make us better. By saying us, I would kindly like to refer to us backpackers, although I admit that not everyone is the same. Though we are all akin, no one is one kind. However, reflecting upon the conversations I have had, and looking at my own motivation and purpose for this journey, there are parallels along the lines of everyone of us out here on the road – wherever you may be travelling right now. We share more than the experience of bunk beds, common kitchens, crappy knives and large bathrooms; some of us may even share the sensations of a similar or same adventure, like skydiving, rafting or caving… The tales we tell often begin with “once upon a time, I…”, and at the moment it pretty much looks as if we were living our happy ending fairytale.
There are the hardcore travelers of course, who stay at one place as long as their visa permits, then go back to their origins, just to fly away again once the funds have been sufficiently collected. On the other hand, there are the young students who are about to start or have finished college, and who are seeking life’s purpose (it’s a good head start by the way). Then I look and listen around me, and hear those among us who were fed up with the life they had, and who dare a change. Some call it crazy, some call it courageous; I say it was the only sensible decision possible. The nomadic life does not only have its downsides, like sleeping in uncomfortable beds in large rooms with many strangers, or carrying around your life and living out of a bag (it’s more challenging than you think!), but I find that the return on investment is greater than its effort.
First, I have come to what I like to judge as being the greatest place I have ever been to: New Zealand. From the stunning shores of the Northlands around the Bay of Islands, to surfer’s heaven along the West and the East Coast with its Maori influence, and to where I am now, at the verge of Mount Doom, Tongariro National Park, at what feels like a safe haven in a world full of troubles, New Zealand has so much to offer. The Blue Duck Station in Whakahoro is in the middle of nowhere nature, with a weak satellite connection to the outside world, and the nearest super market at around one hour drive away. The true challenge therefore, as you will probably know, is being in your own company, and accepting it, in remote places like this where the only companions are sheep, rabbits and birds. If you can survive yourself, you are most likely able to survive just about anything. So yes, there is a certain amount of metamorphosis that comes along with this life, because you have to listen to yourself, and learn to love yourself unconditionally. It is not as easy as you think. How many among us wish their tummy was flatter, their legs were longer, the hair less thin? Can you really look into the mirror and say to yourself ‘I love you’ just the way I am? It is a highly emotional dynamite field your are entering. And it may take a life’s worth of work to accept. So put yourself into the middle of a mountain range, observe the nature, see how you respond to its calls, and feel, really start feeling and listening. Here, in the middle of nowhere, no Internet, no smart phones, flirt with your inner self, and you will find… what? I can’t tell you; it is for you to find out.
I think that the greatest gift to experience in due course of this nomadic life is to be able to live on little, and receive much in return. Hence, your level of appreciation increases. What I am trying to say so awkwardly right now is that no matter how many or little t-shirts you possess, material things are really not as valuable for life as life’s experience is to life. On the day I discovered this immense (wander)lust for freedom, I have been wander(lust)ing aimlessly, and I have always found a path. In terms of Janis Joplin, “freedom is just another word for nothing left to loose”, and in a free interpretation of Faust, the way is life’s goal, not life itself. In the end, life should not be about the things you possess, but rather about being able to say I have lived, I have been.
This is why Australia and now New Zealand have always been my favorite places to be, although South Africa is not too short of this certain non challence de vivre. The Aussie as well as the Kiwi way of life is just so much easier than the European stress filled, time bound, materialistic and hectic functioning that is deeply (and regretfully) embedded. I would give anything to be able to export the “no worries” and “sweet as” attitudes from Down Under.
However, the further and the longer I have been going, my appreciation for what I have, and what I have left behind is growing on me (yeah, this is a declaration of love). I try keeping this blog updated so that we can feel connected even if we are tens of thousands kilometers apart. You know that I can do wilderness for a while, but I am who I am, and I will get back to being the girl I was once I get out of my hiking boots (yes, pink, girlie, high heels and all that). Yet, the one thing I hope never to loose, and be able to pass on, to future generations or people around me, is what the Maori call arohanui, big love…big love for “sweet as” sensations. I can’t stop myself from wondering if, in the end, travelling is not about change, but being able to transmit splinters of the metamorphosis to others and yes, why not, being able to make this world a better place?
Imagine all the people living for today… (John Lennon)
I ask you to sit back and, just for one moment or so, reflect upon this:
What is YOUR legacy?