Destination Unknown, New Zealand
Welcome to New Zealand. You’re free. To spend freely. To selfishly hope the world conveniently comes to an end in some catastrophic event as your bank account flat-lines.
Day one in the place I have always dreamed of. No itinerary, no partner in crime; just my backpack and an onward ticket to Sydney, Australia. I used to joke about starving myself in the name of saving money. This time I would have to follow through. My first stop outside the Christchurch airport was a massive supermarket, where a $19.99 price tag adhered to a bag of cashews. A smallish salad cost a wild $11. I threw a few cookies into my basket and splurged on a head of broccoli. Something told me the next 28 days would be rife with ramen noodle. I tossed my meager meal into what would normally be the driver’s side of my Toyota 4-door rental, and reached to my left for the seatbelt. Fail. A thing I would do at least once a day, attempting to adjust to driving down under.
I took to the road feeling a little bit spent, and somewhat in shock recalling an $8 plum-sized green pepper I had glimpsed back at the supermarket. I hadn’t slept much in the past two days, given the dateline crossing. I hadn’t slept much over the past three weeks, catching up with friends in Honolulu. I had checked my 65L backpack and carried my daypack into the terminal late Monday night, waiting to board the nine-hour flight to Auckland. Justin was departing from the same terminal within the same hour; but for Bahrain. Saying goodbye to the people you love sucks, every time. This time was no different, though the realization came later than expected. Even at baggage claim, I had yet to feel the full weight of departure; distracted by department of agriculture inspections, border control interrogations and the all-around disorientation that tends to surface in such aimless international wanderings.
I decided to drive straight through Christchurch, and make my way toward the mountains. I could see them from the airport, sprawling and snow-capped. I was tired, and my right contact was turning into a thick goo that would not budge. I was disconnected, with no wi-fi, phone service or gps. I found a Vodaphone booth and purchased a sim card and one-month plan, sending out my New Zealand phone number to a select few with a note to use only in the case of emergency. The truth is, I love being disconnected. I love the freedom of voluntary solitude. I bit into my stalk of broccoli as I punched “Arthur’s pass” into my cell phone. The route would take me straight into the mountains. Exhaustion aside, the place was my kind of paradise.