I have been in New Zealand for exactly 131 days. I have taken approximately 750 photographs. I have seen close to 8000 sheep. Everything I have experienced in this country so far, every city, town or place I’ve been, every hour I’ve worked, and especially every person I have met, have all affected me in some way. After living for 4 months on the South Island in Queenstown, it is time for me to continue on my travels, and it has really got me thinking.
The people you meet when you leave the comforts of your home and venture out into the world are the kind of people that you remember. Everyone you meet has a story to tell, and while some people leave your life as easily as they came in, they still make a lasting impression on you. It’s amazing how easily some friendships are forged amongst travelers, and though your time together may be brief before either party goes their own way, you will never forget what that person was like. Memories that bring a smile to your face now still will in 5 years. I find that some people I have met so far have affected me in such a way it would be too weird to think of what my New Zealand life would have been like if I had never met them. When I walk down the streets of Queenstown, barefoot just as the locals do, I see so many familiar faces it is like I’ve lived here my whole life. I have come to regard my flatmates as my adopted family, my big brothers away from home. The concept of possibly never seeing them - or any of the other people I have met here - again, is almost a surreal concept. How can someone who was such a big part of your life just suddenly not be in it anymore? I suppose that is the heartbreaking part of travelling, or even life in general: some things come with an expiration date, and there's really nothing you can do about it.
Something that has really affected Queenstown, and all of New Zealand, has been the earthquakes in Christchurch. The city is completely devastated; as of March 2nd, there were 160 people confirmed dead and hundreds more still missing. Rescue and relief teams from all over New Zealand and Australia are working day and night to try to save as many people as possible while others are attempting to restore the city to a livable condition for residents. The people of Christchurch have endured pain, loss, and fear, and many of them are still holding on to hope that their missing loved ones will be found. All of New Zealand has banded together over their suffering; everywhere you look there are earthquake relief funds and support groups. I was fortunate not to be in Christchurch during the earthquake, but I have met a lot of people this past week who were, and their stories are etched on their faces. When I fly into Christchurch this weekend, I will see a broken city, and all the news stories and articles I have read will become real. As a side note, I thank all of you who either called or emailed my parents or myself to make sure that I was safe and sound. I appreciate your concern, and I encourage your thoughts and prayers to go to the people of Christchurch.
Being so close to the earthquake has really made me realize the true frailty of our existence. It has further cemented my belief that you have to take every chance you get, seize every opportunity .... it sounds so cliche, but it is so important to live life to the absolute fullest. Mark Twain once said, "twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do then by the things you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." I think he was on to something.
On Saturday, March 5th, I will be flying from Queenstown to Christchurch, then from Christchurch to Auckland. From Auckland I will take a bus North to Dargaville and from there head to Glinks Gully, a very small beach town where I will be living on the longest surf beach in New Zealand. My job will be something completely out of my comfort zone, or my "safe harbour" ... I am going to be spending 40 hours a week picking Kumara (sweet potatoes) and spending my weekends surfing. This will be my life for the next 6 weeks!