Travelling: the other things

Travelling is about places. They lead you to make plans, book flights, quit jobs (…get stressed ordering stuff you don’t need on Amazon, which you throw out once you get there). In the run-up to leaving, the places I’d be visiting dominated my mind’s landscape, filling me with anticipation and excitement. It’s what I talked about incessantly before I left, reeling off country names as if I were about to pop to Tesco for them.

Danielle and I have visited beautiful sites, listened to commentary, taken photos, and done the activities that we ‘ought’ to have done because we were there (and handed over a small fortune in the process). The majority of the time (and obviously excluding Stewart Island and the godawful ferry journey: see previous post), it was worth it: sea kayaking at Abel Tasman national park, taking a helicopter and hike up Franz Josef glacier, cruising the breathtaking fiord of Milford Sound. These are the things I’ve talked about when people ask me how it’s going and what we’ve been up to.

Milford Sound

But there are other details that deserve a mention, details that contribute more to our experience and, most importantly, our happiness, than we give them credit for. What has made me smile most on this trip isn’t a landscape or an activity; it’s human beings.

The crew

I probably didn’t need to come half-way around the world to play board games with a bunch of Europeans, but equally, I didn’t cry with laughter whilst climbing a glacier.

We paid for a comedy night in Melbourne, but we didn’t pay anything for the infinitely funnier experience in Auckland of Danielle finding a snail on her pillow at 4:30am. It was a bit much to process at the god-early hour (“A what? There’s a snail?”) but it quickly became hilarious once we’d woken up.

One thing travelling affords you is time. Time to hang out, talk, play games, get to know people. People who would otherwise pass you by, or who you’d struggle to fit into your hectic schedule of work and pre-planned social activities. Travelling gives you time to just be, and to be with people. I’ve noticed how it’s the exact opposite of travelling on the tube in London, where you make a beeline for the emptiest  carriage and the greatest possible distance between your seat and the next person’s. Here, you don’t avoid people; you gravitate towards them. Once you’ve made your  dinner, you look for a table with other people on it and sit there. And nobody thinks it’s strange, because in the absence of close friends and family, everyone has an appreciation for other people, and an understanding that being together is just…happier . You don’t sit and chat to people in the evenings to ‘catch up’, you sit and chat just to be with them. And what’s so nice is that you don’t need any excuse, other than being human.

Board games

Travelling is the most human form of existence I’ve experienced. On a biological level, we’re social animals, so the act of sharing food and bedrooms and always having people around actually feels…natural. Far more so than the isolated existence that cities like London cultivate.

I opted to stay a couple of extra days in Kaikoura after Danielle, along with the friends we’d made, left on the bus for Wellington. Kaikoura is beautiful: there’s coast, mountains and a quaint little town.

Kaikoura

It was…nice. And it was also a bit boring. I went and got my hair cut. Because none of it meant very much without having someone there to share it with. I thought I’d appreciate the time to myself, which I did for around half an hour. Maybe it’s because I’m an extrovert, but I don’t believe going off alone is a way to find yourself; I believe other people help lead you towards yourself. Whether that be laughing on the bus; giggling as you attempt to salvage burnt halloumi from the bottom of the frying pan; voting over the more creative answers whilst playing Scattegories (‘Things in the sky beginning with O’, Danielle: “Old birds”); making vegetables a la ketchup; re-living torturous ferry journeys whilst trying to work the oven in the new hostel; uniting when you’ve decided that somewhere is just rubbish all round (Kathryn before leaving Stewart Island: “That was the worst muffin I’ve ever had”); breaking all the rules of the New Zealand version of Trivial Pursuit so you actually get some points; singing on the bus; seeing the funny side of being stood in the woods in the pitch black looking at glow worms (Ollie: “If there weren’t any glow worms, it would just be a bunch of people stood in a bush”); being altogether unimpressed and confused by the presence of motorbikes in the hardware store; being excited when the dorm rooms have indivuidual bed lights and/or enough plugs; finding it hilarious when people so willingly conform to stereotypes (Juanjo, the moment you strolled in with nachos will never cease to make me giggle); feeling heart-warmed to see Danielle, Kathryn and Tamara back in Queenstown after spending an awful two days on a cruise with Mauritz (see blog); and having someone sympathetically listen to the woeful tale of said cruise while you’re still reeling from it (thanks Tamara).

When I told people I was “going travelling”, the inevitable first question was always, “Where are you going?”. I’ve quickly realised that by far more relevant are, ‘Who are you going to meet?’ and ‘What are you going to learn?’ And perhaps, ‘Where’s the free food shelf?’

George x

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Saying goodbye to Australia…

I’ll be honest, that was quite a hard goodbye. Goodbye to Australia, goodbye to family, and goodbye to this leg of our trip (well, almost). After an amazing three weeks on the East Coast of Australia, I am not ready to leave. But before I fully say these goodbyes, let me recap on some of the greatest experiences of my life that all took place in the last three weeks on my first truly solo venture.

George and I parted ways in Kaikoura, NZ in mid-October (this was always planned before people think we’ve had enough of each other already!) I was very excited to return to Australia; I had an East Coast tour booked as well as time with family afterwards. As soon as I landed, I was thrown into the busy schedule of my 10-day tour.

It was jam-packed with wonderful activities, kicked off with canoeing in the Noosa Everglades to our remote campsite where we hiked to a vast and beautiful sand dune. After canoeing two hours back the next day in the pouring rain, we then made our way to a farm stay where we attempted to sleep under the stars in a swag (the rain hindered our efforts and we ended up sleeping, crowded, in a hard-floored barn). For me, this was an awesome moment; joining everyone around the camp fire to eat meals in our cowboy hats! We then had two nights on a maxi-yacht, sailing the Whitsunday Islands. This was a great experience, having never sailed before. The best part of this trip, however, came right at the end, in Cairns. We took a snorkelling trip to the Great Barrier Reef and it was truly breathtaking. I spent the whole time in the water beaming from ear to ear with undiluted, pure joy. It was genuinely one of the greatest experiences of my life and something I will never forget.

  
However, this incredible trip also resulted in the absolute worst sunburn I have ever had and lead to me spending the next week or so either unable to walk properly or at the pharmacist/doctor’s getting them seen to! Luckily it was during this time that I was able to spend a week and a half with my family who made sure to look after me!

First, I flew to Hervey Bay to stay with my cousin, whom I hadn’t seen since she left for Australia over a year ago. This was awesome as we got to spend time together and talk for hours on a deeper level than we probably ever have. I love how close our vast family can be even when we live on other sides of the world!

I then took my very first Greyhound bus down to the Gold Coast to spend a relaxed week with more family. A chilled out week was exactly what I needed and Coolangatta, with its laid back atmosphere and early nights, was the perfect place to be for this. I spent every day with my family, enjoying meals together and days out and I just loved being in the company of people who know me well (especially after travelling for two months and getting to know people from scratch on a daily basis – which, in itself is fun and exciting but a break from this was also nice). I treated this week as a ‘holiday from travelling’ – enjoying nice meals and Prosecco most nights!

Even before we left the UK, once this period with my family was booked, I knew I would have trouble leaving. It would be like leaving home all over again and, in fact, I think I dealt with leaving home better than leaving Australia! So it was no shock that I felt homesick on leaving my family but that didn’t make it any easier. With the mix of leaving them, and knowing I was leaving Australia for the last time, as well as knowing that we only have about a week before leaving this part of the world, I was quite the picture of ‘homesick’ at Brisbane airport early on that Sunday morning. In fact, I’m not even sure it’s the missing home that got me. Of course I miss my family but I think what hit me more was the fear of leaving the places I have come to be familiar with over the last two months. I could easily spend longer in Australia and New Zealand and I am not quite sure that I am ready to leave! In no way does feeling homesick make me want to stop having any of these incredible experiences; it’s just that it can sometimes feel a little overwhelming being on your own on the other side of the world. All is expected and all will pass and I will go on to embrace and enjoy whatever comes my way next.

Whilst I am very excited for South America, I am also slightly apprehensive as I know it will be quite a culture shock in comparison to the easy, home-like fit of the last couple of months. But bring it on! A big part of me cannot wait – I just hope I get the opportunity to come back to this part of the world in the future – there is still so much to explore!!

Danielle x