Whenever I thought about coming to NZ, I never thought about that moment when I actually arrived. I always thought about it in general terms: what if I don’t meet anyone or everyone thinks I’m a loser or I run out of money faster than I anticipated? What if I can’t figure out where to go and waste all my time? And everyone responded in very general terms: of course you’ll meet people. If you don’t meet anyone who cares, the whole point is to be alone anyway and take a stab at writing. There’s no such thing as wasted time when you’re travelling.
And I believed them. I actually didn’t even need to believe them per se because I knew I’d be fine. I knew I’d meet people. And I knew if I didn’t I would still have the most wonderful time of my life. But in thinking in all of those general conditions, I never stopped to think about the actual moment when I got to my hostel and I was here. This was it. There was nothing else to do, no more directions to and from the airport to Google. I was here, and now I had to do something.
So I did the only thing that felt comfortable and familiar. I took a shower.
I mean, I should’ve taken a shower regardless since 14 hours on a plane does nothing good for you. But in that moment I took a shower purely based on feeling too lost to do anything else.
I stood in the shower for an unnecessary amount of time – especially considering I accidently packed 3 conditioners and forget both shampoo and body wash. I literally had nothing to do in there but condition my hair. But I just stood there letting the water pour and pour and pour because I wasn’t sure I was ready to figure out what was next. And it was 7 in the morning so it’s not even like I had that many options. I couldn’t even check into my room yet. So I simply stood in the shower.
I know, I know. The environmentalist in me is not proud of this decision. But hey, we’re human too.
I eventually accepted that I had to get out, so I shut the taps off and dealt with the annoying mess of having all my shit in this tiny shower stall with me because like I said, I didn’t have a room yet. So I cursed myself for wearing that giant scarf on the plane because I had no room to put my body let alone deal with this giant fucking scarf in a shower stall. It was overwhelming and annoying and I couldn’t help but regret coming here at all. Why did I ever leave the comfort of my life to come be lost and distraught in a tiny stall in a country where I knew no one.
Much much later, I figured my shit out and managed to free myself from the shower and enter the grand spacious washroom, where there was a girl brushing her teeth.
“Have you just arrived?” she asked in some dope accent.
I noticed she had all her stuff with her too, and we quickly bonded over the inconvenience of not having a room to check into.
“What are you gonna do until we can check in?” she asked me. “Wanna do something?”
And suddenly, I wasn’t the only one nervous and alone in a new country.
I was beyond grateful to have a friend to face this dauntingly long day with. So we walked and we talked and en route to grab a coffee she asked how old I was and I asked her and it came out that she was 18. And this embarrassingly made me feel so much less excited.
I was spending my first day of this new beautiful finding-myself adventure hanging out with a baby.
In that moment I wished I was alone. I wished we hadn’t met, and I could spend day one exploring solo. But I sucked it up and we continued walking. We found this sweet lookout by the water and had the most open and honest conversation about life I’d ever had with a stranger. I told her how scared I was and she told me how excited she was, and we bonded over not knowing what was next and feeling both liberated and skeptical by this course.
We continued walking, stopping to sit under palm trees and cracking beers in the shade, We were celebrating LIFE, and it was lovely.
It became quickly apparent she was significantly cooler and smarter than I was.
I mean, we’re walking through this [insanely beautiful] park and she’s talking to me about modern day German conflict and the Syrian refugee crisis and how she has so many conflicting opinions about Germany and life in Europe and the world as a whole. And then she’s like, what about Canada? Do you have similar issues over there?
And I literally had nothing to say. I had absolutely nothing intelligent to contribute. So I responded with the first thing that popped into my head: The Canadian brain drain.
The Canadian fucking brain drain.
“What’s that?” she asked.
“Oh, you know.” I said. “It’s this big problem where Canadian doctors all go work in the states to make more money, and then we have no doctors. It’s a big crisis.”
Like, what the fuck. The brain drain was a term I learned in grade 5 that had randomly stuck with me through all these years, and this was all I could think to contribute? Is this even a real problem? That we have a doctor shortage? And if it is, I highly doubt this tops the list of current notable Canadian conflicts.
In this moment I felt a) insanely embarrassed for myself and b) fully aware of how much of an ignorant asshole I was for thinking I was too cool to hang out with an 18 year old.
So, on day one in Auckland I got totally put in my place, and I’m so glad I did, because now I can face the rest of this journey with an openm open mind. I didn’t even realize I wasn’t doing that, but apparently I was, and I’m insanely glad she inadvertently drew to my attention how stupidly close minded I was being (and how little I knew about my own country, which is equally as embarrassing).
After we walked up and down more hills than I’d ever encountered before in one setting, I came to this nice little cafe to have a beer and write all of this before I lost all of my sentiment to sleep. In a nutshell:
Today I felt very vulnerable. I felt very alone. But I suppose that’s the whole point. That’s what I wanted. Because if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t know how I felt. I wouldn’t pay attention, because I’d want to explore and gossip and drink with whoever I was with. I think I needed this in order to fully figure out what I’m saying, and I’m just as excited to work on this book as I am to work on myself as a human.
In the meantime, I’m going to order another beer (sidenote: today we went to a bar where all of the beer names were book puns! It was a dream come true) and research the Canadian brain drain. Obviously me coming to New Zealand did not contribute to this drain, and I’d like to change that for the next time around. Stay tuned.