The process of moving to New Zealand is almost complete for me. All the details that must be rushed through in the beginning (banks, tax stuff, a place to stay, etc.) has all been finished. The last few days have been spent simply enjoying the freedom of living in a new place. I can’t even begin to try to guess the number of new people I have shared conversations with and laughed with throughout the past few days. The day after getting the van, Nate and I spent some more time back at the campground we had been at. The Ramarama campground provided us with quite a few new friends from all over the world, and that was just the beginning. After battling through a crazy storm that almost dropped a tree on our van, we said goodbye to the area and made our way further south.
There are certain tourist things that must be done, even if you refuse to consider yourself a tourist. After leaving Ramarama, we headed down to Hamilton to prepare for our adventures in Hobbiton. Seeing this permanent film set is the one unashamedly tourist thing I knew that I needed to do in New Zealand, and it didn’t disappoint. Nate and I took the 8:30AM tour and it completely blew us away. Hobbiton was an incredibly beautiful place that can be appreciated even if you haven’t seen the movies or read the books. The skill and care that was put into this set was jaw-dropping. The two hour tour around the area ended with a stop in at The Green Dragon, the pub seen in the movies, for a beer and some food. For those of you who don’t know me super well, Lord of the Rings is my all-time favorite film series, so having a drink in this pub was a dream come true (and the beer was quite good as well).
As much as I was obsessed with this incredible tour, I was also surprised by the place we decided to stay for the few days before and after the tour. The hotel by the Okoroire hot springs was a phenomenal experience for only $10 a night. We parked our van near the hotel, which looked as if it was out of an episode of The Twilight Zone, and enjoyed the quiet of the country and the hot springs just down the path next to a hidden waterfall. Over the few days spent in Okoroire, I spent more time than I’d like to admit sitting next to the falls and just listening to the total lack of any humanness. There’s something incredibly peaceful about being feeling like the only human in the midst of nature that was perfectly achieved in that space. We spent our nights there looking at the southern night sky, and talking to groups of French, German, and Swiss campers.
Unfortunately, peaceful places like this can’t be stayed at forever if you have a constant curiosity and a heart for adventure. The move from Okoroire placed Nate and myself in Rotorua for a few days. I had heard others say that the city stinks of Sulphur, and I figured it was a bit exaggerated. Nothing could have prepared me for the smell that assaulted my nose upon my arrival in the city. The entire city has an incredibly powerful odor of Sulphur due to the geothermal activity around the area. So while the smell was bad, at least it provided some fantastic hot springs and geysers to see. Leaving the city behind, we took to the surrounding forests for some entertainment. Lake Tikitapu provided us with a few hours of hiking in the fresh air away from the stink of the city, and the redwoods gave us a good ending to our time in Rotorua. Being from Northern California, the redwoods will always make me feel home. I felt as if I was walking back in the forests by my home for just a few hours, and didn’t realize how much I missed it. I don’t think I have ever appreciated or felt more connected to any species of tree more than I did on that hike.
Despite the feeling of home that the redwoods provided, the smell of the city prompted Nate and I to move on further south. We drove a bit further south, and settled in a free campsite to be greeted by a huge group of Germans that were insistent that we join them for drinking games and a few hours of talking (almost everyone we meet here at a campsite is German, and it’s incredible). As citizens of the USA, we seemed to be a bit of a novelty to them since there are absolutely no others from our home country here (seriously guys, step up the traveling. The rest of the world is shocked by the fact that we are here for some reason and it’s depressing). As happens almost every time someone hears about the fact that we are from the states, we were asked about what’s going on with us politically, a topic which we try to avoid in general. I won’t get into politics on this blog because this is not the place for it, but I encourage those from the states to speak to someone living in another country to get their perspective on what’s going on because we can all do with a little outside perspective. Meeting people from other countries and hearing their stories has been the biggest joy of this trip so far, and I’ve found that those living in a similar style (out of a van) tend to be just as relaxed as I am. The last week has been a lot of moving around, yet it’s been a joy to meet new friends and experience this country as much as I can.
I have found that there is a certain joy to the simplicity of living out of a van. This was something I expected, yet was pleasantly surprised by exactly how much freedom one has when living out of a car. Adapting to any situation becomes much easier when you know that you at least have a roof over your head, a bit of food (mostly rice, pasta, and PB&J), and friends around you to laugh with. Life slows down to a crawl in the best possible way, and the small get gloriously delicious things can be appreciated to the fullest extent (shout out to hot showers and café food). As I sit in a small café on the edge of Lake Taupō using their Wi-Fi shamelessly and eating a lamb pie (I challenge you to find anything more New Zealand than a lamb pie), I can’t help but feel how lucky I am to be houseless in a foreign land.
I believe “homeless” and “houseless” to be two very different things. I may not have a house to live in here, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be at home here. True, my real home will always be in California, but our van has a simple and important message written on it: Home is where you park it.