Breaking Patterns

As I sit in my usual coffee shop (it’s strange to think that I have a “usual” place in a foreign country), I must admit that I have fallen into a pattern. Patterns, while sometimes unavoidable or downright beneficial, are something that I had hoped to avoid on this trip. I was hoping to consistently have new experiences and meet new people, yet that has not been the case for the past few weeks. As I’m still jobless I will give myself some measure of grace on this, knowing that I should not drive to far off destinations for fear of wasting too much money on gas (though this will change when I have some form of income). I have had a few Skype interviews for jobs across the islands, and hopefully will hear back early next week about a position, yet for now I am stuck in my patterns of frequenting coffee shops for free Wi-Fi and spending countless hours reading or researching different topics.

Fortunately, this past week has offered me a slight amount of desperately needed variance in my usual routine. One of my old coworkers on the apple orchard also has an injury (we call ourselves the Crippled Crew), and was unable to work for a few days, so we decided we couldn’t waste the beautifully sunny day in a coffee shop. We headed out to do a few hikes about an hour and a half north of Hastings. Our goal was to conquer Shine Falls, and Bell Rock. Both hikes were extraordinary, and it felt amazing to get back out on the trails to test my knee (which proved to be quite capable and gave me no troubles!).

The simple act of getting outside the city has rejuvenated me. I haven’t realized how trapped I have felt here in my pattern of coffee and reading (usually a routine I would love, but too much of a good thing becomes unbearable).

The hike out to Shine Falls was empty of all but ourselves, and the birds until we were on our way back to the car. The trails here generally overestimate how long it will take someone to hike, so getting out there took us only about half the time that was estimated. The falls themselves are known to be the largest in the Hawke’s Bay area, rising 58 meters above the ice cold pool that they thunder into. My friend and I spent nearly an hour simply staring at the falls and discussing things of no particular consequence.

These types of moments are the ones that I came to New Zealand for. To share a conversation with a new friend, in a new place, astounded by the nature around me.

Bell Rock was equally as impressive, though took a bit longer. It was nearly an hour and a half of walking to get from one end of the trail to the other (though that is still not very long), and it was worth every step. The views from Bell Rock were incredible. The green hills and mountains stretched away to the distant horizon with hardly any evidence of humans to be seen. My hiking companion and I separated, each seeking out the peace of our own thoughts as we gazed out upon the land. As I sat alone on the edge of a cliff looking out over this vast expanse of land (yes mom, I promise I was relatively safe on the cliff), I could not help but be thoughtful.

I need moments like this. I thrive on them and I will fight to keep them. It’s time for me to leave Hawke’s Bay and seek out adventure after adventure.

At the end of this week, I will be leaving my current city in search of a new place. If I end up being offered one of the jobs I applied for, I will of course go there and seek out the spectacular places found in the area, both hidden and popular. If I am not offered a position, I believe my time in this area has ended regardless. My first post in this blog stated that sometimes one must just jump off the cliff into the unknown, knowing that it’s just as likely that one will hit rocks at the bottom as water. I believe it’s time for that terrifyingly joyful leap again. I’m ready to leave this area, though not without any small measure of sadness.

 I leave dear friends and comfortable coffee shops behind, yet I am determined to leap once again into the unknown. I would prefer this to be with a job and a form of income, yet even without that I can feel that it’s time for me to leave here to search the places I have yet to go. This move also means that Nate (my traveling companion) and I will be splitting ways, and The Banana Van will be sold. There’s a lot of change in the near future for me, but I’m ready to face it.

Alone, and Ok With It?

Occasionally there are weeks where nothing seems to have happened. That is the nature of travel, and the way in which it differs from simply a vacation to a foreign place. Travel means living your daily life in a new land. All the exciting, boring, frustrating, and joy inducing things that come with that place suddenly become your own. There are waterfalls to shower in, mountains to climb, and awe inspiring hikes to lose yourself in. However, there are also café’s to sit in idly, work to do, and locals to talk to. While some of these things may seem more exciting than others, I must say that there is a quality to the simple act of not doing anything that is alluring. Sitting in a café and talking to strangers has proved to be far more entertaining than I thought it would be (and yes, the accents here make it way better).

While I am currently jobless, I have spent countless hours frequenting the coffee shops in the area and getting to know some of the locals and other backpackers alike. The week has passed by quickly despite having no actual “work” to do. I’m still searching and applying for jobs (almost exclusively on the South Island now), but my stress levels are at a minimum. I consistently check the job boards, but have spent enough hours over the last week to have looked at every job at least a thousand times. I have also reached out to my friends and family that know people in the area, so I have quite a few lines tossed out into the ocean of jobs.

This week has been educational for me outside of the job search. While pretty much everyone I know is busy during the day, it has given me more time than usual to be alone. Those of you who know me quite well know that, as an extrovert, I thrive off of human interaction. While I can of course make friends with strangers (which I have done), it is a bit odd to be consistently alone. There is a difference between being alone in a crowd, and being alone on your own, a difference that I have gotten to know quite well throughout this week.

Don’t misunderstand, as this is not a complaint. On the contrary, it is actually quite enlightening to get to know myself on a different level. The fortunate/unfortunate thing about traveling with someone is that you are ALWAYS with that person. While this may be beneficial if you enjoy the company of that person, it also removes any chance of having any time to yourself. I am appreciating this aloneness as a chance to get to know myself in a foreign place. How to I spend my time when there is neither anybody nor anything that requires that time? It’s a strange experience for me. I have never traveled solo before, and am finding that the experience is not quite as bad as I thought it was going to be. Of course there are moments of loneliness during the day, but I have found that being alone isn’t quite as bad as I imagined it would be (extroverts, I know you understand).

While I still would prefer to have a job and a steady income in this place, I am trying to learn to appreciate this season of life. Despite the fact that it isn’t the ideal situation for me, I am determined to use it well. Did I not say earlier that I will find the good in each situation? Particularly the bad ones? This is an excellent opportunity for me to put that into play, and I’m being to find that silver lining in the storm clouds.

Yes, this is a shorter post than usual, but there are times when ones thoughts must stay inside their head. While writing is an amazing outlet and I enjoy filling everyone in on the goings on in my life, there must be times when memories and lessons are reserved for oneself.

Just Keep Swimming

This has been a week full of the unexpected. I don’t mean the good kind of unexpected, the kind that pleasantly surprises you with new friends or awesome experiences, I’m talking about the kind that sneaks up behind you and knocks you down while laughing in your face. I’ve said it before (and have repeated it to myself a thousand times over the last few days), this is all just part of the adventure. Things don’t go well, and that’s ok. There’s a season for everything.

Essentially, my job at the apple orchard is finished and I am having an insanely rough time finding another job while I’m in Hawke’s Bay. My knee wouldn’t hold up to the work of the orchard anymore unfortunately (40lbs hanging off your chest on a ladder for 10 hours a day with a bad knee is a pretty poor combo apparently), so I had to quit. I’m now jobless, can’t stay on the property I’m on anymore, and need to sell the van so that Nate and I both have a place to live and transport so we can be at our respective jobs.

Things are a struggle right now, but nobody ever said traveling was going to be easy. Although I’ve applied to dozens of places in the area that I’m in, not many people seem very excited to hire a backpacker (which I totally understand, but it’s still a bummer being on the receiving end of that conversation). There is but one course of action for me to follow…

Just keep swimming.

Although life is rough, I’m not standing still. I’m living off of the Russian proverb “A shark that doesn’t swim, drowns.” basically meaning that if you don’t keep moving forward, you die. I haven’t stopped job searching, and haven’t stopped staying busy. Being a backpacker doesn’t just mean you have extraordinary experiences, it means you persist. You strive to do the best you can in any situation. You adapt and learn to live off of the minimum, thriving in an atmosphere completely foreign to your own. Being a backpacker is so much more than just traveling and having fun. Those who wish this life for themselves, be sure that you’re up to the challenge.

I don’t mean to scare anyone off from taking on this lifestyle, because I find it to be extremely rewarding. These difficult times of uncertainty only highlight the positive experiences I have had thus far (and undoubtedly will have in the future). Had I known what difficulties (emotional, mental, and physical) await me on this adventure, I still would have jumped into it without hesitation. Despite the storm that is raging in my life right now, I’m still finding the ability to smile and appreciate it. Storms can be beautiful sometimes.

While the unfortunate circumstances seem to stack up around me, there are the bright spots that stand out. One such moment is the friendships that are growing between myself and my coworkers (or now ex-coworkers technically). We all still spend nearly all of our time together and have grown to become a family here. Although we are from all over the world, we fit together well. Another good thing that has happened is that, as of today, I’m a featured artist in one of the local coffee shops here (shout out to Sutto Caffe)! After asking around and showing some of my work, the café gladly accepted a painted guitar that I just finished. They will display the art, and sell it if someone is interested. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a bit of income this way, and becoming a featured artist in a public place is something I’ve always wanted to do!

I fully understand the wildness of my life, and that I am not alone in this journey. Countless backpackers before me have experienced this very same thing, and I’m glad to have gained this experience, because it’s forcing me to grow in new ways. I have learned a lot about myself during this tumultuous time, particularly this week, and am glad to see the changes that are being wrought in myself. Yes, I do want this unfortunate season of life to end, but I’m determined to push through and learn from it.

 I’ve just got to keep swimming.

The Life of an Apple Picker

Life doesn’t always go as planned. That particular reason is, of course, why I embarked on this adventure in New Zealand. I’m here to experience a different side of life, and live out the ridiculous. I must say that this first week of being an apple picker on an orchard has been just that. It’s not the most exciting work, but it does place me solidly outside any other experience I have had in the workforce.

Essentially, my entire job is exactly what the title “apple picker” sounds like. I wake up at about 6AM every morning (which is not the easiest if you’re not a morning person), and eat breakfast with the other workers before heading out to start picking for the day. Altogether, I work between 9 and 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, picking apples and placing them in large bins to be shipped away to stores. For now, we are paid hourly, yet that changes next week when we begin to be paid for each full bin of apples.

The work itself is not the most interesting thing in the world, yet it is work that needs to be done. All of us strive to make the few hours after work as much fun as we can, which has led to quite a few ridiculous conversations and a $2 buy-in poker night using black beans as poker chips. Saturday night promises to be the most fun yet, as we are planning a beer pong tournament with different teams representing their country of origin (France has a bit of a head start considering there’s about 9 of them). Sitting around the table with people from many other countries is what I will always associate this job with. The work itself isn’t worth raving about, but the people that I’m doing it with are an incredible group. We spend most of our time talking about/comparing our lives growing up in different countries, and learning all the rude phrases we can in each of our languages (which we say to each other frequently). This will definitely be a group of people that I’m going to miss when this work is over.

The area that I’m now working in (Hawke’s Bay) is an absolutely gorgeous area. In fact, it reminds me quite a bit of my home in Northern California. The vineyards stretching away to the rolling hills covered in trees sometimes fools me into thinking I’m driving on one of the roads back home. I haven’t had too much time to discover what’s around the Hastings/Napier area, yet what I have seen so far is fantastic. Nate and I were able to take a walk through Napier and check out the “sea walls”, a collection of murals along the walls of the city that promote marine conservation. The last mural in the series was on the side of a small shop, and the owner of the shop saw us checking out the art on the side of the wall. She invited us inside to chat about it, and it turns out she knows the artist and the person who organized the whole movement. Apparently, all of the artists will be returning to the city next month for a second round of murals, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with and have a chance to watch them work.

The coastal cities of Hastings and Napier are probably one of the places that I feel the most at home in so far. They aren’t huge by American standards, yet they are a comfortably large size (about 130,000 together). They are both distinctly different and interesting cities with a lot to see in them, and I can’t wait to explore this place. Although I don’t have much time off of work each week, I’m determined to use it well.

This apple picking experience has instilled in me one particular lesson so far, and that is the value of time. I have been busy before, but never to the degree that I actually don’t really have time to do anything. I have about 4 hours after work each day, and one day off each week with which to do something other than work. This may be standard for some of you, but this is a new experience for me.

If I learn nothing else from this job, at least I’ll have learned the value of time. With so little time off, I must pick and choose what I would like to do with the spare shards of time that I have. I’m looking forward to the future shenanigans that my fellow apple pickers and I get into while I’m in this area, and the friendships that will continue on after we go our separate ways. Having friends around the world is becoming a common thing here, and I can’t help but wonder if I’ll ever see any of them in their own countries. That, however, is an adventure for another time. For now, the rest of New Zealand awaits and there’s far too much to see for me to leave now. I’ve been here nearly two months already and have learned a lot about myself and my place in the world around me. I still have a little over ten months left here and plan to learn and experience at least a thousand more things. How about them apples?

(I had to have at least one apple pun in this)