… and the Internal Thoughts. Traveling everywhere for some pieces of nowhereChristchurch, Spring 2012
Bear with me…there are no pictures and this is a long one. I posted the obligatory “here is what we did, this is what it was like, check out my pictures” travel blog. But three weeks is a lot to digest, so at the urging of several friends I soon found myself on a bus for a quiet weekend away at a lake front lodge with plenty of coffee, fall colors, a warm fire, and fresh air to dissect all of our adventures and put them back together in a more comprehendible form. So here, my friends, are my most prominent thoughts from nearly a month of travel in the Cook Islands and New Zealand:
Paying for a more expensive camera lens just makes the view more distorted. I first started to realize this is Rarotonga: I thought I was taking a big step towards serenity by leaving my laptop and cell phone behind, but it turns out a camera is equally as distracting. Partly in an effort to keep this blog exciting, I found that my camera rarely left my hands. When uploading all the footage, I discovered over an hour of video clips from Rarotonga alone! That is over an hour that I was completely distracted and preoccupied with capturing a certain image rather than taking in a moment for everything it was worth. Don’t think that I’m criticizing the value of photography; it is an art, and I’m so thankful to be able to document a lot of these memories with this medium. But I think our perceptions would be a lot less flawed sometimes if we made an effort to see things for the sake of seeing them with our own eyes.
Exploring all the popular tourist points of an unknown country is like going to a concert of a top of the charts artist who you only know because you always hear their hit song on the radio: its really exciting and everyone will comment on your facebook status about the show, but its still not the same kind of high as going to see your favorite indie band at a small venue and meeting the lead singer afterwards. I look back on photos of some of the hikes we did and I can’t believe I was actually there. But with my mountains at home, there is almost a sense of ownership when you look out and can name all the ones you’ve climbed up, the people that did them with you, the elevations, the terrain, the memories. In New Zealand, there is a pretty good chance that you will never retrace your footsteps. Consequently, it’s hard not to feel like a stranger here, and that feeling has been hard for me to cope with.
In the midst of going everywhere, you need to make an effort to find nowhere. I felt like much of our time was spent trying to get from point A to point C with about two seconds to snap a picture of point B on the way through. But throughout this rush, I carried a book with me entitled “Tales from Nowhere.” The author explains that nowhere is in the eye of the beholder, and he goes on to say that “virtually wherever we are, if we can slow down, focus, and absorb the nowhere around us, we will be astounded by its intricate depths and riches.” When traveling with a group nowhere seemed a little harder to find, but I think making an effort to find it was essential. My nowheres were the result of walking alone once in awhile on long hikes, or driving into a sunset when everyone else was silently sleeping, or mornings of waking up in a place I had never been before, having no idea what the day was going to bring. These brief moments in a nowhere state of mind are much more defining than posed photos and popular tourist stops; sometimes taking a step back is really the best way to go forward.
What we could have had… Towards the end of our longest trip, we passed through the city of Dunedin. It was such a cool, thriving area, and despite my love of the outdoors, I could picture myself spending a semester there becoming a regular at some trendy coffee shop, spending weekends at cool bars and music venues… and this got me wondering what Christchurch was actually like before the big quake. I am not at all justified to complain about the situation because there are thousands of people here whose lives were completely turned upside down in February 2011, and I’m merely passing through on what is essentially a 5-month working vacation. But to be completely honest, this city is not the best place to be right now. I’ve been struggling to share more about it, but I’m waiting a little longer because I have a few volunteer opportunities coming up and I want the focus to be on the amazing people here and the positive actions coming out of this disaster, so stay tuned.
“I am learning to live close to the lives of my friends without ever seeing them. No miles of any measurement can separate your soul from mine” -John Muir. Travel brings about a new appreciation of friends; both the friends here who you can share a tiny tent with for eleven nights and still not drive one another insane, as well as the extraordinary individuals on other continents who you can physically be worlds away from, but feel completely connected to at the same time. I don’t have much else to say to this effect except that I have a new appreciation of the people in my life who I miss on a regular basis. It’s almost like having pieces of you all around the world; maybe I’ll leave parts of me behind in certain people and places here, but reconnecting with those other scattered faces is getting a different part back again so that somehow, some way, we are always whole.
In conclusion, I’ll share the words of one of those invaluable friends who I’ve been exchanging novel-length emails with, because her wise remarks can summarize my entire experience over the past month more eloquently than I ever could myself:
“…I think we’re both really blessed, and although it’s a little scary to admit, we might already have (at least a part of) what we always wanted in the first place. And maybe that’s what traveling is, for us. Not to help us find answers, but to confirm that we shouldn’t really have any questions.”
So there it is, the thoughts born after 22 of the 30 days in April spent on the move. If you made it all the way through, I hope this didn’t bore you to death. As always, your eyes on my gibberish text mean the world. Cheers, -J
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