What To Pack When You Move To New Zealand for a Year and Other Mysteries

One day I want to travel the old fashioned way. Like Magellan or Shackleton, I want to circumnavigate the world slowly living within a minute margin of error. I don’t trust flying. While the sensation of liftoff, of drifting in and out of waves of wind, is one of my favorite feelings in all the world, I dislike going to bed in one place and waking up in an entirely different country. This instant gratification of movement makes me feel like it’s all been a dream--like I haven't earned my destination.  Yesterday I boarded an airplane after spending a day draped in the balmy rain of Pacifica. When I landed this morning in New Zealand and I felt the thick, Auckland air—it was difficult to imagine that overnight I’d traversed oceans. Was I in the same place I left behind?

Packing essentials I actually cared about:

  •  Bag—very, very important. Arguably the single most important piece of preparation for a trip like this. I wanted something I could use for both backpacking and travel. Not too big, not too small. The Goldilocks of all travel packs. The Osprey Ariel was the perfect choice. 
  •  Sleeping bag- I'm not going to be mountaineering but I will be sleeping in tents and outside. I wanted something that I could pack easily but with a great price point. Down is always preferable. 
  •  Raincoat- If I could survive Portland, Oregon with this baby, I'm sure it will do just fine in New Zealand.
  •   Hiking Boots- When I was working at the ACE HOTEL, Portland, I received these as a gift. They were perfect for traversing the Sierras and for trail work and I'm sure they'll carry me to great adventures down under. 
  • Visa- Do not procrastinate on this one. Yes, it was easy to get--but trust me, don't avoid this.  
  • At least 2 good books. This is what I brought: Hold Still and
  • Sandals/Waterproof shoes: Super nerdy, super perfect. 

The Pros and Cons of Avoidance:

My friends are aware that I am a chronic avoider. I’ll stay in situations, relationships, places that make me unhappy in an effort to avoid the truth or dealing with the truth. I hide. Moving to New Zealand is not in and of itself overwhelming to me, however, I did discover that I intensely avoided all preparations.

Packing? I perused reddit looking for the “perfect” packing list but generally ignored the entire prospect. I waited until literally the last possible moment to pile all my belongings haphazardly into a bag. There is no perfection in what I've created. 

Cons:

  • You’ll frantically spend less than 24 hours packing, find you have way too much stuff and have to painstakingly trim the fat. What you're left with won’t be a perfect bag--not even close--it won’t be compact or as accessible as it was in your dreams. But it will be good enough. 
  • If you’re like me and leaving a seasonal job and not your own home you’ll have to leave a lot of things behind (for me it was books—I left all my beloved books)

Pros:

  • You’ll have plenty of time to do lots of other things while procrastinating. You’ll find all sorts of creative excuses. I had some of the most fascinating few weeks of my life avoiding packing! I hiked to snow covered lakes, went rock climbing, had long bouts of creativity (and, full disclosure, wasted a ton of time watching Bones).
  • In the end, you’re going to move to a different country, you can’t really prepare for something like that. Something is inevitably going to go wrong. You’re going to forget something. Don’t stress. Let go, try as best as you can but in the end, just figure it out.

 

 

Here Are Lions

When Ancient Roman and Medieval mapmakers came to the limits of what they knew–they demonstrated the demarcation line with the classical phrase HIC SVNT LEONES– “here are lions”.

3 months ago I decided to quit the job I hated and move away from a city that I liked all right but ultimately didn’t bring me any joy. I’ve spent the last 3 months living on the edge of Desolation Wilderness exploring the changing Sierra’s as they metamorphose from the sun-baked summers of the high desert to a frigid and snowy world  isolated from civilization.

In less than 10 days, I’m about to begin a new journey to New Zealand. It is a journey away from complacency and towards that frontier that those ancient mapmakers described–a place filled with the unknown–a place where I will force myself to encounter lions.

I’m fairly certain that most people are confused as to why I would leave a job with great benefits and wonderful people in order to wash dishes and clean toilets. To leave a world of promotions and stock options for a life of seasonal labor. Nothing about my current work is glamorous–however, these have been some of the happiest times of the last four years. I’ve awoken at dawn to watch the sunrise in a kayak, I’ve hiked a wilderness without a trail and yes, I’ve been covered up to my elbows in the slime of dirty dishes.

This is not one of those blogs that is going to romanticize physical labor–that will pretend that every moment of my life is filled with magic and wonder. I’m not going to pretend that I know what I’m doing, that I’m not afraid, that there aren’t moments of sadness and loneliness.

Ultimately: I am a woman traveling alone and I want to know what that means. I want to know what it’s like to make decisions, to relinquish all that stymies me and search for what I, and only I, want.

What I’m beginning to discover is this–our bodies and our minds grow stagnate. Accustomed to what we feed it–our lives settle into homeostasis, like an engine running on schedules and habits. I needed, desperately, to inject fear, adrenaline and uncertainty into my life–to awaken  myself and begin to burn again.

Not everyone needs to quit her job and travel across the world–this is not everyones way. There are many weapons you can use to fight complacency in your home city. However, this is what I need.

I’d begun to look at a map and fear the lions crouching in the corners. And I’ve never wanted to be someone who runs.