There is something so beautifully alluring about the open road. Setting out and just drifting where the mood takes you, no time crunch, no obligations, no schedule, no dwelling to keep tidy. The freedom to stop wherever and whenever simply because you choose to. The destination is wherever you are.
I am historically bad at this. Despite my longing to be free and easygoing, rigid attachment to “civilization” kept me rushing, planning, ever-focused on that next stepping stone to get to the future. College was one big, ongoing checklist, as was travel and even the great American road trip.
New Zealand has been the backdrop for innumerable lessons and opportunities for personal growth. A great deal of planning went into getting here, but the time beyond our first two weeks was largely undetermined, with only the loosest ideas. As a self-labeled control freak, this was ever so slightly uncomfortable for me. But that’s the point.
When we left our Workaway in Coromandel, we had three full days to drive 6 hours to Kaitaia. So we set some abstract goals of things to see as we headed north. Glowworms, beaches, and waterfalls take priority.
And so we drive! The left side of the road continues to entertain me, especially the roundabouts (ahhhh!) but the thing about wandering in New Zealand is the visual impact. Even the highways present breathtaking views, so when I see signs for “scenic drive” it doesn’t quite compute. The NZ government has taken this into account and has built pull-offs along the sides for slow vehicles and sightseers. Thank you kindly!
A single main road can range from 8-lane super highway in one area to a windy mountain pass and valley with one-lane bridges. Sheep might cross the road or you might get stuck behind a tractor outside the main city. Travel is an exercise in patience as well as instability. Sleeping in our van in a campground or small park encourages flexibility and humility. I have learned that meditation can be practiced anywhere, even if a rooster crows every 30 seconds.
I still have work to do. I can’t count the number of times I thought to myself, “Man, I wish I had stopped there for a picture,” catching myself too focused on an arbitrary destination. But this style of travel has done me wonders. I can think more clearly and breathe through spontaneous obstacles. I can better adapt to changing situations. I am more present and appreciative of moments. It is truly about the journey. Enjoy it!