Well, it seems that my jaunt down the east coast is drawing to a close. Once I finish up in North Carolina, I will be heading back to Madison, WI to switch gears for the next 6 months. I’ll be tweaking and repairing my gear, unveiling my new website (the one you are currently seeing), and checking in with friends and family. Most importantly, though, I will be leaving behind Sam, my trusty Honda Element. I will give him a deep clean and then stow him for the winter. Believe me, I am nervous about saying goodbye.
All of this begs the question: what comes next? Well, the reason I am leaving Sam behind and transitioning to life out of a backpack is that I am heading abroad. In mid-November, I will be heading down to the NOLS Mexico branch in Baja for a sea kayaking seminar. The goal is to leave the seminar assessed as a sea kayaking instructor, which would allow me to lead kayaking trips for NOLS in Alaska, Baja, the Pacific Northwest, New Zealand, and a few other spots. To achieve that goal, I need to demonstrate my own skills as a paddler, while hanging out with ten amazing instructors and exploring the coast of Mexico. Bring it on.
After hanging around in Baja for a little while after the seminar, I have an entirely different adventure planned. My mom and I will meet up in LAX on December 15th and jet set off to the other side of the world. Our destination: New Zealand. Somehow, I convinced her that it might be a good place for us to spend the holidays. For me, this trip is yet another dream come true and getting to share that experience with my mom is the icing on the cake.
Ever since Peter Jackson amazed the world with his version of J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Fellowship of the Ring in 2001, I have been obsessed with this island nation. The sweeping vistas of the Southern Alps, the epic coasts of Fiordland, the tropical beaches of Cape Reinga, the volcanic geography of the North Island, and the endless fields of sheep have all captured my imagination on more than one occassion. Now, I finally have the chance to explore this place I have dreamed of for so long. Naturally, I decided to stay for as long as possible. My mom and I will be traveling around in a campervan until mid-January. After she leaves, I will take to the roads and spend the next four months wandering New Zealand. Somedays, that will mean hitchhiking to trailheads and spending the night in backcountry huts. Other days, I may need to work picking tropical fruit to pay for the next day’s adventures. I really have no idea what will come of this trip, but I am incredibly excited to find out.
As I mentioned earlier, I am leaving Sam behind. This is just as terrifying as it is exciting. While Sam made my travels incredibly comfortable, he was also a crutch. When I needed a break or wanted to be alone, I could simply shrink back into my car and spend the day on my computer. In my vehicle, I had all of the comforts of a full home, complete with a gear attic, full wardrobe, and food storage.
When I travel in New Zealand, I will be living out of my backpack, an exercise that will force me to focus even more on efficiency and need. I will be taking only the essential items that I need to travel comfortably, to stay safe remote locations and severe conditions, and to document my experiences. All that has to fit in a 40L backpack with enough room for food. It is going to be a challenge, but it will be exactly the kind of challenge that excites me.
My redesigned website will continue to be the platform through which I share my adventures, although Instagram will also be a way to track my journey visually. I may or may not write as frequently as I did on my National Parks adventure. Hard telling, not knowing. My focus will continue to be on our relationship with wilderness and the cultural elements that strengthen or weaken that relationship. Let’s see what New Zealand has to offer!
Oh. For those of you that were wondering… Yes, New Zealand has a bunch of National Parks; thirteen to be exact. And yes, I will do my best to visit them all!