5,570 Miles From Home

No, I’m not currently in the middle of the ocean, but I do feel like home has moved a little bit closer to Christchurch since the last time we talked.

Maybe it feels like home here because of how much coffee I’ve been drinking… you can take the boy out of Seattle, but you can’t take the Seattle out of the boy. In fact, I have a cup of joe (creative juice) in my hand right now. I wish I were lying when I told you how much of this stuff I’ve been going through… the issue is that the french press I bought is an ENTIRE LITER, and I figure, “Might as well make the whole thing, and drink the whole thing.” I’m going to get stomach ulcers.

In other news, March – what a month! Peaks were reached, rivers were paddled/descended by other means, waves were ridden… I jumped in very cold water, saw some of the bluest water, and sat in some of the naturally warmest water. Hm, water.

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Glacial runoff feeds the Hokitika Gorge. Funnily enough, the water actually tastes like blue Gatorade also if you drink it. (Hokitika Gorge, New Zealand)

Month 2 did honestly did make what was already feeling pretty homely feel even more so. At this point, I’m really settling in with a solid community and I don’t even have to Google Maps my way everywhere anymore – it’s great. The thought of being 2/5 of my way through my time in New Zealand is the worst, so we won’t go there.

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I might be biased, but I think Isthmus Peak is better than Roy’s Peak. Storm clouds sat over this mountain range surrounding Lake Wanaka for the duration of our hike, with dancing light beams painting the slopes… (Isthmus Peak, New Zealand)

Let’s go somewhere else: the brain. One of my favorite things to ask people is, “What have you been thinking about recently?” I don’t know about you, but I know about me, and so I know that I tend to think a lot. Any of those quiet spaces in my brain, when they’re not occupied by school, any task at hand, etc., get filled up by something else. And I reckon this happens for you too. I want to know, what’s going on in that big, beautiful brain of yours? I like knowing this because what you spend your time thinking about inevitably shapes how you’re living life, what you’re feeling, and what you do. The opposite of that is also true: what you do shapes what you’re thinking of. Unless you’re a mindless robot. If you’re keen to know what’s on my mind, here goes:

1. The weather is as unreliable as election polls. It seems like everywhere you go people always say, “The weather is crazy here, so unpredictable. If you don’t like it, wait 5 minutes and you’ll have a new season.” I must say, New Zealand might have the most spotty weather I’ve encountered yet. After weather forecasts spoiled weekend plans multiple times, I set a rule for myself that I would decide on what I wanted to do and go for it regardless of the forecast. Too many times I called a trip off on account of the weather, only to be greeted (somewhat to my pleasure) by a bluebird day. No more! If you always wait for good weather, you’ll never do half of the things you want to. Is that a metaphor for life? It could be. Come sun or storms, forget about the weather – that’s a fine way to live.

2. Accept the fact that people you meet in passing might be just that. That can be a difficult thing to accept. How do you know when a friendly face on the trail might be one actually worth keeping around? The worst is when you realize that a person actually is after they’re gone. It’s like when you’re trying to think of that catchy song you heard but you just can’t remember the lyrics, and so can’t look it up. You’ve met a cool person, but perhaps they were just meant to be around for that moment. This juxtaposes the next point:

3. It’s easier to be a passer through than a builder of something real and lasting. It’s one thing to go to a place and gain from it, but it’s a whole other thing to go to a place and leave it better than you found it. Environmentally and socially – how can you leave your thumbprint somewhere in a way that benefits people’s lives? I don’t think this has to be done every time you travel, and I’m certainly not saying that I do this or even know how to… But it is something to consider.

4. Priorities shift. Going into an experience such as traveling abroad you form a perception of what it’s going to be like, and boy it can be wrong. Things change as you realize that maybe what you thought you would focus on/accomplish during your stay becomes less important once your boots are on the ground. I believe this to be totally okay. Prior to coming to New Zealand I thought it would be a good to idea focus on photography, and to reach out to some companies for gear sponsorship and perhaps write stories for publications. Gradually, though, my desires shifted from wanting to be on the job to wanting to be fully in the moment. I just want to live and experience this place and not necessarily be responsible to sharing it. Woo!

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A fisherman who is vibin’. Not only can he catch fish, but can you show you how to use the bar jukebox. (Kaikoura, New Zealand)

Sweet as – got that all finished. Here are some favorites from the past month:

Favorite Thing I Done Seen:

Last weekend’s trip to Wanaka and Mount Aspiring National Park could not have gone better. Day one: Isthmus Peak and the best views of the lake valleys. Ice cream. Day two: pies and backpacking into Brewster Hut (pictured). Cozy hut, great travelers, adopting British friend from Day One. Best light I’ve seen in New Zealand, a cloudless night sky for stargazing. Day Three: Climb up Armstrong peak for sunrise, pies, Hamilton soundtrack. Ice cream.

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All photos taken at Brewster Hut, Mount Aspiring National Park, New Zealand.

Favorite Thing I Done Ate:

Pies. Piiies. PIES. Pies bring out Jack’s crazy eyes. Bacon and egg has to be my favorite. Why are pies not a thing in the States?

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So good we had to go back twice. (The Bakery, Wanaka, New Zealand)

Favorite Adventure I Done Did:

Out of all the adventures from last month, my favorite one has to be a simple day surfing. Three mates and I hit the beach on a sunny afternoon and got so pitted. The feeling of catching a wave and riding it until it can be ridden no more…few things compare.

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A surfer makes a nice turn at sunrise. (New Brighton, New Zealand)

Favorite Theme Song I Done Listened to a Bunch: 

waves – Tame Impala Remix, by Miguel and Tame Impala

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(Hokitika, New Zealand)

Favorite Sport I Done Photographed for the First Time: 

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Harrison is badass. His bike can’t even pedal right now and he pulls this off. (Port Hills, New Zealand)

Favorite Thing We Done Repelled: 

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I forgot the name of the canyon. And I almost forgot my own name when I jumped into the cold gorge water. Canyoning: a great way to feel alive. (Canterbury, New Zealand)

Favorite Lake I Done Seen From Above:

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A sliver of Lake Hawea and the surrounding mountains. These rocky slopes actually come straight out of the deep blue water. (Isthmus Peak, New Zealand)

Favorite Bird That Done Took Flight Near Me/Best Animals: 

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I don’t know which bird this is but it’s sure beautiful, and very playful. (Mount Aspiring National Park, New Zealand)
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It’s tough being a seal. Sometimes you have to take the afternoon off and catch a good nap. **NOT A DEAD SEAL** (Kaikoura, New Zealand)

Favorite Moment That Done Looks Sad But Was Actually Great: 

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Hamish and Saskia are cooking up something mean at the Welcome Flat Hut. Best dessert: sitting in a natural hot spring with light rain falling on your shoulders after a 6.5 hour hike… (Westland Tai Poutini National Park, New Zealand)

Favorite Plant (Done): 

FERNS. They are by far my favorite plant on Earth.

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(Westland Tai Poutini National Park, New Zealand)

Other Done Stuff: 

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Zero to Hero kayaking trip on the Hurunui River made a man out of me. Still more zero than hero, though. (Hurunui River, New Zealand)
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A boat and a good view. Who wouldn’t want to be a fisherman here? If you get bored dolphins and whales will come keep you company. (Kaikoura, New Zealand)

And there you have it folks: Month Two.

Last weekend a group of friends and I went tramping around Lake Wanaka and Mount Aspiring National Park – it was incredible.  Whenever we were hiking up some steep slope and becoming quite tired towards the top somebody was bound to ask, “How close do you think we are?” To which my friend Carolien would faithfully respond, every time, with: “We’re closer than we’ve ever been before!”

I found that to be an awesome, simple truth: putting one foot in front of the other will sure enough get you where you need to be.

We’re closer than we’ve ever been before. 

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The face behind the wisdom, Carolien. (Isthmus Peak, New Zealand)
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