A week ago, I got off a plane from New Zealand, after spending three weeks backpacking around the country.
Before you ask how this has anything to do with writing, or if I just want to brag about finally leaving my country, technically any changing experience is relevant to my writing, especially since most of my arguably best writing is about powerful personal experiences. There, justification made, let’s talk about travel.
The most valuable thing I learned in New Zealand (which I hope doesn’t fade from mind over the months back home) is that people can be trusted. So many warnings from friends and family before I left for my first overseas trip were to be careful. This isn’t unusual, being that I live in a society where every walk home at night is a threat to my personal safety. But I took heed of their warnings with a touch of resignation, as their advised safety restrictions closed away opportunities for risk or excitement.
Ultimately, I weighed up opportunity against chance, and I did take risks. I hitchhiked, I slept in a rental car on a lakeshore, accepted offers of meals and beds to sleep in, went swimming in hot pools with foreign men, and many other things that made my mother wince when I recounted them safely at home. I was rewarded for my risk-taking not only with free food and lifts, but with experience. I met more kiwis and travellers than I ever would have by travelling ‘safely’, I learned about less-visited towns and explored quiet lakes, and learned how to navigate a strange country without always googling the answer.
We live in suspicious times, but I was fortunate enough to learn that people won’t always disappoint you. Sometimes people will go out of their way to help a stranger, for no reason other than that they wanted to help.
Of course, I wasn’t always meeting new people or hiking up and down mountains. I both read and wrote during my travels, though neither as much as I would have liked. I took with me a hardback copy of The Hobbit (because of course I did), and a journal. I haven’t tried to journal since I was nine years old and bored myself with the recounting of my school days. When you spend every lunchtime reading your way through the library, there isn’t very much to remember.
But knowing that I should make an effort to write when I had taken three weeks off from normal life, I dutifully took my blue journal that someone gave me a few years ago (I have a shameful stack of blank gifted journals, too lovely for my absent scrawlings). With the exception of an unexpected song and a short poem, only time will tell if my journalling was in any way useful to my future writing.
Coming back to The Hobbit for a moment, as a Tolkien fan, I couldn’t help but appreciate why the Lord of the Rings films were shot in New Zealand, and wonder if perhaps J.R.R. Tolkien could have possibly taken a secret trip there before he started writing his masterpiece. As an Aussie who has spent her life on the coast, I was in a state of constant open-mouthed wonder on both islands of NZ, as I took in towering mountains topped with snow, misty glaciers, fiords, boiling thermal pools, and rolling green hills.
It’s a country that inspires not only trust, but an appreciation for the terrifying power of nature. I am fortunate to have been able to spend time there, and I’m excited beyond words for my future adventures, and the stories I’ll bring back with me.