Well time didn’t stop. I was convinced, and I mean convinced the world was just going to pause. I don’t know where this idea came from but whenever the planning became too stressful I just had this idea that time would stop and I didn’t have to worry. Everything would stop moving foreword and I’d just freeze. After all the waiting and anticipation for this trip I thought that when I stepped onto my 12 hour flight to New Zealand time would freeze. I don’t know if this feeling was in desperation, or if it was hopeful, anticipatory, or fully my nerves talking. But no matter what time kept crawling and escaping through my fingertips like sand I couldn’t catch it for a second. And now I’m here. Time didn’t stop, so I went on the plane and kept moving foreword.
It all hit me as I walked into the International Departures section of the San Francisco airport, I was too tired to have any sort of realization as I arrived to Auckland. Escalator after escalator, long hallways after another, empty walls and neon signs above lead me to International Departures. This was suddenly not part of my routine, flying home for holidays or to see friends. Now my rude, obnoxious, exuberant Americans were gone. I sat at my gate that was filled with accents, different clothes and smiles and I looked at my clock to see I had two hours, I panicked, then settled down by consoling myself with the idea that time will stop. The weeks of waiting to leave turned quickly into days and quicker into hours, minutes, seconds. Time kept moving foreword and I kept stepping on my flights, buses and ferries habitually; traveling in a mindless mode where I follow the correct signs to different areas, sit, wait, stand, sit. Waiting for time to stop, but here I am. The dream has become a reality. A very real reality with actual planning a bus scheduling and lodging plans.
I keep laughing at myself because the stress that consumes me right now is trying to make sure I don’t miss anything. Not that I’ll forget anything, which if you know me I probably should be worried about that, but no I’m worried about missing a view. I look at my wide spread, water proof, National Geographic map and ambushed with stress, my eyes are too big. I don’t want to miss a single waterfall, hike, mountain, river or friendly face; this is a stress I can handle. The stress of connecting every town and river with pen over in such a chaotic nonsensical fashion that only I would be able to translate it. It’s been weird talking myself down from this stress, Emma it’s okay if you can’t get up there, you might not go everywhere. The other half of me sees no excuse to miss one single thing. Overtime they will neutralize, I just have to remind myself to keep my life in perspective. It’s easy to think little things are big things but rarely little things matter and big things rarely matter too. It’s all perspective.
Another obstacle came into my life which has resulted in me being stressed a little but more of a real obstacle. I am no longer bike touring New Zealand. I have dropped my purpose. This trip is no longer driven by one activity. Baby Blue (my bicycle) is old and was bound to break on this trip, and she was chaotic to travel with, I can’t imagine me carrying her box around all of Auckland today hopping on buses and ferries, but I do miss my companion already. Now in the absence of Baby Blue I realize, no matter how silly it sounds, that biking with Baby Blue meant I’d have a friend the whole way, a boulder in my dust storm. My reason for doing this trip, the clear goal, with clear destinations and routes is gone. My friend gone. Now I have my sneakers, backpack and my legs to take me far. Whenever I’ve traveled in the past it’s been for a reason, to see my family, to climb, a program, but now I’m traveling just for me and just with me. I have no climbing destinations to guide me, no school program to follow, no family to visit and no clear bike touring route to go on. I’m going to get to know the sound of my heart very well since that’s all I have to guide me everyday, that’s the trip.
I’m not totally unprepared, though. I grew up in the mountains with parents who rescued many mangled bodies from the White Mountains, traveled along side strong women in Nepal who taught me the importance of traveling alone as well as the challenges and obstacles of traveling alone as a woman. My mind is aware, in the back corner of my brain I have a bank of preparedness. That bank of information is the only reason why I feel comfortable going into such adventure. But maybe I’m just trying to convince myself, like writing it all out in words creates a contract with the universe: safe travels. Hopefully the universe will hold up to its end of this unofficial contract. I already tested the contract today, on my big journey to this side of the world. Arriving in Auckland before the sun rose, finding a bus to connect me to a ferry that had multiple stops, finding my friend at the ferry terminal, with no phone. She said she’d ask her mum to get me from the airport but I adamantly said no, not only because she is housing me already but I also wanted my travel to begin. I was like a kid getting on the school bus on the first day of school, wide eyed, words and sentences rushing throw my head.
Through my moments of panic and content I have had a fellow spontaneous adventurer’s words echoing through my head. Helping me through some realizations that I’ve had like the fact that I am a days travel away from home, that I have few plans, that I wish I had my bike, has been reading about another women’s unplanned trip, hers on the PCT and resulted in a book call Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I refused to read this book for a long time due to my hipster view towards literature; it had become too popular and mainstream, but this book is great. I’m not alone! The first page desrcibes all the feels
at long last, there was the actual doing it, quickly followed by the grim realization if what it meant to do it, followed by the descision to quit doing it because doing it was absurd and pointless and ridiculously difficult and far more than I expected doing it would be and I was profoundly unprepared. And then there was the real live truly doing it.
She’s got it. It’s scary, thrilling, unimaginable, exciting, all at the same beautiful hideous moment.
The stress will dissolve and other stressors will bubble up, I’ll get lost and then found, I’ll have long days and nights and weeks that will fly by, and I’ll be here.