“Good for you, all the best”, I’m told. “I’m so jealous”, they say. The message in general is positive. “You’re so brave, I could never do that”, is the one that leaves the mark. I think to myself, I’m not brave but I am doing it. I have always denied the courage it takes to change. What comes next is usually “what’s the plan?”, or “what are you going to do for work?”. How to answer that? The only plan I have is to avoid getting a job for as long as possible. All I have ahead of me is five nights in a hostel. There are days when I think maybe I don’t know what I’m doing after all.
No plan. How do you pack for that? I was desperate to reduce my life to only the essential. Previously an easy task, when I’ve had a time limit of three weeks and an itinerary covering every day. With everything packed into two bags I found myself a long way from essential. Clothes to live in, a laptop, a tent. Everything I thought I might need for two years of adventure in one country. If I find myself doing any serious tramping, I’m going to need somewhere to store half of it. If I end up working, I won’t have enough socks for the week. Everything else has gone. I started months ago, bagging up clothes I’ve never worn. I threw out boxes of university notes I haven’t looked at in ten years. Kitchen appliances never used were cast out. I thought it would be easy to donate the furniture to charity. Most of them offered a collection service but none of them were able to deliver. During my final week I sold a chest of drawers, a book case, a TV stand for a token price. I gave away a sofa, a dining room table and my own bed to anyone who would remove it from my life.
All that remains is in the two bags I carried to the airport. One of them will stay with me the whole way. The other I hope arrives in Auckland at the same time I do. I watch a green line snake across the planet on the screen built into the back of seat. I’m getting closer to the furthest from home I’ve ever been. 24 hours. 18,000 kilometres. 12 time zones. I slept, stealing half an hour here, an hour there. Ambient sounds flowing through my headphones, something to drown out the noise of the cabin, the roar of the engines. I wake up to find two different times, the distance between them stretching further apart. No routine, nowhere to go, not enough water. I’ll be glad to get off the plane, but not for long. As the first pressure point comes to an end, so another begins.
Upon arrival there is still some structure, a little order. Join a queue, present your documents, join another queue, present your equipment to the nice lady at the biosecurity lab. Retrieve your equipment. Get on a bus, find your hostel, don’t get into your bed. Do not go to sleep. Not yet. I despair briefly at the lack of bottom bunks. The top bunk no longer holds excitement. Too close to the ceiling, a ladder’s length from the floor. A bed is a bed. The fatigue rushes in, bringing with it the first waves of existential dread. What have I done? No plan, no idea, nothing with me but what I’ve locked away in a box on this hostel bedroom floor. To beat it; make a plan for the next minute, the next hour. This is life now, moment to moment. The fear is one of change. How to live differently now that the routine of a normal, ordinary life is gone? There is no longer anything to get up for, instead I can get up for anything. The important thing I am trying to remember is not to rush. This is day one, two, three of up to 700. These first few days are about adjusting, adopting the new times to eat, to sleep. Figuring out exactly what it is I’m doing here can happen, will happen, does happen in its own time.