When I was nineteen I went on my first solo backpacking trip to New Zealand. When I say backpacking, I mean that loosely, because I actually packed a huge suitcase. But, I was budget travelling and despite my mother’s suggestions to pack light, I bought a large suitcase. I had convinced myself that I was going to be living in one location and working for six months, then travelling for the last four. So of course I needed lots of clothes for a ten month trip.
I had originally planned this trip with one good friend from high school. We had become quite close after graduating because all of our friends had moved straight to the city to go to University. A month before we left, she started seeing a guy we went to school with. It wasn’t long before she asked the anticipated question, ‘Can he come to New Zealand too?’ Despite more suggestions from family and friends to tell her ‘no’, I didn’t have the heart to do so.
I don’t think I need to go into detail about how that worked out. After one week they told me they wanted to leave. They didn’t only want to leave the hostel we were staying in, they wanted to leave the country. Their flight home was booked for three weeks later and they were going to tour around the North Island until then. I was shocked. At nineteen I was suddenly thrown into travelling alone, and my plan for the next ten months was completely up in the air. At the time it felt like one of the scariest things that had ever happened to me, but quickly I found work in the city of Tauranga, which then gave me the security to make a new plan and re-evaluate the purpose of my trip.
My trip lasted five months. It was filled with trial and error, hard lessons and intense home sickness. All these things may have been difficult, but they gave me perspective. Between these challenging events there were beautiful and memorable moments. I stepped foot on Fox Glacier and had the rare opportunity of seeing Milford Sound on a sunny day. Moments like these were why I didn’t book that flight home until I was running low on funds. They were why I travelled for four of the five months instead of spending most of my time working. Did I see as much as I should have? No. Did I spend most of my money I’d saved for University? Yes. But I learnt that as an adult, you have to get through the hard parts in life to experience the good. Seeing glow worms that looked like a galaxy through the forest, and witnessing penguins on the east coast of the south island were more than just good experiences. They were part of a lesson, and travel had taught me this.
If someone was to ask for advice about their first solo trip, I would probably say ‘don’t do what I did’. Regardless of this, I wouldn’t change a thing. At this point I’ve done three major trips abroad, always coming home in between, and it isn’t going to end there. I’ve checked some incredible destinations off my bucket list and have also gained an intense appreciation for the Rocky Mountains, my home in Canada. For these reasons, I felt like it was high time I started to document my explorations, whether they be at home or abroad. I hope that I can guide others to gain an appreciation and love for exploring, by sharing my stories and advice from my experiences.