It has been nearly a year since I last spoke of my travels. During that time, I don’t want to say that a lot has happened (though it did) but I will say that there were some major developments.
Last January, I found myself in Australia and New Zealand with my cousins. I wrote about my time in Sydney but not much about what came after and what came after was the most important part.
I met up with my cousins in s a place called Surfer’s Paradise which looks remarkably like Florida complete with peach colored high rise condos and beautiful beaches filled with bathing suits and flip flops. The weather was sunny and hot and being with my cousins gave me a lot of warmth and comfort.
It was here that I realized that I wanted to leave Japan and separate myself from it for a bit. Toying with this realization, we started on the next part of our journey: New Zealand.
I think during this time, it was rather difficult for me to appreciate everything I saw and did in New Zealand but I do remember this: despite my sad state of mind, this was still the most beautiful country I had ever seen.
I guess to have you understand just how beautiful it was, I need to explain something else first. My sad state of mind came from months of wondering how I was making a difference in Japan. I was starting to see my job as useless. I felt like the education system in Japan wasn’t supporting the struggles that English teachers faced. I felt my assertiveness and passion slipping away, nailed down like the proverb that gets repeated so much when talking about Japan. I was bound by obligation. Stifled by it. I was losing my creativity and needed to reconnect with myself and my own desires.
My mind was consumed by these thoughts. So much so that I found it hard to recognize the beauty that was all around me at the time but looking back, I realize some of what I may have missed.
New Zealand was that beautiful. The majestic walls of rock and the snow capped mountains. The beautiful lakes and roads snaking from the top of valleys to the bottom. The quaint architecture of an old gold rush town. It truly was like Middle Earth.
New Zealand stands for “the land of the long white clouds.” The clouds stretch far and long across the ever blue sky. The sun heats your skin despite the chill that is ever present when that close to the South Pole (I’m from Florida, ok?). The air is crisp and clear with nothing but nature and sheep to surround you.
This was how we traveled from Christchurch to Queenstown, surrounded by the spacious beauty of land hardly touched by construction. It was peaceful and calming. It was relaxed and simple.
We visited a relative’s sheep farm spanning as far as the eye could see. Thousands of sheared sheep roamed the lands. The new sheep dogs were undergoing their training, led by the older pack. They rounded up the sheep for feeding and nipped at each other as they played.
It was the first time I could appreciate the kind of work that goes into a farm. We continued our journey through mountains and came upon Arrowtown, an old mining town where the buildings are much the same as they were back in the late 1800’s. There is only one major road where all the shops are located and home to only 2000 or so residents.
Passing the old style candy shop and local inn, the road leads out towards Queenstown, a popular tourist destination where you can participate in all kinds of activities like parasailing, boating, and, my personal favorite, bungee jumping.
Queenstown was vibrant, modern, and young. You could see franchise restaurants and banks nearby. The lakeside was rich with hotels. It was here that I struck off on my own again, interacting with other travelers and signing up for the bungee and luge at Bob’s Peak.
Here, it is common to take a gondola up the mountain side where you can see the lake and town fading below. At the top, there is a luge. It is basically sledding on asphalt. You have a plastic contraption with a handle bar that you either pull towards you to stop, effectively lifting up the front end or push away from you to speed up.
Along with the luge, there is also a ledge bungee which I had previously told a friend of mine that I would do. I was a bit nervous but mostly excited. I kept talking throughout the set up. I made sure to bend my knees so that they wouldn’t lock up when I got to the ledge. I smiled to the camera. The worker counted down.
I took a deep breath.
I bent my legs.
I stared straight ahead.
I lifted my legs for the first step.
I ran off the ledge.
It was the weirdest sensation. Your legs suddenly have nothing beneath them and your body slowly begins to tilt. Your field of vision is starting to turn towards the ground. Down, down, down and you’re flying.
Now I am careful here with my word choice. I could have said falling but I felt that falling has a bit of a scary element to it. But this, this wasn’t necessarily scary for me. It was beautiful. I felt the wind rushing through my hair and cooling my face. The lake and town looked beautiful from above as you traveled closer and closer and….
Then it was over.
After the jump was finished, I hopped on a plane to Auckland. I enjoyed fish and chips and burritos and walked to the site of a dormant volcano. Last but not least, I visited Hobbiton where I enjoyed a craft beer brewed only at the Green Dragon Inn.
When I boarded the plane from Auckland back to Japan, I was starting to feel more like myself. I felt more alive. I felt resolved. I decided that I would leave Japan in 2015 and go back to America.
Fast forward through February (finishing up classes, thanking teachers), March (packing up my apartment, moving out), April (saying goodbye to my friends in Japan), May (exploring San Francisco for job opportunities), June (resume updates and part time work), July (part time work and interviews), August (interviews and translation work), September (new job in Washington, D.C.), October (understanding my job duties), November (establishing a routine), and finally December (realizing a year has almost passed since New Zealand).
So why is it that I had a revival of interest in New Zealand?
Well, my cousin with whom I traveled to New Zealand with, will be getting married in New Zealand in a few months.