Hello from New Zealand! I am now over 3 months into my year of deviation. I’m a little late with this post because I was on a 2-day overnight hike up a mountain in New Zealand. Here's a little sneak peek, but there'll be much more on this in a future post! ;)
I know I keep saying it in these updates, but traveling for this long has a funny way of feeling like time flies by and slows down all at once. It’s gone so fast and yet feels like a year has already passed! Countless times I have lost track of the day of the week or date in the month. Just a few days ago, I wrote my next post about my remaining experiences on Ko Toa in Thailand. I woke up the next day and realized, “Whoa, tomorrow is already December 1! Time for an update!” And so I wrote that, too. But then it took 3 days to be around WiFi to post—hence the tardiness.
I originally wrote this update from a campsite next to a beach on the eastern shore of the north island in New Zealand. I landed in Wellington from Bangkok almost two weeks ago and have already done so much since I’ve gotten here. I have loads to write about. I cannot wait to share it all!
So what have I been up to this last month?
- I received a zombie makeover at a cosmetics shop in Chiang Mai for Halloween
- I rode a motorbike for the first time
- I listened to monks chant at sunset at the famous Doi Suthep temple
- I talked to a young monk about his day-to-day life at Chedi Paeng
- I ate pig’s blood, cat, and other non-Westernized local Thai cuisine
- I participated in the Yi Peng and Loy Krathong festivals in Chiang Mai
- I browsed and bought gifts at multiple Chiang Mai markets
- I visited the Royal Park botanical gardens outside Chiang Mai
- I laughed and partied with local Thai people for a week in Pai
- I explored the area surrounding Pai with a Thai local by motorbike
- I watched sunsets overlooking a canyon and from a mountain next to a White Buddha
- I swam in a multi-tiered waterfall looking out over Thailand’s northern mountains
- I posed for photographs with a rice farmer on the side of the road
- I got sick from eating cooked grasshopper, caterpillar, and worms
- I bicycled the ancient ruins in Sokhothai
- I drank a whiskey and nibbled sashimi on a rooftop 63 stories high in Bangkok
- I flew into Wellington New Zealand and discovered how it got its nickname “Windy Welly”
- I pretended to be a hobbit in some of the film locations from LOTR
- I joined a German traveler on a 15-day road trip up North toward Auckland
- I hiked beautiful New Zealand hillsides dotted with sheep—and lots of sheep poop
- I camped next to farms, the beach, mountains, and rivers in the North Island of New Zealand
- I tried sea urchin, sea snail, and fished from the beach in Napier
- I attempted and failed at free diving, but got a fun boat ride out of the experience
- I trekked the Tongariro Northern Circuit in 2 days and camped overnight in the shadow of “Mt. Doom”
I had to struggle to keep this list to a minimum. That’s a first! Perhaps it’s because I have not written about any of this yet! Yes, I am officially in one month of backlog describing my adventures. Finding the time and opportunity to use WiFi in New Zealand has been an issue. Since I’ve been camping everywhere and basically living out of a car for over a week, writing and using the internet have become lower on my list of priorities. I’d say I was sorry about this—but it’s felt good to disconnect a bit.
As you see in the above list, I got a little sicky in Thailand. I’ll write more details on this later, but my sickness was entirely the result of being an adventurous eater. Thanks to a Thai doctor, a local Thai friend, and the owner of the guesthouse all taking excellent care of me, I recovered fairly quickly.
My brain is probably in the best place it possibly could be. Yes, my nails are still long. But more importantly, I am so carefree and stress-free. I’m really finding the travel lifestyle suits me in more ways than I ever imagined. I think about my life as a graduate student and cannot believe the pressure I was constantly under. But without those 6 years of intense work, I probably wouldn’t be taking a trip like this one. And this is the best thing I’ve ever done in my entire life.
Travel was the perfect decision, even if unpopular for a new PhD. I have every experience in my life before this trip to thank because all of it led me to the decision to deviate the norm for a year. I have had the chance to reflect on all my previous experiences, what I am feeling now, and how I may find balance between work and travel in the future. It’s a great location in which to be, mentally.
And now for an update to my items lost/left behind chart:
In the last month, I only had something stolen from me rather than losing items or leaving them behind. Well, "stolen" is a bit of a harsh way to describe what happened...
It’s customary to leave your shoes outside the door in many establishments across Thailand. I never had a problem doing this until at a bar in Pai, a drunk Westerner mistook my black flip flops for her black flip flops and stumbled home with them. I didn’t notice until later in the night. This was rather annoying considering good flip flops worthy of year-long travel are hard to come by and tendonitis in my feet dictates the need for some seriously comfy flippy-floppies. I avoided the street sales and waited to get a higher quality pair from a Thai mall in Chiang Mai. Thai malls are epically big and luxurious, by the way. It was like being at a mall in Silicon Valley—or better. I got a pair by K-Swiss for less than $8 USD and they’ve pretty much been better than my $9.99 Airwalks anyway! So thanks, drunk girl!
Other than that, I didn’t lose anything in the last month! In fact, I gained a few items through things left behind by other travelers: a phone charger (that works with my solar-powered charger), a small bottle of shampoo (from a Wellington hostel), and a pair of lightweight leggings (from the same hostel!).
I also bought some hiking boots in New Zealand to prepare for all the mountain trekking I’d be doing and I acquired a bunch of camping necessities I am sharing with my German travel buddy for now (most I will not keep).
The month ahead
I consider it rather amazing I’ve only seen Christmas decorations once this season. It was in a pharmacy, the only store I’ve been in since arriving back in Western civilization. I absolutely take some sort of pride in avoiding the holiday frenzy since I’ve always pretty much loathed the consumerism aspect of this time of year. Otherwise, I don’t mind the holiday, especially the family and food part. For instance, I definitely feel like I missed out on mom’s home cooking for Thanksgiving last week—but she’s already promised me a Thanksgiving meal when I come home! That almost makes me want to come home early—almost.
Since I am traveling mostly by car and my accommodation is mostly campsites in the next few weeks, my posts are inevitably going to be a bit fewer and farther between. I am super excited, though—my best friend is going to be joining me for a 10-day road trip from Auckland back to Wellington. We’re packing the schedule with daily adventures! So as soon as the holidays hit and the New Year arrives, I’ll be squatting in a few places writing like a fiend to tell you all about it! Be prepared for daily posts starting just before Christmas!
Until then, keep enjoying my posts about Thailand and have a very happy holiday and new year filled with warmth and cheer!