I recently had a little bit of an internal battle. Nothing serious, but a situation that left me perplexed, that made me question myself, who I am and what I believe in as a traveler.
I had a plan. A very vague one, but one that had me crossing the Cook Strait to Wellington, spending a few days there seeing the city and making a mad quick trip up to Auckland to see Frank Turner, then spending the next couple of weeks seeing various parts of the North Island before arriving at my current house sitting job on the Coromandel Peninsula.
But then I met a boy.
He was at the Frank Turner show in Wellington, he was cute and sweet and we ended up spending all night sitting in a café and then a Turkish kebab shop eating baklava and drinking apple tea and talking until morning, when he finally walked me back to my hostel.
Just a few hours later he was texting me, offering to take me out for breakfast. We spent the day together, wandering the city, driving around the southern bays, and racing ziplines in a park. We went to a stand-up comedy show and finished up, exhausted, with dinner in a cheap Asian diner.
We spent the next couple of days out at Cape Palliser, walking to the Pinnacles, climbing the steps to the lighthouse and sampling the amazing food at the Lake Ferry Hotel (I highly recommend the sticky date pudding!).
I still had more to see in the city so I went to stay at his place, and a few days turned into a week, then more.
I was having a great time with him, but there was a lot of waiting around. He had things to do, and we’d make plans but then his commitments would get in the way and we’d end up not leaving the house until 2, 3, or even 4 o’clock. On sunny days in particular I sometimes felt like I was wasting my time there, when I could be out in that sunshine doing other things.
The problem was that my feet were getting itchy. I knew I had plenty to see on this island that I hadn’t gotten to yet, and by staying in Wellington I might miss my chance to get to those places.
He was planning to come with me when I left, to travel up in the direction of Taranaki together, but a Monday departure that was already more than a week after we’d met turned into Tuesday, then Wednesday, then Friday.
I tried telling myself that I am a slow traveler, so this is how it should be. I was getting to know this city that so many people had told me was a really cool place. By staying with him I was getting insight into Kiwi life that I wouldn’t otherwise. All of this was actually true, but my inner self was not really buying it.
But I liked him. We had laughs and cuddles and he showed me many of his favourite spots and some very special experiences in the city. We went to the beach and the top of Mt. Victoria and up the cable car to the botanic gardens. We visited the museum and saw comedy shows. We went to a wildlife reserve to look for birds and to a beautiful cemetery nearby. We played pool and Metallica pinball. I was having a great time.
So I waited, and finally we left. By this time I had only a week on the road until I needed to be at my next house sit, and having felt every delay I was anxious to be moving. I couldn’t just relax.
We gradually went north, taking our time. We drove the Wanganui river road, searching for elusive wood pigeons and looking at marae. We spent whole afternoons in parks, on beaches, wandering, watching the ducks and looking for treasures, and every time I’d spend most of the day enjoying myself but by sunset I’d end up grumpy at the fact that we hadn’t gotten anywhere.
But then we’d end up cozying up in my tent, talking and giggling and playing iPad pinball. And it was all very good.
We finally made it to Taranaki, just in time to have an hour’s good look at the mountain before the clouds came over the top in a wave, hiding it for the rest of our visit. It was stunning to see and I was happy to have gotten the chance, but again, I was a bit cranky about it. I wanted sunshine and great views and time. Time to wait out the rain and to see the mountain in different light, from different angles, without it being half covered in cloud as it was for that single hour I had.
We went searching for hawks (actually, I think Swamp Harriers), and when he saw one swooping into a field I’d stop the car and he’d take off after it, me laughing at him jumping fences and tearing through fields in search of that great bird of prey photo that was impossible to get.
We spent more time on beaches and coastal lookouts, because the mountain was no good in the rain. And while I really love a good beach, I was struggling. I’ve seen plenty of beaches here and would still end up grumpy at the fact that I was seeing more of them and less of the rest of the country.
I told myself to chill out, relax and appreciate where I was. And I did. Sometimes.
Meanwhile, he was having a great time. I loved seeing him discovering his country’s beauty, being thrilled by its stunning coastline and incredibly kind and generous people. But I think he got annoyed at my grumpiness, my inability to just go with the flow and enjoy the place. Heck, even I was annoyed with myself!
So what was my problem? I’m supposed to be a slow traveler, right? I like to be unhurried, and I get pleasure from such things as sitting in parks and on beaches and watching the birds. I know I don’t have time to see everywhere in this country, but I want to take my time in the parts I do see, which is exactly what we were doing. So why was I getting so agitated? Why was I in such a rush?
Maybe it was the lack of freedom, the fact that I usually travel alone and do whatever I want, and suddenly with him the trip was not just about me. But this is worrisome. Have I really become so independent, so ingrained in my solo traveling ways, that I am unable to really enjoy a trip with someone else, even someone I really like?
It was also about time, for sure, in the sense that I had a deadline of getting to the Coromandel. I was looking forward to it, and I’m glad I’m here now, but it was restrictive and as with any travel that has an end date, there just wasn’t enough time. That always frustrates me.
And while I did feel that I spent a lot of time waiting around for him both in Wellington and on our trip, that wasn’t always his fault. Those days I was in the city I wasn’t trapped, and I could have left at any time or just gone out on my own and had him catch up with me later. But I wanted to spend time with him. It has been a very, very long time since I have actually really liked a guy, had him like me back, AND had us both in the same place for any length of time. Those three key factors just about never happen at the same time for me, and I wanted to take advantage of it.
Another issue was simply the rain and generally gloomy weather we often had. I’m always amazed at how much the weather affects my mood, and New Zealand is such an outdoorsy kind of place that a rainy day can really put a stop to my plans. Plus, it stops me seeing the spectacular scenery!
So where does that leave me? I’ve always considered myself to be a ‘slow’ traveler. I don’t want to rush through things and I was glad to get to know Wellington a bit but was still agitated at all the delays. The three nights we spent in Wanganui is not at all out of line with what I would normally do, but I got annoyed with it anyway. An entire day spent exploring a beautiful beach in South Taranaki left me angry. If all this bothered me so much, how can I call myself a slow traveler?
I don’t have an answer. I think I surprised even myself with my feelings about all of it. I was with a great guy who I really liked, having lots of fun, exploring beautiful places. It should have been sheer magic. If you’d told me about it before I went I would have said it sounded awesome. And now, looking back at it only a week and a half later, the annoyance is fading and I can see that it was magic. That’s not to say I wouldn’t react the same way again, but yeesh. Chill out Jenny.
So to that guy, if you’re reading this, sorry for being such a grump. I’ll try to be better next time.