Share a story about the furthest you’ve ever traveled from home….
Well that’s an easy one, New Zealand! This was my “Maiden Voyage” all by myself. I was about 31 years old and had just experienced a bunch of crazy tragedies in my life. I was about two years in to being a single mother after having gone through a divorce. Two years prior to this was what I like to refer to as my “Oprah” year! Yes, in one year I went though losing my father( who I loved dearly), my husband decided to fall hopelessly in love with our nanny(insert big eye roll here!), I had just opened a business and purchased a home, whew!. My father had helped me buy the house before his death and my ex-husband had no claims to it so I unexpectedly found myself alone with a huge mortgage, not exactly what I had planned for. Whew! I was holding myself together by a thread. You may be wondering what all this personal drama has to do with traveling solo to New Zealand?
Well, ya see, as I’ve written about in previous posts, I’m an avid collector of other people’s life stories. By that time in my life (and career) I had stood behind that chair combing, cutting, highlighting and blowdrying so many amazing women’s hair, (men too, but right now I’m talking about the women, sorry guys!) , and intently listening to their stories of solo travel. I had met women who had moved to California from other states in the U.S. all by themselves, women who had explored many exotic places…All Alone! Many women sitting in that chair were successful executives for large companies, CEO’s and managers of large groups or they had positions in tech- support or engineers who’s jobs required frequent travel to other parts of the world . These women had done business travel all over the world and often made time to explore on their own after their work obligations were complete. And of course, there were the women who just had a passion for exploring and seeing the world and thought nothing of taking off all by themselves to quench that love of embracing the world. With each story that I heard, something inside me was brewing. Up until then I had never gotten on an airplane alone and the thought of doing that very nearly scared me to death, while simultaneously thrilling me to no end.
I was 31 years old , I had a 5 year old daughter, a big mortgage and I was running a business (not to mention missing my dad everyday, sigh)… I felt as though I had the weight of the world on my shoulders , which was not what I had signed up for! Humph!…. As though I get to actually “Pick” &”Choose” when my dad would die or if my husband would find his “soul mate” in our nanny. No, it turns out, I had to find my own “Power” and in order to do that I first had to find ME. I wanted so badly to be a good role model for my daughter and I wanted to be happy and secure in my own skin..My pity party needed to end! How better to do that then to go on a trip all alone! Hence, New Zealand!
I chose New Zealand simply because I wanted to go on my first solo trip to a place that was safe and the fact that they spoke English was a bonus. So I left my daughter with her Father and her nanny, aka step-mom, (this was actually a great set up because the nanny loved my daughter and I always knew she was safe and well cared for by her new step-mom when I was away…besides I was honest enough with myself to admit that his infidelity happened because we were not happily married, so to this day I have a very friendly relationship with said “nanny” and hold no grudge…although I do get a kick out of a bit of eye-rolling now and then …..Oh and I should mention they have since divorced, of course because “soul mate” number two came along dontchaknow!) Whahahahah! Anywhooo, where was I? Oh, I left my daughter in good hands, and took off for a four week trip backpacking around New Zealand all on my own!! Whooohooo! I may have been skipping onto the airplane! I must admit I was both terrified and more excited than I had ever been in my life.
I had done some (emphasis on ‘some’, not quite enough!) research and had found a tour company that offered a group bus tour, backpacking around with a group and going from Hostel to Hostel . When I arrived in Auckland and made my way to the designated Hostel where I was to meet up with this “group” of travelers, I was met with a dissapointment. It turned out that this (not inexpensive) “tour” consisted of, an old man in a beat up car and me with two guys , one from Chicago and one from the U.K. Hmmmmmm? Luckily I wasn’t the only one of the three of us that felt as though something was terribly wrong! The three of us spent about two days on the phone in the hostel trying to talk to the person in charge at this “tour” company, and sending various faxes and finally managed to get refunds from them. Soooo this solo trip of mine was quickly turning into a VERY SOLO trip! Isn’t it funny sometimes (well, always really!) how the ‘universe” works….I truly believe this was just what I needed. I needed to find my own Power and feel myself making decisions for myself that had nothing to do with anyone else’s agenda, soooo here Ya go!
At the hostel I learned that there was a sort of “back-packers” bus that I could easily buy a ticket for . The ticket gave me the ability to use this bus that went from hostel to hostel all throughout the country for the dates that I specified. I bought a ticket that would last the duration of my trip, four weeks, and off I went , map in hand and I must admit….my heart was beating like crazy! I had no specific plan or destination, only a bus ticket and a map of the country along with a Lonely Planet Guide to New Zealand. Well, talk about an adventure! I soon met so many amazing people from all over the world who where also on their own solo trips. A teacher from England who had taken an entire year off and had purchased an “around the world” airline ticket! I had never in my life heard of such a thing!! I met a guy from Scotland who was just having a post college adventure on his own. A young women from Thailand taking a trip after having served two years in the Peace Corp. And I’ll never forget the guy from China who spoke no English! I ran into him on several occasions as well as many others I would meet at various hostels . He just seemed to laugh a lot as he would tag along on a rafting trip or a hike up a volcano. When I would be on this “back-packers” bus the driver would often announce upon our arrival in a new town, what activities there were and would go so far as to arrange for certain things like sky-diving, rafting, high-speed boat rides, glacier hiking, repelling, caving! The list of activities just never seemed to end! I didn’t hesitate to sign up for whatever happened to hit my fancy in every place I visited. And in the end of my four weeks, I had participated in just about every activity they offered with the acceptation of Bungee jumping!!! No Thank you…I do have my limit!
I was on a mission to find my Power and I gotta tell ya, traveling alone and not having any worries about anyone else’s agenda was pure bliss! Until that trip I had spent so much of my existence trying to cater to what everyone around me wanted and I had somehow began to blend into the scene instead of taking an active role in my life. On this trip I felt myself coming into focus and I was so happy. Yes, this was when I first began to really know Holly. Until this trip I had never had any desire to jump out of an airplane! Nope! That had not occurred to me until the bus driver passed around the clipboard for people who wanted to go sky diving the next day!! #$%@ What the heck! (Big Smile here, as I remember this) There are no words to describe the pure bliss of floating through the air with the crazy beautiful view of the world ! Oh, I loved it! I haven’t done it again, mind you, but it’s a fabulous memory! I think the next activity that I did was my favorite…I went caving , it was a cave that was several stories below the ground, and I actually floated in an inner-tube with a head-lamp on my head and it was pitch black, but the most amazing thing about this excursion was the glow-worms in these caves! I know, ‘worms’ sounds yucky but stay with me now….they had us turn off our headlamps and then all the walls of the caves began to glow! These glowworms just lit up like nothing I’d ever seen, it was spectcular! Just nature at it’s best.
This solo trip to New Zealand will forever hold a special place in my heart. It was a journey of such profound self discovery. I simultaneously discovered a beautiful country and a beautiful me! I had never in my life spent so much time with only my needs to concern myself with and it wasn’t bad. New Zealand is a tiny little country made up of two small islands. If you’r a person who has any interest in nature and in doing things that bring you closer to so much natural beauty you gotta go visit this country. And if you’ve never taken the time to spend a little time with yourself, I highly recommend it. You just might be surprised by who you are and what you are capable of doing and experiencing when you only have you to concern yourself with. I had begun to feel as though I were a victim of my life. I didn’t feel as though I had ‘decided’ to be where I was in my life, only trying to survive what I felt was being handed to me. My solo journey to New Zealand was just the beginning of my acquaintance with this amazing ‘solo’ traveling, sky diving, caving, backpacking woman….Holly. 🙂 And from then onward the clipboard to sign up for activities in my life was in my own hands!