If there is one thing I’ve learned during my last 2 months travelling the south island of New Zealand it’s the art of letting go.
When I left home 6 months ago, I found myself making another home in Auckland. I landed in the CBD, travelled to Cape Reinga, came back to the city to find a job (which I did, and it was amazing), fell in love with every single person that I had met and considered my friend, and I even found a cute, private flat in the heart of the city. I couldn’t have planned it better myself. I still considered myself a ‘backpacker’ even though I had a closet and wasn’t technically living out of my backpack; and I thought to myself “wow, this travelling thing is a breeze!”
I’ll tell you this with confidence: working abroad is not the same as backpacking. Backpacking is a completely different beast all unto itself. It is stressful, it is tiresome, and it will push you to the limits. The backpacker life will dangle all of your comforts in front of your face and ask you if you are willing to sleep in a $17 dollar tent in the rain, and drink coffee from a soup can because you have $200 to your name, so the $15 you saved on sleeping at a campsite will feed you for the next two days, and the campsite kitchen had no mugs so a soup can it is.
Real talk: backpacking is romanticised in the travel industry. Not knowing where you’re sleeping the next night, alternating between two outfits each week, being looked down upon by locals (yes, this happened in Wanaka…more on that later), and living in a car/tent/8 bed dorm every day takes serious balls (I meant those massage balls because my back is killing me).
So, back to letting go. Having backpacked before, I went in expecting it to not be pretty at times, but that was when I was 19. My 27 year old body (and mind) doesn’t spring back the way I once did and I found myself getting frustrated at myself for not having more energy. So, I let that go. I spent less time worrying about my expectations of how my body and mind should’ve been responding to the extremes of backpacking, and I spent more time listening and responding to what my body was telling me (like, uh, sleeping on a mattress), and because I did so I ended up having more energy to do the things that I love. Riddle me that.
I let go of the expectations that I had for my trip, or rather, how I was going to get to where I wanted to be. I started seeing the rest of the country on a bus tour; I didn’t enjoy it, so I moved on instead of sticking with it because that was the ‘plan’. By doing so, I met more amazing people, was presented with opportunities that I couldn’t of even imagined, and I still saw all of the places I wanted to see. The journey there looked completely different than what I had originally imagined, and there were times where I would become stressed about that, but by letting go of those pre-existing ideas of what my trip was supposed to look like, I was more inline with my intuition, it was easier for me to say goodbye to the areas that I didn’t resonate with, and I was able to be more present in each moment.
By no means am I saying that you shouldn’t have any plans. I had ideas of where I’d like to stay in each location, and if that wasn’t possible, I would find something else. I would book accommodation a few days ahead if I didn’t want to sleep in a tent. I knew which areas I wanted to see ahead of time, and I’d decide how I was getting there a few days before. But, I was more accepting to last minute plans, shifts, and hiccups.
Like I said before, it wasn’t always easy. I’ve cried, I’ve been scared, I’ve been frustrated, I’ve been so hungry, and I’ve been so cold. But, these are all emotions that I’ve felt back home, and they don’t suddenly disappear once you start travelling, as many people will advertise in the glamorised backpacking scene. By letting go of what travel should look like, and how you should look while travelling you’ll carve a unique experience that you can call your own, and it goes without saying; you’ll learn more about yourself than you’ll think was possible.