Finding Direction

I have an easy couple mornings for a change. Kurt and Monica’s home is comfortable. They left for a music festival in Takaka the day before and let me stay the extra night. I thanked them profusely and left them one of the bottles of wine I acquired in Blenheim. I want to head to Abel Tasman or one of the other national parks around here, but the bad weather has chased me from the North Island. It is clear today, but it is going to rain again soon. I spend a pleasant morning wandering Nelson for a bit deciding where to go next. Nelson is quiet for a Sunday morning. A couple local markets highlight the weekend day. The main strip has a few stores that are interesting, but the common practice of stores being closed often prevents most of my shopping. I suppose I am used to American stores, but it is rare to find stores open for long on Sundays, if at all. Even during the week stores close surprisingly early, most only open till five or six. I wonder when people who work do their shopping.

I wander through the rest of the main strip of Nelson looking for a good spot for lunch. Nothing catches my eye, and I instead find myself sitting in the church in Nelson. A set of stone steps led up the hill at the end of the main street to the church. I have no particular affinity for religion, but churches draw me in. They offer silence and stillness. It is easy to organize your thoughts without distraction here. I lay my head down while sitting in one of the pews.

“Are you alright?” a woman asks, gently waking me. I had not intended to fall asleep. I am confused at first from waking up and it takes me a while to realize she is asking after my wellbeing. The concern in her eyes is heartwarming. I assure her I am fine and I was only tired. I thank her and she smiles and moves on. The nap was refreshing and I am ready to leave Nelson.

Lacking any figurative direction, I simply pick a literal direction, north. There are a few campsites on the way towards Cape Farewell, the northernmost point of the South Island, and it is the only thing around I can do with one day of good weather. Cape Farewell lookout provides a view across the green hills leading to the long beach that extends into the water. It took a few hours to get here, giving me more time to think. I checked out a few campsites along the way but they were rough and unwelcoming. I sit on the lonely bench atop the hill considering. The paid campsites around are more expensive than I prefer. Without any campsites close by to Cape Farewell and already being at the northern tip of the island, I am forced to backtrack to one of the free campsites.

An hour later I am sitting outside my car in the fading light, soup and bread in hand. Despite the warm weather, I am wearing pants and a sweatshirt to reduce my exposure to the sandflies. The camp being by a river makes for plenty of the annoying creatures. I have had a lot of time to think today. I spent a long time driving by myself with only my thoughts. And this evening at the campsite I have done little else but think. I contemplate where I am.

I cannot identify a specific moment or point in time when I realized I wanted to live abroad. I eventually realized I had spent the entirety of my life in a small corner of the earth. I wanted to experience other cultures, a way of life different than my own. I began to travel last year to satiate my wanderlust. But taking short vacations to other countries was satisfying my desire to see other places, not to experience the other cultures to the depth I desired. I decided I needed to do more. It was time for me to stop making vague noises about wanting to live in another country and work towards it. New Zealand was the path I found.

My goals were loose and vaguely defined. But I was filled with purpose. Experience a different life, see the beautiful countryside of New Zealand. Find some solitude. Do not get tied down with a plan. Read, write, think, learn. It took me two months to realize I was making some mistakes in my approach.

When I first came here and was staying in Auckland, I was trying to buy a car, figuring out my bank account and New Zealand tax information. I was meeting new people at the hostel. My day was filled with direction and drive. When I first left Auckland and began camping with Elvis and later when Kyle joined us, I was seeing the country. We moved every day, deciding what to do each night. Solitude was discarded as unnecessary once I gained distance from my old life.

But I sit here today realizing I did not have a great today. Even though Wellington was underwhelming, I still enjoyed the city and the days. But a slow decline in daily enjoyment finally caught up to me. After spending a couple weeks staying with a family over the holidays, I am back on the road by myself. Not having a day to day plan was fine when I traveled by myself on shorter vacations. An imprecise plan works for a two-week holiday to a select few places. There is less time to fill, fewer decisions, less pressure to see everything. But now not having a plan is a constraint rather than a freedom. I spend too much time each day deciding what to do on my own. It is eating into my time each day for other things I want to do. I want to write, but writing does not yet come easy. It can take hours to write a single page. Learning guitar takes significant time as well, and living out of one’s car causes certain issues. If it is raining, I cannot practice even with the time. Reading is falling by the wayside again despite how much time I want to spend reading.

During my other travels, I had to rush. I only had a couple weeks. I was not traveling long enough to get burnt out on the daily decision making. I liked that style of travel, I prefer the freedom. I enjoy the freedom here too. But I have more freedom here than previously. There is no need to rush anymore. I have the luxury to take relaxing days. I do not need to fill each day with activity. I can take my time and do everything I want to and make sure I appreciate it all. When you visit a beach every day they begin to lose uniqueness.

Experiencing a different life was intended to help me learn what I want to do. Despite enjoying my previous job, I realized I did not want my career to be sitting in an office for forty-plus hours a week. But I have not made progress to finding something else. I have been preoccupied with trying to have an exciting trip. I think it is time to find stillness for a bit. I need to figure out where I am going again. I have up to ten more months here in New Zealand. I did not want to waste the summer months doing nothing. But I love having my time to myself. I want to read, practice guitar, write, think, relax. When did I lose sight of my purpose here? It is time I find direction again. I have had a compass, but a compass tells you where north is, it does not help when you do not know where you are going.

This morning I decided north, but it was not the direction I needed. This time I decide to find somewhere to stay for a while, a week or maybe more to spend some time resting and regain my focus. I go to bed with a renewed purpose.


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Comments (3)

  • Jen 2 years ago Reply

    Great post. It’s amazing that a lack of structure can make it harder to accomplish our goals despite having more time. Maybe try establishing a weekly routine instead of pushing to touch all your goals every day. For example, dedicate 3 hours per day – 21 hours per week – to goals: guitar 5h, writing 3h, reading 5h, quiet reflection/meditation 8h. Anyways, Drew and I would love to catch up soon now that we’re back stateside!! <3

    Tanner 2 years ago Reply

    Haha, yeah, I know. I have figured it out now, this post is six weeks in the past from where I am now. We can catch up soon!

  • elizabeth 2 years ago Reply

    great insight Tanner. I know for myself, the busier I am the more organized I become and the more I accomplish – sometimes that makes no sense.

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