Lauren has flown home to the States, and I’m now traveling solo. This was planned months ago, but it feels very new, strange, and if I’m being honest, scary. I’ve never lived and traveled in another country by myself.
I wasn’t ready for our New Zealand experience to be over. “Our” experience, the one we shared. Even though it’s already ended, I’m not ready.
I remember wading through the darkness of Auckland’s unfamiliar streets before sunrise, making our way to the War Memorial Museum to stand with thousands of silent, reverent people for ANZAC Day. Now ANZAC Day is coming around again, and I’m amazed by how much time has passed, and how quickly.
I remember our borrowed car overheating and bursting on our first adventure on the left-sided highway, and how we watched silly videos all evening to put a bandaid on a truly miserable day.
I remember how we repelled 110 feet into Waitomo Cave, wading through icy, dark water beneath the pale light of thousands of glowworms, a river as luminous as the Milky Way.
I remember standing beneath the Milky Way on a deserted beach in Abel Tasman, the stars yawning above us without measure.
I could keep going: being soaked and freezing as we slogged through the volcanic, steaming mountains of the Tongariro Crossing; the giddy quaintness of Hobbiton; the way the world opened up on all sides as we stood at the peak of the Routeburn Track. Seeing a rainbow every day in winter, the curves of rural backroads and endless kilometers, and waterfalls beyond counting.
I remember how are our hands blistered and callused from harvesting macadamia nuts, how our muscles astonished us in the mirror but ached until we slept. I remember the luxury of having our own rooms for the first time in months.
I remember our hand-washed underwear strung up like prayerflags, drying on twine we’d criss-crossed throughout the van. I remember testing the limits of how long we could go without a shower.
I remember waking up in dozens of strange places while freedom camping: peaceful bays, windswept penninsulas, remote beaches, crowded parking lots in city centers.
We’ve experienced more things than we’ll ever remember. And I’m so grateful that we did it together.
Because now — now is the uncertain, lonely space between “before” and “after,” relearning what “normal” feels like in the wake of something epic, wild, always changing. It’s the vacuum between the possibility of new adventures ahead, and the fear that the best has already been and gone.
I’m so, so grateful for everything that’s happened–and I’m taking time now to process this year, and (here’s that honesty again) grieve that it’s come to a conclusion. Because I’m still not ready for our adventure to be over, even though it already is.