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Day 65: Leaving the West Coast for New Horizons | Van Life in NZ

This morning I woke to rain tapping on the roof of the van, gently bringing my awareness out of the dream world and into the wet reality of the West Coast. I turned my head to look out of the back window at a wall of lush green bush; large fern leaves gathering rain and their tips slowly dripping plump drops. Leo stirred next to me and slowly opened his sleepy eyes, then we shared a smile before curling up in each other’s arms. Silent acknowledgment that we were in no rush–there is no stressful job to get to, no place we need to be, and no reason we can’t enjoy this moment for a while.

Oh–have I told you about Leo? I mentioned him in my post about Lake Tekapo. Well, Leo is my sweet, compassionate, intelligent, kind, fire-hearted, gentle, goofy, handsome side-kick. We’ll be traveling New Zealand together in his van while he studies psychology via online uni courses.

Last night was our first night in the van (who we call Regi), after we suddenly departed Franz Josef/Waiau yesterday morning. The past week has been a blur of stress. The job that I had at the lodge turned out to be far more than I signed up for, and Leo got roped into helping me manage it over the very busy holiday weeks. After working our asses off and taking care of all the operations of a 9-room, 4.5 star bed and

breakfast lodge by ourselves, we were completely burnt out. Management had become disrespectful and it was clear that they were trying to take advantage of my position as a casual worker. Though I rarely do this, after some discussion, we decided it would be best that we quit without notice and leave straight away. This was definitely a situation of me learning things the hard way, and I hope to gather my thoughts on the matter and share more details soon, as I think it may be helpful for others traveling to New Zealand on working holiday visas.

For now, I am easing into recovery. Letting my body and my mind return to homeostasis as gently as I can manage. I’m also having some PMDD symptoms, so it’s a bit hard to know what is coming from that and what is coming from the abrupt change from distress and constant work, to trying to calm down as our days are suddenly free. Either way, a good reminder to slow down, listen to what my body needs, and give myself grace.

Yesterday we wandered around Hokitika–a place I had been excited to visit, but struggled to fully enjoy as I felt like my brain was in a thick fog and my body was fighting to move through cold molasses. Through my irritable and numbed-out mood, there were moments of light. It sprinkled as we wandered down to the beach, and we laughed as the waves suddenly swept up the shore and soaked our feet a bit. We walked around the small town and looked for a place to eat. It seems that all of New Zealand (perhaps the world?) is struggling with understaffing in restaurants and hospitality. We found somewhere to have lunch, got Regi sorted with a new gas cooker, and then found a quiet beachside spot to park up for a bit. There, we napped under the sounds of rain on the van roof, read books and journaled, and tried to be patient with ourselves.

Later we would drive north a bit to look for a campsite for the night. We ended up at a small picnic area just off the road between Kumara and Jacksons. For a while we were alone, then another campervan joined us in the large lot. Luckily they were quiet and we were able to continue our day of relaxing and coming down from the adrenaline fatigue of the last couple of weeks. After a languid morning of rising, meditating, and centering ourselves, we started driving to Arthur’s Pass. The drive through misty hills and mountains was breathtaking. There was an abundance of rushing rivers, creeks, waterfalls, clouds growing and dissipating, and curious Kea hopping around looking for snacks. I write this now from a cafe in Arthur’s Pass village, unsure of what the rest of our day looks like.

Much earlier than originally intended, I am back to an unplanned life. Returning to waking up slowly and going about my days moment-by-moment. We have some general ideas–we’ll be returning to Christchurch briefly, and then heading somewhere warmer and less rainy than the West Coast for a while. Probably finding a workaway host and/or a temporary job, hopefully somewhere that I can continue offering massage therapy. But in general, I don’t know exactly what the coming days or months will look like. For me, that freedom gives me a sense of peace. I’m confident that everything will work out. Although I did not work as long as I expected (needed!) to, I know that everywhere is desperate for workers and I’ll have no trouble building my savings back up. For now, I can enjoy returning to the things that I love: taking our time exploring, appreciating the natural beauty of our surroundings, meditating and doing yoga, nourishing bodies and minds, and simply existing.

Talk again soon.



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