The Wall (Part I)
Updated: Nov 4, 2019
20 October 2019
Disclaimer: I wrote this seven days ago, but in the interest of full discloure I thought it still important to post (now we have internet). Before you read this, please know that, yes, I know how lucky I am to have the chance to take a full year off to travel and be with my family. Please do not think me an ingrate. I wouldn’t trade this time for the world! However, I think good blogs are authentic; nobody wants only polished Instagram moments. So, here is where I was seven days ago...
I hit a wall! ☹ The road-weary wall. Is this normal? I now clearly see why we prioritized slow travel (staying in one location for a longer period) for most of our trip. But there are times when road trips beg to happen; New Zealand is definitely one of those destinations. There is simply too much incredible to see and do, one must keep moving. So we have been on the road for 5 weeks now, with one more to go before we stay 7 days on a sheep farm. And I’m tired. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. And to be honest, I feel a bit wimpy about it since most families on a gap year move must faster and for longer. Am I really this old?
We arrived at the Hokitika Holiday Park yesterday late afternoon and I immediately felt it. I wasn’t tired like “I need to lie down.” But an inner voice was moaning, “I’m done! Just done.” So, despite wanting to save our good wine for special occasions, I announced we were opening one from our favorite winery. Sipping an amazing Pinot from my coffee cup while I threw together a one-pot chicken/rice meal in the communal kitchen, I began to feel better. We had a “normal” family evening, actually watching HGTV and Simpsons reruns, something we haven’t done since we left home. We skipped touring the glow worm caves, skipped quality family time playing cards, and just vegged in our bunk beds watching TV like good Americans.
But I still went to sleep feeling for the first time like “I don’t like this. I don’t want to be here.” I feel fortunate that I haven’t felt this way for the first four months. And it’s not the holiday park’s fault; it’s very basic but clean and nice. However, we walked into our tiny Tourist Cabin to two sets of bunk beds. I thought for sure there was a mistake; surely I had booked a room with a queen bed and a bunk bed (like nights prior). Before unloading the car, I tried in vain to identify where they had goofed up our reservation. Nope, this was it. And to upgrade would cost twice as much. For three nights, we were stuck with bunk beds. Okay, fine—a little whimsy. But as we soon learned, they were regrettably, exceptionally uncomfortable bunk beds! I’m not sure they qualify as mattresses, as sitting or lying down, an adult instantly sinks to the bottom and can feel the wire mesh below. Multiply that discomfort with the fact that the bathrooms are 100 yards away and it was cold and raining...and I infamously must pee at least 1-2 times every night. I was not looking forward to the stay. If this were for one night, we wouldn’t care, but we were to be here for three nights, so as I lie awake in the middle of the night unable to sleep, I was strategizing ways to get out of this.
Alas, nothing would make logistical nor financial sense. And I was confronted with the reality that nothing was really wrong. It is my Westernized, overly convenience mentality getting in the way. If I couldn’t handle a slightly uncomfortable, though otherwise clean, warm and lovely cabin for three measly nights, I needed to re-examine our motivations and expectations of this year.
I realized that part of it was simply road weariness. A few day’s earlier, these feelings began to nag at me and I’ve been ruminating on a quote I found before I trekked the Himalayas 17 years prior: “Adventure is discomfort in retrospect.” As an example, last Friday, we had been booked on a 3-hour eco walking tour to the face of the Franz Josef Glacier. We got a great deal at the discount booking site and it sounded like a wonderful Worldschooling opportunity. However, that afternoon the glacier was expected to receive 4.5 inches of rain! Yes, you read that right: 4.5 inches of rain in a 24 hour period! I repeatedly refreshed my email to see if the tour would be cancelled (or if we’d be canoeing rather than walking). Ha! To Kiwi West Coasters, that is just a “light sprinkle” so of course we were going. They would provide rain jackets, pants and boots. Okay, I can do this. But I secretly admit to dreading it and wanting to be done with adventure. I missed comfort!
And yet, that defies the point of this year for us. I’ve had to remind myself that if I wanted comfort and convenience, we would have stayed home. We were out here in the world precisely to experience the opposite. So get over yourself, Angie! And that glacier tour? We had a BLAST in the deluge of rain!
Now, something to keep in mind: We have been in modern campervans, condos and hotel rooms in an English-speaking, Westernized country this entire time! It’s not like we’re camping in the African bush. And yet, I am still feeling this way. WTF?! Am I really this noodle-ly???? Made of jello and wimpified by Southern California easiness??
And if I’m feeling this way, how is Lucas? He has been acting a bit funny lately, so I’ve had to mask my own weariness and apprehension and tap into to his possible anxieties of being on the road, in strange places each night, unsure of exactly what is happening next. We have learned that our boy gravitates toward the familiar and likes stability. One reason for doing this trip is to encourage flexibility in his rigidity, but it doesn’t come without some uneasiness for all, and we want to ease him into it rather than cause too much pain and angst. But after 5 weeks moving and grooving, he--and his mama—are starting to feel it. (Turns out Dan was too he admitted a day later.)
Hence my (our) current wall. We were supposed to be up and at it this morning, exploring the famous Hokitika Gorge before a jade carving class this afternoon. Instead, Lucas is shooting hoops, Dan is reading sports news, and I have retreated to my writing. Finally. We all needed a break, and I think it's wise to recognize that and adjust. Dan is exhausted from driving, Lucas is feeling very homesick, and I need to find some clarity. So Dan is resting, Lucas is tending to his needs by immersing in a familiar and beloved activity where he feels confidant, and I am re-energizing with a cup of coffee in the solitude of the communal lounge in front of a lovely fireplace.
I feel better already. The wall is cracking and I can see daylight on the other side. I hear the songbirds and the crashing surf. The sky is clearing and I’m filling up, ready to tackle some more adventure. Admittedly, I would prefer it to be “comfortable adventure”….but as Lucas enthusiastically reminded us as we were forging glacier streams with our guide in the pouring down rain: “If it had been sunny, it would have been no fun and I’d be bored. The rain and cold is what makes it an adventure, Mom!”
So I’ll shake off my weariness, bulk up my capacity for boldness (which must still be there somewhere), and carry on with a fun and action-packed day in this amazing country. If I can get used to this, maybe adventure in the African bush at age 50 is not far behind.
Later that day at Hokitika Gorge and Jade Carving Class.
What is Road Weariness?
First, it is the obvious exhaustion from actual driving, on the left and on crazy Kiwi roads, that Dan is feeling. Beyond that, it also includes:
Repeatedly packing, unpacking and reorganizing our [too many] suitcases
Repeatedly loading, unloading and rearranging the car
Getting lost and getting found – struggling with the bad car navigation system and the intermittent cell coverage
Heightened alertness on the windy, narrow roads with numerous one-lane bridges during rainstorms
Determining which activities to see and do in each locale and hitting as many as possible en route to the next locale
Getting up every morning to face new adventures and see new things
Exploring these adventures in cold and rainy weather
Sharing small spaces - even bunk beds
Negotiating our way around a new “home” each night
Strategizing how to cook a family dinner routinely missing at least one vital cooking tool
Sleeping—often unsuccessfully—in strange—and often uncomfortable beds
Getting on coat and shoes to walk to the bathrooms in middle of night at holiday parks
Eating too many cheap, quick, convenience meals with regrettably limited nutritional value
Frequenting public toilets of varying cleanliness
Missing friends and familiar places