My Big Trip

    In September 2000, after two months of planning, I quit my job and moved out of my apartment to go travelling. Four years of working in an office (even a pretty good one) was enough, and I wanted to do a backpacking trip before I got any older.

    I feel like I should include a paragraph here on why I went, but it seems kind of obvious, like travelling itself is the reason. I simply wanted to learn and grow, and I figured the specifics would become apparent as I went.

    The plan, as I started, was this: I would travel alone in New Zealand (via a few days in Australia) for three months. Steve would travel in Mexico for two-and-a-half months (then go home for Christmas). In January, he would join me in New Zealand and kick off what could be two years or more travelling the world. We wanted to start apart so we could grow a bit independently, and develop our own personal travel styles before travelling together.

    Leaving on a trip of this magnitude, I went through several stages:

    When I planned to go travelling someday. Maybe in the fall.

    This started when I gave two months notice at my job. Suddenly, my mind was beset with a myriad of details that needed to be taken care of before I left. This is when I started to keep a List, which in the end consumed an entire 65-page notepad. In this stage, all I did was write things on my list for later, just to clear my mind.

    This lasted the month of September, when I spent much of the month tackling my to-do list and seeing as many friends as possible. I was far too busy to pick up my head and look to the future.

    This began around the end of September, when I heard myself telling people that I was leaving my job at the end of the week, and moving out the week after. The enormity of what I was doing began to sink in, as I did major thing after major thing.

    I am now unofficially unemployed. That is, I am technically on a three-month leave of absence from work, but will probably not return. (I like having a three-month escape hatch in case something goes terribly, terribly wrong.)

    I am also unofficially homeless. Yesterday, with much help from Steve and Zach (my roommate), I moved almost all of my belongings into storage. There are a significant amount of things left at my apartment that I just didn't get around to, but I hope to get those packed up and stored soon. My apartment is very echoey without much furniture left (Zach still has his things there, but it's half-empty). Technically, I now live with my parents, but I don't even have a bedroom there.

    Mentally, however, it is still just a long weekend. Although I know intellectually that all these things are happening, it feels like I'm going back to work on Monday and continuing to live in my apartment. The reality of the situation refuses to sink in, and I'm not sure when it will.

    While I was staying in Vancouver, it was like I had begun my trip because I was in a (somewhat) foreign country. However, I was still just working on my to-do list, hanging out with my boyfriend, and generally relaxing in a home-like environment.

    I'm writing this from Canada on what feels like the first real day of my trip. This has been a momentous week - Steve and I moved completely out of our respective apartments, and finally organized all our belongings. (It was particularly meaningful for Steve, who is finally moving Home to Canada.) I bid a sad goodbye to family and friends and hit the road.

    I've stopped feeling like I'm just on a long weekend. Now that I've been "unemployed" for three weeks, the idea of going to work no longer occurs to me. It's gone so far that I get surprised by rush hour traffic and am occasionally baffled by why people are unavailable during the day.

    Now that I've done several irreversibly big things such as moving out of my apartment and into storage, and leaving the U.S., the reality of my Trip is sinking in. It's sort of like walking into a fog in that I don't really know what's ahead, but I'm going anyway. I've spent so much mental time taking care of details in preparation for the trip, that I have hardly spent any time thinking ahead or making plans.

    Now, I have a week or so in British Columbia (staying with Steve's family) before flying off to New Zealand. Even though my trip has officially started, I still have a lengthy to-do list to take care of. The frenetic pace has slowed, though, and I'm going to be doing my best to get into the habit of being "in the moment." As a traveller, I want to enjoy myself wherever I am, and not always be waiting to arrive at the next place. It's all about the journey!

    This is what I packed

    It all fit in here

    The transition to this next stage occurred rather violently. Travelling limbo lasted through a lovely dinner in Vancouver with Steve's parents, my parents, Zach, Steve, and I. We strolled up to the security gate at the airport (beyond which non-passengers cannot go). I began hugging people goodbye, when it hit me like an injection to the bloodstream: It was real, the fact that I wouldn't see these people again for a long time, these people who love me and who had just showered me with love and generosity. I had been so used to my loved ones being within easy reach, and in an instant that was gone. It was especially hard because they had all made a special effort to make me feel loved that night. I arrived at the airport with a 37-pound pack, not knowing if I would even be sad; and I left with the additional weight of six people's love on my shoulders.

    Navigating the airports, flying, and finding my way on the trains felt very familiar. I've been travelling since I was 6 months old, so I fall into a comfortable zone when travelling like this, and felt knowledgeable. On the other hand, however, I felt like an utter newbie at the backpacking thing. I fumbled with my pack and other items. I knew enough to know I had packed too much stuff, but I'm wasn't wise enough to know what to ditch. I felt awkward at the hostel because I didn't know how things worked there. I knew I'd figure it all out soon, but I was rather wet behind the ears.

    On my first day in Australia, I found myself walking on a sunny beach, suddenly in vacation mode. I was filled with a euphoria - yes, I was doing it, I was actually backpacking! My time was my own and I was free.

    Those first few days, I stayed in Cronulla, which is a small beachfront town south of Sydney, Australia. It's a beautiful peninsula town, with long sandy beaches, lots of surfers, shops, and restaurants. There is a nice beachfront walkway around the peninsula, where I went jogging.

    My hostel, the Cronulla Beach YHA, is brand-new and very nice. I stayed in a six-bed dorm room with three other friendly women. There was a locker for everyone in the room, so I felt secure with all my valuables locked up. I had some awkward moments as I pushed myself to step out of my shell and talk to people, but I was rewarded with a few fun nights with the other backpackers.

    On Halloween, I flew to Auckland, New Zealand, to begin my trip in earnest.


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