I met a German girl at a hostel this past weekend who is also on a working holiday. She has been here about the same length of time as I have, but said she is going home next month. She explained that traveling alone is not for her and she really misses having a place to call home. She talked about meeting tons of people in different hostels and while traveling, but how she was sick of sleeping in a different place every night. I can empathise with the part about hopping from place to place. It was nice when Nate and I spent two nights in the same hostel and we didn't have to pack up everything for once. It was also nice to have a "home base" while I was WWOOFing, but there were other aspects to that situation that made up for it. I haven't, however, actually done much traveling solo. I have been alone during different parts of my journey, but always had a companion (or several) to spend time with if I wanted to. This is partially due to the circumstances of events, but largely by design. I like to think I know myself well enough to plan for what I can handle. Then again, getting to know myself is what this adventure is all about!
I spent time planning and preparing for my journey, and making arrangements so that I am not stuck wandering from place to place by myself. I have had several recommendations that I purchase a car in NZ to use for the year and sell before I leave, but decided against it. Instead I booked a tour that will allow me to explore both islands but stay in certain areas as long as I would like. I enjoy driving, and it was certainly fun to have to learn it all over again in mirror image, but I thought I might get lonely with a car to myself. It would definitely provide me with a little more freedom, but I don't mind riding buses and seeking out adventures with other people. There are plenty of other times in my life where owning a car will be more necessary, and if I can lessen my environmental impact by going a year without a vehicle, then why shouldn't I? It may take a little more planning, and require asking for help, but I think of it as more of a challenge than anything else. Going car-less has also helped to provide opportunities to meet people: couchsurfing, WWOOFing, and going on an adventure-based tour are opportunities that would not have the same outcome if I had my own wheels.
I am always trying to find little ways to lessen my impact on the environment, and have tried to enter this year with the intention of learning to live on less and hopefully leave with a reduced materialistic mindset in a world based so much on consumerism. I use natural/organic products whenever possible and so far have left most hikes with at least one piece of litter to properly dispose of. I did make a lot of purchases leading up to my trip, but so far in NZ most all of my money spent has been on food, accommodation, transportation, and communication. (And since I've been couchsurfing and WWOOFing, even those costs have been minimal.)
I am back where I started for a couple days, couchsurfing with Dave until my tour begins this weekend. Nate and I stopped here on our road trip and borrowed some camping gear for a night on the West coast of Auckland before he flew back to the South Island yesterday. We met Dave at his office/classroom to return the gear and clean out our rental car before returning it to the airport, and while I was there I overheard a bit of Dave's lecture for one of his students' last days. He told me more about it later and I've been pondering the concept ever since: doing everything as an "act of love."
The idea is that with most everything we do, we have a choice. Whether it be a choice about which product to buy or company to support, or a decision about how we react emotionally to a situation. To illustrate he used the example of jumping into shark-infested waters... Not an act most of us would willingly do. But place a loved one in there, and suddenly the situation changes. If you jumping in might help save your loved one, you would be much more willing to risk your life because it is for that person. Therefore, jumping in the shark-infested waters to save your loved one becomes an option, an "act of love." It is not something you would normally do, but because it has the potential to benefit that person, you are more likely to jump.
He also used the example of buying a certain kind of milk. The company he referred to apparently destroys forests by the minute to make more dairy farming land. The indigenous people in the forested areas are hired to cut down the tress, but when that job is over they are left with nothing on the land where their ancesters have lived for years. The particular company is also for-profit and apparently does not make any effort to give back to the people or the land. Dave's point is that if buying this brand of milk helps to support such a company, and you instead choose to drink a glass of water, that itself is an "act of love." It may seem like a meager step, but if everyone made decisions based on their impact--and on love--then this world would be a better place.
I like the concept as I feel it explains something I have believed in for a long time. We are all here living on the same beautiful Earth, why shouldn't we be living with intention, performing "acts of love" each day? I am not an excellent example of someone who considers the impact of each decision and each purchase I make, but I'm working on it. I am, however, interested in--and dedicated toward--making small changes that make a difference. I am learning, and hoping to improve!
I'm not sure where I thought this post was headed when I began writing, but hope I haven't gone off on too much of a tangent! Every day is a learning experience and I can only hope that I continue to "get out there and take it all in" (as I've determined is my current mission). All that while making a little difference on the way.