Here I am, once again, trying to reflect on what I am experiencing here in New Zealand. And I must say that nothing special has been happening to me for the past few weeks, but I keep meeting new people on a regular basis. Since I’m currently living in a hostel, it’s buzzing with people from all around the world, and in this one, I get to share the area with many South Americans – Argentinians mostly, Chileans and Uruguayans.
By sharing mate and talking about life – work, music, religion, politics, a lot can be covered in a day – I’ve realized that what I love the most about traveling is people. Now, New Zealand is very quiet in general; apart from Auckland and maybe Wellington (I haven’t been there yet), cities are small, and if there are any, you can see them written on Google maps without zooming in that much. There are about 17 inhabitants per square kilometer – according to Wikipedia -, which lets you enjoy the green and blue views as well as the silence about 98% of the time. However, the Flying Nun is not New Zealand – this ‘backpackers’, as they call it, is an old and grey building with a surprising rainbow-colored inner life.
Let me explain: there are many types of travelers – we all come from different countries, even continents; we have different backgrounds and have experienced different things along the way; we got here for different reasons and with different expectations. Not only does this make me see the place I am in right now as very colorful, but this is also what, in my opinion, is the most interesting part in traveling.
What are the chances for you to meet an Argentinian history teacher who left it all to see if he could regain faith in his job? What are the chances for you to meet a Japanese make-up artist who is now doing gardening in a remote surfing town in Kiwiland? What are the chances for you to meet a German girl who grew up in Africa, studied accounting and is, so you just discovered, passionate about nutrition and health, and, by the way, also an artist? What are the chances for you to meet a 21-year-old English cook and surfer who has been on the road for the past three years of his life?
What are the chances for you to meet them all in the same place?
And when it all somehow settles down, when you think you’re starting to know people, when you think that tonight, you’re just going to enjoy a beer and laugh about the events of the day, you realize there is an amazingly talented photographer, a quiet bracelet-maker and a virtuoso pianist in the crowd, and you suddenly find yourself having to choose who to talk to, and which questions to ask, because you’re waking up the next day at 5 am sharp to go plant broccoli.
People are full of surprises, stories to tell, jokes to make, emotions to show, theories to elaborate, recipes to share – and the best part of it is they often don’t realize it.
Finally, I have come to realize – yesterday night at around 1 o’clock in the morning GMT+13, to be precise – when in a joke, someone told me that “si la vida es genial, lo va a decir el libro” (“the book [of life] itself will tell you whether life is amazing), that your actions are not what makes you, but what you make of your actions – this is what matters.
And when you’re traveling, it is when you can truly experience the freedom of being who you want (that weird crossover between a surfer and a cook, a make-up artist and a gardener, an accountant and a nutrition aficionada) – or rather, who you truly are. You can decide that your book is yours to be considered amazing or not, because you have more freedom to do so.
You know that feeling you get after reading a book?
I believe this is what you should remember, the feeling, rather than the storyline or the characters’ specificities, the hardships and the joys. Just like words sink in to be reflected on and digested, events happen for you to make something out of them.
Just by being themselves and making something out of their stories, or maybe just letting the stories take the shapes they have to take, travelers are precious sources of inspiration. They broaden up your vision and lead you places (mental ones just as much as physical ones) you would never have thought of before. And actually, travelers are not – people are.
Published February 2015.