October 3 2016,
The first time, I come here by accident. The second, no accident can stop me from returning.
Sometimes, you fall right into places. I come to Sequoia Lodge in Picton at the end of my roadtrip South with Danny. I am tired and feeling alienated—like I don't know how to connect with people any longer and am existing on the outside of everything. And then, accidentally, I am in the midst of it all and my extroverted self is buzzing. I force myself to take some quiet time to eat my dinner and it's agony. I just want to talk to someone. There is a loud American voice laughing and joking and saying ridiculous things on the other side of the kitchen.
The American is a boy from Oregon called Zebedee because his parents liked the letter "Z" but not the name Zachary. He has short hair on the sides, long in the middle, a yellow jigsaw piece around his neck, and always something amusing to say. Zeb is playful, barefoot, and never far from his journal where he scribbles down poems and thoughts. He inspires me to write more too.
excitement quivered in your muscles
like bow string at the pull.
you were the
loudest thing this side of LA
and i could not keep my mouth shut.
That first night at Sequoia explodes in the most beautiful of ways and I am reminded of just how quickly things can change on the road. I make friends quickly and then the six of us swathe ourselves in sweaters and drive to the beach in a big van with a box of beer. We drink and talk under the stars until 3AM.
Jake and I talk a lot about happiness and I say a lot of things that I truly believe and can no longer remember. I know I was on a roll. We discuss the differences between wanderers like us and people who never leave their own backyard and how society needs both to remain stable and to grow. Some people are just content with different things. "He's never gone anywhere and I know that he's a happier man than I am." Some people just need different things. Some people just can't stop moving. Most of Jake's toes no longer have nails because they have fallen off so many times. So many miles. Jake is a long term traveller, much like Gustavo, the sweetest man from Argentina who has been travelling for three years and only been home a few times since. I marvel at this, jump up and down on the spot and exclaim how amazing that is. He has been all over but he loves New Zealand. I ask him why he left Argentina and he tells me that he just needed more. He knew there was so much more.
I am so in love with it here. I am so in love with the people here.
But I have to go. There is a car waiting for me in Christchurch and a place to sleep somewhere outside of Greymouth. But that's okay. Things flow. Don't hold on so tightly. You are where you're supposed to be. So it goes.
I leave. I come back. It feels right. The next week feels like a lifetime.
This time, I'm working for Sequoia in exchange for accommodation. A woman named Mim picks me up from the bus stop and asks if I'm the girl who was here last week that the boys claimed was coming back. Coming back... It's a scary sensation because things are never quite the same and I worry that the magic I felt during my first night will never be replicated. But things are still beautiful.
Zeb, Gustavo, Jake, Mim, and I become a happy group.
In the morning, we work on our chores around the hostel. I clean the kitchen in my dress and dance to the music playing over the speakers, mopping the floor and disinfecting all the surfaces. By noon, our tasks are complete and we flock to the stoves to make lunch and chat. Gustavo boils lemon and mint tea. We play hacky-sack in the sunshine and swap stories, walk to town and write letters home. Some days, we cook dinner but usually, we eat the free soup. In the evenings, we are always hurrying to the liquor store because it always shuts at least two hours before it's supposed to. On the way, we skip and play and Zeb walks on fences and the boys try to tell me about different herbs and edible plants and flowers. Then we drink beer or wine and watch movies all through the night on the big couches. Fall asleep in a heap. Start again.
It feels like fucking eternity.
But it is only six days.
A forever of six days.
I'm only back for two before Jake returns to the road, tiny sack on his back. One a rainy Thursday, Zeb and I hike through one of the forested peaks to a large pond surrounded by ferns. We tell jokes of swamp monsters. Gustavo makes empanadas for dinner, including two special vegan ones for me. We rescue some grapefruit from a box outside the opt shop and then I pilfer a few lemons from a neighbour's tree. Mim is hoping to make a dessert from the liberated fruit but it doesn't work so she adds vodka and black pepper and makes us cocktails instead. We pour the yellow juice into glasses of different shapes and cheers. Here's to moments like these. Here's to love like this. There's so many of us here in this wonderful place. Haya, Benjamin, the second Jake, Sandy, Robin, Lynley, Annie, Riley. Goddamn, everything feels precious.
This is life on the road. This is giving yourself to moments and feeling every drop of them. Travelling is one of the most beautiful things but it involves so much sacrifice. Again and again, you fall in love and have to walk away. You open your heart to experience more than you ever imagined while simultaneously, accept that it is fleeting. That the moments will end. Again and again, you are vulnerable. Again and again, you are grateful. It is the ultimate practice of love and release. We own nothing, especially on the road. Every moment is a gift and every moment is intensely finite. If this isn't worth it, I don't know what is.