I learnt much while backpacking, solo and with my better half.
I learned how to speak to strangers in foreign languages and then laugh at my mistakes, and to relinquish control, and to look on the bright side, and to dress with abandon – middle finger to fashion trends. I learned to be okay with being solitary and to de-stress my mind, body and soul. When I travelled, I thought those lessons I learnt on the road would be with me forever. I was a changed woman.
Then I came home and found a job, a home and a cat. I’ve been here for a year and a half now, in the town I grew up in on New Zealand’s west coast, and as down to earth as kiwis are, I find myself becoming stressed over the little things again, eating poorly again, blind to the frivolous expenses and getting sucked into following fashion trends.
It’s being back in western culture that I find myself back in old habits. I look in the mirror and that carefree backpacker isn’t there anymore. Where has the girl with the hippie pants and stack of bright woven bands down her arms gone? Now she who looks back at me is a girl who looks tired, bored, taken in by clothing sales and artisan breads.
Some days, the backpacker in me steps forward and I drive to see new sides of old New Zealand, I explore and photograph and seek out hiking trails though native bush… And then I come home and rise at 5.30am for the 2673rd day of work.
I like who I am when I travel and explore, but can I stay that same wild woman with my nose to the grindstone five days a week? I feel conflicted. Is it enough to get away on the weekends, or do we as a society need to restructure the lifestyle of the average human being, to better meet our basic needs of freedom and free time?