On my first day in Hamilton I was walking along the Waikato River. It looks like the Shenandoah but the current is much stronger and the foliage looks strangely tropical even though it isn’t.
Do you have any spare cigarettes?” a middle-aged Kiwi man flanked by three women asks me.
“No, sorry, I quit about four days ago and I feel great,” I reply.
“Are you American?” one of his friends immediately shouts as soon as she hears my accent.
“Is Obama still President?”
“Was Clinton President?”
“Is Hillary Clinton going to be President?”
“Where are you from?”
“Is Virginia a state?”
“Where is West Virginia?”
“West Virginia is to the west of Virginia,” I reply drawing a smile from her friends.
At this point her more reserved companion says, “OK, let the man enjoy his walk.”
I’m about to leave when I think to myself, four people chilling by the side of the river on a beautiful Friday afternoon…
“Do you guys have any weed?” I inquire.
“Ha, we just smoked a joint, bro,” the man says.
“Do you have any I could buy?”
The woman who attempted to quiet her friend reaches into her purse and pulls out a small piece of aluminum foil with a delicious green herb inside. About enough for a joint.
I take it and look at it. “Smell it, man!” the guy says.
I decide it is worth the $10 she asks for and I wish them a good day and head back to my van.
I haven’t smoked in a week and I managed to quit smoking cigarettes cold turkey. I’ve done it before and I can do it again. It was mostly an economical decision. The price of tobacco in New Zealand is even worse than the hellish rates in Australia.
I drive to the Westview Club and Motor Inn. Ten dollars a night for a place to park my van, plus showers and laundry. I don’t feel a desire to smoke the weed yet. I have work to do. This will be my second night in this van and it still doesn’t feel like it’s mine. I need to make an inventory list. Nearly two hours and five full pages in my journal later, I’ve catalogued every item that Brett and Haley left inside of Pam. Some highlights:
- 2 Waterproof jackets (I was very close to buying one in Auckland)
- 2 Waterproof pants (Also in need of these)
- Sleeping bag rated to -7C
- 2 Burner Campmaster Stove
- Refillable LPG tank
- 30 litre water jug
- Yoga mat
- Trekking Pole
- Wool Sweater (Total English hipster look)
- Cooking and eating utensils for 2
- Fish fillet knife
- Tool box with everything needed to make repairs to the custom made interior
- Books: NZ guides, books on living green and growing plants and a printed out guide to NZ native berries
- Collection of 50 CDs of eclectic taste
- Much, much more
I was feeling very happy with this. Last night this was someone else’s van and I was just visiting. Tonight, this is my van and I’m happy with it. I know everything that is in here. Also, when you drive a big, old van with a bed in the back, cute girls pull up next to you at stoplights and honk and wave and smile. Time to smoke half of this joint and write in my journal.
Leigh told me she only writes happy things in her journal so that when she reads back she will be happy. I said that’s not being truthful. Everyone gets sad. The really depressing shit is the best part of writing a journal because you read it and realize you’ve struggled but you’ve moved past that now and everything is OK. Maybe. Or maybe it isn’t. At least you know where you were and where you are now.
I like traveling alone. I feel like all my life I’ve been surrounded by different groups of friends or different groups of people that compel me to act in a certain way. Come drink this now, come smoke this now, come do this now. Now I am just [REDACTED]. Everything I do is what [REDACTED] wants to do. It is sad leaving friends, but I think spending time on your own and realizing who you are is one of the most important things in life. I always think of Uncle Iroh’s message to Prince Zuku:
“Is it your own destiny or is it a destiny someone else has tried to force on you…It’s time for you to look inward and start asking yourself the big questions: who are you and what do you want?”
I fall asleep effortlessly, listening to the relaxing sound of raindrops on the roof.