Taking the first steps in the redirecting of your life’s path are undoubtedly the toughest and most daunting. This decision could be life changing, it could make or break you. A world of unknowns await you, good things, as well as bad things, will inevitably happen to you, you will be tested to your limits, you will find out more about yourself in these moments than in any other facet of life. A quote that ties in extremely well with this topic in my opinion is that of the Brazilian author Paolo Coelho from his masterpiece, The Alchemist…..”When you make a decision you are really diving into a strong current that will bring you to places you never dreamed of when you first made that decision”. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has not ready it. It is a short fable about a young shepherd who decides to travel the world in an attempt to fulfil his personal legend.
That decision for me was deciding to leave all of the things that I had been raised to accept. I handed in my notice for a full time engineering position in a highly esteemed medical device company that I had worked incredibly hard to get. I had worked for 3 years after college in 3 different engineering positions, including one for a year in San Francisco. I had been getting great experience, making more money than I had thought I would ever make at the age of 24 and I was living a very luxurious lifestyle for sure. Despite all of this, I couldn’t help but thinking, was this really what I was put on the earth to do, well at least right now. Surely there was more to life than watching my bank account grow, doing the 9-5 grind, leaving precious little time in the evenings and weekends to pursue what I was actually truly passionate about. It just seemed a bit backwards to me. Surely it should be the opposite, spend the majority of your time doing what you really want to do, and use the rest of it to fund that lifestyle that you actually want to live. Of course this is an idealistic way of thinking, but then again why accept the common agreement of the way things are and the system that you have been brought up to understand and live by. I look at people working in the same jobs for 20 years, fighting for promotions, chasing the banker who has cursed them with an ever-growing mortgage that has stunted their dreams and great plans and killed their independence, living for their next 2 week vacation to some tropical paradise, only to dream again of their next trip away once it has ended, a mere 50 weeks of day dreaming. Time for me is one of the most important things in my life, and I refuse to spend it doing something that I am not fully bought into. Upon making the decision to travel, leaving my girlfriend was one of the hardest consequences to accept. We had had a steady relationship for the past year and a half and my decision to travel the world obviously came as a massive shock to her. I had thought long and hard over the course of several months, battling the pros and cons floating through my head. I confided in my father as to what was eating me up inside as it had started to become extremely evident that something was amis. Funnily enough it didn’t surprise him one bit ,to my own amazement, and he thought that it was a great idea for me to get out and see the world. That was the night I promised myself that I would go through with this decision.
I left Ireland on a warm night on October 14th. Saying goodbye to everyone at the bus stop was tough, I knew that I would not see them again for quite a long time which made me sad, but on the other hand I was anxious and excited for this new chapter of my life to begin and the many adventures that awaited me. I am definitely one of the lucky travellers as I had one of my best friends waiting to collect me in Auckland airport, New Zealand. Rob had spent the past year travelling around Canada living the sort of life he had always wanted to, surfing, snowboarding and venturing into the wilderness of northern Canada on mushroom picking excursions as an alternative way to make money quickly. Hearing of his travel experiences were undoubtedly one of the biggest contributing factors to solidifying my decision to travel. We had only been friends since 1st year college but I quickly realised we had a lot in common and shared similar views and passions. He had been studying biomedical engineering and me mechanical so we took a lot of the same classes. We had often talked about travelling the world together after college and vowed to never let ourselves get sucked into a job for years no matter how good the money or perks, so that we could actually make this dream a reality. When I landed in Auckland airport, Rob was waiting for me with a 1977, bad ass looking Bedford motorhome that he had recently bought. I had sent him some money a few weeks earlier after he saw the Bedford for sale and we both decided that we’d go for it, with the extra space we could have a bit more comfort, have room to invite some friends in to hang out and have plenty of storage space. Little did we know at that point in time the whirlwind of crazy adventures we would have in this thing. That Bedford camper has definitely shaped our trip in every sense of the word. From amazing highs to despairing lows. It was surreal arriving in a new world, so far away from home. It all felt so new, yet I felt surprisingly comfortable and self assured in what I was doing. Another of my best friends, Dave, had been living in Auckland for the past year and a half, working as a physiotherapist, so we spent a few weeks hanging out with him and his flat mates. It was an easy introduction into travelling and really helped me to adjust to everything that was happening. Me and rob spent the first couple of days catching up, having not seen each other for the best part of 2 years. We talked a lot about our plans for the year in NZ; surfing, hiking, climbing, snowboarding, all in places that I had only ever read about in books and online. Rob had a real essence of confidence and self-assuredness about him. He had always been this way, but something great had changed in him from when we had last met in person. No longer were we college kids with a strict schedule wrapped around us, we were truly free. Travel changes a man, makes him stronger, more open minded and often a better person. I had taken my first step on the path that I had always longed to follow. A new experience was waiting for me around every bend. Bring it on I revelled to myself.
Before me and rob set off on our travels around NZ we spent a weekend away with Dave and a big group of his friends in a place called mount maunganui. Located on the east coast of the north island, “The Mount” is a bustling seaside town built around a stunning mountain. Surf Culture is huge and people from Auckland flock there to spend their vacations in an attempt to get away from the city life. We stayed in a big wooden batch (holiday home) for the weekend with plenty of space for the number of people that were with us. We hit up Tauranga, the big brother to the mount, on our first night. It was great being a part of such a great group of people so soon after arriving to a new country. The Rugby World Cup was in full swing at the time so all of the bars were plastered with televisions showing highlights of the all blacks demolishing every opponent that they had been set against. We drank many a pint of Guinness and danced the night away in a merry haze. The next morning I went into town to look for a surfboard that would be my most prized possession for the next few months. After much deliberating I came away with a 7’2″ minimal board that was a dark reddish glossy colour with a white top, I loved it. Later that day we took the boards out into some pathetic waves, which I got smashed in every time for all my efforts, but enjoyed in thoroughly none the less. I had always marvelled at the thought of getting to a level of surfing where I could ride green waves and really enjoy it, although I knew that it was going to take a long time, I was determined to get there. This was the start of something great. We went to the hot springs later that day with everyone, cooked up a lamb roast and went on the beer once more before we said our goodbyes and hit the road. I had met some amazing people in only my first week In New Zealand. I once again reminded myself about how extremely lucky I was to land into such a great situation.
One of the greatest aspects of traveling are the many incredible people that you meet along the way. I haven’t been travelling for that long, yet would say that some of the people I have met were some of the closest friends I have ever had in my life. One of the worst aspect of traveling is having to say goodbye to these people time and time again. I find it just as difficult every time I bid farewell to another great friend. I suppose that is the nature of living on the road. It’s another excuse to visit them, and discover the places they’ve told you so much about. I find that people that you meet on the road are in general very like minded individuals to you. Everyone has the same idea of just wanting to have a really great time and meet new people. People become close friends quickly because of the amount of time you spend together from the get go. All formalities are lost, nobody cares what you did before, what age you are, whether you went to university or not, it is a magical thing.
The kindness of strangers is also something that continues to amaze me on my travels. I have had people help get me out of several tricky situations out of the absolute kindness of their hearts over here in NZ. Something about travelling seems to bring the best out in us all, generosity is infectious. I feel that I want to help people out whenever I can now. I always got a great kick out of helping others, but this trait has definitely been accentuated in me in recent times. People give what they can, and never expect anything in return. I have found that both offering and being offered a meal is one of the most simple universally understood acts of kindness and friendship there is. It’s a great way to meet people and to share with others.
I have been here in NZ for the past 10 months and have travelled around the north island surfing and am now currently based in Wanaka, a town nestled among the southern alps on the South Island. I have been doing a snowboarding season and am having the time of my life right now. Being surrounded by mountains humbles you somewhat. Their greatness reminds you everyday of the wonderfully great forces of nature. The winter here is cold, but it brings people even closer together. The fire is always lit and cups of tea and coffee are always in hand. I have been living in my camper van “The Fargo” for the majority of my time here, but use the facilities at a house with great people, so there’s always people around. I am currently working in a popular Irish bar called Fitzpatrick’s as a chef. The staff there are super people and it’s a great venue for live music and a few relaxing pints or games of pool. I couldn’t have imagined everything working out so well here, I nearly have to pinch myself sometimes at how amazing it all is.
To finish I wanted to share this inspirational quote they I came across recently, hopefully it speaks to people in the same way that it has for me 🙂
“All men dream; but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity; But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.” – T.E. Lawrence, The seven pillars of wisdom.