Gandalf will always claim he didn’t do anything that sent Bilbo on his adventures, other than give him a little nudge out of the door. Which is true, in a way. I’d like to think I gave myself more than just a nudge out of the door. I’d never travelled on my own or flown long haul, and with an absolutely crippling fear of flying it led to a lot of questions about why I’d decided to fly to the other end of the world for 19 days. The rush I got when I booked my flights soon turned into a pit in the bottom of my stomach when I realised that if I changed my mind now, it was a lot of money that had I definitely wouldn’t be able to get refunded.
The worst part of travelling on your own is definitely the airports. When you’re on your own, it’s harder to try and occupy time when you don’t have someone to talk too. They don’t tell you how awful it is when you’re sat in that dead time, waiting for your flight to be called for boarding or trying to work out connecting flights when you land in a foreign airport and have no idea where you’re going, especially on about an hour’s sleep. Running through LAX, trying to find the Air New Zealand desk and being told it’s just ‘down there’ by many different airport staff who point vaguely into this vast airport terminal filled with bright lights and shops and no sign of an airline desk is nothing short of absolutely panic inducing. I think I would take flying around category 3 cyclone Tino over having to try and navigate LAX ever again.
I flew four times when I was in New Zealand, and have never been more terrified and more surprised in my life, firstly from the lack of any security for all domestic flights, and secondly for the fact that Taupo airport seemed to only have one member of staff who went from checking in bags to guiding the tiny planes in. I know had it not been for the wise words of the German girl with the bad sunburn in Taupo, I probably would have spent the whole flight gripping my seat and counting my breathing very slowly. I learnt so much from the people I met, hearing about their different lives and experiences. It’s something that’s given me a change in my perspective, not just on how I view other people but certainly how I view myself.
I feel like when you’re with friends, it’s easy just to stick with who you know. I found not only did I have to speak to people, but that it was easier to speak to people. Every single hostel I went into, I was able to find this incredibly comfortable medium of being able to do my own thing and yet still have friends I could laugh, joke and do things with. When I was stuck in a rainstorm in a leaky room in Napier one evening with three German girls, a Swiss girl and an American girl, we spent the evening talking as if we weren’t all strangers, and who introduced me to the world of German club songs, specifically one called Johnny Däpp. In Rotorua, I met a lovely Australian guy named Alex, who talked about how he was worried about going home due to the bushfires. One of my biggest worries about going on my own was that I wouldn’t have anyone to talk too and I would get incredibly lonely, but I found the opposite.
That said, not having to rely on other people for anything was incredibly freeing. I loved that I could get up at 7.30am to get the shuttle bus to Wai-O-Tapu without having to worry about if the people I were travelling with were up and ready to go. I could eat where I wanted to eat and do the things I wanted to do without having to make any compromises. I could spend as much or as little time as I wanted in Te Papa in Wellington, and could enjoy walking through the Hamilton Gardens over and over and over again, at my own time and pace, and there was no debate over spending the whole day on the beach at Mount Mangauni, rather than hiking the mountain. It was, at times, annoying to have to ask other people to take photos of me, but that’s possibly more a measure of my own vanity, than an actual grievance. I’ve had people tell me they could never have travelled so far on their own, but I disagree. Sometimes all it really does take is just a little nudge out of the door.
Celia Rhodes – Features Writer