“Farewell! God knows when we shall meet again. ”
― William Shakespeare
I have been dreading writing my next blog for awhile. Maybe it is because I am not sure what to write about, maybe it is because I am afraid of what people will think, or maybe it’s simply because I haven’t felt happy in awhile and I am afraid being unhappy will go against what I stand for.
About a week ago, I started to get in a funk. My first thought was, “damn, that invisible menstrual cycle is back again.” I waited a few days and it didn’t go away. I was lonely, scared and felt like crying most of the time, but I didn’t really know why.
I couldn’t be homesick, I’ve been away from home for years and never really thought twice about it, although I do miss my cats dearly. I sometimes start to get anxious or depressed when I eat certain foods or drink alcohol, but I hadn’t really been drinking and I have been sticking to my diet.
I started to see things through a different lens. A cloudy one. I failed to see the positive, people were irking me to be short tempered and I didn’t feel like I was having a good time. I tried to stay positive through it all. “Fake it til you make it”, if you will. By pretending to be happier, maybe I could indeed BE happier.
I ended up going to the hospital on Friday for a mild infection that started to cause me great pain. I woke up and could barely move my back. I was stiff, sore, and couldn’t imagine spending another night in a tent. Like all western doctors, they threw antibiotics at me. “Take this for what we think you have, take that for what you might have, and take this other one for good measure.”
Nope. I have done my research on antibiotics, and I know the more you take, the weaker you get. Your immune system can be damaged by overuse of antibiotics and can lead to antibiotic resistant bacteria building up in your blood, causing bigger issues down the road. I took the one I thought was best and didn’t fill the other two. And guess what, it worked.
Just because a doctor tells you to take something, does NOT mean you have to take it. We put so much faith in our healthcare system and forget that doctors are normal human beings too, they make mistakes, they overprescribe due to illegal kickback programs, and you aren’t always in their best interest.
Then Easter Sunday happened. I woke up with a kink in my neck and decided I wasn’t going to let it ruin my day. I was a little bummed that I had to be alone on Easter, but I have been away from family for almost every major holiday for the past 8 years. I stretched my neck, had a cup of tea and ate breakfast with the intention of going on an awesome lake hike and treating myself to a comfortable bed for the night.
I checked out of the campground and set off on a two hour journey through the mountains to get to Lake Rotoiti. I was enjoying having the road to myself and listening to my favorite music. I’ve learned that smiling can manifest chemicals of happiness in your brain and actually trick your body into believing you are happy, so I smiled the whole way, knowing that I was faking it.
About an hour and a half into my journey, I started to smell burnt popcorn. I know that smell. Unpleasant and worrisome. I made it to the top of a hill before stopping, because I knew what it meant. My car was overheating. As soon as I stopped, billows of white smoke came from under the hood.
At least I had a view…
Let’s take a step back and talk about WHY I bought this car. I wanted something reliable and cheap to get me on a few journeys before selling it to the next backpacker and going on my way. I fell in love with this car the second I saw it, because it reminded me of my Subaru. A nice station wagon, with room for camping gear, and enough space to sleep if the weather got too bad.
The people I bought it from said they had no problems with it and I told them I was very interested, but of course would want to test drive it and take a look before buying it. I didn’t look at many other cars because they were over priced, in a different city, or simply too big for what I was going for. A week before I arrived in Christchurch, they told me they had some problems. I was apprehensive at first, but they told me they put a new radiator in it and the Warrant of Fitness was up to date with no safety issues.
When they arrived for the test drive, the car was not everything I thought it would be. They started to tell me about these little problems it had, but that it made it everywhere they needed to go. They didn’t know much about cars, to the point that they told me to put water in the radiator instead of antifreeze. My short trip around town was pleasant, and I didn’t notice any major problems.
Although I was apprehensive because of the “small oil leak” and “wee bit of whining when the heat is on”, I felt bad. They were leaving the next day and were counting on me to buy it so they could catch their flight and go back home. I was worried that they would have problems trying to sell it in one day, and I put myself in their shoes and knew I would be anxious if I didn’t sell it that day.
My propensity to serve others outweighed my feelings of doubt. My gut feeling told me not to buy it, but I was excited to start my journey and be able to go drive somewhere outside of the neighborhood I was staying in.
Back to Easter Sunday, as my car was billowing white smoke, I kicked the bumper and cursed the heavens. “Why does this always happen to me?!?!” My first car burst into flames in Arizona, sending me home with no money. My second car was totaled in a car accident after overworking myself and losing attention at the wheel. My third car was rear ended into someone else, causing me to lose my job from time missed for physical therapy. When is the cycle going to break?
I remained calm while I watched car after car pass by me without a second glance. I waited it out until a nice local pulled off and asked me if I needed help. We filled it with antifreeze, let it cool, and I decided to try to make it to my hike, which was only another 34km up the road. Mind you, this is a backcountry mountain road, where there are no services for miles. Aside from the fact that it was a holiday, and everything was closed.
Things were going fine, until I made it to the next hill and smelt the same unsettling aroma of burning oil. This time I decided it wasn’t worth trying to continue, and I needed to come up with an action plan. After a few brief moments of crying and screaming and kicking ol’ Suzi, I waited for the next person to stop and asked to use their phone. What a great decision to get roadside assistance, which means nothing when you don’t have a cell phone to call on.
When I finally got ahold of the insurance company, they told me it would be 15-60 minutes before a tow truck could get there, so I settled in for the ladder because I knew I was in the middle of nowhere.
Three and a half hours later, a guy pulled off and asked me if I needed help, I said I had been waiting for my tow truck and he offered his cell phone so I could try to call again. He did a quick diagnosis on my car and told me the engine was fried and it probably wasn’t worth fixing, but he had some old cars that ran if I needed to buy something quick. After 45 minutes of holding, I decided to try to make it back down to the nearest town, about an hour drive away. He said “go as fast as you can, for as far as you can, it’s not going to last long.”
Oh great, I am driving a ticking time bomb! Who knows what will happen when it decides to stop working! Is it going to blow up? Burst into flames? Am I going to lose control and not have brakes? I took a deep breath and started on my way, keeping it in neutral for as long as I could down the hill, and making sure I had enough inertia to make it up the next.
I stopped at the river and filled up my water bottles in case I needed to put out a fire or cool down the engine quickly. I was just pulling into the local town when I had a gut feeling to pull over, this time I listened. The second I turned my steering wheel, the power steering went out, the engine died, and I rolled to a stop. The car in front of me quickly turned around and the lady came running to my door.
“Get out!” I heard, “The smoke!” And I politely asked if I could use her phone to call for a tow. She said she saw the brown smoke and thought it might catch fire. Brown?! I didn’t see that before…Unfortunately, this ladies groceries were more important than my tow and she wouldn’t wait around for me to get in contact with someone. I walked about a mile to get to the nearest business that was open and asked to use their phone.
Although I had roadside assistance, a tow from where I was still cost $200 to get it back to the city where I was staying. I held back tears the entire way back, and then had to suck it up and put on a smile to check into my airbnb. I immediately closed the door to my room and had a good long cry.
What was I going to do? Where was I going to go? Is anything even open? I need a drink. Wait, you can’t buy alcohol on Easter? You can’t even drink at a bar without ordering food? What kind of place is this? Should I sell it? Should I fix it? Should I dump it in a river and hope I don’t get caught for littering? Stop.
I thought, how could today possibly get any worse? I decided to hitch a ride with my host to the restaurant he works at and get a meal and a drink, or four. Angels come in many different forms, but this gentleman took the cake. He made me feel welcomed and ensured me it was ok to have a bad day. He told me the story of him and his girlfriend’s car troubles where he had to run a mile with a flat spare tire to get it filled while his car slowly slid down a dangerous hill with his girlfriend alone in it. He assured me that it would all be alright, and recommended I have a strong drink and a deep breath.
While sipping on my double tall gin and tonic and enjoying a plate of gluten free, dairy free, vegan nachos, he brought me chocolate eggs and told me “I know you are having a rough day, and I know it’s not much, but chocolate always helps me feel better”. I almost started crying in the middle of the patio at a country club. These small gestures of kindness are what make the world go around.
The Honest Lawyer Country Pub, Monaco, Nelson, New Zealand
I returned home to find myself at the beginning of a long night of worry, anxiety and self-doubt. Did I make a bad decision in buying this car? Did I waste hard earned money on something that is now worthless? Should I try to fix it or buy a new one and stay, or should I call it quits and head home? Did I come all this way to not enjoy myself and waste my money on nothing?
Everyone told me to sleep on it, but sleep was far from my skill set at this time. I tossed and turned all night throwing myself the same ideas: go home and travel the US, try to stay in New Zealand, or island hop my way back to the states. Island hopping and traveling the US have always been on my mind, ever since I got to New Zealand.
I enjoyed some of my time in New Zealand, but I don’t feel this is where I should be right now. I don’t know why, but something is telling me to leave, and if there is anything I have learned in this last week, its to listen to your gut and don’t let others’ perspectives of your life have anything to do with your decisions.
My self-loathing is enough for me to take in, but my fear of what others would think started to get the best of me. Are people going to see me as a failure because I didn’t stay as long as I thought I would? How many people are going to try to tell me “I told you so”? Does this undermine my blog and my idea of what it is to commit to something and stick to it?
Nevertheless, I am making a decision. For myself. I am leaving New Zealand. It will always be here, and I can always come back. I’m not saying “goodbye”, so much as I am saying “see you later.”
I want to make it clear that I am NOT giving up. I am NOT second-guessing myself. And I am NOT calling it quits. I am changing my plan.
Now the hard work begins, to swallow my pride, take a hit, and sell my stuff for less than what I paid. I will hopefully get rid of everything by the end of the week to be able to start island hopping my way back to the US to continue my traveling in a different way. Closer to home, closer to family, and closer to my comfort zone.
R.I.P. Suzi Suzuki 1997-2018