Two weeks ago, we hooked our very cool 1974 Classic caravan to the back of the station wagon and hit the road. We’ve stopped off at a couple of places on the East Coast of the North Island of New Zealand and we’re planning to stop off at a couple more. First stop was two nights in Napier, then a mammoth drive to Hicks Bay, where my children’s father is from. Now we’re in Opotiki, in a campsite right on the beach.
I sit with the fan at full blast in the van writing this, too sunburnt to play outside, thoroughly grateful for the kids from the tent next door occupying mine in a game of catch. I am eating banana chips and drinking orange juice. I find myself homesick – which is ironic considering I’ve finally made the decision to move when we get back. But after camping for this long, I know that I’ll return to normalcy with a new appreciation for my dishwasher, my telly and, most significantly, my bed (Bed, I love you, Bed.) However, I’m jumping ahead. I’ll begin at the beginning, like a good story-teller should.
‘Becca,’ said my mate. ‘You need to go bush for a couple of weeks.’
I’d been lamenting about the imminent destruction of the human race due to climate change. It’s my latest obsession.
‘Connect with nature,’ he said. ‘Get so lonely that you can’t bear it and then come out on the other side.’
‘I often do that just sitting on my sofa,’ I said. He looked at me as if I was missing the point, but I’d gotten his drift despite my usual flippancy.
I grew up going to fancy-pants restaurants and fancy-pants hotels and living in fancy-pants house. I have ‘roughed it’ during trips to South America and Asia back-packing with my first intrepid husband, but I found it hard going – fun, character-building, but hard. I couldn’t ‘go bush’ on my own; embarrassingly but honestly, I am too much Princess Barbie and not enough Crocodile Dundee. I’d last a few hours without the guidance of someone who knew what they were doing, with my daughters even less. Camping in a retro caravan is as close as I’m ever going to get to ‘going bush’, and it’s not bush at all, but it is doing for me all that my mate was pushing me toward: getting things into perspective, getting to grips with the physicality of the basics of life, and getting pretty lonely in the process.
We are, in truth, having a fabulous holiday. It strikes me how important a holiday is, nearly four years since my last. The physical changes we’re experiencing echo our mental changes. The changes in our relationships are an indication of new relationships with ourselves. Getting away from home and stepping outside your comfort zone and most importantly, going with it, not fighting it, is simply essential. That’s what my mate was trying to say to me.
I can’t blog about the whole journey at once. There are stages – different camps and different roads travelled. The landscape of New Zealand is rich and diverse and it changes dramatically in what seem like very few miles. Seeing this country again has reminded me why I fell in love with NZ in the first place. Feels good, like confirmation that I’m exactly where I should be in the world. I digress.
As I was saying, I can’t blog about the whole journey all at once, so I’ll post in installments, this being the first…