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November 26-27, 2023:
Yesterday, I flew into Oahu to spend the night with my dad’s employees before my upcoming trip to New Zealand. It was my first time leaving the country completely on my own, however I would be meeting up with my good friend, Orange Man.
Today, Aušra and Vytas drove me to the Oahu airport. I told them my flight was an hour earlier than it actually was—guess I had some PTSD from my dad going to airports extremely last minute and having us rush through, barely making it to our gate on time. Our family was often left anxious and in stress mode. I was the type that preferred being at the airport 3 hours before my flight so I could take my time, meet people and relax without the sense of feeling rushed.
We woke up before sunrise and rode down the highway as we watched the sky shift from a light pink to a dark red hue. The silhouettes of the clouds gave way to an illusionary appearance of mountains. Wispy clouds indicated there would be a windy day ahead. On the way, I saw a car drive by with my power numbers: 117. I still didn’t know what it meant, but I saw those numbers often and something about them felt really good.
I got dropped off, we hugged goodbye and I got in line for check-in. Waiting in line, my palms grew sweaty from nervousness. Turned out I was waiting in the wrong line; my sense of direction was often fucked when I was trying to navigate myself through the modern world.
I called my parents to divert the feeling of anxiety. I was on speakerphone when my mom asked me if I was going to fall asleep on the plane and I said yes.
“Maybe you’ll get lucky and have a handsome guy next to you so you can rest your head on him,” she teased.
I laughed and said, “Funny, that actually happened when I was flying into Hawaii.”
In the background my Dad’s voice echoed, “Goda, stop. That’s inappropriate.”
“It’s not like she would be able to regulate herself while she’s sleeping,” my mom joked.
We all busted out laughing. It was nice to hear their voices before I flew out of the country. They did their typical mom and dad spiel, making sure I would keep them updated and let them know when I landed safely. They also told me not to have any hanky panky shenanigans with this kiwi man I was about to go see.
“It’s not like that,” I said.
It reminded me of my very first time traveling alone to the state of Hawaii. I was only 19, at the airport crying because I was feeling so overwhelmed by actually having to think and listen to directions. At that time, I kept thinking,
What if the friends I’m meeting up with change their mind?
What if the people picking me up from the airport will forget about me?
What if I’m stranded when I land and have to figure it all out on my own?
Well, all of that ended up happening and I turned out fine! Everything was taken care of.
Just the same now, I felt overridden with nervousness and excitement. Tears of gratitude filled my eyes as I wondered what was to come. I felt into the feeling sense of the unknown and handed the fear over to the Holy Spirit.
Will I make it through customs okay?
Will they discard any of my items?
Will my tent poles and trekking poles make it through?
Orange man told me they were very strict with what people were allowed to declare, so I deep cleaned all of my items. He also said they might give me a hard time for dairy/meat items, so I shipped most of my food items back home to the Big I to avoid any difficulties or possibilities of my items being thrown out. I had around 15 freeze dried meals, a couple rods of salami and an assortment of snacks. Figured I would just save it for my next thru.
Shortly before going through security, I lifted my head to see a guy my age smiling at me in a childlike way, as if he wanted to say hi. I looked at his pack and saw it was a hyperlite with heavy signs of wear throughout it. My face flushed as I beamed out a smile.
“Are you thru-hiking the TA?!” I exclaimed.
“Yeah!” he said, “are you?!”
“Yes!” I said.
My eyes welled up with tears of gratitude. The moment felt as if we were the black sheep in a giant crowd of regular people. People of my kind—a needle in a haystack kine feeling. Later, I saw him walking to the food court with a girl who looked like another thru-hiker! I greeted them with a smile.
“I would love to talk your ears off about hiking!” I said to them.
“Sure,” he said, “we’ll meet you at the gate!”
They eventually came back and sat next to me. I felt like a little kid trying really hard to hold my composure and hide my excitement. It was so hard to keep my cool when I felt joy bubbling up inside of me ready to explode!
Why was I trying to hide it? I thought to myself.
His name was Veg and her name was Sketchy. They were both avid thru-hikers, having also hiked trails of various kinds.
Oo, I felt so excited for our journey! On the plane I sat with tears in my eyes. I gave thanks to myself for being able to find the courage to follow my heart. I was born a traveler, an adventurer at heart, and I owed it to myself to live that out.
I loved the outfits the flight attendants wore—bright purple/teal dresses with spunky black patterns inspiring a groovy look. I found enjoyment listening to the accent of the New Zealanders. I was trying not to laugh. It was different, but I genuinely found it cute.
I looked at my ticket for my next flight to Christchurch. It read: BOARDING TIME 20:20. I asked the guy next to me what time that meant.
“20 past 8,” he said.
I stared at him blankly.
“What?” I asked, “Ohhh, 8:20. Gotcha.”
This is going to take some getting used to, I thought to myself.
The flight went by super fast, as it did nearly every time before a new adventure. I went through customs and declared my gear and snacks. Then, I went through another security checkpoint for my domestic flight to Christchurch. I was thrown off by how kind all of the workers were at the airport. I was greeted with smiles and asked about my day and where I was coming from.
One of the security guys looked at my nemo switchback and said, “Ello, ma’am. Can I ask what this is used fo?”
“It’s what I sleep on,” I said.
“You sleep on that? Looks like it’s seen some years!” he said.
I laughed and told him it was actually really comfy once you got used to it. After that, I walked to the wrong gate, realized I forgot my carry on so I walked back to security laughing.
The same guy spotted me as I was waving my arm yelling, “I got distracted!”
“Come on, mate!” he yelled.
God, I loved how they talked here.
It was a quick flight into Christchurch where Orange was meeting me. We ended up arriving 20 minutes early. I walked out the gate and spotted him immediately in his bright new Orange barefoot shoes. I ran in for a hug and both of us were in shock. All we could say was “woah.” Our faces flushed and our eyes were wide.
“I can’t believe you’re actually here!” he said.
“I can’t believe I’m here, either!” I exclaimed.
We caught up lightly as I waited for my baggage to show up on the belt. The belt stopped moving. The baggage didn’t arrive. We went to talk to the Air New Zealand desk to get more information. They explained that sometimes this happened when getting onto a domestic flight when I was originally arriving internationally. I could tell the lady giving me the news was very nervous expressing that they basically lost my luggage somewhere along the way. I made sure it wasn’t a problem and that it would come when it comes and if it didn’t, I would just get new gear. It was time for it, anyways!
Orange Man got us an Airbnb for a couple of nights. I loved that he had the logistics planned out. He got us an Uber there and I was thrown off when I saw the driver on the right side instead of the left. I told him I would get into a car accident trying to drive around the area.
I pondered, then looked at Orange and said, “I honestly don’t even know where I am right now, if I’m on the South Island or the north one. I just booked a ticket to where you told me to meet you.”
I enjoyed the not knowing of it, however I was sure I would actually research my route if I was completely on my own.
It was almost midnight as we stayed up talking some more and went over our loose itinerary. We would be staying in Christchurch a couple of nights and then hitchhiking north about 6 hours the following day.
I noticed Orange now had a big Osprey pack.
“Yeah, 85 liters,” he said, “biggest one I could find.”
“What?!” I said in a surprised manner. “Who even are you?!”
I knew him as an extreme ultra-lighter. His pack was tiny when I first hiked with him. Now, he agreed that ultralight wasn’t as ideal as it was made out to be.