“It gets lonely on the road; can’t forget about home./ Gotta know where you’ve been to know where you’re going.” – Fashawn
We accumulate layers over the years, telling ourselves we are who we are because of our careers, our accomplishments, or our social standing. We present ourselves to the world through carefully-crafted profile photos and condense our lives into 140 characters. All of this may hint at who we are, but it never quite hits the mark — instead, it often falls far short.
It’s remarkable, then, how a conversation with an old friend can peel all those layers back to a place you forgot existed.
Warren and I go way back — Kindergarten, to be precise. That’s him in the middle row with the green t-shirt. (I’m harder to pin down these days, what with the beard and all, but I’m two over to his right in the grey.) What I’ve learned over the past three months is just how much of my past is his past, and vice versa. We talk about it often on the road: elementary school crushes, sleepovers and birthday parties, teenage shenanigans. We’ve reminisced on everything from the best Saturday morning cartoons to our high school hiccups. With each conversation, another layer gets peeled back.
“He remembered the youth that he’d forgot about/ Like how he’d block the spout on his house’s hose and not let the water out./ He thought it out and wondered how he remembered it all/ How younger he’d enter the halls when summer surrendered to fall.” – Shad
It’s easy to forget we weren’t always the people we’ve become. We accumulate scars, create expectations, and find moulds to fit into, all in the name of finding our way in “the real world.” A friend of mine told me recently how all of her friends were getting married and she felt pressured, as though she was deemed lesser for being at a different stage in her life.
I know how that feels — I suspect we all do.
All of this — the practice of keeping up with the Joneses, so to speak — distracts us from who we really are, and ultimately, what really matters. Conformity and comparison are killers.
I cherish these conversations, these chances to look back and remember where I came from. I remember my hopes and fears from those years, how they’ve changed over time, and how they’ve stayed the same. I see it in Warren, too, and with each friend I look at in that picture. I think of how lucky I am to have the same friends after all this time.
More to the point, I realize just how far I’ve come since then — from playground slides, to Canadian highways, to the top of New Zealand.
With any luck, I’ll continue further still.
Tales from the road:
1. All we wanted was a place to sleep. Warren and I made the late evening two-hour drive to Te Kuiti and pulled into our campground, eager to plunk down for the night. The place was busy, but eventually, we found a spot with a picnic table right by the river. This could be good! I thought. I let out a sigh of relief after the long day’s journey. It was at that moment that Warren noticed our campsite neighbours: one of New Zealand’s most notorious gangs, complete with leather jackets and face tattoos. As quickly as we pulled into the campsite, we pulled back out and found the farthest corner possible for the night.
2. Maori legend has an interesting story about the country’s origin: a demigod named Māui fished the North Island out of the ocean. Here’s an excerpt from New Zealand’s official website: “The hook went deeper and deeper into the sea until Māui felt the hook had touched something … It was a huge fish! Together with his brothers, Māui brought the fish to the surface. Māui cautioned his brothers to wait until he had appeased Tangaroa the god of the sea before they cut into the fish. They grew tired of waiting and began to carve out pieces for themselves. These are now the many valleys, mountains, lakes and rocky coastlines of the North Island.”
3. On a related note, my alternate title for this week’s blog post was Tuesdays With Maori.
4. This past week has been a reminder that home isn’t a place, but a feeling. We spent two wonderful days in Wellington visiting an American friend we made in Byron Bay, and another two lovely days in Wanganui with good family friends. We also made friends with our gracious hosts in Ngarauwahia. It’s a feeling I’m especially grateful for as the Christmas season approaches and we continue our travels.
Things I’ve seen:
Nature provides the best entertainment. We went with our Wellington friend, Hannah, to Red Rocks for a coastal hike — a place steeped in Maori lore, and a favourite spot for New Zealand fur seals, too. We had been sitting and chatting for a while near the rocks when all of a sudden, a seal’s head popped up just 15 feet away from us. It had been sunning itself there the whole time without us knowing — an impressive feat for an animal that can weigh up to 330 lbs.
2. Mount Tongariro.
The only way I’m willing to walk 20 kilometres in one go. We started at 9am and didn’t finish until nearly 2:30pm. Along the way, we met a couple Canadians from Calgary and had a good chat about each other’s travels.
For Lord of the Rings buffs, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing takes you right past Mount Doom. It was awe-inspiring to see the peak so close, surrounded by cloud. The reward for the walk is great: once you’ve reached the summit, you descend to breathtaking views of Lake Taupo and beyond.
There’s something about walking through a dense forest that’s good for the soul. Warren and I strolled through the redwoods in Rotorua for the better part of a morning, craning our necks at sights like these — it’s hard not to be in awe of the immensity of them.
What I’ve been reading/listening to:
G.P. Taylor – The Shadowmancer
Childish Gambino – Awaken, My Love!
Little Brother – “For You”