“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Lao-Tzu
And so it did…
It was on a sunny day in Washington D.C. in the summer of 2011 when I decided to chase my dream of travel. I had been wandering around the city every single day I had off for month with no purpose. Just to wander. I was looking for something in those aimless days, but it was something I couldn’t find there.
I remember laying on my back on that sun-scorched grass, and suddenly I felt the urge to lift my feet up toward the sky. I laid there, wondering, what it would be like to be able to walk amongst the clouds.
An airplane roared past my chucks as I pretended to hop them from one cloud to the next, and then I realized that was the sign. That is how I will walk amongst the clouds. That is how I will live my dream. I had to fly away.
That is Fernweh: A longing for a place you have never been. Farsickness.
I walked amongst the clouds for pretend that day, but soon I would walk amongst the clouds and make it a reality.
Day 1 of my new life. The hardest thing to do sometimes is take the first step, to cross your inner thresholds into the unknown.
My old and worn Chucks, a symbol of the tattered life I was leaving behind for a fresh start.
And there, at the cemetery with my mother and father, I would leave all of my doubts, fears, and reservations behind.
One for my father, and one on my mother’s unmarked grave. It was time to start living my life.
On the day I left, I would realize who was most important in my life. It wasn’t my brother who would see me off, for he had disowned me for wanting to travel. No, it would be my friends.
Where all of my great journeys have begun since, this maiden voyage would start on the train in Union Station.
My trusty chucks and I had the chance to see the landscape of the United Starts rise and fall, change from pine forest, to snow, to hot desert.
Two of my first travel friends made. I was normally a reserved person not up for meeting new people, but it seems as though travel was already helping to break bad habits.
Final destination on the train, Hollywood. After a 68hr journey, I would enjoy California a bit before flying off to dreamland.
Skateboarders in Venice Beach.
Fat Sal’s in Westwood, where you go to eat a phenomenal and heart attack inducing sandwich.
Yes, Los Angeles is quite the jungle.
After a 13hr flight, I have finally arrived in Dreamland. I was finally walking amongst the clouds, or The Land of the Long White Cloud, New Zealand.
Not all who wander are lost, and I didn’t feel lost anymore as I wandered the streets of Auckland. My first foreign city ever.
No more was I held back by the restraints of society’s false prison.
Graffiti in Auckland abound and beautiful.
My first aquarium I ever went to, Kelly Tarlton’s in Auckland.
Ice ice baby. My first ice bar and first case of shrinkage…
That feeling that you get when you look over the edge of a cliff, the step back and take a deep breath. You feel alive. that is the feeling of traveling and not knowing what is next.
Cape Reinga, the most spiritual point of the Maori people in New Zealand, and a point where I began to believe what I was doing was right.
This is how Chucks decide to dry off.
Suddenly I was believing in possibilities, so possibilities came to me. In the form of a camel…
I would go on a trip around the North Island with Clarence the Camel, my first sponsored trip.
Exploring caves near Blue Duck Lodge in New Zealand.
And there I would discover that there are waterfalls EVERYWHERE in New Zealand.
Some, I would slip and slide down by accident…
Clarence and I would finally reach the capital of New Zealand, Wellington. Shenanigans would definitely ensue.
On a Lord of the Rings movie tour, I would prove I make a way sexier Legolas than Orlando Bloom.
Clarence and I would re-enact a scene between Gandalf and Sauruman.
I’d explore parts where they filmed the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The thing to do in Wellington is drink beer in the sun and relax. I think I could live this life…
My first time having “Fush n’ Chups” in New Zealand, and damn were they good.
Hiking atop Mt. Victoria which overlooks Wellington. And of course playing out a “Rocky” fantasy.
Stop. Look. Live. Are you yet?
This would be my first time WOOFing, and my last in New Zealand.
Wine gums. Pretty much the best freakin’ thing ever.
Relaxing on the Wellington Coastline.
Wellington Harbor, my new favorite place to hang out.
Exploring the tricycle museum in Upper Hutt. Way too much fun.
On the road again. There is so much joy in the art of movement.
Why would I where yellow pants?
Because it’s HAMMER TIME!
No, actually, just time to ride a horse for the first time through lush green pastures.
Magical. All I have to say.
The world was suddenly at my feet.
When in Napier, New Zealand, a dapper Art Deco town, you have to wander around with a French baguette obviously.
It is about taking a leap of faith, about trusting yourself, about being willing to fall down and bounce back up.
…and having no shame when you scream like a little girl.
But I did it. I bungy jumped!
Sea Lions, be careful?
Sometimes solitude is where you discover most about yourself. Here, I found solitude atop a building.
You know this guy? Chya, Magneto. And Gandalf. And I was going to see him live!
Yes. I met Ian McKellen. He is quite the gnarly dude.
Toward the end of my time in New Zealand, I would work in a kiwi packing factory, packing 500 kiwis a minute. And I would discover what it is like to be the only American amongst 1,500 people, and would come to find out our views about each other are so different.
Fun Fact: In 2012, if you ate a Kiwi, there was a 1/1000 chance I packed it.
Sailboats in Tauranga, just as my time in New Zealand was about to end.
But my perspective had changed dramatically. I was finally off of the fast track to a boring life.
Though I was returning home after 9 months amongst the clouds, I still did it. I still walked amongst the Land of the Long White Cloud. I still broke my chains and flew free. And forever it would change my life.
Even though I didn’t fully travel a year in New Zealand, it was still the most amazing experience of my life.
At the end of the 9 months in New Zealand, my Chucks were again torn and falling apart. But this time, that fading, those rips, those stains, they told stories of adventure. I can remember when each and every one happened it made me smile.
Unlike the tattered Chucks I originally left behind, no more would they be a story that made me cry. They will forever be be moving forward with me to the next adventure, and to my happiness.