As humans, we seem to go to more effort to avoid trouble and pain than we do to make things better.
-“The Yes Man” by Danny Wallace
I’m accustomed to living by the clock and to living by the rules.
5:45 alarms, 10 o’clock meetings, drinks at 7. A calendar perpetually reminding me where I ought to be and when, a text message exchange cementing plans. GPS leads me where my mental map isn’t fleshed out, google is at my fingertips to answer any question, if there’s a problem the answer is only a phone call away. Always putting out fires, a life of control where the lack thereof is cause for panic and anxiety.
It doesn’t work that way for a working holidayer.
I’m not convinced it works that way for all of New Zealand.
When I walked into my first shift for my first international position, my preconceptions of what the head of housekeeping ought to be like were shattered. A tiny woman was beaming, welcoming all the temp staff and seemed entirely unconcerned that half of us didn’t have the foggiest idea what we were doing. I was shuffled off with an equally blasé leader to start cleaning rooms. She was more interested in telling me about her new year’s celebrations with her grandchildren and peppering me with questions about Goldie than she was with making sure I knew how to properly fold the bedsheets and which materials to use for dusting.
Instead of treading on eggshells wondering which way is up I feel as though there are no wrong turns here, no rules even exist for me to break.
For the first time in my life, absolutely nothing matters. I wake and sleep and wander as a whim strikes me. The sun greets me as it rises, or fills Goldie with a greenhouse effect to remind me to continue exploring. I examine paper maps and trace routes with my finger, still unsure how to gauge the time it would take: is this a twenty-minute drive, or two hours? I pay it no mind: no one is counting on me on the other end to arrive at a certain moment. Goldie is my turtle shell as I carry my home with me everywhere, and leave her at the fringes of the city while my feet carry me everywhere else.
For the second time in my life, I’m not entirely sure where to put my body. When Dad died and I found myself living on the farm, I was confused how to live without a plan. What do I do with my feet? I think I ought to put me here for the moment. My mind was racing through mud, but my body was just kind of in the way. Where do I tether my flesh while my spirit absorbs the beauty around me?
These days, I still don’t entirely know where I ought to drag my body to catch up with my mind, but I’m in no rush. This entire world is unhurried.
I pick up hitchhikers and ferry them onward, often never learning their name as we glide back into the rhythm of the two-lane road and wind through the mountains. Instead we share where we’ve come from, where we’re going next. They tell me how they’ve only had to wait a few minutes to be picked up every time they’ve stuck out their thumb unless they’re in a pair. I tell them my hitchhiker notebook is beneath their feet and I ask them to sign it. And just like that, they’re gone again.
My heavy bills for the year are already paid, small enough to be done in advance and leave me free to wander. I just need to work enough to pay for the daily missives: a night in the campground, a gym membership (and shower!), petrol for Goldie, a bit of food. I’m not tied to any one place, any one job out of fear of not being able to pay for my survival. I can fill in temporary help wanted positions, work part-time, and spend the time so free wandering among the trees and rivers and stones and oceans. There is so much space, so much time, and so many more people seem ready to accept life as it comes rather than trying to force it to bend to their whims.
I’m in New Zealand, and the world is my oyster. Where shall the wind blow me next?