To travel well, you have to slow down.
The north island of New Zealand is passing in a blur. I’ve experienced golden sunrises peering through caves formed over thousands of years, soaked my troubles in a thermal pool where locals can buy an annual membership for less than I typically spend on coffee in a month, and Maori performers covered in as much tourist corruption as black tattoos inked into their skin. I sit at the southern tip of the island, in the capital city of Wellington. Houses cling to the cliffs as precariously as the inhabitants clothes, whipped about in the incessant winds, cling to their bodys. Wellington is a city of pastels. The colors are softened by the overcast skies and muted sun. Nobody lingers, the wind is too constant. It forces you to hurry. To seek shelter in the myriad of cafes along the shore.
Once again, I have learned the importance of lingering. I don’t hurry away from the weather. The wind does not bother me. It’s fresh and cold against my face. I embrace it. I am awake again. This always happens when I travel. I wake up, and I slow down. It’s taken me two days to slow down this time. Perhaps it is the rental car? Road trips afford the traveler an opportunity to see a lot, especially in New Zealand. Without a car, the traveller can’t hope to see everything this magical land has to offer.
It has been a long time since my last serious road trip. I had forgotten it’s lure. It beg you to go fast. To go far. To tick the tourist checkboxes off, and move on. I fall into the tourist trap at the start of most journeys, including this one. It takes me time to slow down. Only then do I linger and start experiencing wherever I happen to be. I pull my guitar out from it’s bag and gently pluck a melody.
My rental car is parked the mouth of the inter-island ferry bound for Picton on the South Island. I arrived early to beat the rush. I watch the tourists arrive now, buzzing around me oblivious to the world around them. They miss the white water crashing against the harbor. They miss the clouds swirling overhead. They miss the pastel of this city. They don’t see the color in the sky. For now, they are too busy to see. Soon, they too, will slow down and leave the hustle behind like I have with my rental car, below deck. It will return soon enough. For now however, our world is what’s in front of our eyes and drifts to our ears. We have two and half hours on the ferry. I play another tune, this time for the new comers. For the ones who need to slow down too. Someone passes by and smiles. I return the smile, sliding my fingers down the fretboard with a satisfying squeak of the strings. The change in their faces has already begun.