I Travelled New Zealand Solo In A Van, And I’ve Never Felt More Alive
It’s June 2017. The end of my bachelor’s degree. Most of my friends have their head full of future projects.
This is definitely not my case.
After failing my exams to enter a prestigious journalism school, I am still searching for what I love and what inspires me.
I decide on a whim to leave France for New Zealand. I am 21 years old at the time and I have never left the borders of Europe; this is an exciting adventure for me.
I work for three months in a restaurant as a waitress to save as much money as I can. I don’t really have plans, and I try the best I can to reassure my not-really-inspired-by-the-idea family.
The following months are spent planning, organising, buying the necessary equipment and taking care of the (boring but necessary) administration part. I was literally eating New Zealand, talking New Zealand and sleeping New Zealand.
Every preoccupation sorted; I hug my grandparents one last time at the airport before heading to the departure lounge. I leave my country not without doubts. A lot of questions are circling in my head.
I keep thinking:
What if I run out of money?
What if I can’t find a job?
Or if I don’t make friends?
Don’t succeed and have to come back to France?
Once I arrive, I am still wondering if this was a good idea, and what my journey will be made of.
Spoiler alert: Travelling solo as a woman has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and still is.
I made new friends, worked in a kiwi field, apple orchard and a vineyard, bought a van, travelled from the North to the South of the country, hitchhiked, camped. and so many other things I could never have imagined I’m capable of.
When I was travelling, I was living life to the fullest. To one hundred percent.
I enjoyed every little moment. With time, those little moments become memories that I still cherish today.
Beyond the amazing experience this trip gave me; living on the road made me grow. I’ve learnt not only about myself, but about the others too. I met extraordinary souls on my way. They taught me to be more compassionate; less judgmental. They made this trip undoubtedly special, and I thank them for that.
Another lesson I have learnt is, I don’t need a lot to be happy. Just the essentials actually.
I spent most of my travel journey with all my stuff compacted in a 16kg backpack. A 16kg backpack that would become lighter and lighter throughout my trip. I moved from hostels, to Airbnb’s, and finally ended up in a 1994 Toyota car modestly converted into a van.
I lived in this car for the rest of my trip, and I enjoyed every bit of it. It put my life in perspective.
Do I need all these belongings back home to be happy?
Reducing the amount of unnecessary stuff in my life lifted a weight. I was lighter. It let me focus on experiences rather than superficialities. I spent more time developing better relationships and taking care of people I love.
I was spending most of my time outdoors; exploring, hiking, swimming in lakes or rivers, and it felt good. I didn’t have any internet. It was as if I suddenly was getting my head out of the water to gasp some air.
I reconnected. Not only with myself but also with the natural world. Travelling made me less selfish in a way. The grandeur of New Zealand landscapes I was facing and the richness of its biodiversity made me feel truly small and insignificant. It was humbling.
Independence and freedom are also the benefits of travelling solo. Life wasn’t dictated by any rules.
I could eat when I was hungry, sleep when I was tired, or do whatever I wanted. I was making my own decisions. By having to count only on myself, I had to figure out everyday life alone. Opportunities started naturally to come up, and people met unexpectedly became friends.
Instead of being a spectator to my life, I was living it.
When I looked back at what I did, I have this feeling of pride inflating in my chest. I grew and discovered so much.
When I start to doubt myself, I try to think of this experience.
I try to remember that a 21 year old young woman—who has never travelled that far before—organised this whole trip by herself; by simply following her desire to see the world.
She just left, not really sure about the future, but confident it was somehow the right decision.