I felt like a failure for the first few days after 90 Mile Beach. I felt like I didn't belong in the list of hikers that trekked Te Araroa if I couldn't even make it past the first leg of the journey. I couldn't imagine it's challenges. "Oh, it's just a beach." I'd told myself before beginning.
There was a point when I needed to seriously sit back and think about who I was while hiking that beach. I needed to think about me - and only me - for the first time in a long time. I needed to ask myself if I was happy and if I was making the right decisions.
I felt like a failure because I was looking through the eyes of the people around me. I had a notion that a thruhike was about walking every inch of the hike, even if most of the time you were miserable and exhausted.
I didn't want to be miserable. I came half way across the world to find my inner peace and happiness. I didn't want to look in the mirror and see the reflection of a girl who felt unfulfilled.
I didn't walk all of 90 Mile Beach, but because of that fact - what had I done? I'd swam in an oasis hidden deep in the sand dunes with Kayla, a French girl and a naked Kiwi. I'd rode in the bed of a truck, going 130km/h down the beach. I'd hitchhiked for the first time in my life and met two more Kiwis that reminded me of the boys I miss back home. I'd learned New Zealand hospitality firsthand when one of the kiwis, Matt, graciously offered us a bed and shower while we recovered from our blistered feet and tired shoulders. I'd shared Canadian hospitality back when we cooked Matt and his children a roast as a thank you for putting up with us. I'd shot a gun with Matts kids and listened to them laugh while I tried to explain what a Poutine was - considering gravy on chips is already preposterous enough. I'd drove across the beach during sunset, driving a standard (manual) car for the first time in my life. I'd jumped into freezing water, hidden in the Mangamuka Gorges far up the mountain and into the forests.
And I'd stood on top of a mountain staring down at 90 Mile Beach, knowing that though it got the better of me - I won the prize.
I've spent the last few days wondering if I'm a failure for skipping a part of the trail that made me feel less of myself, when in reality I should have been appreciating what it brought to me. I have new lifelong friends, open arms when I am in trouble, and experiences I would have never had the chance of living if I hadn't gone off trail. My pathway on this adventure is decided by where I end up the happiest.
I'm done reassuring myself that I am not a failure when the proof of victory is in the plane ticket I bought just to get to the start. The moment my feet touched this country, I was already more of a person than I have ever been.
And when I'm finished this hike - regardless how it is done - I will be the person I've always wanted to be.