City Life

Being in the city for a few days has brought a sort of comfort to my travels. I'm reminded of home when I walk to get coffee, and the people I bump into are full of different stories that bring a happiness that is incomparable to the happiness I feel on the trail.

Both forms of happiness are welcomed, as one reaches towards my inner adventurer and the other reaches towards my social being. It has been such an interesting few days of discovery that have involved crying, laughing, walking, drinking, and planning.

It's like I'm living two different lives right now. The life of a city explorer and the life of a hiker. It's given me a lot to think about, and in the end my journey will have shaped me in ways I could have never expected Te Araroa to.

It's almost weird being in this city, as it reminds me of two very different cities back home. Auckland is very beautiful in ways similar to London. There are trees everywhere, little side streets, busy people rushing to work, small buildings, and wonderful nature.

However, Auckland is also very similar to Toronto. Beautiful harbour, delicious cafes,  fancy business people, exotic lifestyles, expensive living, small personable parks, and a party life.

It has been a nice few days living on both sides of the spectrum but my wallet is starting to cry mercy. As much as I am falling in love with this place, it's almost time to say goodbye and continue on with the next leg of this journey - or else I'll be starving!

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Good from the Bad

I cried on the trail for the first time today. Not because of the blisters on my feet, the broken water bottle, the dehydration, the hot sun, the endless uphill mountain, the allergens in the air trying to kill me, the wobbling knees that didn't want to continue. Hell, it wasn't even because of the swollen ankles or the broken trekking pole.

Today, I screamed at the ocean and cried into the clouds because for the first time since beginning this hike I finally asked myself one question:

What the fuck am I doing here?

I'm trying to accomplish something in my own heart and mind but why did I choose such an intense way of doing it? Every muscle aches and every emotion has been tested. I can barely handle my pack let alone my whole physical being as I wind up roads and fall down hills.

This walk has taken so much out of me already, but isn't that what I wanted? Something more challenging than the shit I'd already been accustom to? Maybe the roads aren't so bad when people wave from their cars. Maybe the steep, uphill battles aren't a lost cause when the view appears at the top. Maybe the ocean walks aren't the worst when the waves sing and the sand sparkles. Maybe the country sides aren't as stressful when the horses run freely, staring at you with curious eyes.

Every pain I feel is for the moments where, though I swear and my hips beg me to stop, I find the good from the bad. I'm going to cry and bleed and scream at the world, but this is what I wanted. I wanted something harder than that night in August over a year ago. Something more mentally challenging and emotionally painful.

And finally - I think I've found it.

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Continue in 3...2...1

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.

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Thoughts of Te Paki

There was nothing I loved more than making him smile. I let myself forget my own needs, and when he left I had to learn how to love making myself smile again, so I bought a plane ticket and flew halfway across the world to collapse on a hot beach by a fresh water stream. I watched the water flow past me and towards the ocean, taking on a new taste and a new meaning. I wish I could tell you that finding a new meaning was as easy as floating into new waters, but sadly; we're not streams.

We're tornados. Hurricanes. One moment, we're calm and collected, and in the blink of an eye we become destructive. Our minds spiral out of control and it's hard to stay focused on the initial plans we once had.

The journey to self discovery is about more than just doing this trail. It's about how the trail can move you and help you see. I came here to learn about who I am and to forget about who I was. Although the past holds many lessons, sometimes the thoughts of the eyes I used to hold and the laughter I used to receive hurts more than imaginable. Every blister, every rug burn, every bug bite, every shin pain, every tired night and early morning was chosen for me because in some sentimental and artistic way, they're harder to deal with than the night I lost myself.

There's a reason my path led me here, and I'm going to find it. I'm going to push every ounce of who I am to become who I want to be. I will find the bigger picture through this journey.

Just like that stream, I will become the ocean.

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The First Two Days

Taking on the Te Araroa has been an aspiring dream of mine for over a year now, but nothing could have prepared me for the first two days on the trail itself. No amount of physical training, mentality checks, or personal insight could have ever prepared me for the person I have become in a mere two days.

Starting at Cape, I already knew this was going to be one of the hardest things I have ever done. About 3kms into the hike I could already feel my mind vanishing into utter peace, whilst my body ached in ways I've never felt. It was like my mind was always ready to go, but my body didn't even get the memo. Which, as much as I don't want to admit, is true.

The thing about thruhikes is that preparing your body for the task is the most important thing you can do, and although I did train a bit, and I focused more on what I was eating, I still didn't train as hard as I could have. Because of this fact, the hike is 10x harder than it truly has to be.

After gasping for air over the first tall hill, getting lost for a good two hours in the sand dunes just 5km into the hike, and lighting my stove on fire (thanks to the New Zealand spirits sold at Mitre One), we made it to Twilight Campsite 13kms in and decided that was a good place to stay for the night.

We set up our tents, cooked some Mountain Chili, then watched the sunset and prepared for a cold sleep by the ocean.

Day two was a bit more... intense. We woke up determined to make it to the next campground, 28kms away from Twilight. We packed up, I had left over mountain chili, we filled our bottles and we were on our way.

After walking about 4km through the hills, we made it to the staircase that descends to the beach. It was a great moment for both of us as we welcomed the idea of walking along a beach instead of up hills.

Oh how silly...

Sitting on 90 Mile Beach about 15km in, I realized that I wasn't enjoying it. I hated it. I hated the stupid waves and the hard sand. I hated the way the seaweed sprawled out along the coast and the way that one damn island out in the water never disappeared no matter how long you walked for. It was absolute hell. I couldn't imagine walking the whole 70kms or so of it's repetitive shoreline and I give props to all of the people who can without completely losing their minds.

That's when a man named Jason drove up in his truck with another hiker in the front seat, seeing us on the ground debating our lives purposes, and asked if we needed a lift.

A lift. That meant no more walking. No more blisters. No more hatred of the beach.

Regardless if other hikers call it cheating, we took the ride. And I'm glad we did, because that one act of resiliance turned into a day I will never forget.

Jason took us back up the beach far into the sand dunes where a pond stood vacant in the middle, and we all jumped in for a swim. The plant life in the water was beyond incredible, and it was cold in all the best ways. After the swim, Jason drove us up the beach a bit. Going 130km/h in the back of a truck bed on a beach was the first moment I could truly enjoy the beach instead of defy it. The water sparkled and the sand whipped up and around us as we drove, and the truck bounced as we passed streams. Those moments of enjoyment are the moments why I chose to do this, not the collapsing in heat and wondering if the blister pain would ever go away. I didn't need to challenge my physical strength along a hard beach, especially if it meant losing my mental strength.

Jason dropped Kayla, myself, and Lyra - the other hiker in the front seat - off about 10km from the next campsite. With the sun setting soon, we decided to try and make it. After two hours the sun vanished with 4km left to the campsite. With the air getting cold, and the water moving fast, I decided to do something I've never done before. Stick my thumb out at the next passing car.

Johnny and Matt pulled over in a small hatchback and we asked about the next campsite. They laughed, because obviously we're just crazy foreigners, and told us we were still a far ways away. We asked about a lift and they were more than accommodating. We crammed into the back seat with our packs, and off we went.

After driving to the campsite Matt offered we stay at his home instead, where he has more than enough beds and a warm shower. His kiwi hospitality has been incredible, and I appreciate every second of it.

The experience I held in those hours were so life changing on their own that I didn't need to prove to anyone else that I could walk the distance, because I didn't want to. Fuck that beach. Fuck the blisters that are already prominent on my feet. I wanted to enjoy the distance in all of it's glory. I wanted to watch the sand sparkle and laugh at how it never fucking ended. I want to take on the Te Araroa trail in a way that opens my mind and heart to who I am.

The trail will be a guideline, but it won't be my itinerary. There will be times when the walking becomes too much, or the highway walks are too boring, and when those days come I will go off and swim with a dolphin, or find a cliff to jump off of, and after I do that, I'll jump back onto the trail knowing that I did exactly what I wanted to do.

After all, what's the point of an adventure if you don't do what you love in the process?

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Day Two - Mainstreet

Day Two

We began our travels North today, beginning with a seven hour bus ride up to Kaitaia. People had told me the scenery in New Zealand was something else, but the comments pale in comparison of the real deal. As we sped up and down mountains, with the ocean to the East, it was safe to say I'd never fallen in love as fast as I did on that bus. The view was exuberant, and the people we met were just as life changing.

Ollie, a 27 year old from England - with a punny sense of humour and a smile that could pierce your soul - is the first TA hiker we've met on this journey. He hopped on the bus in Auckland at the same time as us and right away he could tell that our final destination was also Cape Reinga. We spoke about gear, trail plans, and life in general. He has lived in New Zealand for a year now, residing in Wellington, and he'd decided it was time to enjoy every the country had to offer.

Ally, a Taurus from Boston with a film camera and an incredible attitude, is the most down to earth Bruins fan that I have ever met - and that's coming from a Canadiens fan with nothing but Habs in her bloodstream. She is in New Zealand traveling, and is on her way to Ahipara to work at a surf shop. She became my first trail hero when she helped me adjust my pack to be more comfortable and easier to carry. Her nomadic lifestyle is in full swing, and I hope to see more of her adventures unfold as the months go by!

Ally joined Kayla and I at "Mainstreet Lodge", one of the most accommodating hostels I've ever been to. It's wonderful here as the lodge holds room for many different people traveling for many different reasons. There are communities built in it's walls and it has been a real privilege to see everything it has to offer.

With this night coming to an end, the start of the trail is just around the corner. A man named Oli graciously gives rides to TA walkers for a very reasonable price, so tomorrow he will give Kayla and I a drive to the Cape. And let me tell you;

I've been waiting so long to see that lighthouse.

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Day One - Dream Homes

The time has finally come. Kayla and I made it into Auckland, New Zealand this morning - myself flying in from San Francisco while she flew in from LA.  The plane ride was long and tiring, but every sense of exhaustion vanished the moment my feet touched New Zealand soil.

If I tried to explain the beauty that this country holds it would come out as an understatment.  I've been here for a total of ten hours and I'm already in love with just the corner of what I have seen. I can't believe I'm here. I can't believe this is happening!

Kayla and I arrived at our first hostel, Dream Homes - Auckland City, located at 1133 A Dominion Rd, where we were greeted by the lovely couple that runs the place. We were welcomed with open arms and given a wonderful cup of tea, or two cups if you're me and have an addiction to the stuff.

The best part about this hostel, apart from it's homeish feel and it's wonderful ora, is the fact that it's simply a 2km walk away from the "New World" grocery store, where food in good and very affordable. 

While shopping for some last minute food items before heading up North to the beginning of Te Araroa, it was safe to say that we were noticably the odd ones out.  Halfway through the shopping trip, I realized it was because we were walking on the right side of the aisle. A normal thing to do in North America as we drive on the right side of the street, but here in New Zealand - it's a left sided adventure.

So here we are, accidentally bumping into people wondering why it was happening, only to realize that it was our doing. Not theirs.

So sorry, eh. We're just a bit Canadian.

Tomorrow we will leave Auckland, heading north to Kaitaia. If all goes as planned, the day after we will head to Cape Reinga to begin the hike! 

The best view! 

The best view! 

First hostel ever. Great experience! 

First hostel ever. Great experience! 

My pack is officially ready to go! 

My pack is officially ready to go! 

The Partners. A quick snap from Kaylas phone. 

The Partners. A quick snap from Kaylas phone. 

One Year

A lot can happen in a year.

I’ve heard that saying so many times, in so many different ways, in moments when I felt happiness and moments when I felt saddened. Regardless of when I'd read it, though, I never really took the time to realize it’s truth. I never felt like I needed to. I’d always been relatively happy and I’d figured that this was life and I was living it as full as I could.

A year ago my world changed in many different ways. At the time, I didn’t want to accept any of it. I locked it away, threw the key and let it sink in the ocean - as deep as it would go. I watched the waves hit the rocks as the dark water took me away, until all that was left was the body of a girl and the mind of a warrior.

So - How much can truly happen in a year?

I’d be lying if I said that this year had been full of nothing but joy and excitement because, as we all learn, self discovery is a fickle bitch. The amount of my own destruction throughout the year is enough to prove that self discovery is about fighting the inner battle of who you are and who you want to be.

We leave the past behind as if it’s a civil duty to ourselves. The times that left us hardships both agonizing and exasperating are times that give us both anguish and teachings. The times that make us sick to our stomachs, that make us beg for a way out. The times that leave us darkened with demons of torment, waiting patiently for us to crack.

It is, however, time for me to thank all of those empty nights and hollow hopes. With a heavy heart, I’ve come to accept that long, painful August night one year ago today. The day I became exactly who I was supposed to be, even if I didn’t realize it at the time.

When someone breaks your heart they do it unapologetically because that is exactly what they need to do. Regardless how much they love you or how much they care about your well being, there is a point where they need to put themselves first, and no matter how much it hurts you, you need to accept that it’s what needs to be done for the both of you.

Maybe a year ago I wouldn’t have believed those words, let alone wrote them down myself. However, I was in no place to be giving any kind of life advice at the time. I was a lot of things, but levelheaded was not one. It wouldn’t be one for many months, as I was soon to learn.

We do many things to get over love. Sadly, a lot of those things we may not be proud of. Like reckless nights on the town, in someone else’s bed, far away from the people who care most about us. Nights that end in tears and lost minds. We look for any kind of fill to place a patch on the void that’s created when we lose someone like I’d lost him.

However, even with the times that fill us with regret, there are the times that make us happy to be alive. Like getting that drivers license you’ve been procrastinating on, or changing your hair to purple and letting the abstract feelings soak in as you walk around town on a brisk winter day. Like when you go to a friends house - a friend you neglected seeing for years - only to realize you’re still best friends and the group of people they have are people who should have been in your life the whole time. Like moving in with amazing people for a few months and getting that experience you never got in college. Like moving away from your hometown and working on a remote island, breathing in the nature around you until city life is nothing but a memory.

And though my heart still aches sometimes, the one thing I never thought I would do has become my reality, and the world is on my fingertips waiting for me to walk it. Every step a pain that will remind me why I’m alive, and every push forward will show me that there are harder things to do in life then lose love, because love is never truly gone. It’s always with you through the people you share it with and the people you felt it for in the past.

The people of our past may have hurt us, but it’s with great intention. This is because with every page turn, there’s always a new chapter. So many words left to read, to write, and to live. So many more nights of wine and stars, laughing and crying, being who you want to be and who you should be.

One year is a long time and can be full of so many different opportunities. You can either let the rough patches push you into a hole, or you can grab a rope and pull yourself up. I’ve learned that sometimes it’s good to fall in because it’s the climb back out that gives you more strength in the long run.

It’s taken me a year to finally come to terms with who I had been and who I want to be - for me to be okay with everything that has been thrown my way. I let this year kick my ass in all the best of ways. I moved; twice. I bought a 75L backpack and an international plane ticket on a whim after a Netflix movie inspired me beyond belief. I quit my job of three years and fell in love with a place far away from home, where the people are new and the land is forever changing. I changed my appearance more times then I can remember, both physically and mentally. I let myself get closer to my family, only to learn that I’m loved and appreciated more than I’d first thought. I went on road trips where I was in charge of where we landed. And the sushi. So much sushi.

I fell in love with a person that showed me I could be so much more. I fell in love with someone who reminded me everyday that I was beautiful, confident, and worth every minute. I fell in love with a person who showed me what it was to have strength alone. That person was the one. The rock to my life. The person I’d always needed. That person was me. I just needed to lose someone more important to me than myself to realize that, regardless where I go in life, I’m the one. I’m the person that will always keep me going. I’m the person with the strength to move mountains and cross rivers, jump stones and slide down hills.

Where I’m going with this is - Let yourself break. Let yourself be weak. Live for the weakest moments where you wake up ashamed and confused. Let your decisions exacerbate with one more drink. Live like life is nothing more then a lesson waiting to be taught. Let yourself find those lessons within the hardships that are placed on your shoulders. It may feel impossible at the time, but everyday is a new chance of self discovery. It takes a storm to grow a flower and it takes years to grow a forest. We may be young, but we’re free.

And with every root that grows, another piece of the forest is born.

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The Hardwork

The people I've met on this adventure have really opened my eyes to different forms of living. Each are so unique, so patient in their own ways. We're so different, yet we all share one quality - we left civilization behind to better ourselves.

And boy, am I bettering myself.

The nature here is so fresh - so inviting. It's soft, yet hard. Calm, yet wild. Incredible, yet terrifying. It's everything I knew I needed, though I wasn't sure how to grasp it.

My story has truly begun and it's hard work. Fifteen hour days, everyday, for three months is what's needed in order to make it to New Zealand - and even then I'm short a few thousand.

My favourite part about this adventure is that when the idea of money and my budget for this hike make me upset, I have the nature out here to push me back into it. The water, the fresh smell, the sunsets and moon. I have people who make me laugh, animals that keep me company, and moments that make up a thousand words.

I'm going to make it to New Zealand if it kills me. But until then, I'm going to enjoy every moment I have here.

An image of me - Taken by Kayla Schryer

An image of me - Taken by Kayla Schryer

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The Biggest Challenge

So easily the water changes from blue to grey as the clouds take the sun away. That's how I describe my anxiety. Unexpected winds turn a clear sky into a covered one, and with that there's nothing left but cold fear.

My biggest challenge so far is my anxiety. It comes out of no where. The worst part is that I never expect it. It slowly creeps to the surface making it's home on top of my chest.

It's a weight on my shoulders that is almost unbearable at times, but I always overcome it because this is only the start. I know there are many more adventures - many more anxiety attacks - scheduled in my future. I can't quit based purely on my overactive brain.

My main focus for this trip is to gain the mental state that is slowly rising from the ashes of my burnt past. I can't live like this anymore because there is so much more inside of me that has yet to be discovered.

I've tried so hard to better who I am in preparation from my New Zealand hike. I'd hate to see it be ruined by a demon that doesn't want to disappear. Regardless of my acceptance to what has happened in the past, this numbness begs to stay. It's my biggest river, raging against the shores. All I have to do now is build a bridge that gets me to the other side.

I'm not only trying to discover Canada up here.

I'm trying to discover myself.

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The Start

For those of you who do not know, I've been busy planning one of the biggest jumps I've ever had; a 4-6 month hike located in New Zealand called "Te Araroa". 

It has been a long process, but the adventures have begun! I've accepted a job in Reindeer Lake, Saskatchewan - and I've just landed. 

This job is my first step into the unknown. I've dropped my whole life in Ontario to truly be one with myself. It's been such a scary experience, but I've only just gotten here. Things are going to just keep getting scarier, but I'm prepared to take on the challenges! 

Here on my "Restless Wanders" page, you will find updates on my travels along with images taken on my iPhone (and occasionally from my Nikon) You will find stories unlike any I've ever written. You will find laughter, fear, excitement, and challenge.

So come along - the adventure has only just begun.

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