To see everything sometimes is to see nothing

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By the time this entry is published, I’ll most likely be on a ferry headed toward Wellington — New Zealand’s capital—and, all due respect to Auckland, the most vibrant and enticing city for my mid-semester break (not spring break, I have to keep reminding myself).

The break has provided me with my first chance for extended travel in New Zealand since I arrived a week early for my orientation. Since then, I have had time for weekend or daily excursions but a storm of assignments, lectures, and, yes, comps proposals, has brought me back to reality over the past few weeks with the blunt reminder that “study” proceeds “abroad” for a reason. But, for the next 10 days, I will take full advantage of New Zealand’s open roads.

First, along with three friends, I’ll be taking a bus from Dunedin to Christchurch, then another to Picton, a lovely, small town at the very north of the South Island entrenched in the Marlborough Sounds, a loose confederation of sparkling and peaceful blue-green inlets. Picton’s main purpose is to serve as the South Island’s ferry terminal, where hulking nautical fortresses carry thousands of passengers across the Cook Strait to Wellington each day.

Assuming four responsible 21-year-olds get to the ferry on time, this will be my second ferry trip to Wellington, the first coming back in February. While the ride across the strait is well worth it on its own, I’m more excited to get the keys to the rental car and explore the North Island in full. Right now, the plan after Wellington is relatively up in the air. We have a route planned out, but one never knows what kind of distractions could cause a car full of sightseers to deviate slightly from their path.

The fact that there are a seemingly infinite number of destinations led me to a moment of reflection. I know I want to see everything on the North Island. If everything went perfectly, I would make it to the top of the North Island to Cape Reinga, known by Maori as “the Departing Place of the Soul.” But, I’m trying to accept the fact that I simply won’t be able to see everything that I want to see.

Before, the semester started I had visions of what would my time in New Zealand would entail. I would travel every weekend to a different part of New Zealand and over break cross the Tasman Sea and explore Australia. But, soon I realized that if I was going to get to see as much of New Zealand as possible, Australia would have to be put on hold (I aim to make it there after finals, time permitting).

What I also realized is that pushing myself to see every inch of the country, is not, in fact, the best way to travel—if you’re constantly thinking about the next place, you can’t enjoy what’s in front of you. New Zealand seems relatively small, but each day I hear or read about some other place that I add to my list of places to go. It won’t be possible to do them all. Instead, what I should try to do is take full advantage of the places I am fortunate enough to travel to. The goal now is not to quickly check off every box on the list, but fill certain boxes in clearly and wholly. That is, to spend real and valuable time in specific places. Lasting memories can only originate that way.

So far, I’m grateful and satisfied with what I have seen and done in New Zealand—trips to Auckland, Wellington, Rotorua, Milford Sound, Queenstown (twice), Wanaka, Hobbiton (probably the best thing. really.), whale watching, jet boating, zorbing, geothermal parks, you name it. But I won’t pressure myself to add to that list exponentially. A good travel experience is about quality, not quantity.