Finding The Groove
While getting ready to leave Christchurch for the second time, it’s amazing how much more prepared we felt. When we first hit the road last November, we were so new to the concept of van life and what we actually needed to feel comfortable living on the road for extended periods of time whereas now, we have made it through the initial trials and are more familiar with the challenges we will face later. For example, we quickly realized that our cabinets weren’t designed to efficiently utilize space which is something we desperately need when trying to fit everything we own plus the kitchen sink into the back of a car. We also noted that there was no realistic way to keep our devices charged which was more of an issue this time around with the addition of my drone. So before leaving the city we purchased and (josh) installed a new second battery, a solar panel, some extra shelves and a few other gadgets that have proven extremely useful since being back in the van. Between our new engine, new brakes, new clutch, new battery, and new solar addition…I would like to introduce to you Lucy 2.0.
With the van sorted, we took off towards the west coast in search of drone worthy coast lines and good waves. But before reaching our intended destination, we were able to take one last trip through Tekapo, which is still my favorite place on the South Island. Take a look at the video to the left for a glimpse at our campsite and you’ll immediately understand why.
While the west coast is beautiful, it is also synonymous with rain – and a lot of it. On average, the Westland gets about 258 inches of rain per year with certain areas getting closer to 380. To put that into perspective, LA gets about 15 inches per year and New York gets about 45 so needless to say, everything is wet ALL of the time. Between our wet clothes and the amount of steam we create while cooking inside, the van has taken on a sort of tropical temperature and not in a good way. We open the windows as often as possible to try and achieve any sort of airflow, but when the freezing cold sideways rain doesn’t stop us, these awful bugs called sandflies do. Imagine the tiniest little fly you have ever seen with impressive speed and a gnarly bite…that is a sandfly and they are everywhere, waiting to bite you from dawn till dusk. In light of this, we have introduced some “damp rid” products to the van in hopes of eliminating any future mold – I’ll keep you posted on whether it works or not.
As much as I love living in the van and my life on the road, it’s not all as glamorous as the epic photos make it look. What you don’t see is everything flying all over the back when we hit pot holes, jars falling out of cabinets and smashing on the floor when we make sharp turns and wind gusts strong enough to knock me over while I refill our water tank. Although the oceanfront views are worth it, living in a van requires we get down and dirty more often than not - and when we’re not… we’re cooking in 4 layers and beanies because we can see our breath at night haha.
In other non-temperature related news, we have gone paleo for the month which has already proven to be extremely rewarding. By cutting out all carbs, sugar and processed food I have seen immense changes to my physical and emotional health. I have more energy during the day without any noticeable spikes in mood or appetite. I am sleeping soundly for 8 hours or more per night. My body is listening to its internal clock and naturally getting sleepy towards 9pm. I wake up each morning feeling clear-headed and light no later than 7:30am and I have had noticeably clearer skin and little to no signs of eczema, which I tend to see near my elbows. While all of this is great, the more meaningful changes I have seen are to my mental and emotional health. What few people in my life know is that I have struggled with my relationship with food since I was in high school. The pressure we feel as young girls trying to fit in can be crippling and I, like many others, lost sight of my internal beauty and found a sense of control in food. Over the years I started growing into myself and out of the grip that food had over my happiness and well-being. A combination of pottery, long distance running, acupuncture, journaling, reading and cuddles with my dog played a large roll. So today, while I don’t actively struggle with food, that hesitation and self- doubt can still linger in the corners of my mind and occasionally speak to me if I let it. While being paleo the last few weeks, that little voice has seemed to leave the building. By making extremely conscious decisions about the food I am putting into my body – organic vegetables, free range organic eggs, no sugar or artificial sweeteners, no carbs or processed foods and a small amount of locally farmed organic meat – I feel as though my body is saying yes, and has taken back control.
I am confident that I would have enjoyed trying paleo at any time in my adult life but have found it extra insightful while living in Lucy because I have all the time in the word to think of delicious recipes and keep note of the changes I see in my overall outlook on food. After the month is up, I can’t say for sure that I will stay strictly true to the diet because come on…who doesn’t love a bagel and cream cheese…but I will definitely be shifting towards a predominantly plant based sugar free outlook. You would also be amazed at some of the incredible sauces and recipes I have found while trying to keep our food menu interesting. I have always loved to cook but have recently become obsessed with finding new spices and creating flavor profiles that I didn’t know existed. The craziest realization to me has been that every flavor I enjoy that comes from a condiment bottle can be achieved naturally with the right combination of spices. I can now make my own sugar free ketchup, hot sauce and barbeque sauce that rival any store-bought brand name. I am learning how to cook all sorts of vegetables I was unfamiliar with and can now make a mean (dairy free) coconut chicken tikka masala…YUM. I have listed my recipe at the end of this post because it is that delicious. Try it for yourself and let me know what you think.
As with most things, Paleo has a few downsides – at least while living in a van. We are finding that organic specialty items are extremely expensive here since they are certainly not part of the traditional kiwi diet. Coconut oil is about $15 per small jar, coconut milk (without preservatives) is around $3.50 a can and nuts of all sorts are definitely breaking the bank. As an experiment, Josh and I are keeping track of every dollar we spend this month to see what it truly costs to live on the road, travel as much as we do (petrol is our most hefty expense) and eat a strictly paleo diet. Keep in mind that we are eating well! Far from the typical pasta and veg backpacker diet, so this month is looking a bit more costly than some. Next month, when we are more budget conscious and less paleo centric, I will compare the totals and share my findings. Tonight, I am making coconut curry pumpkin soup which I believe will be a crowd pleaser.
While looking back at our calendar, it is amazing to think of how much we have seen in the past few weeks. From sunrise hikes through snow-capped mountains to sunset walks around reflecting lakes, everyday is a new adventure and another reason to be alive. My mom recently said something to me that really struck a cord. “The earth is gorgeous and we are its most sophisticated creatures”. It’s so true and it’s so clear…Rather than spending time focusing on our own perceived shortcomings, we should be exploring this amazing planet, trying new things and figuring out what truly makes us happy. Whether I am learning a new automotive skill, man-handlining a fish or knitting a beanie, I have found that groove with the universe that reminds me life is good and meant to be lived.
Looking ahead, we have a few more days to spend here in Westport before continuing our climb up the South Island. My mission this week is to get some cool aerial footage of Josh surfing with the drone and as always, meet as many furry friends as possible. Last week it was miniature ponies on the side of the road and this week I have my eye on a few baby goats. Currently doing a quick google search on "what baby goats like to eat" so that I can go in prepared.
This week has been a tad bitter sweet with some homesick feelings starting to creep in but every time I begin to feel sad or anxious, something beautiful presents itself. This time, it was a large collection of stones signed by travelers from all over the world with dates and short messages. It was pouring rain when we passed by (obviously) so our message was short and sweet. And that is what I need to continue to remind myself while on this trip and in life - beautiful things are all around us. It is up to us to open our eyes and choose to see them.