Life's A Beach - Enjoy The Waves
It’s 8:33AM and I’m struggling to tell the difference between my breath and the steam rising from my cup of ginger tea – both swirling before my eyes reminding me that winter is freezing even in July. That, and the fact that my cold hands can barely grip my pen through my gloves. Today, I write to you from inside the van while wrapped in three blankets staring out at endless crashing waves through my little sliding front door. We are back at Anatori River, that special place I mentioned in my last post, and have been expanding/improving our campsite each day. What started out as a small patch of grass next to the sea has slowly morphed into a pretty incredible home base. My canopy has been assembled, Josh built an impressive fire-pit/grill, our wetsuits have their own clothes line and my solar lights add that extra touch of magic once the sun goes down. We are now on day five of the most remote trip we have taken yet. Being that we are a few hours outside of cell range and the closest town, all we have with us is what was packed before we left and we have been counting on the ocean to supply us with the majority of our food. Before leaving Takaka, we purchased plenty of vegetables, dry goods, fruit and you guessed it – wine, which has all held up well!
Each morning, I struggle to get out from under my cozy covers before making my tea and attempting to weasel into my freezing cold wetsuit that has been saturated with fresh dew. If you saw the faces I made while trying to squeeze into that skin-tight thing, it would be impossible not to laugh…Josh always does. Right when I start to question why in the world I’m doing this to myself again, the fun part begins. The rock shelf where we dive is about 25 minutes away from our camp and is only accessible at low tide so we have an hour and a half window to make it there and back. Once suited and booted, we grab our masks and cross the thigh-high river (again, only possible at low tide) and jog along the beach knowing that we don’t have long before the river rises and engulfs our path. Minutes later we arrive at the shelf, warmed up and out of breath, and begin jumping into deep crevices and rock pools searching for the highly coveted abalone. We typically have some sort of bet for who will find the biggest one and this is finally something that I occasionally beat him in. Until you try it for yourself, there is no way to explain how exciting it feels. You are on the ultimate treasure hunt in an underwater paradise, so beautiful and rarely seen, looking for hidden jewels among the seaweed. Since the abalone like to stick together, when you find one gold coin you typically find the whole chest.
Once we're nearing hypothermia, we measure each paua to ensure they are of legal size and place back any babies. New Zealand is one of the last places in the world where you can legally dive for abalone so it’s extremely important to the ecosystem and the species that undersized paua are left alone to grow and given a chance to regenerate. The actual meat of the abalone looks pretty gross. It’s a thick black slug-like creature that is easily mistaken for a rock but once shucked, the muscle is removed exposing a perfectly polished techicolored dish. The only thing that rivals the pauas coloring is the ever-popular cotton candy sunset that graces the beach every evening.
When we’re not playing hunter gatherer in the sea, we spend our time collecting firewood, drinking margaritas, reading and listening to music. Since we’ve been here, only two other groups of campers have popped in for a few days stay. Henry and his dog Bonzai arrived a few days after us and they quickly became our good friends. Stories and drinks were shared at first then firewood and supplies came next. Before we arrived, Josh and I forgot to check our stoves gas bottle and we ended up running out on our first night…tough lesson learned. The idea of cooking everything on the fire was really enticing to josh but he was alone in that excitement. I love my life in the van and the ways in which my daily routine is so different than my norm but some things are a tad too much for me to handle. Cooking everything outside on a fire in the rain being one of them. Luckily, this is where Henry comes in.
When he heard of our misfortune, he offered us his spare gas cooker. After trying to continuously wrangle hot coals made from wet driftwood just to heat up some water, this was a huge help. In exchange, we shared our abalone, a few meals and plenty of fish bait. While the spare stovetop saved us from our cooking dilemma, it was his truly selfless act that I will remember most. The bathroom here was in bad shape…like really bad shape and he took one look at it and decided to clean it. His reason – no lady should have to use an old gross toilet. He scrubbed the little stall until it looked and smelled new. Getting used to the camper style bathrooms hasn’t been easy so this was truly the greatest gift haha. I think it’s really incredible to meet people like Henry, especially while traveling because you’re exchanging acts of kindness with complete strangers. It’s hard enough for us to remember to always treat those we love well let-alone people we’ve never met. I definitely believe that it’s human nature to care for and show compassion towards one another – that’s why we like/share videos of people showing random acts of kindness online – but that doesn’t always show in the daily hustle and bustle of life. Here, where everything is slowed down and stripped back, that side of the human spirit is given a platform to shine.
The other group of campers we’ve met so far was a couple from South Africa. They didn’t stay for long but we were able to trade some abalone for steak which was a nice change of pace from our predominantly seafood diet. In a world where food/supplies are exchanged as currency, paua is like a $100 bill. It’s hard to locate, tough to surface and everyone wants it. If we end up meeting someone who doesn’t like it (which would be odd), we’ve caught enough fish to feed a small village so we can trade that instead.
Anatori is special because it fully embodies what I imagined this trip to be. We are camped along the shore of a gorgeous beach with nothing but sand, seashells and sunsets for miles. We are spending our days doing whatever we’d like creating memories I’ll never forget. If I could, I’d spend months writing in this very spot.
It’s 9:03PM and as I sift through my photos from the last 10 days while snuggled up in my many blankets I’m missing Anatori already. After 9 days of beautiful weather, we packed everything we own back into the van and headed towards civilization, hot showers and a meat pie for Josh. Looking back, there isn’t much more I can say about our time there because like a magic trick, you need to see it to believe. In other exciting retirement news, Josh’s brother and his girlfriend will be arriving later this week for a month-long adventure of their own around NZ and we are so looking forward to it. Josh and I will get to interact with other humans besides each other and they will get a taste of the van life that we've become so accustomed to. I would bet that by the end of the trip, they'll be dreaming of sprinter vans and solar panels just like we are…it seems to be contagious.
While I totally understand that not everyone can just up and quit their jobs to mini retire, I urge anyone who’s interested in seeing the world to at least think about it. When I first graduated college, I remember seeing people I knew doing everything BUT working and I was confused and a tad jealous. This old friend was living in Australia and that old friend was backpacking through Bali and I was just trying to juggle affording my rent and dog toys. It wasn’t until 2 years later, when I still couldn’t shake the urge to explore, that I decided I had to find a way to make it work. The idea of quitting my job before my career had even taken off seemed insane – mainly because society tells us it is. Luckily, that ideal is shifting and more and more people are seeing the value in changing the way we look at our work/life balance. It took a lot of planning and countless nights working overtime to save my money but here I am…it’s totally possible. Because of this trend we happen to be riding, my blog was picked up by Business Insider a few weeks ago who featured me in two different articles on the benefits of taking a mini retirement. Needless to say, I was BEYOND stoked and am so thrilled to be part of the conversation that will change the future of the workforce for my generation. Below are the links to each article – have a read and share if you enjoy!
Between Anatori and Business Insider, these last few weeks have been some of the most enjoyable for me. Just when I was beginning to feel a bit homesick and uneasy, new opportunities and experiences opened themselves up reassuring me that as long as I follow my heart I can’t go wrong. Unfortunately for my mom, that means continuing to work on my bucket list which has most recently sent me jumping out of an airplane. If you've ever wondered what pure joy looks like, it’s my face while freefalling from 16,500 feet above the Tasman Sea.
If I have learned anything on this trip so far, it’s to live the life you want. Do what you want, when you want, with who you want and however often you want. Take your time, enjoy the view and yes... definitely jump out of that plane.