The first step to finding joy was finding the right pair of shoes.
Rewind with me for a second back to Bondi Beach.
My first afternoon there I got settled into my homestay, breathed in some fresh sea air… and then headed over to the first thrift store I could find.
Little did I know that Fate would strike. For, as I placed a pair of ill-fitting and fantastically-priced Doc Martens back on the shelf, I was arrested from diving into the bargain bin by a timid question from behind me.
“Do you know what size those are?”
I turned around to see a girl about my age, hopefully eyeing the Docs.
“40,” I answered.
I was met with a look of confusion. She doesn’t use European sizing, I realized. Could that mean…?
“American?” I asked with a halting smile and was met with a nod.
Goosebumps rose and smiles spread and after a quick exchange we found out that we had much more in common than our choice of footwear.
Headed to New Zealand next?…check!
Meredith and I were fast friends, and after a few days of hiking and brunching around Sydney, we parted ways with vague (very, very vague) plans of meeting again in Christchurch. So in the space of one fateful Sunday afternoon, I went from having no friends to having a kick-booty travel buddy. All because of shopping. Thanks capitalism!
As well as a fellow American, Meredith was a companion with whom I could co-rent a car and drive across New Zealand with (on the LEFT side of the road, ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh).
(TIP: Relocation deals are the way to go! We ended up paying a grand total of $18 for a 1-day rental with a full tank of gas. That sure beats the $100+ it would have cost to take the bus from Christchurch to Queenstown!)
And the views were free.
Six or so hours later, it was a relief to flop down onto a hostel couch and start socializing with the fellow backpackers who had made their way there as well.
But wait, a hostel? (You ask.) But haven’t you been living the life in cozy homestays with kindly hosts and unlimited tea and free towels?
Why yes I have!
Buuuuut I was a doofus, and didn’t research New Zealand as well as I could have, and realized late in the game that I really wanted to change my itinerary and head further south, to Queenstown. My coordinators at Homestay were so gracious and flexible to help me work things out. And I decided that since my changes were last minute and still forming (like when you leave your Hot Pocket in the microwave for too long and you’re just waiting for that molten mess to cool down into something you can work with), it seemed like the best option to book hostels for this leg of the trip.
I’m telling you: I didn’t realize how spoiled I was getting living in homestays. I sure missed having my own room and bathroom at times (and not having to pay for towels or wifi etc. etc.). But I’ll never regret the friends I met because I stayed in those hostels.
The ensuing week was a blur of introductions and dancing until the wee hours and trying to imitate accents and movie-marathons in the lounge. (There’s nothing that brings strangers together quite like pointing out all the flaws in Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift, let me tell you.)
I took in my surroundings as well. From all the ads for bungy jumping and sky-diving and jet-boat ads you learn pretty quickly that Queenstown is all about dat adrenaline, but there’s still other things to do if you choose not to partake. Ya know, like the early morning walks on a crystal clear day, or the ice cream eating or the sensory experience that can come from eating a single, savory muffin at Vudu cafe.
But if you’d like a wee bit of a rush you can always do the hike up a mountain (instead of taking the gondola, duh)…
And then see this view…
And then luge down the mountain at breakneck speeds (sort of) with all of Queenstown spread out before you. (That may have been the closest I’ll ever get to reenacting Cool Runnings and I may have sung the Jamaican Bobsled Team song. Repeatedly.)
Yeah. It was a fulfilling week. The relationships formed were more than I could have asked for. And like I said before: I will never regret meeting those dear dancing-partners-in-crime at the hostels..but it’s really nice to have my own space again now that I’ve made it to my homestay in Auckland. It’s time to get some real rest!
So, to recap, over a period of two weeks I stumbled into friendship, driving skills, and lifelong memories of horrible dance moves executed under the flashing party lights of Queenstown.
All because of a pair of shoes*.
*But forreal, thanks to God who let all of our paths cross at those places and those times. What a wonderful Father!