Saturday, January 10, 2009

Counter-Culture Shock

Coming to New Zealand has been a great experience so far. Its almost like a home away from home since its so Western compared to what we've been traveling through for the past 2.5 months. And while its great, its also a bit odd to be back in such a developed country. Dave has experienced this counter-culture shock on trips before but this is a first for me. I got so used to not being able to read signs or menus, speak much more than a handful of words in the language, calculate currency conversions in my head, concern myself over restroom conditions, carry my own toilet paper and hand sanitizer and ponder at what to eat that not having to do so anymore feels like we're cheating! Especially now that we've rented a car and eliminated the additional headache of figuring out bus and train schedules and worry about carrying heavy backpacks or shipping stuff home! Its meant that we can add luxury items like a cooler for all of our food and beer, camping gear to do things on the cheap, and of course, David's boat.

I can't believe what an odd feeling it is not to have to worry over our basic needs anymore. These daily concerns were ever-changing and required us to adapt quickly. It really became such a part of our existence that I almost feel a bit lazy for having more "stuff" (i.e. gifts) than I can fit into my backpack or carry comfortably by myself and a bit guilty for having toiletries that exceed 3.4 fluid ounces after being so limited for so long! Where are we going and how are we going to get there? Put gas in the car and consult the road atlas. Where are we going to eat? Grab something from the cooler. Or we can duck into a grocery store to buy things to cook on our camping stove. Where are we going to sleep? Doesn't matter, we have ground pads, sleeping bags, mosquito netting and a tent. We'll make it work. What if I have to pee? No worries, there are public restrooms with Western toilets, TP, soap and paper towels everywhere!

And we're back in an English-speaking country, so we can read signs (except our pronunciation of Maori words is AWFUL! Would you be able to pronounce the hill on the North island Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu without butchering it?) understand when people speak to us (even if the accents are a bit difficult sometimes) and we can absolutely be understood by those around us, which eliminates our previous ability to have rather private conversations in public without fear of being overheard. So even though we're still traveling, it doesn't feel like we're doing things much differently than we'd do if we were back Stateside. Its a bit of an odd existence to know that we're still 2 months from coming home, but in a way, we're already there. This whole experience has affected the idea of what my necessities actually are in a surprisingly profound way that I'm realizing I don't need nearly the amount of stuff not only to get by, but to be happy. Weird to me since I'm totally an American when it comes to consumer culture. Things are going to be different now....

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