When traveling to the other side of the world you lose a day, poof, just like that. In the land of kiwi birds, you must embrace oddities and opposites. For example, it is practically summertime back home in Los Angeles, but here in the southern hemisphere red autumn-colored leaves smell fresh and crispy, and a winter chill is threatening. Other curiosities I have found thus far: soap nuts (little bags of nut shells used to launder clothes), Farmville (the real place) and Teacupland. Also there is this: driving.
Driving on the other side of the road scrambles my brain. Humans seriously figured out how to get around in personalized moving masses of metal, but somehow in this process we ended up creating vehicles that work in opposites? I guess there are some things that just don’t make sense. Like laundering your clothes with bags of nuts.
But hey, I’m not complaining. A world full of opposites and curiosities is good for the brain. You see, staying at home, sticking with the same old laundry detergent or sense of safety makes us whiny and unappreciative of what we actually have. What we actually have is awesome, but it’s just hard to see (or smell) at times.
And this is why I love to travel. Because being in another country throws me out of that frustratingly unconscious habit of daily life. It gives me something for comparison.
The other night in one of the most sublime landscapes on the south island of New Zealand, Milford Sound, we slept in a bare smelly construction trailer. We’ve slept in a different bed every single night for the past two weeks. Exhausting. But we awoke this particular morning to the tinny sound of rain on metal, sheer rock cliffs towering outside the window, hundreds of waterfalls pouring down as if the granite were crying, mist covering the tips of various mountain peaks, lush green ferns glistening in the surrounding rain forests - I’ll take one night in a crappy construction trailer in exchange for this wondrous landscape and experience any time. I just had to break some patterns and expectations to get here.
The beauty of challenging familiarity and comfort is that it awakens senses and ideas that might otherwise have become dulled or numb. Take all that you know as familiar, flip it around, put it in an unexpected place, and your brain is forced to create new neural patterns. This keeps you truly alive. Then, when you return back home to the comfort of the familiar, it all feels different, and more valuable somehow.