van life in the north island

I downloaded Tinder. For those of you who don’t know what this is (mom, that means you), Tinder is an online dating (read: hookup) app that finds you potential matches based on their proximity to you. Evidently a lot of solo backpackers use it to find other travelers in the area or to meet up with locals and get good tips. In my case, I used it for a hot shower.

Backstory: I have been camping on the North Island of New Zealand for ten days. I met a French fellow named Frederic in Auckland who had bought a van and was seeking a travelmate. I decided to join him. This meant spending every single second with a stranger for ten days. We slept in the van (which we named Mike) together. We ate together (some extravagant meals, you know, cold sandwiches and cookies). We completed a 19.4 km hike at Mt. Doom together. We snuck past a sign that read “DANGER: NO PUBLIC ACCESS” (for very good reason) to climb tree roots down to the base of a stunning, isolated waterfall together. We went to an island volcano together. We explored caves together. We went to Hobbiton together. Once, we expressed verbal rejoice from our respective shower stalls when the water was unexpectedly, gorgeously hot—together.

THIS IS A LOT OF TIME WITH ONE PERSON. You can imagine what this does to an introvert like myself. A very enlightening challenge. If I still had my beautiful color-coordinated planner, I would schedule in ~*A L O N E  T I M E*~ every day. For twenty hours. Luckily, Freddie (I have no idea if he likes that I call him that) is great. We had a blast. He has told me that I speak French the best of any foreigner he knows (“but you’re also the only French-speaking foreigner that I know”), he has waited patiently while I spent 30 minutes taking 500 photos of the exact same thing, and he has challenged me to do things that I would normally never do (see above activities). Freddie does every adventurous thing possible. Kayaking, caving, rafting, luging, zorbing (yeah, this is a thing), skydiving, bungee jumping, swinging. When he asked if I wanted to go zorbing with him, my reply: I’d rather die. I didn’t even know what it was. It’s not that I’m afraid of jumping out of a plane or getting eaten by a cave monster (yes it is)—I think it’s just not my thing. I don’t want to pay heaps of money for a short-term exhilarating experience. I want to pay zero dollars to go for a hike (firmly on the ground) in a beautiful setting or read my book in a cozy cafe. Maybe that makes me a lame grandma, but I’m beginning to be okay with that. That being said, I will try anything once (albeit kicking and screaming). EXCEPT for zorbing. I mean really. What in the world.

Back to Tinder. The most challenging aspect of these past ten days has been finding a hot shower. Cold showers are ubiquitous in New Zealand. You want a free freezing cold shower outside in the 50-degree weather? Coming right up! We’ll even throw in the wind chill and some painful pressure at no additional cost! I did this twice. My life flashed before my eyes, both times. I became desperate. I began ranking towns based on whether or not they had hot showers. Sure, it may have New Zealand’s most famous botanic gardens, but no hot shower? Bye! Sports and aquatic centers became beacons of hope. Once Freddie even tried sneaking in to a public shower facility by maneuvering himself through a not-quite-Freddie-sized-hole. So that is how I came to use Tinder for a hot shower. My tagline was “will trade jokes for a hot shower.” This actually worked. I started chatting with a nice fellow, decided he wouldn’t murder me, and then I used his shower facilities and left! Genius. Tinder should seriously tap into this market. Or I’ll develop my own app. This could make me millions, am I right?

Sadly, I think my Tinder days are over, for now. Freddie and I arrived in Wellington, and I am now at a hostel. I have never before appreciated the true beauty of hostels. WIFI. Actual flushing toilets with TOILET PAPER. Why yes, hostel, I do indeed like to have a clean butt, how did you know? And the best part: FREE, UNLIMITED showers. With HOT WATER. You don’t even want to know how many showers I’ve taken since I checked in. I am so fresh and so clean. My clean, warm self is headed to the South Island for a month, and then back to Brisbane (aka Home). Other than my flight back to Brisbane, I have no plan. Surprise, surprise. I don’t have a clue what I’ll be doing, where I’ll be staying, or how I’ll be getting around, starting today. Maybe I’ll hitchhike, maybe I’ll rent a car, maybe I’ll take a bus. Who knows! To where? I certainly don’t know! That’s for future Anna to worry about. I know I said at the Hobart airport that I hate not having a plan, but I am actually getting used to this lifestyle. I don’t even recognize myself anymore. The things that I’m okay with are just shocking to me. For the first time in my life, I can say that I’m a disorganized person. This is very exciting for me. Like, about time, Anna! I’m finally getting it together.

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