A Vicarious Lesson for Backpackers

I’m on the way back to Nelson from Golden Bay to join forces with a friend & travel together for a month. Tomorrow, we are headed to Christchurch by way of Kaikoura [Kii-coor-uh]. After some doing, we found a hostel that works for both of us and made reservations.

I’m having second thoughts.

Mapua [muh-poo-uh]
I’m feeling a little more confident with the driving now. It’s a beautiful sunny day so I make a stop in Mapua. What a cute little harbor town! And a great place to start a hat collection. There are several open-air shops and this hat shop is my favorite.


A walk along the beach at Ruby Bay; a contender for my all-time favorite beach. Tasman got deep into my heart.

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time
Before getting on the plane in Rochester, I set some intentions for this trip. One of them was to be open to new opportunities & situations. What better intention for a trip to the other side of the world?

Combine that rather generic intention with the over-the-top good time I was having, and I failed to truly consider the implications of ‘traveling together’ for a month. My intention needed boundaries that I had not yet set.

It would have also violated another intention I had set, and that was to go-with-the-flow about where & when to go. This, clearly, would have put me at the mercy of someone else’s flow of where & when to go.

What Could Go Wrong?
I overlooked what should have been obvious. Although accepting the invitation to travel together made me open to a new opportunity, I did not overlay that opportunity with my core needs and values.

I had a need to make hostel reservations 1-3 days out. I’m a light sleeper and chose to spend the extra money to have a room to myself, happy to sacrifice a little spontaneity to avoid the assurance of a poor night’s sleep. Single, and even double, rooms are difficult to get any time of year, so I always had to call ahead. I found myself explaining this to her several times and that should have been a warning sign.

If I have to explain, you wouldn’t understand.

As for values…in my non-backpacker life, I have a deep-seated independent streak and am not temperamentally suited to this much togetherness. I often bristle at getting another’s approval for any decision much less requiring approval for when & where to go next.

Yeah, it was never going to work.
Not only weren’t our goals & needs aligned, they were odds. ‘Traveling together’ had a drastically different meaning for each of us.

I wanted to go, and see, and do all that the south island had to offer. She wanted to minimize travel costs and settle in to a job in Christchurch as soon as possible.

It’s a head-slapper. I don’t know why I didn’t see it long before I did.

We would have both been well-served to follow the advice of this veteran traveler.

In the end…
We had negotiated it down to traveling together for one week but were still at loggerheads when fate came to the rescue. She got a call to an interview on the upcoming Tuesday and so decided not to leave Nelson just yet.


That call came in the nick of time. I had 20 minutes to make bus reservations to get to Kaikoura the next day since I already had reservations at a hostel there.

Advice for Travelers
  • Be specific and clear on your intentions. Set boundaries. We tend to stretch ourselves when traveling, that’s what traveling is all about, but it is likely a mistake if you adopt a situation that is opposed to your nature or conflicts with your core values & needs.
  • The backpacker scene lends itself to joining forces. Not only should you consider the advice of veteran travelers when selecting travel partners, I recommend you establish your criteria before you get on the plane. At a minimum, decide on ‘rule-out’ factors should the opportunity arise.
  • Before committing to a long-term travel arrangement, talk about the details. It was easy for us to agree on a general direction, but once we started talking about length of stay and who would drive when, and what/where we would eat, the wheels came off.

This blog tells a story. If you would like to read from the beginning, go here.


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