Exhausted and bog-eyed, stuck in an alien timezone, my circadian rhythms are apparently adjusting only very slowly. I'm suffering from jet-lag after returning from a trip to the other side of the world. I did mean to blog whilst I was there, but was distracted by a hectic itinerary.
After 5 weeks of living out of a suitcase (or to be absolutely correct 2 wheeled holdalls), I am now seeking to make sense of a fascinating experience and wondering how best to describe it to you. This blog was never of course intended as a travel log but there is so much that I want to share from our trip that it's simply a question of how to begin. Unfortunately that beginning has been hampered since our return 4 days ago, by constantly waking at 4am and falling asleep by 9pm, with muddled thinking in between times. If that wasn't bad enough, I can hardly walk after returning to the gym to do 3 fitness classes yesterday. Zombie-like, both physically and mentally, you have to have a certain level of fitness for long haul travel.
I have discovered that retirement offers time to travel surpassing that of any other period of life. The problem is that it is not necessarily as easy to mobilise as in our backpacking youth when there was a total lack of both responsibilites and neuroses. Much as I might love to fling a few possessions into a rucsack, sling it over my sholder and head off into the blue yonder of cultural experiences, age has brought awareness, wisdom and with it consequential limitations.
I now have a greater understanding of the spectrum between enjoyment and endurance, input and return, satisfaction and reward. Travel is planned accordingly and whilst there is no easy answer to the disorientation that follows a 30 hour journey from take off to landing with a 13 hour time difference between each, at least neither Mister E nor I had work to contend with and return to the following day. No wonder extended vacations in far flung destinations are very much the preserve of only the young and the retired.
I know that there are many who are propelled to relinquish both home and lifestyle for a life on the road or water in order to fulfil longheld ambitions that have often fuelled an early retirement. There are also others who are content to settle down with their cottage gardens, log fires and the constancy of family, friends and familiarity on the doorstep. I doubt that I am unusual in imagining myself ardently pursuing either option but in reality keep dipping only my toes in the sea of discovery whilst simultaneously failing to create a proper haven of tranquility in which to rest and replenish. To my way of thinking, waves of adrenaline and excitement feel higher when they rise from the plains of contentment. Get too comfortable though and extraction can seem daunting.
Our latest trip was planned on the back of the eldest relocating to New Zealand earlier this year, offering an opportunity to see him again after a lapse of 7 months since his departure. With a distance of over 11,000 miles to get there we realised that the end had to justify the journey, so as you can imagine there was significant deliberation in looking to ensure a "perfect" trip.
So we considered:
1) Means of transport, of which the only obvious one (unless we wanted to make a 6 month trip out of our little adventure and go by ship) was air, which led us to consider a variety of carriers eventually plumping for Emirates which provided taxi transfers to and from the airports at the beginning and end of our journeys there and back, as part of the airline service.
2) The route to get there, especially as we initially discussed undertaking a number of stopovers until we realised that we still couldn't eliminate all overnight flights and would be continuously to-ing and fro-ing from airports. In the end we concluded flying directly with a 2 hour change-over at Dubai (and Brisbane too on our return) was the better option, although we opted for the luxury of business class; theoretically if you are going to be in the air for 26 hours you might as well be horizontal on a flat bed seat with an unlimited supply of champagne.
3) The length of our stay taking into account that the eldest's accomodation is unsuitable for staying guests. How long does anyone want to live out of a suitcase for? We settled on 5 weeks.
4) Our itinerary; unsure whether or not this will be the only trip we ever make to New Zealand, we wanted to see as much as possible and, therefore, consulted with everybody we knew who had travelled there. We picked up some tremendous tips and ideas which I was then able to work into a journey around both islands which afforded oppportunities to rendezvous with our son.
5) Our accommodation where there seemed to be a choice of hotels, motels, homestays, bachs, B&Bs, and motorhomes. In the end we opted for a mix of everything except the motorhome experience, which we though might be a little snail-like crawling around with our home on our backs, unable to separate from it.
6) What to book in advance, but ultimately it was very little except for the first two nights' accommodation and the car hire. We really wanted the flexibility to change our plans to fit in with the weather.
7) Which clothes to take as New Zealand is notoriously changeable weatherwise and was just emerging into Spring as we arrived, and finally packing something for all weathers and seasons.
8) Funding our stay as 5 weeks is too long to carry sufficient wads of notes for but, conscious that some of the places we would stay might require us to pay in cash and, as it is never wise to rely entirely on one credit card, we obtained a second that permits cash withdrawals free of interest and transaction fees.
9) The administrative burden of home in which respect we made sure that bills scheduled for payment were set up in advance, carried iPad and laptop to access records and e-mails as needed, relied on our neighbours to keep an eye on our property.
Was it a successful trip? Yes.
Would we recommend it? Definitely but more of that when I bore you with further blog entries.