My tribe has always been incredibly important to me: my friends, my family, my community, my dog (yes, she is most definitely part of my tribe). I am so lucky to have so many good people in my life – sometimes I think I am so lucky that it takes my breath away.
That’s why I knew it would be hard to leave my tribe for so many months. I want to trust in the positive parts of traveling alone, but the truth is that it’s not always rainbows and unicorns.
Because I have so much time in New Zealand, I’m traveling more slowly than a lot of the people I meet–which means that I build a tribe for two or three days and then it disperses according to travel urgency levels, leaving me longing for my circles back home. (Not to be home–I want nothing more than to be doing what I’m doing, exploring the expanse of New Zealand–but to be doing this with my favorite adventure buddies who I know would love every second.)
A few weeks ago, I finally got what my soul was craving: a family of friends made up of really good people, and again, my luck astounded me. A family with a revolving door to allow new people to take the place of those leaving for other adventures. (A family that really enjoys taking awkward tourist family photos–these are my kind of people.)
Backcountry adventures have the gift of slow-moving time, when a day feels like a week and parking the car at the trailhead or the put-in feels like a lifetime ago. They have the gift of turning a group of people unknown to each other into a family overnight.
As my New Zealand family parted ways for our separate pursuits yesterday, I find myself on my own again for a couple of weeks before we reunite at the end of March. And I’m amazed at how little it takes for me to get lonely again.
The plus side of that is how little it takes to lift me back up again. A smile, a brief conversation, a shared joke.
As I’m sitting here in Wanaka waiting for the rain to stop (life in New Zealand comes to a screeching halt when you can’t go outside and play), I’m planning my next backcountry adventure. The huts here are like wilderness hostels, and I have no doubt that I’ll meet my next family somewhere on the Gillespie Circuit, maybe playing cards in the Siberia Hut or hiking up to Crucible Lake.
I try to remember that everyone I meet is a potential friend, an orphan waiting to be adopted by a new family.