Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!
It’s opener there
in the wide open air.
Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.
And when things start to happen,
don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along.
You’ll start happening too.
THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!
— Dr. Seuss, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go”
The day I left for New Zealand, I woke to the sound of my mother vomiting.
My eyes snapped open.
Oh no… She won’t be able to see me off at the airport with dad!
I detangled myself from my sheets and sprinted into the living room.
That problem intensified when I found dad vomiting over the sink, as my mom had claimed the bathroom.
A few days prior, my nephew caught the flu. The entire family had met for Easter — the first and last holiday I’d been able to join in three years — and his going away present to me became the gift of my parent’s sickness.
Panic set in.
Oh no… I won’t have any ride to the airport! I’ll have to drive myself! What about my car? Airport parking is astronomical! What if they’re sick for another month and I have to spend all of my savings on parking?
I looked outside and cursed as snow flurried around. As if losing my ride wasn’t bad enough, in the midst of the massive California drought, smack dab in the middle of April, it decided to snow for the first time in four years.
Now I might not even be able to drive myself!
Six months I had spent carefully crafting out this trip.
I’d devised a bucket list, marked my map, memorized my destination guides, obtained all tickets, visas, insurance, passports, proper funds, and anything else I’d need.
I’d gotten rid of my apartment, sold all of my furniture, quit my job, faced endless criticism over whether or not I’d actually be able to accomplish this trip, and had come as far as the day of departure to face this?
With twelve hours to get to San Francisco from Yosemite, all that stood in my way was a snowstorm.
That I had to tackle with a car not equipped for the snow.
No big deal.
Make sure you get a car with 4-Wheel Drive.
My father’s voice crept into my mind as I remembered his advice from the day I bought my car.
Dad, it never snows where I live, I don’t need 4-Wheel.
You never know when you’ll need it. Be prepared.
Dad, I’ll be fine.
Look who’s laughing now.
Stay calm, I told myself. San Francisco is only a 4-hour drive, and you have 12 hours to get there. You wanted an adventure, right? Well, what better time to start than off the bat?
Fortunately, I remembered a friend of mine, Javier, who also had a flight leaving from San Francisco. He’d messaged me a few weeks prior and asked if we could meet up and say goodbye.
Maybe he can help.
At that, much to my thankfulness, he also lived a few miles away from my Aunt Joyce and Uncle Tom.
By the time I’d sorted everything with Javier and my Aunt Joyce, it hadn’t snowed a dangerous amount.
Even though I had no chains, as long as I left immediately, inched my way down the mountain, made sure I broke before the curve, avoided the black ice, and turned toward any accidental spins I may experience, I’d be okay.
When I finished packing, I faced my parents in the living room. We had more distance between us than I would have ever asked for, and it killed me.
All I wanted to do was hug them goodbye, but my mom hesitated. She feared I would catch what they had and tearfully refused to oblige.
Thus, my final view of my parents was them sharing a puke bowl as they waved goodbye.
Barely removing my foot from the brakes, I crawled my way out of the mountains and down into the valley.
Once out of the snow, the gentle cruise of the rest of the drive brought a million thoughts to my head as I considered what I was about to do.
What am I thinking?
How can I be this crazy?
Am I prepared?
What if I don’t have enough money?
Wasn’t what happened this morning a clear sign this shouldn’t happen?
What if something happens to my parents or someone else in my family and I couldn’t even say bye?
How am I going to handle that?
Will I even be able to handle that?
What if the plane crashes?
What if I die when I jump off of something?
Don’t I realize my health insurance goes away in two months?
Why am I doing this again?
I tried to release all negative energy, but the two-hour drive alone to Aunt Joyce’s house made it hard.
Fear welled in every crevice of my body. I now stood on the brink of an edge I never thought I’d jump off.
When I looked forward, an eternal pit of darkness represented my future as I desperately searched for the light.
To my fortune, the only roadblocks I faced came the moment I woke up. The drive to Aunt Joyce’s couldn’t have been smoother, Javier dropped me off with no problems, and my best friend, Sara, met me at the airport with her boyfriend, Travis, to wait with me.
Even though it wasn’t everything I had initially planned, at least, in the end, I didn’t face it all alone.
My inner fear didn’t desist as I boarded the plane, and sweat covered my shaky palms. I took my seat after boarding, but numbness consumed me. For the previous six months, a leading source of fear was that I wouldn’t even make it to the plane.
Yet here I sat.
And with each “Get to New Zealand” item checked off, the list of things that could go wrong shrank.
As long as the plane didn’t crash, nothing could stop me from here.
After I boarded, I focused my mind on the personalized screen provided and watched twelve hours’ worth of movies.
The entire time, I did my best to shut off my mind, but any attempt to sleep proved futile.
Whenever I shut my eyes, the oncoming swallow of fear corrupted my mind and visions of terror painted the backs of my eyelids.
The personalized screens come with a countdown to your destination, as well as your current location on the map. It proved to be a great distraction, and I found myself periodically checking our estimated time of arrival.
I breathed a sigh of relief when we entered the final hour.
Until the countdown reached 45 minutes.
For some reason, three-quarters of an hour on the dot before arrival, my stomach flipped.
Up until this point, I hadn’t felt any actual sickness. Sure, I had nerves, but the food served was the best I’d ever had on an airplane, I’d taken my seasick medicine, and everything had been fine for the last 11 hours and 15 minutes.
Why had this sudden queasiness taken hold of me?
The visions of my parents spewing out their insides came to my mind, and I remembered my beautiful nephew in the same state.
Apparently avoiding hugs was a pointless goodbye, as their sickness took me in the end.
I squirmed in my seat.
I unbuckled myself to head to the bathroom, but the captain put on the seatbelt signs and announced our descent.
Of course we’re not allowed to roam about anymore. Why wouldn’t I feel the sudden urge to vomit when I was free to use the bathroom?
My brow grew sweatier than my palms, but it wasn’t nerves that produced the perspiration anymore.
I shut my eyes and focused on my breathing. I prayed to the Good Lord that I please, just please, don’t throw up in the middle of the aisle.
The last half hour of the flight stretched longer than the other eleven-and-a-half, but I forced the sickness to stay put.
I ignored the acidic burn upon landing and breathed through the crowded line pushing their way off the plane.
As soon as I broke free, I immediately found a bathroom.
After I faced the long line of angry men who had to stand outside the stall and listen to me wretch, I sat in the middle of the airport for two hours, hoping I’d feel better before I ventured into town.
The plane landed at 5:45 a.m., and I had until eight before the hostel opened. I sat at a table in the food court sipping on water until 7:15 before I caught the bus.
It wasn’t the best idea because of the consistent queasiness, but I desperately needed a bed to sleep this off.
I fought the sickness the entire twenty-minute bus ride and continued my prayers of avoiding an aisle vomit.
The moment the driver opened the doors, I leaned over the edge and threw up all over Queen Street instead.
At this point, the clock had struck eight a.m., I had all of my bags with me, I was fresh off a 12-hour flight, I looked a hot mess, and I just threw up right in the middle of the city center.
I covered my face and sat on a bench where everyone walked by and raised an eyebrow at my sickened state. I forced myself to gather enough energy to find my hostel — only to discover that it rested at the top of one of the steepest hills.
What I wished I’d known before arrival in Auckland was that the entire city is built on a slough of volcanos, and every hill belongs to a hopefully dormant volcano.
And volcanic hills are steep.
When I finally reached the top of the hill, I collapsed, out of breath and fighting the bile in my stomach, only to find I was at the wrong door.
When I arrived at the right door, I fought tears when they were late in opening.
Once I finally got in, I almost bought a ticket back to California when I both realized and remembered that while hostels may open early, check-ins usually aren’t until the afternoon, because the room has to be made up first.
Please let me bang my head on the nearest wall.
With that, I lay pale, sick, and sweating in the living room of the hostel. I tried to enjoy myself, but ended up periodically going to the bathroom to vomit out my life. Everyone who encountered me gave me sour looks and conversations didn’t last long, and a single day had never felt so long in my life.