For weeks, we planned. We scoured the internet for the not-to-miss attractions and top (affordable) restaurants. We found all the best, totally worth it day hikes. We budgeted, we booked, we researched. When the time finally came, we picked up our camper van (a neon green brute we dubbed ‘Franklin’) and began our two-week adventure of road tripping the South Island. The four of us piled into our new home and quickly fell in love with our new lifestyle.
Our two weeks were planned strategically so we could do absolutely as much as possible in our limited time. We played on rocks at Castle Hill, we hiked a glacier and saw Hector dolphins at Curio Bay. We galloped horses in the valley between mountain ranges, we swam in Lake Pukaki (side note: it was freezing). We saw That Wanaka Tree, we ate at Fergburger, we endured the Sealy Tarns track at Mount Cook. We had amazing adventures and heaps of misadventures that made for tense moments but great stories, and most importantly (as per our Arcadia NZ motto), we survived.
Our two-week break came and went in a blink of an eye and, before we knew it, we were back in lecture halls, wondering if it was too late to drop out and take to the camper van lifestyle full time (don’t worry Mom and Dad- we’re all still in school, promise). While I can’t attest to others, it was coming back that week that the mid-semester slump hit me hard. How could I sit through class when there was so much more to explore? More people to meet, more pictures to take, more adventures to be had? School has been literally my life for as long as I can remember and even the breaks haven’t been real breaks as there’s always homework to be done or internships to be had. But road tripping around New Zealand opened a door to a whole new world and it was as if as soon I realized how much I loved it, I was shoved back to the other side and the door was slammed, only to be replaced with essays and dull readings.
And now I sit writing this, trying to piece it all together.
Obviously, when compared to a life at university full of studying and exams and essays, gallivanting in a camper van around New Zealand will always be the ideal option. Despite the downsides- limited cooking space, days without showers and being at the mercy of New Zealand’s rather unpredictable weather- the lifestyle we adapted is one we’d all happily go back to in a heartbeat. It’s what I’m calling the ‘camper van effect.’
The camper van effect is difficult to expound upon, but goes something like this: it’s the thing that makes you feel small on this earth, but inspired to seek out everything it has to offer. It redirects your attention from the fake things we tend to get caught up in, like Facebook and Instagram, and refocuses your energy on exploring and living in the moment. As you become more attuned with nature and the universe, you become more attuned to yourself, as well. You learn to plan ahead but be flexible, you learn how to adapt to problems quickly and contently. You let the constant rush of life depart you and allow time to slow down to genuinely enjoy each day, no matter what it brings. As you come to realize how little it takes to be happy, you become immensely gratified with everything around you.
To outsiders, the camper van effect looks like irresponsibility or frivolity as young adults pack up only life’s absolute necessities and hit the open road, but I promise you it goes much deeper than that. There will always be an allure to living for the sole purpose of experiencing the grandest things life has to offer and once you get a taste of it, even just a minute morsel, it’s exceptionally difficult to revert back to anything else.