After 10 days back in Auckland city I finally got back to nature today. I’m in Muriwai now, which technically is still Auckland Region but as a small settlement on the west coast with no shops and a good 45min drive from Auckland, it’s nothing like Auckland city.
After having spent almost 5 weeks in the beautiful Far North of New Zealand, I’m now heading south east towards Gisborne and the East Cape. Since that means passing through Auckland anyway, I decided to stay for a few days to catch up with my colleague in the office, see my friends and take care of some life admin stuff like getting the van services, getting my hair cut and so on. A few days turned into 10 days when the van needed a couple of repairs and I had lots of stuff going on at the office that was easier to do in person.
It's been great to see my friends! And I got to hang out with Hazel, my Dog-bff for a few days while her family was out of town which is always a highlight. Being back in the office for a few days to catch up on everything that’s been going on there was fun too. In many ways I’ve also enjoyed the conveniences of the big city – everything you need is right there, easy to get.
But I’m not gonna lie, I’m feeling pretty relieved right now to be back in nature, back by the ocean and away from all the noise, traffic and general rush of the city.
It’s been really interesting how I perceived being in the city so differently now, even though I’ve only been away for just over two months. Obviously, life on the road has been very different to life in the city but I’m a bit surprised how different I feel and how different my energy levels and motivation are. Two things in particular stand out.
1. I’ve got this urge to buy stuff
In the past two months, since I left Auckland, I’ve basically spent money on food, petrol, campground and other ‘must have’ items like tooth paste and toilet paper. And I haven’t had the desire to buy anything else. Sure, I’ve spend a lot of time in areas where there aren’t a lot of shopping options but there would have been a few along the way.
I did pass through towns and I went to markets and other shopping opportunities. But I never had the urge to buy anything I didn’t actually need.
I was back in Auckland for a few days, when one day last week, I found myself at The Warehouse (New Zealand’s equivalent to Target or Walmart – a store where you can get almost anything for pretty cheap). I was on my way to meet friends and I stopped at the store because I had it in my head that I need to stop at The Warehouse. It wasn’t until I had been inside for about 5 minutes wandering around aimlessly that I asked myself “what am I doing here, what did I come for?”. And I didn’t really know.
I needed sun glasses even though I have two pairs. I needed a new bikini top even though I have about a million. I needed a book to read even though there are about 10 unread books on my kindle. I needed a warmer sweater because it’s starting to get a bit colder even though I have two warm sweaters and I live in a van where no one really cares what I wear…
I didn’t NEED any of these things. And for the past two months I hadn’t felt like I needed them or even just wanted them. But back in the city for a few days, constantly bombarded by billboards, shops, advertising and our consumer culture in general, and I’m back in the consumerism mindset where I feel like I need to buy stuff.
That day I left The Warehouse with nothing by toilet paper (which I actually did NEED) but it has made me think about how often in the past I’ve bought stuff because the environment I was living in made me feel like I needed it – when I actually didn’t.
2. I lack energy
For the last two months, I’ve started most days with some form of activity. My favourite days were those I could start with a surf but when there was no surf I would just go for a walk, a bike ride or get moving in some other way. Most days, I woke up and I wanted to do something, wanted to move. And a lot of the time I then did another activity later in the day simply because I felt like it.
There have been some tough days where I’ve struggled to motivate myself (usually when it was raining) but most days I felt energetic and alert. I wanted to be active, wanted to be outside and be out and about.
Back in Auckland for a few days and I really struggled with energy levels – and it’s not like I didn’t have time. Yes I was back in the office but only 4-5 hours a day and most of the catching up with friends happened in the evenings. It kind of surprised me a bit. I thought that if I spend 4-5 hours in the office I would be itching to do something active afterwards. But I didn’t. I’ve barely done any real activities since I’ve been back in Auckland. There was a surf on Saturday and kite session last week but if I had really wanted to, there were plenty more opportunities to surf and kite. I just kind of didn’t have the energy and motivation.
And it’s not just about physical activities. I feel like I have less energy on a whole, less clarity and less focus. And less inspiration – I haven’t written anything the entire time I was in Auckland even though I definitely would have had the time. Meanwhile, I’ve written this within three hours of leaving the city.
I’m excited that it’s time to get out of the city now and I’m very much looking forward to be back ‘out there’ living my van life and exploring a new part of New Zealand. But I’m also thinking about how I can be better prepared next time I come into the city for a few days – and whether being more prepared for it would make me deal and feel differently. Is there a way for me to live in the city without falling victim to the consumer culture and losing my energy? I guess I will find out next time I’m back in Auckland :)