TWENTY NINE DAYS OF FEBRUARY!
Today on Skype, my mother informed me that on Leap Year, the tradition is for a woman to ask a man to marry her. Despite my entire extended family’s fear that I will never wed, I didn’t get the sense she was hinting at anything, which was nice considering my grandmother thinks I’m in New Zealand to find a husband. Evidently some foreign guy will view me as a rich, American girl and marry me for my money. She must have no idea I live like a pauper and have considered journeying across New Zealand in a camper-van with strangers in order to save money on bus fares.
Speaking of, my mom THEN said something about me hitchhiking across New Zealand—ha ha—and I stupidly said, “Oh, did I write about that already?” because I’ve been meaning to write a blog about hitchhiking and other things my mother would not approve of (like bungy jumping and walking home at midnight when I get out of work).
Well, no, I didn’t write that blog already. She was joking, but now that she knows I WASN’T joking, she has forbidden me to hitchhike. My father agrees.
It’s not like I hitchhike more than a couple of miles. It’s a very common practice here because nearly everyone is a transient traveler and most of us don’t have cars, and I only do it when I’m running late or the weather is bad. Would you rather me have caught pneumonia by walking in the wind and rain and cold and DIED? Well, Mom?
There was only one hitching (as they call it here) incident that I thought could have made a PBS special, one of those hey-kids-don’t-do-this afterschool shows. I was walking down the hill (the hill on which I live) toward town, which is 1.5 miles away, planning to go to the gym before I started work. For once, I had allotted enough time to walk down the hill, workout, shower, and walk up the hill (which understandably takes longer because it’s like walking up a ski slope) and get to work on time. VICTORY.
I wasn’t trying to hitch. In fact, I had already crossed the street, to the side that faces oncoming traffic, where the road narrows and there is no place for cars to pull over even if someone wanted to hitch. I was minding my business, clunking down the hill like a fat horse, when along comes a van (A VAN) that slows to a stop in the middle of the street beside me. The driver, a 50-ish year old man, rolls down the window and says, “Hey, do you wanna ride down the hill?”
I have to admit, my first thought was that the only thing missing from this scenario was a handful of candy. I considered saying no, but then I realized if I got a lift into town, I could run an errand before the gym that I otherwise would not have time to do. So I shrugged and got in the van.
Obviously, the situation turned out okay. I survived, and did so without wishing I was packing heat. It’s a different culture here than in America, something I do recognize. So, fear not, Parents, I will not be sticking out my thumb on the side of the road in an effort to get back to New England in a couple of months.
ANYway, the point of this blog was to say I had wanted to celebrate Leap Year because HELLO, it only happens once every four years (though it seems longer—come to think of it, I don’t recall a single leap year in my life), but instead I stayed home in bed until it was time to go to work.
Sorry, Grandma, no husband yet. Maybe next Leap Year.
3 thoughts on “Hitchhiker’s Guide to NZ”
Wait until you hear what I have to say about Bali.
I have heard that New Zealand is the best place on the planet to hitchhike. I have been hitchhiking the United States for most of 15 years. I believe there are a lot less hitchhikers in the U.S. than in Europe or New Zealand. I have met a lot of great people on the road.
“The First Time I Rode a Freight Train & other hitchhiking stories”
“High Plains Drifter: A Hitchhiking Journey Across America”
“Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer”
“Chris McCandless Revisited”