Late one morning in July of 2009, I woke up to a frantic swear word, followed by “we missed the bus!” Not just any bus, the last bus of the week from Christchurch, to Dunedin New Zealand, and due to hostel plans, and the amount of time we had to do a loop of the whole South Island, we could not wait around all weekend for the next open seats. After weighing out every possible option, my travel companion Anna and I decided to do the most logical and utterly responsible thing for two teenage girls- we asked the locals, and took a shuttle to the best hitch-hiking spot on the edge of town. We stood on the side of the road holding an unfolded cereal box with the words, “DUNEDIN, WILL PAY!” scrawled boldly across the cardboard. We weren’t planning on accepting a ride from any old stranger that came along, but when after a mere 20 minutes, three scruffy, young, Dutch travelers walked over to us offering a ride south in their rented camper, we took up the offer.
The three of them sat in the front of the van, while Anna and I sat in the far back with a mini kitchen, and many couch pillows and backpacks strewn in between us. While at first, Anna and I joked about how we could use our Clean Canteens to defend ourselves if it turned out to be a dangerous situation, we soon were all chatting about the differences between America and Europe, and our plans for the next years. We made it safely to an adorable little Ma and Pop hostel (Here!) as far south as they were headed, and parted ways. (Also, the owners of the hostel graciously gave us a ride to Dunedin the next day, for free!)
New Zealand is full of such friendly, and welcoming people, that we were not too worried about getting into an uncomfortable or unsafe situation. If we had been in a different country, this probably wouldn’t have been on our list of available options, which I believe to be quite unfortunate. My point is that the pros and cons need to be weighed for each individual situation, before jumping into the back of someone’s car.
While this was a very enjoyable and thrilling experience for me, I was not surprised by the amount of chastising I received from my parents when I told them this jolly tale. The lack of trust in humanity is what I see as one of society’s worst flaws of late. People are feared, stereotyped, and automatically labeled as dangerous before they are trusted. I understand that one needs to be safe, but you can only do so much to protect yourself without infringing the things that you can accomplish, and experiences that you may have. I value the opportunities that I have as a young, vital member of the future, and I intend to impact others by influencing them to stray from the norm. Surfer and song writer Matt Costa explains my point of view best when quoted, “We cling to our tried and true, and we’re creatures of comfort, and we find our patterns and stick to what we know best, but there’s a big wide beautiful world out there and for those who want it- it’s out there.” I plan to be out there.
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