Since I left Cardiff in January, I have been on the go- when I haven’t been travelling, I’ve been at the beach or talking to people, or just generally doing something. I am now in New Zealand and something has happened that I absolutely did not prepare for. I got sick. Not really sick so that I need to go to hospital or come home (sorry mum, I’ll be a while yet), but sick enough so that I have very little energy and even less energy when it comes to thinking. It’s a strange thing- my body is telling me to go to sleep but the part of my brain that is working is making me feel guilty for not doing enough and I’m worrying that I’m wasting my time here.
This is the most time limited section of the trip; due to immigration policies I was forced at the airport to book my return flight, so I have exactly 3 weeks. The first week was fairly productive; I made my way to the library for a couple of days, even went surfing with another PhD student out at Raglan, and did what all good phd students do and went to the cinema on a rainy Thursday afternoon. The surf was actually pretty terrible for me; a big swell and a migraine just don’t mix. Throw in a battered old hire board which loses a fin within ten minutes and I was never going to win. It was great to be back in the sea though, even after only a few days out of it. I had to wear a wetsuit too which was nice- only a shorty but it made a change to the tropical temperatures of Queensland and was a good refresher. My head kicked in full force after that though and I have been pretty much out of it since, hence the cinema. That was a week ago.
So I’ve spent a third of my time here wondering what I should eat to make it go away, what happened to make it this bad and generally wasting my time feeling sorry for myself. A third of the time! I haven’t been to Hobbiton, I haven’t seen any volcanos or geothermal activity of any kind and I think my sheep count is only on about 3. If it wasn’t for the funny accents I would barely even know I’m in New Zealand. The result is I’m frustrated, and dare I say it, bored.
I don’t think its helped that the town I’m in is unspectacular; in hindsight, I probably should have stayed out on the coast, a 45-minute drive away, so I could at least be grumpy near the beach and observe whats going on. I anticipated though that I would need to be spending a lot of time in uni and accommodation out there is expensive, not to mention the cost of car hire which I would have needed there. I did travel up to Auckland for an interview on the weekend, but when I wasn’t sleeping in an overpriced, overcrowded hostel, I was vomiting my way around the city and eventually had to cancel in case the lovely participant’s shoes fell foul to my sickness.
So while it hasn’t been the bestest fun ever, I think that I’ll be able to learn a lot from this experience, the key point being that it’s not always going to go to plan. Even though I didn’t have much of a plan for New Zealand, the inability to think properly has been annoying and its meant I haven’t been able to plan as I go as easily as I normally would. As I was unsure about the dates for this leg of the trip I couldn’t book anything in advance- meetings, car hire, accommodation etc. now I’m not feeling right, these are bigger problems than they should be and its making me rethink the next sections of the trip. They will likely be more structured, possibly shorter in duration; if I can do more in 2 fixed weeks than I could in 3 or 4 flexible ones then that is going to make more sense. In some respects, the freedom of this stint has been restrictive, and that’s definitely something to take away and learn from.
The other takeaway from this is that I’ve made a couple of PhD friends who are working on some really cool projects and have been good hosts to me even though I’ve been somewhat anti social.
I’m well and truly on the mend now and I’m picking up a car on Saturday… so watch out New Zealand. I’ve got lost time to make up!