Monday, March 10, 2014

And Just Like That They're Gone!

Visiting The Catlins down south on the South Island, New Zealand 
My parent’s visit almost feels surreal now. They’ve come and gone and it feels’d like we never had been apart nor skipped a beat.  From the start of my trip planning, I was hoping my parents would visit me at some point along my route.  Ever since I can remember them talking about their retirement years, they wanted to visit New Zealand and Australia.  Therefore, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to have them come while I was riding the south island of New Zealand and through parts of Australia.

The logistics of meeting up were a bit complicated and caused for some headaches.  It is hard to plan a detailed itinerary and solidify specific dates when you travel by bike. I had a rough idea where I would be at different times of the year, but in order to meet them it meant sticking to a specific route, specific day and place to find each other.  It just so happened that Cromwell, New Zealand was where we met up after not seeing each other for a year.  That morning, I left a message with the receptionist at the hotel we reserved for them to come and find me on route 8 heading south towards Cromwell. I knew they were in a gray Toyota Corolla, but the rental cars in New Zealand are either Toyota Corolla’s or Rav 4s.  In the early afternoon, between a long sparse stretch of road, I heard a honk from an oncoming car.  This car continued to honk and soon there was a hand waving profusely out the window.  Ta Dah! Magically they had found me!

Part of the perk of having Mom and Dad along was that they could relieve me of some extra weight 

We spent the next 5 days together exploring the far south of the south island by car rather than bike.  For me, it was a nice break from riding, and a true delight to have some familiar company.  It’s one thing to visit family and friends on familiar territory, but it’s a completely different story for both of us to be out of familiar territory traveling.  My parents have done a fair bit of traveling prior to kids, and as a family we did a lot of road trips on the west coast of the United States.  They were abroad a few times to visit some of us who decided to study abroad in college and then most recently, they traveled to Barcelona a couple of times while I was living there.  This trip however, marked a new type of travel for my parents due to the unique nature of accompanying someone traveling on bike.  For my dad, who likes to have everything planned, it was difficult to fathom not pre-booking hotels and flights or having a day-by-day itinerary.   Six months into my trip, this style of traveling has become my reality, but I had to change my mindset slightly when I was with them. 

They deserve an award for being such flexible travelers and coming all the way from Oregon to find me on my bike

From New Zealand to The Great Ocean Road, we covered a lot of territory together

It seemed that almost anywhere we went in New Zealand there was some holiday, event, festival, or race, which made finding a hotel challenging.  Traveling with a tent you rarely think about fully booked accommodation.  Thankfully we never failed to find a hotel which always seemed luxurious to me!  In fact, I was able to restock my supply of tea, coffee, and toiletries!  We ate at small cafes for lunch and usually tried the local ice cream for a mid-afternoon snack and dined in nice restaurants during the evening.  The meals were a nice change from my supermarket picnics and basic cooked dinners at the campgrounds.  The sounds of snores replaced the melody of nighttime bugs and small rodents so I felt right at home.

Queenstown, New Zealand
When we said good-bye to each other in Queenstown, New Zealand, I went on my way to a school visit then up and over to the west coast, completing my loop of the south.  They drove off through the interior and around to the northeast to complete their figure eight itinerary.  My parents flew over to Melbourne about a week before I did and had some time to explore the area.  Upon my arrival we started the Great Ocean Road, only this time I was on my bike and not a passenger in their car.  Of course it took me much longer to cycle the distance to the hotel than them, but we had designated lunch and rest stops to meet up and they found me several times along the road and cheered me on from the car.  I even cheated for those days and rode with 2 bags rather than 5! It is hard for me to ride without any weight because I wobble all over the place and feel naked!

It’s funny how time apart makes you reflect more on the things you observe.  In my “normal” life, I see my family twice a year and talk weekly on Skype, but a year had passed since I saw them last. With so many hours on the bike, I’m know myself better as a person than ever before. When they arrived, all of a sudden I could see certain traits and quarks of my own personality in each of them.

Pops and me,...two lively souls
There’s no question about it, I’m full of energy.  Intense, determined, or stubborn some might say. This comes my Dad.  At 72, he’s got the energy of a 30 year old!  During our time together, he was always the first one up, dressed, and ready-to-go.  He’d eaten, loaded the car, and studied the itinerary while my mom and I were still in our pajamas making coffee.  Back in Barcelona I was just like him.  By 9am I’ve gone for an hour swim or run, was at work, reviewed my lessons for the day, sent emails, and ready for my kids to walk in still half asleep.  We’ve got constant energy that keeps us on the go.  We are task-oriented and can accomplish anything we put our minds to because of our determination.  My dad and I also have the same exact taste buds and appetite.  Without consulting one another, we can study a menu and out of all the dishes, we order the exact same item. Usually there are two or three options that sound appealing and since my mom is so easy going, she agrees to share with us.  I don’t advise sharing with my dad or myself since we always have a huge appetite, we are “territorial” when it comes to sharing a meal. My dad and I eat almost half of each of the dishes ourselves and my poor mom goes with the flow and gets whatever is left!  And our sweet tooth is incredible….makes for lots of great ice cream stops along the road. 

Hair salon "Pritchard Ladies"....we did a pretty good job!

By no means is my mom lacking energy, after all, she was a full time “stay-at-home” mom of 5 extremely active kids.  However, she is more laid back and believe it or not, some of this has been passed down to me!  When you take me out of my normal daily routine, I can tone down the intensity and relax (promise)!  In fact, sometimes I disconnect and my mind wanders so much that I might get a bit spacey, i.e. missing road turns on my route and leave my passport.  For us, nothing is ever a huge problem. We can go with the flow and believe that things will just work out in the end.  This has been a saving grace on my trip, combined with my relentless energy.  From my mom, I also get my passion to create, use my hands artistically, and make things, from sewing, cooking, jewelry, and ceramics.  Before this trip, I never would have attempted to cut my hair myself, nor would I let my mom touch it.  Yet, together we figured out how to do it and she helped me out with my third hair cut, all done resourcefully with the mini scissors in my pocketknife and the utensils found in our hotel’s kitchenette.

Nothing beats a familiar home cooked meal

What I appreciate most from my parents in the simple values they instilled in me as I was growing up, which I also noticed on our trip.  There were some days where a trip to the supermarket for bread and cheese became a delicious picnic and when we cooked in our apartment, craving a familiar recipe from home.  Growing up in the Pritchard family we never had anything fancy or a need to consume and fall into the materialism trap.  The Pritchard kids found joy and pleasure in the basic things in life from home-cooked family meals, endless hours of entertainment outside in the yard playing together, and family holidays in the car to a lot of National Parks, monuments and regional sights.  I am forever grateful for these values because even on a bike with 3 bags of possessions and pedaling 100 km a day, I am the happiest young lady in the world!

My parents were real “troopers”, to make the effort to come all the way to the other side of the world to visit me.  They had to be completely flexible with their itinerary in order to accommodate my mode of transportation but ended up turning their trip into a 6-week holiday, doing the Australia and New Zealand trip I had heard about for years!  I have a few other visits along my route in Australia with friends, which I’m looking forward to.  It’s great to be able to meet up with people I haven’t seen for a while, a definite perk to traveling around the world especially with my global network of friends!

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