Farewell, Stripe. Kia ora, Te Araroa

Wednesday was my last day working at Stripe. It’s definitely a sadness that I’m no longer there. But I think it is for the better, in many ways, so there’s that silver lining, at least!

One of the things I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time is a cross country bike trip. It started as me and a coworker planning a 6 week tour for 2012, and ended with neither of us being in a situation to be able to do it. I have had 2 gaps in employment since I left DreamHost in 2011, one of 5 months and one of 3. Both of these gaps I had plenty of excuses as to why I couldn’t, or why it wouldn’t work or what about my animals, etc. This time is different. I have a lot less “local commitments” than I have previously. I am in a better financial situation. I have a strong want to do something. So I’m going to take advantage of this opportunity and do something!

Last November, almost a year ago to this day, I went on my first backpacking trip ever. I traveled to New Zealand for a vacation, and one of the things I did was to walk the Banks Peninsula Track outside of Christchurch. I had an extremely good time. The trip itself was pretty pampered. Well marked trails, huts with hot showers, comfortable beds, cooking equipment for every night, and if one wanted, pack haulage between overnight spots. Also the days were very short, the longest day being about 12 miles and that was with lots of extra credit, the shortest being 6 miles. Still, it infected me. I loved most every minute of the trip, and at the time I was describing it as the best 4 days of my life to that point. Even in spite of the fact that it coincided with Election Day…

I got back home and immediately started researching where I was going next. After much searching around, I settled on Japan, where I would hike part of the Tokai Nature Trail that stretches between Tokyo and Osaka. That trip, too, was an amazing experience. It was significantly more difficult in nearly every way than the trip I had done in New Zealand, but the experiences and the memories made it all well worth it, and I look very much forward to the day I finish the rest of that trail, and perhaps a thru-hike of the entire country!

Now, I’m facing another gap in employment. I could go find work immediately, and I do intend to do some job searching before I venture off into the unknown, but I feel like the time is ripe for me to take on some of the longer term adventuring I’ve been so desperately wanting to do for the last 6+ years. So I’m going to.

Te Araroa, The Long Pathway, is a 3000km route that traverses the entire lengths of both of New Zealand’s main islands. It’s too late in the year to start and attempt a full thru-hike, but it’s not too late to get started on a partial trip. I’ve spent the last several days poring over any information I can find about the trail, like where resupply points are, difficulties of sections, what gear and skills I’ll need to bring or develop, etc.

Since I’m only going to have limited time on the trail, I have decided that I’ll be starting from the southern terminus of the route, Bluff, and traveling northbound until I stop or run out of time. I’m going to shoot for 3 months in country, with probably a week on the front end doing some sight seeing, exploration, and preparation in Wellington and Auckland prior to hitting the trail. Start date is still tbd but shooting for the first or second week of January, coming back to the states in time to determine what I’m doing with my apartment. My lease is up at the end of March but I’m going to try to extend it by a month.

I’ve been a bit hesitant to do any part of the trail because I feel like I want to do the full thing in one shot to experience it all with fresh eyes, which has had me searching all over both New Zealand and other countries (Argentina, Chile, Australia, and Taiwan, primarily) for other hikes I could do with that amount of time. New Zealand has a LOT of trails, but many are rather disjointed and some that I’ve seen that people have done are less trails and more “I managed to figure out how to get through here”, which feels like is a bit above my skill set to try to take on. The disjointedness is fine, as well, but it makes planning a lot harder and I’d probably end up spending more miles walking roads or hitching than on the trail.

But I’ve mostly gotten over that. After reading some notes from other hikers, it seems that starting from the south end of the South Island and going north offers the best gradient of difficulty, and given that much of the trail is pretty difficult, with several stretches of 7+ days without resupply, it’s probably best for me to start a bit easier, given that I basically only have 12 days on the trail worth of experience, and much of that was fairly easy and plenty within reach of towns and resupply points and such.

In the mean time, I’m going to first spend some time taking a load off. I’m also going to look for work, of course, and try to find something that will line up with a mid April or June start date (I have a 3 week trip planned for May-June), but not stress too much about finding work. And finally, I’m going to work on this website, so I can do the fun mapping stuff I’ve been wanting, where I can lay a gpx track on a map, along with blog posts, photos, and other stuff to roll up into daily, weekly, or full trip write ups. As part of this, I’ll also be finally getting my cat map online. I have all of the data gathered, I just need to get the site up and running and get the data imported in. Since it’s effectively a blog with a map and photos and “encounter” write ups, most of the work I do on it should be able to be integrated into this site for the mapping functionality I want here!

I feel like this is a possible turning point in the journey of my life, which is both exciting and terrifying. I feel incredibly fortunate that I’ve had the opportunities so far in my life that have led me to this point. The friends who have helped me. The companies I’ve worked for. My family for laying the foundation.

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