Following your dreams. Not always as easy. Nor reasonable. But worth the risks.
During my last week in Dunedin, I was perpetually frozen, hungry, and ready to travel home to sleep in my own unspeakably comfy bed. Tickets were booked. My little sister was eagerly awaiting my arrival. And then I saw it. A small article about Peter Jackson filming the final pick-up shots for The Hobbit, about a set hidden in the forests above Wellington. Now, I love Tolkien’s books, and Jackson’s films, and books and films in general. I’m energized and awed whenever I manage to move closer to film magic – I’m that kid who gets overly excited when served “Hobbit Ale” in The Green Dragon Tavern, the geek who can feel the aura in a filming location as I wander aimlessly and imagine the series of events that happened here, events involved in creating something that touched people all over the world. So, naturally, I hear rumor that the last bit of shooting is occurring, and I want to touch just a piece of it.
Some might say I’m teetering on the edge of obsession, but I really think that my decision-making process was quite reasonable and logical. The idea of traveling to Wellington before returning home started off as a fantasy. And then I thought: I’m already on this side of the world and as close as I’ve ever been, this is likely my last chance to witness the making of a Middle Earth story because of all the Tolkien Estate drama, that set is going to be taken down soon, if only there was the possibility of changing my flights with those blessed frequent flier miles…. I’ve always been a structured and scheduled person, but I’ve been working on exercising my spontaneity. And what better way to be spontaneous than to, whilst halfway across the world from home, chase your wacky dreams and pursue that wily temptress, Adventure? Turns out I have the best parents in the world – parents who not only put up with my flights of fancy (literal flights of fancy, I tell you!), but encourage them! Papa took care of my new flights home, I booked everything else, and my sister looked fairly heartbroken upon discovering I’d be gone another week. I felt a smidgen of guilt over that, but giddiness and the determination of an explorer soon took over.
A few days later, I headed to the Dunedin airport. Not wanting to check a bag, I wore 12 layers of clothing in order to cut my carry-on luggage down to size and weight (I don’t recommend this technique because, oddly enough, it was a ploy that worked on the flights down, but not on the way back – and that turned into a traumatic problem which will require a few months of recovery before I can speak of it). Instead of paying $500 to fly straight from Dunedin to Wellington, I laid down $60 for two flights with a layover in Auckland. This layover was destined to be more of a sleepover. Quick note about the Auckland airport: It’s actually more like two airports – the international and domestic terminals are a short drive/long walk (made longer if you’re toting luggage) from each other. My friend had warned me that the domestic terminal closes at night and everyone gets kicked out. So, if you’re flying domestically, you still have to shuttle over to the international section for the night. Go up to the third floor observatory where you gradually begin to see more and more hidden and sleeping figures revealed throughout the area. Whilst setting up my clothing nest, I rather felt like I was part of some secret community. Or a hobo at a very exclusive underpass.
While going through security for my final flight to Wellington, I bonded with the friendly TSA agents, or whatever NZ equivalent of TSA. Regardless, those people are absurdly nice and laid back – all smiles and “have a wonderful flight,” “Oh Washington! I’ve been to Washington DC?,” and chats about life and disposable contacts. Honestly, anti-social me felt as though I’d made friends in a few minutes. Then, I compare this experience to the US: constantly pulled out of lines to be searched from ages 6-15 (I guess my baby face just looked suspicious), up to my being thoroughly ignored during my rebellious how-many-things-can-I-sneak-past phase (by “things” I mean water bottles with a little bit of water in them or pointy tweezers, not weaponry), culminating in the strip search on my 18th birthday. They asked me how old I was and I realized that I turned 18 that day! I was very excited. The man, flat-faced, decline to throw out as much as the customary “Happy Birthday” and instead jumped to, “Passport ID. You need it now that you’re an adult.” I hadn’t brought it because I hadn’t needed it at the tender age of 17 – my adult parents just checked me in. Boy, did I cause problems that day. Making that transition from US airport security to New Zealand was like being given a bowl of ice cream after being forced to suck on lemons for years. Kiwi officials have earned a special place in my heart.