I think backpackers have a bad rap. It seems to me that when many people hear the word “backpacker” they quickly picture a dirty, aimlessly floating young person with no ambition. In my experience, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Backpacking is actually quite common in most countries outside the U.S. Young people are encouraged to go and explore the world as soon as they finish high school. This is more highly encouraged than going straight to university, which is the opposite of how we are raised in the states.
Most of the backpackers I’ve met are extremely hard working, ambitious about seeing the world and willing to do what it takes to save money in order to afford their next adventure. Often times these same individuals have a former life in a professional field somewhere. I’ve met pharmacists, scuba instructors, marketing experts and more. Tyler and I for example, both held Bachelor degrees. He a former veteran in the Air Force and me a current Public Relations specialist doing freelance work.
This reality came to mind as Tyler and I received a horrified glare from a nicely dressed woman who looked to be in her mid-thirties. Tyler and I were standing next to our van in a parking lot. Having just conquered Rainbow Falls, we were on cloud-noun and celebrating by splitting a beer.
“Isn’t this great,” I asked “We can drink beer whenever we want! If life calls for a celebration, we celebrate.”
I was so thrilled by the fact that we weren’t constrained to deadlines or routine or the structure of everyday living. We were on our own time now and this immense sense of freedom was coursing through my veins.
Together we had uncovered something magical, by conquering the falls. When we arrived, it was cold and rain was pouring down pretty heavily. I fully intended on taking the 5-minute track to the falls overlook, snapping a picture, and returning quickly to the van. Fortunately, I let Tyler talk me into walking down the track, to the bottom of the falls. Around that time, we noticed two individuals walking out from behind the falls.
Tyler’s face became giddy as he turned and looked at me. I fought it for a minute. I was cold. It was wet. I didn’t want to get soaked on a day like today.
After seeing Tyler’s excitement, I eventually shrugged my shoulders and thought, “what the heck. He deserves an adventure.”
As we made our way down towards the falls, the two individuals approached us, sopping wet. We asked them if it was worth it and they whole-heartedly agreed that it was. The woman was about our age and from Austin, Texas. The man was an Englishmen and they had met at a hostel. Wishing us good luck, they journeyed on towards dry ground, while Tyler and I took slow careful steps on the slippery rocks leading towards the back of the waterfalls.
With each step I continuously reminded Tyler and I to “go slow” and “be careful.” I remembered watching Matthew jump from rock to rock at Blackdown Tableland National Park in Queensland. Upon jumping to a new rock, he slipped on the surface and created a huge gash on his shin. We were far from everywhere so unfortunately, he momentarily wailed in pain before choosing his only option, which was to bleed it out.
I silently thanked Tyler for his careful nature. We had both bought a monthly insurance plan as soon as we landed in New Zealand. It felt comforting to know we had this, which is more than I can say for two-thirds of my Australia trip (shh..don’t tell anyone.) Another lesson that comes with age, I suppose.
Tyler and I were fortunate in that we both made it safely to the waterfalls. Crawling on our hands and knees, we crossed over a small stream, then stood slowly on moss-covered rocks. As we straightened our backs and looked around, we simultaneously laughed with delight. It was glorious!
Because of all the winter rain this season, the waterfall was massively coming down. There was a huge mist off of the falls that had us super-soaked in no time. I licked my lips and tasted a mixture of sunscreen, snot and fresh waterfall mist. My face was soaked!
I watched as Tyler moved closer to the falls, then opened his arms and let out a loud roar, oozing with masculinity. Then, as we moved around the back of the falls, suddenly we both noticed it.
It was the rainbow on the other side of the falls! We screamed with laughter as we both saw not one, but two rainbows peaking through from the front side of the waterfalls.
We had been told that this rainbow is usually only seen early in the mornings, from the front side of the falls. Yet somehow, there was a strikingly vibrant rainbow peeking through, looking in on us in the cove behind the water. We gasped in amazement before kissing one another in excitement. I looked at Tyler and said, “THIS is what we quit our jobs for!” A laugh busted out of my mouth as quickly as the sentence left my mouth. I felt so ALIVE!!
As we crawled out of the slippery cave, we were soaked through every layer of clothes we had on. I stopped and looked up to see a bright, blue sky with the sun shining down upon us. Looking behind us, I sighed with deep satisfaction as I looked at the falls. We did it. Before our excursion I had merely seen another waterfall, something I’d seen a hundred times before. It was beautiful, yes, but not worth writing home about. However, after getting the full, all-in experience, I felt like I had knownthat waterfall. Like I had truly experienced it and was walking off with absolutely no regrets.
My mind quickly made the connection to life. How many times do we shy away from a deeply gratifying experience simply because it’s an inconvenience, a bother, or not in our daily schedule? How quick we are to turn down the extraordinary, simply because we don’t want to get wet. Yet, life’s greatest adventures always lie on the other side of our comfort zone.
This waterfall would forever remind me that living all-in is worth it. Deep gratitude, abundance and joy come from living life head-on, with fear strapped in beside you for the ride. Fear can come along, but it most definitely does not need to be in the driver’s seat.