I sat back in the chair, waiting. Surely the fan-fair would sound any minute and a brightly coloured, intricately designed ticket would spew forth from the printer and land in the tray. After just giving over a thousand of my hard earned pounds to Singapore Airlines, I felt that the resulting product would be something special. The printer began to warm up; I clasped my hands together, the excitement building inside me as paper fed through the reels. Still no fan-fair, maybe that would come when the paper hit the tray. Then it was done, a sheet of plain A4 paper lay before me, at the top of which in bold type were the words “Electronic Ticket”. Beneath those words were the flight numbers and times of the aeroplanes I would be taking to the opposite side of the world. No fan-fair, no pretty patterns or ethnically sourced designs, just black type on white paper. I felt slightly underwhelmed; the feeling you get when you light a firework expecting the thing to go off like an Apollo moon shoot, only for it to go phut and extinguish itself. But still- it was in my hand. A ticket to four months of hopefully fun filled adventure, sun soaked beaches and freedom from my daily grind. Sod it, I thought, I’ll give myself a fan-fair. ‘Ta-Tatatata-Taaaaaaa!!!!’ I even treated myself to a little dance around the room, clutching the fleshly printed ticket like the World Cup.
After I had made sure everything was in order, that I hadn’t missed anything important like actually buying the ticket rather than just printing off a sample of one, (yep, my bank account had definitely taken a pounding.) I placed the ticket and receipts in my tin box of things to be kept safe, next to my passport. Then I waited… and waited. I looked at the clock; it was ten past two on a dreary grey afternoon in March. I looked at the calendar on my wall; I still had to wait what felt like an entire ice age before I could board the National Express coach that would take me to Heathrow Airport. It was no good; I couldn’t just sit here staring at the clock. I had to go to work, for another eight months.
And by God did the time drag by. The first thing I thought about in the morning and the last thing before falling asleep was that I was one more day closer to packing it all in at work and setting off. Every penny I earned was squirreled away and saved, every other search query I made on the computer was in regard to my destination. My friends became tired of me mentioning my big holiday every time we met, to the point I had to bite my lip when I thought about it in their presence.
But this was the thing; I had absolutely NO IDEA of what to do when I got there. I didn’t know how much money I would have, who I would meet when I got there, or how I was going to spend the majority of my time. With other holidays it was much simpler. I had one or two weeks on either a Greek or Spanish island, with a group of choice friends, and all there was to do was lay on the beach baking in the sun all day. Then when the sun went down, go out and get so drunk that the only memories I have of the event are from blurry photographs. I wanted this to be different, it had to be different. If I spent four months doing the things that I usually did in two weeks, I would end up a raging alcoholic with an orange tan, no memory whatsoever and probably skin cancer to boot. I needed a plan. How could I get the most out of the time and the money I had? Where were the best places to go to eat, drink, and sleep? I began looking at as many relevant internet sites as I could, reviews from seasoned travel writers all the way down to what Ming324 thought of the nearest kebab shop next to his hostel. It was, in his (or her) words, shit. I began to make a note to avoid that particular establishment when I paused. I was taking the word of someone named after a bald headed fictional megalomaniac of an emperor; in the same way that I had just taken the word of somebody who described a lamb supper using more words than it took to write War and Peace. But then, just because Ming324 was a man (or woman) of very few words, did that discredit the review? I was getting nowhere. There were endless lists of things to do, ranging in price from absolutely free to the need to be the heir of a small Middle Eastern oilfield. And the repetition, surely one thermal spa is going to do the same job as another spa, yet on some lists of “must do things” there are four of them. If I did all the things suggested on some lists, my holiday would boil down to a long hike through the woods, followed by a spa, then a quick swim with the dolphins, rounding off with a spa and a meal served in a fancy restaurant then home. Not bad for two weeks but I felt I’d get bored if it was over any longer period of time. No, I wanted to do more than that. I was paying a hell of a lot of money out and I wanted to do it all. I wanted to try everything. I wanted to eat at the kebab shop and see for myself the quality of the wares whilst watching the sun go down and deciding whether or not it was worthy of the epic tome of a review. Basically I was on a mission to compile my own list of 101 THINGS DONE IN NEW ZEALAND!