It was there, on top of that mountain, that a 21-year-old me snapped out of my drunken stupor and sobered up just enough to be confused as to why I was there. Earlier in the night, I remembered playing drinking games with some friends in our hostel dorm and afterward, we all moved downstairs to the hostel bar for even more beverages and a taste of nightlife.
I often self-medicated with alcohol at the time as a way to deal with my social anxieties, depression, family issues and general inner turmoil. It wasn’t unusual for me, the foul Doctor that I was, to overprescribe with regularity. Moving halfway around the world hadn’t been enough to cure me of those things which ailed me, no matter how desperately I tried to run from them. So, along with the physical baggage that I’d packed for my year-long journey, I brought the emotional baggage that was free for check-in, intangible, and yet, weighed most heavily.
I looked down at the glowing city below as I stumbled along the paved trail framing the crescent of that mountaintop. My thoughts raced as I checked my pockets for my belongings while on the move, but found no wallet and no keycard to my dorm room. Nothing but a lonely set of house keys to my home back in Canada. Great!
“How the hell did I end up here and where the hell are my things?”
I was furious for a moment. No doubt I would have been extremely anxious if I were sober enough to feel it, but the fact that I was still floating on a cloud really took the edge off. I found it ironic at that moment that my love for cardio and beer in combination could end up being so devastating. The alcohol removed all traces of my inhibitions and my cardio caused me to race deep into the night far too efficiently without any thought. No, this wasn’t the first time that this sort of thing happened to me, but it was the first time that it had happened to me so far from home. My Grandmother would have been mortified.
My mouth was parched, tasting of stale cider and old beer as I navigated my way back down the hill on a very indirect path back down to the city. The walk took on a meditative quality as the lights of the city sparkled down below and I questioned all of my life’s decisions which had led me to my current predicament.
Eventually, I weaved my way down the hill further and further, until I slowly emerged in a section of the city that I’d never been to. I walked on and on in silence, relying on my vague sense of direction to get me back and reflected on the nature of life, family and an odd sense of hopelessness. The alcohol kept me numb and I was satisfied that, at least here, I was a traveler in an exotic place with a drinking problem.
I strolled past several Kiwis on the streets, not the birds or the fruit, but those New Zealanders. I gazed with interest in the mundane setting of the city that surrounded me and wondered if the locals found this place as boring as I thought of my hometown, yet, how novel this mundane was to me as a visitor. That’s the beauty of travel, I think, The novelty of new experience which elevates even the most ordinary of things.
I wandered past a large hospital, walking on a sidewalk along a not-so-busy road and traced my way back towards the heart of the city where I might find “home”. I eventually betrayed my introverted instincts and asked a stranger for directions against only to discover I was indeed on the right path back. Salvation was only a few blocks away. The buildings began to look familiar and spurred my recollection; I passed a liquor store on a corner under the glow of yellow street lights, an elegant white hotel, cheap fried food restaurants, and some eateries too rich for my blood, and eventually, the Base hostel where I’d been staying…
A little drunk still, but glad to have finally found my accommodation, I swallowed my pride and shared my story with the clerk at the front desk. I had no identification or key-card to prove that I stayed there, but thankfully my story was too bizarre to be fiction and I was lent a spare key to get into my room. I quietly creeped back into my two bunk room where my roommates were fast asleep, found my wallet and key-card locked up under my bed and let out a sigh of relief. To this day I’ve no idea why I’d locked those important possessions up, but I was grateful that they were there. My roommates snored in there bunks as I undressed and crawled beneath my sheets to sleep off the remnants of this cursed alcohol and to awake once more with renewed hope for a better day.