Dress warmly. Start in Christchurch and drive south to Queenstown in a crappy car that has trouble getting into second gear.
Stop at the ethereal blue Lake Tekapo, and Aoraki Mount Cook—New Zealand’s highest mountain. Take frequent breaks in front of undulating meadows specked in yellowed sheep to smoke cigarettes in the low light. Remind yourself this is Lord of the Rings territory: Look for hobbits among the vast, green sweeping mountains and jagged crags. Observe ice-green glacial rivers incise a place along the bottom of formidable ravines. Sigh audibly and often.
Stop the car somewhere on the side of the road. Think: “No one in the world knows exactly where we are right now.” Sit in the warm car reeking of cigarettes, and listen to dated rap with a hoodie pulled up snug over your head. Be without movement, just for a moment, and watch the daytime moon, grey and low, choking the peaks of stormy mountains. Enjoy the dramatic scenery with the intense light that breaks suddenly from haunting, ash-gray clouds. Be awed and silenced. Break out the Kiwi junk food like Bluebird Burger Rings, Chocolate Fish, Toffee Pops, Minties & Pineapple Lump candy, and Lemon & Paeroa soda. Refuel, and then get back on the road.
Tell stories to each other. If you’re alone, tell yourself stories. Let your mind wrap around the past like a fist. Squeeze out worth in circumstances where you once only found woe or shame. Make amends with someone—even if only in your head. Give someone you don’t particularly like a sincere compliment—even if it’s only in your head.
Seven hours later, find yourself in Queenstown. Look out onto Lake Wakatipu and think you’re the luckiest person in the world. And you are.
Bungy jump headfirst off Kawarau Bridge into the sea-green ravine. Be absolutely terrified. Smoke three cigarettes just to calm yourself enough to sit still in the car when it’s all over. Spent the rest of the day with your weight written in bright red marker on your hand to show you don’t care about stuff like that anymore. Wear it without shame, especially if you’re the kind of person who’d once run to the toilet to scrub it off. Know that this is progress.
Read the quote on the bungy place wall that says: “Be afraid. But jump anyway.” Revel in the feeling of conquering something. Learn that the bungee tradition evolved from the South Pacific islands where natives would jump with only vines tied their legs as tests of courage, rites of passage. Now that we don’t have natural sources of adrenaline like running from predators, we get our kicks jumping off bridges and out of planes. Think to yourself: “Ah, the things we stupid humans do to feel alive!”