Packing lightly for a month-long trip to the other side of the world can be quite a process. I am a notorious over-packer, and while I am actually quite proud of my ability to pack only the necessities for my New Zealand adventure, there was one item I was glad to have brought in abundance: sunglasses. The combination of having incredibly light-sensitive eyes and a rather impressive ability to lose or break sunglasses does not make for an ideal situation. So, before leaving the United States, I made sure to pack up the pair I was wearing with an extra two pairs in my backpack.

My sunglasses collection lasted for an entire day. Then my group decided to go to Sumner Beach for the afternoon.

The beach is an especially bright place, as all of my light-sensitive friends will know, with the cloudless skies, white sand, and reflective ocean. So naturally I wore my sunglasses on my walk out to the water. They stayed with me for the whole first hour I was out among the waves, desperately fighting to find one that would carry me to shore. As I attempted to body surf, friends laughed at me since the waves were some of the smallest I’d seen. But I was determined. And that same determination led to my devastation when at last I paddled my way out in front of the surf and was picked up roughly in the crest of a wave that immediately submerged me and yanked the sunglasses I wore from my face.

I wasn’t immediately crestfallen, sure that I’d be able to find again what I had just lost to the Pacific Ocean forever. As realization sunk in, I started to whine. My eyes were already starting to feel the burn, stung by salt and now exposed to the sun, unprotected by perfectly polarized shades.

Luckily, I had planned ahead. I knew I had other pairs waiting for me back at my dorm room. And I didn’t let this keep me from enjoying the rest of my time at the beach. I dove into waves more carefree than before; after all, it’s not like I could lose again what I had already lost. I had almost forgotten my lack of sunglasses until I walked squinting out of the water back up to my towel. Digging through my bag, I recovered a hat which would serve as a temporary replacement for the rest of the day’s adventure. I stuck it over my mass of salt-matted curls and continued to explore the beach with a renewed vigor.

From this experience I learned that it pays to be prepared; I was definitely very happy to have extra pairs of sunglasses lying around that I had brought for just this reason. But I also learned that it pays to be flexible. Without my sunglasses I was able to survive, and even enjoy myself more when I didn’t have to worry about losing them. So I use this silly story to warn the rest of my traveling peers out there not to fret over the things we think we need in our everyday life. There are some situations you simply cannot prepare yourself for, especially when travelling to the other side of the world. We are surrounded by new perspectives for living and new ways of life every day as we immerse ourselves away from home. You never know when even the smallest of waves may come along and knock you off your feet when you’re not expecting it. It pays to be prepared, but when this fails, it pays even more to be flexible. Opening your mind to new possibilities can teach you to go with the flow.

After only a week in New Zealand, this country had given me so much to be thankful for. From the people I met and the places I saw, I am hoping to be able to one day give back more to this country then just a pair of sunglasses—which I had gotten for free—rolling around on the bottom of the ocean

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