They say four of the most stressful things you get to do as an adult is move house, find a job, get married and produce a human i.e. procreate. Well, right now I have a trifecta going on (am finding solace in wine so I’ll let you deduce which three I’m juggling) and yes, it is, uncomfortable. I catch myself at times shallow breathing, a little Irish elf doing a Guinness inspired jig in my chest. But then I notice my view, do a double take, slap myself around the face a couple of times and click my ruby red heels together. There is no place like home and yes, this is the view from my laptop right now.
We’ve recently moved to Lake Wanaka, snuggled in the lap of New Zealand’s southern alps. My fiancé (so shmancy, so new!) Adam and I first came to Wanka eight years ago, round of cheek and poor of coin. We were travelling New Zealand in my university holidays, driving and sleeping in the back of my aunt’s RAV4. In winter. Our sweet naivety even now astounds me. It was so cold the condensation on the inside of the windows crystallised into hanging icicles, à la Serbian cave, and I ever so sexily slept in a beanie and scarf. The boot wasn’t quite long enough, and the back seats didn’t quite go down, so we had to sleep with our heads raised and a tiny kink in our knees. NOTHING IS QUITE SO IRKING AS NOT BEING ABLE TO STRAIGHTEN ONES LEGS WHEN ONE WANTS. NOTHING. But the sumptuousness of our surroundings soon distracted us, even after emerging blue and cardboard limbed in the mornings.
How did we get here, nearly a decade later, calling ourselves locals? Ah, intercontinental love. The aphrodisiac of long-distance longing, the sexy accents, the thrilling bureaucracy of visas…yeah, scrap the last one. Anyone who has been caught between a love affair and the lust-strangling parasite vine that is border control knows there’s no love killer like possible deportation. My chainsaw wielding other half is Welsh and, alongside all the natural water sources in Australia, has run dry of working visas in my home country. I too, have fallen foul of the ticking clock and am plum outta luck in the UK visa department. What to do? We put our heads together and came up with the most adult, fool proof plan we could conjure: let’s move to New Zealand.
We tossed up a few options. Most countries around the world give out working visas until you’re 31, (dirty thirty-year-olds, beware!) so for us there was to be no dilly dallying. A month before the impending birthday and his immediate labelling of old and useless, Adam secured a 12-month working visa to New Zealand. His application was in the pool for Canada, but alas, he turned 31 while it was still floating about. He was sent a frightfully polite, very apologetic rejection letter and it was so Canadian we weren’t even upset.
When we thought of where in New Zealand we would head towards, there was one town that sprung to mind from our adventures all that time ago. Lake Wanaka. It was supremely, eye-probingly gorgeous and had good ice cream. In our mind's eye it had been delightfully quaint, even a little sleepy. #lol not any more, there has been a little, ahem, progress since we were last here. However, we booked our flights. A fail-safe plane, no?
They say you can jump higher when you have somewhere soft to fall and I believe that couldn’t be more true. My family are super supportive and real get-behind-ya this-is-awesome kind of people that make you think you can do things when you probably can't. Mum's favourite saying is 'fake it till you make it' so that gives you a little insight into that. We also have the all-encompassing safety net of my wonderful aunt who lives in the North Island. We were given my grandmother’s car, who had moved into a rest home, and a boot full of linen and saucepans. What an incredible head start. Filled with gratitude and packed to the gills, we started our trek south, catching the ferry from Wellington to Picton and winding our way towards Wanaka.
Learning one: Wanaka ain’t cheap, and the housing market is tough. A local letting agent told me there are some 426 houses in Wanaka on Air BnB, most of which were originally in the rental stream. Queenstown, a mere 60-minutes away with its international airport and gnarly ski slopes, is exploding with growth, and that growth is feeding into Wanaka. There are more people here then houses, and the construction industry is booming. Some developers are building whole houses in 10-weeks. I took longer to build my house when playing Sims on the computer. .Little developments are popping up all over the show 'cos everyone wants a piece of that scenic pie. Can you blame them? The transitionary population is in a state of flux as mountain goats sporting climbing harnesses and man buns ram the streets in summer, scampering after the sun with their full suspension bikes as a wave of ski bums then flood the scene (and bars) come April and the ensuring après season.
Learning two: While the population is expanding at a rate of knots, jobs are not dime-a-dozen, and the pay isn’t always relative to the cost of living. While there are lots of movers and shakers building up their small businesses and rocking a burgeoning corporate sector, lots of people are seasonally employed in hospitality or construction. A lot of locals have made buckets of money elsewhere and are living out their retirement dream here, or wear a heap of different hats with a number of different strings to their bow whilst touting lots of other different employment clichés. In other words, they do multiple jobs to fit their lifestyle. But there’s a very cool, vibey undercurrent to the local scene and potential is spilling out of the proverbial cup in a shimmering expanse. Exciting things are happening; you just have to roll up your sleeves and get nosy – my two favourite things to do.
Learning three: Wanaka locals are the bomb. They have been so warm and welcoming. People who live here, are here for a reason. Because they froth over the outdoors, they move their bodies regularly and they aren’t afraid to get amongst it. There’s fit, and then there is Wanaka fit. There are so many elite and professional outdoors folk slaying mountains and living their best lives tucked away in this happy scenic town. I love the number of people out riding their bikes in the morning, getting about in hiking gear rocking their arch support, running and kayaking and stand-up-paddle boarding. There is just so much goodness here, I’m pretty sure I am 100 per cent healthier already, soaking it up via greedy osmosis. From organic and yummy foodie joints to fantastic wine and breath-taking vistas, it's a really, really, really lovely place to live.
Mum says I don’t make it easy for myself. This is true. But being uncomfortable is also where we grow. We have chosen to build our life based on our values, which are strongly centred on a kick-arse outdoors lifestyle, rather than centred around our jobs. Working to live, rather than living to work. That means there is the strong potential that we won’t be millionaires in the next six months/lifetimes. But I think there is a strong case for living your why, and allowing the how and where to take care of itself. When you say that you can’t do something, it’s always helpful to get a little curious and examine that belief you have. Is it true? Or is it a limitation you have been led to believe is true? Maybe it’s a belief you’ve inherited from your parents or a beloved grown up. Maybe it’s something you were taught as a kid, or conditioned by previous circumstances. By staying calm, remaining cheerful and saying yes to nearly bloody everything, things are growing organically and I have a sneaking suspicion that if flowing water doesn’t grow stale then we are going to be fresh as fricken’ daisies. A bit of luck, a dash of hard work, a swag of humour, a big smile and a good shrug are all handy arsenal in my livin-my-best-life toolkit.
What are you choosing to incorporate in your life to expand your horizons? I'd love to hear about it. Comment below or send me an email.