Updated: Mar 22
We never really know where the journey of our lives is going to take us. Even when we think we have a plan, we all know the chances of that plan actually becoming our reality, without any hiccups or setbacks or challenges, really isn't very likely. We all know from experience that our lives hardly ever pan out the way our plan wants them to, and more often than not it takes much longer than expected (or hoped) for everything to actually work out.
That's definitely the space Sam and I find ourselves in currently.
We left Wellington back in October with the plan to travel for a few months before we moved to the South Island. We were in search of a better quality of life for ourselves and that meant Sam moving out of hospitality and immersing himself more in the wine industry. We experienced a really difficult time last June and it redesigned our whole world. The challenge we faced shook our whole lives up and in the midst of that we knew that we weren't prepared to settle in our lives anymore. With him working in hospo 12-12 Tuesday-Saturday and me working 8-4 Monday-Friday we literally had a Sunday off together, and it wasn't enough. Although we knew it, the difficulties we faced together confirmed how right our relationship was, and how much we both wanted it. We decided in that moment we would start saving to buy our first home, and whilst an achievement in itself, the goal there was that it would provide the stability we wanted to be able to start a family. In line with that, Sam moving out of hospitality would mean that we got our evenings together, our weekends, and when the time does arrive for us to welcome a little baby into the world, he'll be able to be present like he (and I) want him to.
So that's the background.. and you probably know by now if you follow me on Instagram that we spent two months on Waiheke Island working at Man O'War Winery and had the most amazing summer. Like seriously incredible.. we 'lived' (parked the van) opposite a stunning beach and every morning we began our day together swimming in the ocean and sharing coffee - usually from Charlie Farley's. We had a taste of the simple island life that seriously spoke to my soul, buuuutt this blog isn't about our time on Waiheke - although I promise there will be one soon though!
So we left Waiheke at the end of January with the plan to move to Nelson and for Sam to move into a wine sales/ distribution job. Nelson was the most desirable place for us; it was still on the coast and living by the ocean was a big priority for both of us. It's also a big wine region so Sam would be able to find a job and it has a small city (including lots of government roles) so I would also be able to find a job, too, as there are a lot of government jobs. We also knew it was a little bit hip so being able to kick-start my yoga business again was also something we were focused on as well so that when we did buy a house, I'd be able to scale back working in jobs I disliked and be able to focus entirely on that. We have a whole life plan, if that wasn't already clear haha!
Anyway, at the time we were beginning our journey down South Sam explained to me that there weren't any jobs for him in Nelson at that time, and because our move was rooted in his change of career, we were both willing and happy to follow the wine jobs wherever they were to enable that goal to be achieved. Although we're set on Nelson & we know that that's where we want to end up, we were also happy to pursue a different place short-term whilst we continue saving for our house deposit just for Sam to get some more experience.
So after a few big discussions and a little bit of research we decided we'd head down to Otago - the region most commonly known for being home to Queenstown. At that time, there were a lot of wine jobs there, not necessarily in sales and distribution, but Sam was happy to start again in a cellar door before making connections down the line and pursuing the larger goal. And the beauty about cellar door work is the shifts are daytime and usually over by 5pm so the balance of wanting our evenings together was still very much in-tact.
The only issue was, neither of us were really keen on living in Queenstown. On our road trip last year we had visited and whilst it's a beautiful place, it doesn't have a lot of soul... and as people who really value character in a place, Queenstown severely lacks that. For those of you who don't know it or haven't been, it's a tourist town through and through. It's the alpine ski location for New Zealand and attracts a huge number of tourists every year as a result (pre-covid ofc). I suppose for many people that's enough, but not really for us. I can't head into the town and mosey around the shops, or be inspired by the quirky shops or variety of people and styles. The girls all look the same, the shops are generic and mirror the kind you'd find on any old high-street, and there's just no passion there. There's no diversity or character.. not even a cute café to hide away in to read a book during the wintery days that are already coming. And we knew that was how we felt about it.
BUT.. the appeal for us about living in Queenstown is that it's right next to Mt Aspiring National Park and it's only a 3-hour drive from Mount Cook. Big bonuses for us in themselves as we want to be immersed in the outdoor life and living here provides us with opportunities that we just didn't have available in Wellington. Being able to hike every weekend or even after work, being able to live in the mountains and really let our life become what we want it to were really big positives for us. And in addition to that, being in the heart of the South Island, Queenstown gets cold. And I mean really cold which brought up the conversation between us about how much we miss winter at home. Having both grown up in England we were used to having proper seasons, watching the leaves change colour and fall to the ground, getting up in winter and leaving the house really rugged up with all your hats and scarves and gloves and a big winter coat.. scraping ice from the car windscreen.. seeing your breath when you walk outside. We wanted a winter. It's something we both really miss and one thing that you just don't get in Wellington. So that was a big factor for us, too. In conjunction with that, doing a ski season sounded amazing. Having grown up skiing literally since I could walk, I wanted to share that alpine passion with Sam (who's never skied before). So we decided we could buy ski season passes and be up the mountains multiple times a week, I could teach him to ski and we could just enjoy that experience together for a while too.
So we tossed it all up and decided that we needed to make a decision about where we were going to settle and once we made that decision we had to both be in it 100% and genuinely commit to making life work in that place. So we committed to Queenstown. We outlined what we wanted in our next house - it was going to get cold and in line with the ski-chalet kinda vibe we wanted a log fire; I was not willing to compromise on a bath again, so it needed a bath; and finally it needed a stunning view. Our house in Wellington was perfect so this house had to be on the same level. There you had it - our 3-point checklist for finding a house.
Immediately after making our commitment to stay in Queenstown for the next year, the perfect house arose. And I genuinely mean perfect. So we jumped on it, and for a little while it felt like everything was working out. Perhaps the universe was reassuring us that we hadn't made the wrong decision and we were exactly where we needed to be. We both adored the house, and were so excited to move in. So that was 1/3 things sorted. Now all we needed to worry about were jobs.
Sam managed to secure a job in a cellar door just before we signed on the house which seemed like a really great positive at the time, until we realised that the winery was backwards and old-fashioned, the wine wasn't great and he was actually really didn't like working there. He's stuck it out because his income was the only money we have had coming in for the past month, but thankfully a new opportunity presented itself that is much moer in line with what he wants so his last day at Mt Difficulty is tomorrow. So starting Monday he will be working as the Assistant Restaurant Manager at the Sherwood Hotel - a 1-hat restaurant that is so much more in line with his values and his standard and style of service. He's really excited about it and I can't wait for him to be in a job he'll be happy in, and more importantly, valued in, too. Although he'll be going back into a restaurant setting, there are a lot of positives - not only that he'll have a 10-minute not an hour commute anymore!! But it seems that the venue are very aware and accommodating to how much of a priority our relationship is and he'll be able to have days off to spend with me, as well as not working every single evening like he did in Wellington because it's a hotel restaurant that is open all day. So some days he may be working daytimes and home for dinner, too. In addition to that, they want him to take over the wine list which is freaking amazing and so cool. It will also be a really great venture for him in his career too, and help him to begin building those relationships with wineries and immerse himself more into the industry as well. Plus, they shouted us a beautiful dinner at their restaurant to give us a chance to see what their food is like and enjoy their experience which was so generous and such a lovely evening for us. So overall, it's a big positive and when he finishes this shitty job tomorrow I am going to spoil him and celebrate with him because he stayed in that job for us; to support me and our family while I am still looking for work and has been so selfless and loving through it all despite how unhappy it's made him. He deserves to be celebrated all the damn time.
And as for me, for the month we've been in Queenstown now I am still not working and it's been awful. I've been applying to any and everything, but the issue is, there aren't that many jobs even becoming available and the majority that are, are largely in the labour industry. There are no government jobs around here, and even office jobs are hard to come by, so it's been really tough on me because even basic entry-level jobs seem to be hard to secure which has not only impacted my self-esteem but really frustrated me considering I have years of experience in much more challenging roles and within much more renowned organisations. So it's definitely been an emotional rollercoaster and my mental health has struggled a lot - really panicking and breaking down about what we're going to do if there are no jobs in this area, how we're going to begin saving again, and how each week I'm not earning we're putting our goals and dreams on hold even more. Then I have a good day where I trust everything's working out and the right job will arise at the right time, and then the next day Im back at rock bottom again. So it's been tough and the only thing that's gotten me through it is the amazing man I have by my side, so yeah. It's been a journey, but i'm hoping we're coming to the end of it now and of course, we know that everything will work out as it's supposed to. But it has been tough.
It's actually the first time that I think we've been exposed to the very real impact Covid has had because back in Wellington jobs are readily available. Being the capital, after all, I was never in shortage of high-level admin or exec assistant jobs, and with my skills and experience I always easily found myself in well-paid, well-regarded roles without much of a hassle. Even the hospitality industry didn't appear to suffer that much either - jobs were still available, we didn't know anyone who lost a job or a venue that shut.. Even in Waiheke securing work was blissfully easy. It's only since being down here in Queenstown that we've seen the really big impact lack of tourists and travel has had. So many shops have shut. Apparently a large number of people have been made redundant, and there really isn't any work. It's struggling, big time, and that probably won't change until the border situation does. It's really sad to see to be honest.
Anyway, I suppose the point of this blog was simply to remind you that sometimes we don't end up where we thought we'd be. Things don't work out as we planned. But regardless of that, they always work out. One way or another we somehow end up exactly where we were supposed to be, and I still believe that wholeheartedly. We find ourselves in moments of uncertainty and stress; we learn a lot about who we are when things don't work out and whilst they can sometimes be the most difficult plains to navigate, we always look back and are grateful for the journey we've been on.
We ended up in Queenstown, a place we never really imagined we would. And whilst there have been trials and tribulations within our journey, we are happy and life is on the up. How did we end up here? Fuck knows. But we're here and everything is working itself out. And whether we stay here for 6 months or a year, we know it's not our forever place and that's okay. A winter adventure before we settle down for real sounds quite exciting to me to be honest. So here's to the future - short and long-term while we work our a$$es off to achieve our goals.
I'll leave you with a few wonderful moments the last month has given us, a little reminder that even amongst the chaos, you can always find happiness and love nestled within.