Updated: Mar 22
It's been almost a month since I shared my last post about the best and worst parts of campervan life, and I suppose the reason for that really has stemmed from a desire to remove any external pressures from myself during this time. I had this picture in my mind when we left Wellington that everything that plagued me and lowered my vibration would begin to lessen for the simple reason that I was about to be living in a way that I'd always wanted to and with my own little family by my side. But in reality, as is obviously the case, the work I've needed to do to get back to my best self doesn't just disappear because I find myself somewhere new or doing something different. We're often sucked into this imaginary belief that when we reach a particular destination or achieve a goal we've set out that happiness will overcome us and all those little things that weigh us down will disappear.
But the truth is they don't. Those 'once I get to' moments hold no real value in that regard at all, and that's why it's important that we hold ourselves accountable and remind ourselves of our own internal power to make changes in the now. Your mindset and your negative emotions don't just go away when something good happens - perhaps they may be masked for a while or even pushed down far enough that you can avoid them with ease. But the truth is that you have to put the work in sometime or other - even if you're sat on the most glorious, picturesque beach on a deserted tropical island living what looks like or 'should be' an amazing life, those things you struggle with still follow you. Just because your life looks 'perfect' or 'desirable' on the outside, doesn't change a single thing about what your mental reality is, and I think that's an important topic for everyone to think about.
I've always been someone who doesn't like to stay in one place for too long - and that's simply because I have this itch and this desire to live my life to the full, and for me personally that is defined by experiencing and immersing myself in new places and new experiences on a consistent basis. And whilst that's an intricate part of who I am, my practices and my connection to myself don't change as a result. Perhaps for the first little bit of traveling or living somewhere new that excitement and that exhilaration is more prevalent, but if I was in a bad space before I left to go there, chances are, that mental state will follow me wherever I go until I have the courage to look within and face it.
That was the point I was at when we left Wellington. Whilst by no means I was in as bad a place as I have been in years gone by, I was still struggling a lot. Many things have happened this year that have sucker-punched me and left me feeling heavy and quite down - my saving grace has been having such an amazing man by my side to help me and love me through it all. Part of our decision to leave Wellington was to give me a chance to get back to showing up for myself; to having the time and space I needed to heal from those things that needed that from me. So after a few days of being on the road and suffering another blow, I decided that I didn't want this trip and this time with Sam to go to waste. I didn't want my mind to be managing the bouts of depression it was experiencing whilst also putting pressure on myself to write and to share things and to essentially do all the things I need to to get my business back on track. That's not what this trip was supposed to be about, and if I waste this opportunity and this experience because I've failed to be present and to love my partner fully and experience each moment for all that it is, then it's like I'd have never really lived it at all.
So I made the decision, after discussing it with Sam, that actually all the travel writing, all the vlogging, all the instagram-ming I want to do about this trip and our travels, can absolutely wait. I set myself the intention of living presently and working on myself once again so that by the time this bout of traveling does come to an end, hopefully I will once again feel like a better version of myself; deeply connected, genuinely content at heart, and return to a place mentally that is inspired by strength and courage and grace. That is what I want for myself, and since I made that intention I noticed a shift. I feel slightly lighter and I've started doing more things for myself that I know will help; lots of yoga and meditation, spending time with my closest friends and talking openly within my relationship about my insecurities and my irrational fears, and allowing myself to accept the love I know deep down that I deserve and enjoy the support and strength I get from opening and sharing with my partner.
And traveling around does help to facilitate that kind of transition and depth of practice, but it is by no means the answer. The answer is within, no matter where you are. It's just easier to get lazy with ourselves when we feel un-inspired and stagnant. But our emotions and our current states of being are intricately linked to the effort that we invest into ourselves (unless you're one of those weirdos who is blessed with constant happiness and calmness... which is definitely not the case for the majority of people!). And even if you do feel stagnant or lost or unsure, just know that you can find that strength to start the journey of inward-reflection and self-awareness even if things aren't aligned exactly as you'd hoped they would be.
Now my little sidenote on loving and showing up for yourself is over, I'll give you a little update on what life has looked like for us on the road these last few weeks!
Over the last four weeks Sam and I have made our way up the West Coast of New Zealand's North Island to the tip, Cape Reigna, and then back down the East Coast. And it has it been action-packed hah!
We weren't very impressed with the West Coast, which was really disappointing for us to be honest as we fell in love with the South Island's West Coast and I suppose we were hoping to have a similar experience. But anyway, we're glad we did it and we've enjoyed taking the time to get to see each part of this beautiful country before settling down.
Two weeks ago we had made our way down to the Bay of Islands (after making sure we stopped off at aaaaallll the wineries on the way down of course). We ended up staying in a place called Rawhiti, about 45-minutes away from the 'touristy' destinations of the Bay of Islands in Paihia and Russell - we skipped these as we knew we would be exploring them the following week. Instead we found ourselves in the beautiful area of Rawhiti where we stayed for two nights; the first night we were lucky enough to find a little ocean spot to freedom camp where we took the kayak out around the bay for the first time, Sam swam, I practiced, we did some acro-yoga together and just had a really lovely evening.
The second day we stayed at the local Marae which we had popped into the day before whilst exploring. I'm not sure what the direct translation is from Māori, but it's a communal place for iwi (tribe) or whānau; a meeting place. It's the home to traditional carvings and is usually on a grounds, too, and Sam and I were lucky enough to have a tour around Rawhiti's Marae with a lady who lived nearby and worked there.
We learnt all about that tribe's history, the connection to that part of the land and came away with a deep sense of spirituality and appreciation for the people and traditions that New Zealand was originally home to. We're both very keen to learn more and immerse ourselves more with Māori; to understand the culture and to educate ourselves on all that is important within it. Having worked in the government, I've been fortunate enough to gain a little bit of an insight into the practices and the language, and also to work closely in teams that set out to improve the experience for Māori people - my own experience was in regards to accessing healthcare, and then in my latest job with regards to Covid protection and aid. Both Sam and I make a conscious effort to speak in Māori when we can, to read signs correctly, introduce ourselves when possible etc. and we hope that at some point we'll reach points of being able to speak and understand more than a little bit - especially as we plan to stay here forever. Honouring cultures and immersing yourself in them when in a foreign country is really important to me - there is nothing I can't stand more than ignorant white British (and American?) people going somewhere and failing to show any respect or care for the place they're in. That's amplified even more when you plan to stay there for long periods of time.
Our experience staying at the marae was wonderful - how could it not be with views like that?
The morning we woke up and took the kayak our for our first proper paddle and adventure out to Urupukapuka and its surrounding islands in the distance. We kayaked for about 3 and a half hours in total, out to Urupukapuka Island and the two islands behind it; Waewaetorea Island and Okahu Island. Urupukuapuka is the only Island out of the three that is commerically accessible by ferry, otherwise the only way to reach them is by boat - or in our case, kayak!
We found a deserted beach on Urupukapuka where we stopped and enjoyed time together, freely swimming naked and loving each other on our own sandy paradise.
It's those sorts of adventures will stay with us forever and I'm so overly grateful that we really do make the most of this time; this time in our life when it's just the two of us, time for us to enjoy each other fully before children and other commitments come along. It feels good to know that we are making the most of it and this phase of our journey together. We've been fortunate enough to experience many moments that have made me stop to think that, and I guess that's sort of the meaning of life in a way.
The next leg of our journey took us down to Ocean Beach in Whangarei. We ended up spending muuuuch more time in this area that initially planned for reasons that I will reveal shortly, but the good thing about it all was Ocean Beach was bloody amazing. Back home in Wellington we often went out to a beach called 'Ocean Beach' in the Wairarapa for our little city escapes and time to reconnect. So when I saw an Ocean Beach on the map up here I had very excitedly shared with Sam that we had to go there. And it was beautiful! We ended up staying there for three nights; each morning we woke up and skinny dipped in the ocean after drinking our coffee on the beach together. A time of stillness, connection and happiness to start the day. The water was warm and we swam and played and fell in love with that freedom even more with each day that passed.
A few days later we had made our way up the Tutukaka Coast where we had our eyes set on getting out to Poor Knights Island which has been a marine reserve since 1981. We had lunch on the beautiful pier in Tutukaka after booking ourselves onto a boat trip the next day with Dive! We went and found a freedom camping spot a town over in Kowharewa Bay and set up for the evening ahead of the adventure the next morning.
That night however we encountered our next challenge, and the most emotional so far. Sam got up for a wee in the middle of the night and without realising Nacho had followed him out and unlike any other time, decided not to move as the sliding door of the van closed. His face got caught as it shut, and the noises he made literally broke my soul. He hissed and he cried and he hid for a while under the steering wheel. Thankfully it only took a few moments for him to come out and snuggle up to me, and for us to realise that his jaw was out of line. So at 4am Sam was on the phone to an emergency vet whilst I sobbed holding Nacho. We were told the best thing to do was wait until the morning and take him in to a vet back in Whangarei. It's a safe assumption to make that we didn't sleep after that. Both of us were so worried and emotional that by the time 8am rolled in we were waiting outside of the vets desperate for someone to help. Naturally we cancelled our boat-trip and found ourselves instead wandering around Whangarei feeling empty trying not to worry about our baby and what was going on. Somehow the universe was once again shining down on us, and at 3:30pm we got a call from the vets telling us they'd x-rayed Nacho and there was no sign of any break or fracture and it wasn't dislocated either - in short, he was okay. It was probably just a little bit bruised and swollen and in a few days would go down and he'd go back to normal. Presuming when we took him home he ate and drank, all was well and no further action was needed.
So we rushed back to the vets, picked up a VERY high cat (which terrified me) and headed back to Ocean Beach because we wanted to make sure we were close enough to the city in case we needed to get him back there. Thankfully when we settled in and gave him his dinner (soft food only for a few days), he demolished it and even came back for seconds, and we sat and watched the Mentalist holding him tighter than usual.
So we spent three more days at Ocean Beach, keeping Nacho inside for the first day and staying with him the entire time. By day 2 our mischieveous terror was back to normal and we breathed a collective sigh of relief. His jaw is still a little out of line, but other than that, he eats, drinks, yawns and talks as normal. You can imagine how weary we are, especially Sam, of closing the doors now! It took Sam a few days to even be okay with shutting the door after that, bless his heart. And now we're teaching Nacho a new 'command' of 'face' where we gently push his face away from the sliding door when we close it so he gets used to moving his face so we never have a repeat!
Once we knew Nacho was okay we re-booked our original dive trip and headed back up to Tutukaka. That Thursday we headed out on our trip where I scuba-dived for the first time and Sam snorkeled. Unfortunately Sam had some ear muscle tissue placed into his eardrum years ago so isn't allowed to scuba dive :( but we both had an amazing experience. Poor Knights Island is a renowned spot for marine life, so even just snorkeling gifted us with some incredible sights. We swam along holding hands amazed at the marine life we were immersed in and came away feeling inspired. I've decided that scuba diving is something I'd like to pursue -the ocean has always been my favourite place, and being able to explore it - pushing aside the guilt I feel that Sam can't experience it too - was amazing and something i'm really passionate about.
We then made our way back up to the Bay of Islands, Paihia to be exact, to surprise Fran for her birthday. On the way through we stopped at the Farm in Whangaruru for two nights which was an amazing time. Tess, a yogi I know through Instagram, has lived on the farm on and off for 6 years, so I'd heard about it before we arrived, but essentially it's a backpackers where travelers go and do a work-to-live exchange on this farm which is like a big family community. The family own 1000 acres of land with horses and other animals, as well as a dairy farm. It also works like a campsite too though, so we paid $30 a night for us to park our van there and have full use of the facilities, access to their vegetable garden, they have a beautiful vegan and sustainable shop where we treated ourselves to a few bits and ltos of grounds to walk around and explore. It's so tranquil and we loved our time there (I'll be doing a separate blog post one day all about the Farm if you'd like to know more!).
The Farm, Whangaruru
That was followed by 5 days in Paihia with Fran & Adriaan. We arrived at the campsite they were staying at, took down their tent, put ours up in its place, got inside with all her birthday bits and when they returned surprised her with party poppers, birthday headbands, champagne, party hats, a birthday badge, the whole shabang and she was so surprised, it was great. The few days we spent together involved a big loop walk, waterfall hunting, a birthday meal out at Terra, visiting some wineries, board games and lots more. It was a wholesome couple of days spent with our best friends.
We parted ways on Thursday feeling content and very much looking forward to our Christmas getaway in Taranaki with him. We drove down to Auckland ahead of getting the ferry across to Waiheke Island the next day and had a short explore around the city (after paying $8 to park for 40minutes.. outrageous) and quickly ran around buying some clothes we needed ahead of a private dinner we're working together next weekend.
We stayed at a campsite 15-minutes from the centre of Auckland in Takapuna, and on Saturday 28th November woke up to very special news that Sam's eldest sister had delivered her first baby, beautiful Dotti, making Sam an uncle for the first time!! After two days of worrying about her back home, we were both so happy to wake up to news of her arrival - and how well everything had gone for Jenni.
We drove back to Auckland, Hamer Street Harbour, where we caught the ferry over to Waiheke. And that's when things have started to get somewhat interesting.
Straight off the ferry we drove to the other end of the island to Man O'War Winery - Adriaan's favourite wine is from there and setting ourselves the goal of doing a tasting at the 25 wineries on the island we thought we'd start there. It was also a great chance for us to drive around the whole island for me to see it (Sam has traveled here before and worked on a winery for a couple of weeks, as well as coming back for 5 days over Christmas last year so is more familiar with the Island on the whole). We came away from Man O'War feeling happy and excited. It was such a beautiful spot right on the beach and we'd had a really good time. We had an interview at Cable Bay Winery at 4:30pm that afternoon so we made our way back to the centre of the Island, changed into some slightly smarter clothes, and headed over.
That night we found a beautiful little place called Sandy Bay where we pulled up looking out at the ocean to stay. We're a little bit anxious at the moment about freedom camping after getting a fine on our first morning but there weren't any signs prohibiting overnight camping - which are normally everywhere - so we took the chance. Thankfully we've encountered no issues so far.
Then yesterday we woke up on our first morning on the island with a day of interviews ahead of us. We were supposed to be heading to Stonyridge at 10:30 but decided that the jobs they were offering weren't quite right and it probably wasn't worth wasting either of our time. So we cancelled that one and had a chilled morning in the van waiting for 2pm to roll around when we had the next interview at a smaller winery called Batch.
The curveball came in at about midday while we were cooking lunch. We received a phone call from a lady down at Man O'War who I'd sent our CV's too after she commented on my facebook post introducing us and enquiring about opportunities. It was quite unexpected as Man O'War hadn't advertised anywhere that they were looking for staff, but naturally it was an exciting phone call to receive and we agreed to head back there for a chat that afternoon.
In the meantime we were also both offered full-time jobs at Cable Bay on a pretty good starting wage.
Our interview at Batch went well. The restaurant manager, who was so lovely, didn't realise we had only planned on staying on the island until Christmas so said that he wouldn't be able to have anything available for me, but that if Sam was interested in the wine-making and cellar-door side of things there would definitely be opportunities for him. So in my eyes, that was a win. The whole point of us leaving Wellington was to facilitate this career change for Sam; to give him a chance to gain the additional experience, knowledge and first-hand experience he wants and needs to progress further. As long as he's able to do what he needs to do in our time here, I'd be happy being a cleaner. After our 'interview' we headed to the cellar door and met a guy called Al, who did a tasting for us and who we ended up having a really good chat with. He gave us a tour of the back-end of the winery and the boys had some interesting conversations actually about the wine and such. He kindly gave us the tasting for free, jokingly saying on the condition that we (meaning Sam) came and worked with him haha!
After leaving we headed back to Man O'War for the second time in 24 hours to meet Lea for our second 'interview' of the day. The moment we said hello though something about it all was just super easy and feel-good. She was such a lovely lady, and as we were sat on the porch outside the cellar door we got chatting all about what it was like to work there, what they could offer etc. But to be honest, it was the least interview-y interview, and we ended up laughing a lot and talking about everything from our pets to our life goals. We came away though with job offers that we weren't expecting, and an air of excitement about what might be about to happen.
After we took Nacho for a walk along Man O'War's boardwalk and pontoon with Lea, we jumped in the van, minds on overdrive, and headed to Charlie Farley's in Onetangi. Sam and I said that we'd wait to talk about it the offer over a glass of wine and what we wanted to do in light of it. Restless and excited, I had to force myself to keep my mouth shut, stopping myself a few times as I blurted something out. It was an exciting car-journey, although I couldn't wait to get there and talk about what this would mean for us.
We went to Charlie Farley's, a little restaurant/bar on Onetangi Beach where one of Adriaan's friends, Ryan, manages. We introduced ourselves to him and had a chat, when he asked us how long we were sticking around for we looked at each other, a bit lost for words, and quickly explained that we were basically about to decide that over this drink.
Once our drinks arrived I began with my 'opening statement,' as we joked. I would follow Sam wherever he wanted to be for harvest. This trip was predominantly about a career shift for him, and whilst I thought the offer was freaking amazing and my gut was telling me we should take it, ultimately whatever was best for him and his career is what we would do. A few days ago I had actually asked Sam, if we found ourselves in good jobs and an opportunity came up, would you be open to staying on Waiheke for the harvest or did you have your heart set on going down South. He had replied saying he didn't have his heart set on it but Marlborough was where he wanted to be. So I was expecting him to tell me that same narrative, but when he came back and said he couldn't think of one reason as to why we shouldn't take it, after talking more about each aspect of it all, we made the decision together that actually we would accept the offer from Man O'War... meaning that we'll be staying on Waiheke not for the 4 weeks we had expected to, but actually for the harvest - so more like 4 months! And we are buzzing about it.
The decision we've made to grasp an opportunity we weren't expecting to arise, to live from that spontaneous space and just follow our guts is the most exhilarating, empowering experience and the difference between doing that on your own or within a relationship is that we've once again discovered a new depth of connection from that shared experience and by coming to a decision together, as a partnership. It's a beautiful thing, and everything feels excited. The future, whilst unknown, is also filled with an abundant combination of unknown, stability, fun and connection. And we can't wait.
I'm still a little bit shocked from it all really, such a sudden lane change but one that genuinely feels right. The moment we left I knew in my gut that this would be the right decision for us - and being able to exist in a relationship where that ability to honour what comes up is magical, and I think quite rare. So as always I'm incredibly grateful for the life that I have with Sam, and for the relationship that we've built together and continue to grow in.
We're a week off our year anniversary and we're still learning new things about each other, still tackling new obstacles and challenges as they arise and growing closer each time. This life and this adventure is everything we had hoped it would be, and now this new chapter is presenting itself to us with all kinds of magic we are yet to discover.
Here's to the future and to following your hearts - everything happens for a reason.