Over the next few months The Joy Club member Kathy Feest will be taking us on her adventures around New Zealand, where she is travelling with her husband. She will soon be flying out and has written this piece, outlining the backstory to her travels (Kathy and New Zealand go wayyy back)…
My husband and I haven’t been on a plane for three years.
We haven’t left the country and we haven’t been abroad by boat or ferry either. But soon…we head away as far as it is possible to go… without heading back home. We are off to New Zealand!
Actually, we are returning to what has become our second home. While many of our friends bought properties in various parts of Europe as holiday retreats, our home away from home has somehow become Aotearoa, the Maori name which means The Land of the Long White Cloud. We don’t own a property there but know it well, and will fill up once more on the magic and summer sunshine that New Zealand has to offer before returning home at the end of February.
In 2009/10 my husband and I worked in Auckland for a year. The year before that, while working at the Department of Health, I suffered a major accident on a team building away day. Left with a fractured spine, the outing ended my career. After many months of physio, and relying on my amazing husband for just about everything, the stars aligned. My newly retired husband was offered a year’s consultant post in the Auckland Renal Unit, and my Department of Health skills were required by the medical education team in the same hospital.
My husband didn’t want to return to the hectic, frantic, schedule that had become the norm working exclusively in the NHS, and was unsure whether to accept the offer. We had dinner with friends who had a Kiwi relative visiting and mentioned that we were considering working in New Zealand, but were concerned about the intensity of the work. When the Kiwi gentleman raised an eyebrow and said in the most delightful twang, “In New Zealand? Intense?” – the deal was sealed and the trip was on.
As we both worked part time, we had time to travel and explore and soak up the wonderfulness that is New Zealand – never thinking that we’d have that opportunity again. We fell in love with the people and the country. It nourished us and we both reconnected with our wonderful planet in a way we hadn’t imagined possible at our stage of life.
After returning and settling into home with our fond memories and new friends, two years later, British friends came to pick our brains about working in New Zealand, and we were so enthusiastic discussing the place and our experiences, and the people that we had met and still kept in touch with, that, when they left we looked at each other and said, “Why aren’t we going back?”
Now, with us both fully retired, we have returned every year since then purely for holiday to experience the New Zealand summer during the UK winter, until Covid stopped us in our tracks.
Our life without our kiwi friends felt incomplete during lockdown. I started writing a daily blog in order to keep in touch. I zoomed into my New Zealand Book Group and we FaceTimed friends and had dinner together while they breakfasted, or vice versa.
For now, the getting-ready is keeping us very excited! There are forms to fill out, information to gather, itineraries to prepare, insurances to sort, gifts to buy and packing to do. How do we get to the airport? How will I carry my must be refrigerated medicine for the thirty six hours of travel? (I suffer from chronic migraines, and if you don’t know about the latest medicine for that and suffer more than a dozen a month, look at the Nice website!) There are family and friends to see here, and arrangements to be made there.
When we get to Auckland, our friends are throwing us a welcome back party before we head out on what the Kiwi’s call a ‘tiki tour’ for a few weeks. We are heading to the far South of the South Island, a place where we haven’t managed to visit yet. We will see penguins, and albatross, my husband will fish, I will write and we will visit a bird sanctuary. Christmas will be spent in a lodge on the remote Rangitiki River. When we return to Auckland from our travels we will settle into a home where we have stayed four times in the past.
Our good fortune extends to having wonderful friends and, after some ropey years, we are now both fit and well and able to enjoy what we think is one of the most special places on the planet. The people and the place has touched us both deeply and profoundly and I’ll try to share some of that with you while we are there over the next three months.
Let me leave you with some Kiwi magic. We are flying Air New Zealand. This is their version of the safety announcement on board. Just watching it makes me breathe easier…we are going back…to the place that sustains us and that we have come to love and understand. Enjoy!
The magic begins here….
Kathy Feest has a wealth of experience with writing, leadership and personal development mentoring. Kathy fulfilled her dream at the age of 41 and earned her first University degree; she went on to complete a PhD in Medical Education. She regularly runs self-development workshops at The Joy Club so keep your eyes on our events calendar for one of her next live sessions.