Life is about not knowing…taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.
~ Gilda Radner
Raising kids tends to turn a person into a planner. From the time they make their newborn arrivals, children can lead even the most free-spirited of people to become creatures of habit. Feedings and nap times evolve into school routines and practice schedules. The kids get older, but family life continues to involve significant planning and orchestration.
Our family seems to have broken that habit during this journey. Over the past year, we’ve become progressively more and more open to the unknown. Last summer we planned out our housing at least a month in advance, but here in New Zealand, now almost a year into our travels, we’ve become a fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants kind of family. As it turns out, this new mode of going without knowing has created some incredible opportunities for us.
Take, for instance, Wanaka. We first came to this quaint town nestled by a gorgeous lake in New Zealand’s Southern Alps during our first week in the country. Beautiful scenery, great restaurants, fantastic hiking (aka – “tramping), fun playgrounds for the kids. What more could a nomadic family ask for?
We quickly knew our 4-night stay was not going to be enough time in this awesome town, but the upcoming two-week break for the New Zealand school systems meant it was impossible for us to find reasonable housing in this popular outdoor mecca. We’d just have to make the most of our short time in Wanaka.
Then our last day there we got to talking with another family as our kids ran around on the playground together. We wound up going to their house for an impromptu dinner and getting to know Rob, Natalie and their three children. At some point in the evening they asked if we’d want to stay in their house a couple weeks later when they’d be away for vacation. Perhaps this was just the wine talking, but we said yes anyway.
Only because we’d adopted a more go-with-the-flow attitude in our travels were we able to take advantage of their generous offer. After seeing the southern region of the country, we backtracked up to Wanaka for a week to stay in the home of our new friends. We fed their cat, Bandit, and picked up where we’d left off in exploring the area.
Our first night back in town one of those strange coincidences we keep running into happened yet again. Trey Ratcliff, the creator of Stuck in Customs and a photographer who’s inspired Brian to expand his photography hobby into a true passion, posted on his feed he would be in Wanaka for an InstaMeet event. The Wanaka Tourism Board happened to be hosting a free photography conference that very same weekend drawing bloggers and photographers from throughout New Zealand. Less than 12 hours later Brian was riding in a helicopter on his way to shoot photos from the top of Roys Peak. He spent the next two days networking with seasoned photographers, learning new techniques, entering his first photography contest and even chatting with Trey Ratcliff himself.
Our unexpected return to Wanaka became a highlight of our time in New Zealand. Brian spent the week inspired and productive. Emily made a new friend in the neighborhood and got invited for a sleepover. We explored everything Wanaka had to offer – the beautiful hikes, the nearby glacier, the star-filled nights and the Aurora Australis in the southern sky. Even Wanaka’s cineplex is unique, with airline seats and dental chairs in the theaters and an intermission featuring fresh-baked homemade cookies. Needless to say, the kids hated to leave this town, and we’re so glad our family was able to have another week there, thanks to the generosity of some new Kiwi friends.
Such is the irony of life. Brian and I had been more planned and scheduled for the benefit of our kids, yet as we’ve let ourselves go with the flow, we’ve seen how much better the experience has been for the whole family. In fact, our next adventure in impromptu traveling will happen next week. The family who rented us our house in the town of Bluff earlier this month reached out to us and offered us a place to house sit as well. We shifted our anticipated travel plans a bit, and we’re now making our way up to the Kapiti Coast on the North Island. We’ll get to know this family for a couple days and then take care of their adult dog, five-month-old puppy and pet pig for the rest of the week. To say the girls are excited would be a gross understatement. Every morning Ali asks if we’re “going to that pig house today.” Evidently good things come to those who wait…until the last minute to plan their housing in New Zealand.
SPECIAL NOTE TO OUR COMMUNITY OF ONLINE FOLLOWERS:
If you like the images on our site, you can vote for one or more of his entries in the InstaMeet Wanaka Photo Contest by April 30. Contestants were required to submit a trio of photos from specified locations around Wanaka. The links to Brian’s photo entries are provided below. Clicking “vote” will prompt you to log in through Facebook or Twitter and then return to the image and officially vote for the photo.
Entry #1 – A Well-Timed Jump