December 2nd, 2019. Me, my girlfriend and our 1-year old son embarked on a 35-hour trip to New Zealand. The flights weren’t something I was particularly looking forward to, but the catch – three months of slow travel without a schedule whatsoever – was more than worth it. In hindsight, I think I learned a thing or two while we were there. Little did I know at the time, how soon I would literally need those things…
We are campers. Hikers, too. So, we bought the best second-hand family car we could find and a big tent on day 2. Let the adventure begin! Mission; hiking ourselves off the grid into remote or at least quiet territory. Deserted beaches and sleepy Maori villages on the North Island, big ass mountains and starry nights on the South Island.
Soon enough, we put on our hiking boots for the first time. The little one in our backpack, sleeping or enjoying the view (I hope). What a life! What a country! Around four million people live in New Zealand; a country eight times the size of The Netherlands. These numbers got me thinking. 8 times bigger x 4 times less populated = 32 times less crowded. Not sure if this is mathematically correct, but many parts of the country sure feel 32 times less hectic than ours. This experience of ‘space ’n quiet’ immediately grabbed me.
It was high season, but the off-the-beaten-track destinations we picked were very peaceful. We stayed at places where time really had stood still, like rundown coastal Maori settlements with beautiful sunsets over wild beaches. Cute Maori kids running around bougainvillea-clad houses after ten at night. The three of us camping on the beach under huge Pohutukawa (Christmas) trees. No incoming Slack messages, emails or calls.
'Physical space * headspace = freedom.'
I am not going to compare traveling with my daily life here, but I think I managed to take home some of New Zealand’s space and quiet. The funny thing is that, while we were there, I did not expect to be really ‘needing’ that space and quiet like I know I do now. Sure, news messages about a new virus in China reached us in the first few days of 2020. Like most of us, we didn’t think of it as a real threat to our personal health, global economy and working lives back then.
The nearly endless stream of Teams meetings, digital Friday afternoon drinks and all those other things that have to replace face-to-face interactions were still far away. I soon got better at it; managing all this from behind my standing desk in our bedroom or at the kitchen table (I chose the latter to write this blog in case you’re wondering). I also unlocked some new skills, like creating content while being challenged by our son to participate in a wild painting session. Even so, I felt exhausted and remote in the worst sense of the word at the end of many working days. Like I was some sort of virtual machine, beedee beedee.
No stress, I am not going to complain (any further). Instead, I want to emphasize how happy I am with all the possibilities, space and time the situation has given me. I was able to rethink and rearrange some of the most basic of basics. A few small, simple things I really like;
I feel privileged to have been given these opportunities. And I am proud of our marketing agency because I believe we support our employees in making the best of the situation. I already knew and cherished that, but New Zealand reminded me to do more with it.
I think I go for a run now.