Reflections from a winter off

August 28, 2019

Five back to back summers of sea kayak guiding is not considered a highly sustainable lifestyle choice to most, and I felt it was probably wise to step back and take some time off the water to reflect on how things were going. I hadn't lived more than a 5 minute walk from the sea for the last few years and to say I missed it would be an understatement. Basing your life around a certain environment is bound to let it seep into your blood; whether it be a ski patroller chasing snow, a raft guide following the endless summer or a farmer working high country land year round. Removing yourself from this meaningful place will always create change.

I didn't realise at the time but living and working on the sea really did tune me in to nature. The rhythms of day to day life were dictated by tide cycles, the stage of the moon, weather patterns and the behaviour of the local weka population. This was replaced with a rhythm based on traffic, alarm clocks and the afternoon lull when I needed more caffeine. I went from only putting things on my feet if there were too many barnacles on the rocky shore to having to think about what to wear so I wouldn't look like some lost creature living in a foreign place each time I ventured to the supermarket. My daily sign off routine revolving around a setting sun with guitar in hand slowly merged into a smog covered horizon hiding even the brightest stars. Transitioning to life in the city was weird.

Above all I missed paddling and guiding. The daily exercise, the fresh air, the chance to meet amazing people in an amazing place, the things you see, the overdose of vitamin D....I think paddling on the ocean might be the best thing a person can do to fill up their happy tank. Launching from the beach and leaving dry land behind, relying on nothing more than your boat and yourself to survive really takes things back to basics. Add to this some form of shelter, some way to find and consume food and water, some way to navigate through your chosen mission and you've become a wild animal surviving in a foreign habitat. What could be more liberating? The only thing I can think of would be to take other people along for the ride and to be responsible for them every second of the day. To strip myself of this in such a brutal manor was not my smartest move and I won't do it again.

I can't wait to get back into Awaroa and be wet, sandy, salty, tired, sore, smelly, shoe-less...I really can't wait! Any burn out I was feeling is well and truly gone and this break has shown me in no uncertain terms that I'm quite happy to pick up where I left off. The guiding/seasonal lifestyle comes with its share of sacrifices, as all jobs do. The thing is to remember that it is a job. Sometimes a quick dabble in the rat race is all you need to remind yourself that everyone out there is grinding, and that if you can make it work in a beautiful place and surround yourself with happy people - you're probably doing OK.

This summer we will be introducing some guided nature walks. This will mainly be based on site around the Awaroa wetland and the idea is to share knowledge with those who wish to learn about the area and get an understanding of New Zealands native flora and fauna. The easiest and fastest way to learn is to see things in the real world and to have a guide explain things and answer questions can make the world of difference. I'm looking forward to mixing up the schedule a bit and this will be great on those windy afternoons where paddling becomes a bit too much.

Can't wait to see you soon.


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