Nelson Living (or "What in the World are the Myers Up To?")
Updated: Dec 31, 2019
Drafted December 2, 2019
Published December 7, 2019 (oops)
It appears that my weekly blogs have slipped into monthly blogs. We have been settled in Nelson, New Zealand for one month, and, honestly, I haven’t had anything profound or wise to say. It was suggested that perhaps a simple trip report is due (or past due).
This is an ironic recommendation since I had always dreamed of being a travel writer, but after five months of traveling, I have not written any genuine travel/destination essays. We have relied on brief social media posts to chronicle our adventures, but even those have stopped. Being Settlers now, it appears there are fewer interesting things to post and more regular living to do. So what is it like in Nelson, New Zealand?
We arrived on November 2, delighted with our retro Airbnb house on the hill. Fun fact: This house was the very first booking we made for our gap year way back in September 2018. We thought we had hit the jackpot, and we were not disappointed. We wake each day to ocean views to the northwest and mountains overlooking the city center to the southeast. The owner is an art collector, so there are unique and funky pieces covering the walls. Nelson’s weather is still chilly (more on that sad fact later), so we begin and end most days with the gas fireplace. It has been so charming and relaxing, that we spent the first several days indulging and doing nothing.
The Myers as Tourist
We selected Nelson because of its stellar reputation among Kiwis and expats alike, as well as its location to multiple wonderful day trips: Marlborough wine country, Marlborough Sounds, Abel Tasman National Park, Golden Bay. We have done none of these (except a brief trip to Golden Bay to take Lucas salmon [farm] fishing.)* Instead we have been lazily enjoying Nelson itself. It has a wonderful beach, Tahunanui Beach, with a long stretch of soft sand, draped by a big playground, basketball court, skatepark, beach café, fun park and Natureland. We have spent many days down there.
Nelson City Center is just down the hill from us, and we have spent countless hours strolling the central business district, familiarizing ourselves with New Zealand stores and enjoying a piece of Americana past when town centers were thriving. Nelson is actually a “small city” of 50,000 people which is the perfect size for offering much to do, yet intimate enough to meet your neighbors. (And no traffic! Hurray!!)
Another reason to select Nelson was its weather. Supposedly it has the most sunny days of any town in New Zealand. Supposedly. However, the wildfires across the Tasman Sea in Australia have apparently disrupted its idyllic weather, and we have been subjected to much more wind and rain than usual. Everyone has been apologizing for the continued “winter weather” as we’re all itching for summer. This appears to be our traveling karma here. The weather has put a damper on our big outdoor activities, but we have managed a few. We
hiked up to the Geographical Center of New Zealand (until GPS got involved and its now been moved, twice). We briefly explored the beaches and trails of Rabbit Island and Mapua Wharf, vowing to return on better days. We also took a much-celebrated bike and skateboard ride along Nelson’s extensive bike paths. (Dan and Lucas learned new skills; Angie was simply glad to get back on a bike. We all look forward to more biking trips as the weather warms.)
The Myers as Locals
The biggest advantage to settling is how it allows us to join the community and make friends. We feel so lucky to have found a couple of great activities for Lucas. He was able to join the final five weeks of the Nelson Basketball Association’s Basketball Academy for his age group. It’s wonderful for him to finally be regularly practicing his first love and playing with kids his own age. We also enrolled him in a 6-week STEM Academy class offered every Friday at the library where he is learning Ancient Architecture. In addition, Dan has found a “seniors” basketball group to join pick-up games once a week. I am still looking for “my thing.” I joined a hula group in Hawaii but haven’t found anything here.
We’ve also loved making friends. We are most grateful for the extreme friendliness of Nelsonians (and Kiwis in general). Thanks to worldschooling and local homeschooling Facebook groups, we had already received an invitation to a BBQ before we arrived. A lovely British couple who have been in Nelson for five years with their two boys, 9 and 6, invited us for dinner. We returned the favor when another UK worldschooling family was traveling through and hosted a fun group BBQ. We also introduced these local friends to American Thanksgiving, which seemed appropriate: foreigners inviting the natives to feast. (This challenging venture is detailed on social media if you want to follow along with how we translated an American fall feast to Southern hemisphere springtime and a limited vacation rental kitchen.)
We even had the pleasure of feeling like true locals when we ran into someone we knew downtown. We were at Stefanos, the local favorite Italian-owned pizza place, and at the next table sat our neighbors. They invited us to join them, and after a nice chat we left with another BBQ invitation. Since then the little boy and girl (7 and 5 respectively) have become big Lucas fans and climb the fence to visit almost every day to say hi, skateboard or play ball. The other day, they helped us bake Christmas cookies before we met our other friends down for the annual Nelson Santa Parade. We area feeling quite social and popular!
Therefore, even though we haven’t been ticking off tourist boxes, we have accomplished our other goal of living abroad and immersing ourselves in the community. Heck, we even have library cards! (I told you these Kiwis are friendly and generous; they offer a visitor temporary membership card.)
The Myers as…The Myers
Honestly though, I feel like we spend most of our time schooling, cooking, cleaning, laundering, and shopping for groceries or “vital” household instruments we’re missing (like a decent egg pan, a whisk or a proper broom). It’s living. I think many people expect a family gap year to be filled with day after day of exciting adventures and rich cultural experiences. However, unless one is moving constantly or has an unlimited budget, some days it’s merely washing sheets and cleaning the toilet. And, yes, we shamefully admit there are still lazy days of social media and Xbox.
However, I’m learning not to “should on myself” about these things (as much). We saw it in Lucas first and then recognized it in ourselves: after so much novelty, the brain needs to relax into the familiar. We all need downtime. We continue to work toward more meaningful family time than relying on our devices (as all families strive—and struggle—to do).
After all, that was Intention #2 for the trip. Our first intention was obviously to travel and see [parts of] the world, but an important second goal was to take a step back and spend some more time as a family. We don’t have to be out seeing and doing all the time. Some rainy days have been blessings. We work on puzzles, play games, or introduce Lucas to our favorite movies. We eat every meal together, leisurely relishing the meandering conversation since we do not have to rush off to activities or stress over homework or work. It’s simple living. Even if we had to travel halfway around the world to find it.
Thus, as I write this, I appreciate that we have had a rich Nelson experience so far. Even if so many of those moments are not Instagram-worthy, they are memory-worthy. 😊
*UPDATE: From the time this blog was drafted until it was published, we were suddenly motivated to hike the Abel Tasman Coast Track, bike Rabbit Island and tour the Pic’s Peanut Butter Factory. We’re playing catch-up.
Stay tuned (patiently) for past Trip Reports I am now motivated to write:
· Adventures in a Kiwi Campervan
· Queenstown & Wanaka: A Tale of Two Lakes
· Our Wet & Wild West Coast Road Trip
· Workaway: Will Work for Food