Finding freedom in Abel Tasman
One of the best things about travel is that feeling of being somewhere new and exciting, whilst at the same time feeling a subtle sense of connection to this place you’ve just stepped foot in. Like hearing an old song and being suddenly transported back to a very specific moment, travel has a way of making you feel a certain way in a certain place, of taking you out of the everyday and of exposing you to new things, new stories, new feelings, even if those feelings are hard to put into words sometimes.
And there is definitely something about New Zealand that does this for us. Maybe it’s the link to Britain’s seafaring past, or perhaps it’s the setting itself; the scenery, the quiet, the sea. Either way, travel, and especially travel in New Zealand, has a way of switching you off to much of the distractions of modern life, and of allowing you to feel.
Our time in the Abel Tasman National Park is a good example of this. It’s one of New Zealand’s most beautiful parks, bearing the name of the first European to have “discovered” the country in the 1600s. It’s stories like this, of Tasman’s first encounter with this land and its people, that make travel more than just selfie sticks and suncream. Where the 1500s had been dominated by Spanish explorers in the Pacific, the 1600s were all about the Dutch, with their base in modern day Jakarta. Abel Tasman was the man tasked by the Dutch East India Company with exploring further than the Dutch had before, to open up new routes to greater riches, which ultimately led to his “discovery” of New Zealand when he sighted land and anchored up in Golden Bay. It must have been an incredibly exciting and dangerous time, heading into uncharted waters and not knowing what was waiting on the other side, of literally filling in blank spaces on maps for us all to follow. In Tasman’s case, what was on the other side was not what he had hoped. His first encounter with the local Māori people ended in the death of four of his men in a confrontation that led Tasman to name the place Murderers Bay, before giving up on New Zealand and never actually setting foot on land. It would be another 100 or so years before the Europeans next major encounter with New Zealand, with Captain Cook’s more successful expedition in 1769.
We don’t live in that golden age of oceanic discovery anymore, but there is definitely something mystifying about these old stories of exploration and adventure, even more so when you’re sitting on the beach at Anchorage, not far from the bay where Tasman’s men met their demise. In some small way, that notion of setting out to find what’s new and of risking what could be on the other side in the hope of gaining understanding, of gaining experience, is what this blog is all about. It would be nice not to die as a result of course, but I suppose we all die one day.
Another story that inspired during our time in the national park was Jocelyn and Scott’s. As fellow ex-Londoners, their journey has taken them from high flying jobs in the advertising world to owning and running the very successful Abel Tasman Lodge just a few hundred metres from the national park. We were fortunate enough to squeeze into their incredibly busy calendar for two nights, and in so doing found a place to stay that was as memorable as it was inspiring.
Passion. They say that if you find something you love, and work at it full tilt, you’ll succeed. People will flock to you because people love what people are passionate about, and this couldn’t be truer with Jocelyn and Scott. From the detailing of the pillows in the rooms inspired by the local wildlife, to the privately sourced toiletries with custom printed labels, everything about the Abel Tasman Lodge shouts of its owners’ passion for running it. In a way this makes sense, having uprooted their very good life in the UK with their young daughter to work on this venture on the other side of the world, they now run it with a care and an attention that is rare. After all, you can throw all the money in the world at something, but nothing comes close to the power of personal touch. Small examples of this are everywhere in the lodge, like the way the couple have framed a wooden chopping board that had an accidental burn mark on it to gently remind guests about not leaving hot pans on surfaces in the guest kitchen (we initially thought it was a piece of art, the burn rings leaving an almost tribal impression on the wood), or like the witty and well designed notes dotted around the lodge that encourage people in things like being thoughtful of the environment when it comes to towel use.
Other than the very high standard this couple have set in creating a great place to stay (the recent awards being a nice nod of appreciation in this regard), we also loved hearing about the journey from London rat race to go-do-it-yourself entrepreneurism. The challenges involved in finding the perfect plot, to nearly losing it, to starting all over again in a new place, to living without Ikea, and ultimately to turning a business into something more; into something special for others to enjoy. And as with all great stories of this kind, the reward waiting for those that dare to look outside the edges of their comfort zone and to head off into the unknown in pursuit of adventure and experience is greater than any of the risks put together; the reward is a life lived to the full, with its ups and downs and everything in between. Jocelyn and Scott may have created an amazing place to stay in this beautiful part of the world, but perhaps the real beauty is the world they have created for themselves, a world of hard work no doubt, but also of happiness, of nature, and of freedom. We’re just lucky they decided to share that world with the rest of us, and we can’t wait to go back.