"Your mum has a cool job"
Plus hot springs and hungry ghosts
My daughter started school in August and I knew that was going to affect my work life. But not in the way many people assumed. I heard, “You’ll have much more freedom now she’s at school!” so many times, when in fact the opposite was true. She’d been going to preschool almost full-time for years, and at preschool there are no school holidays, you can adjust your hours whenever you need, and there’s no side-eye if you need to take your kid out for any reason.
If anyone has been following the NZ news this past few weeks and read the fuss being made about low school attendance levels (fair enough in some situations, but not all) then you might understand why I was a bit nervous telling my daughter’s teacher that she’d be taking off for a week to travel the West Coast with me.
I’m writing a guide book that requires on-the-ground research, on a fairly tight deadline. We have the looong summer holidays coming up (almost two months!!) but my chapters are due right in the middle of it, so I can’t even fully utilise those holidays to do my research. And my daughter’s dad’s work schedule doesn’t allow for him to do the school run, and he recently started a new job, so… That means taking my daughter out of school to come with me on my trip is unavoidable. I’m fine with that; I think she’ll learn as much looking at glaciers and mountains and national parks for a week as she would at school (yes, probably more). But I was still nervous to tell her teacher.
I didn’t need to be. She thought it sounded fun. Her words to my daughter: “You get to go travelling for a week because mummy has a cool job!” Phew.
What to pitch me
On that note, if anyone ever wants to pitch me press trip invites, they need to be private so I can bring my daughter. I don’t mind paying for her for the right stories, but this is a non-negotiable. I’ve done these in both Nepal and New Zealand and they usually revolve around some kind of accommodation experience, but I’m open to what kind of experience it is. Just please don’t send me invites to large-group trips at short notice (“Would you like to fly to Queenstown next week for a group trip?” There’s no way I can make that work.)
Where I’ve been
This weekend I visited the Maruia Hot Springs, just beneath the Lewis Pass and on the border between the West Coast (the non-coastal part!) and Canterbury. I’d driven past it a couple of times, on the way through to Hanmer Springs, but never had the chance to stop. Highly recommend! It’s completely different to Hanmer Springs, about an hour further over the mountains, as it’s more like a Japanese onsen than a water park. Despite my unlucky choice to book a camping spot rather than a cabin, given the constant rain, it was a lovely weekend of soaking in the natural springs and eating good food.
Upcoming travel plans
I’m off to the West Coast (again!) this week for more exploration of corners I haven’t made it to yet: flying to Christchurch, taking the TranzAlpine across the Southern Alps to Greymouth, then heading up to Punakaiki for a couple of days before going back south through Hokitika, Franz Josef and Haast.
My recent publications
This month I (along with my Lonely Planet co-authors) was the subject of a cool write-up in Stuff (a major NZ news website): “‘No Longer Someone’s Colonial Outpost’: How Lonely Planet Travel Writers See New Zealand’ by Juliette Sivertsen. One of my co-authors commented that it was lovely to see such a positive story amid all the grim news on the Stuff home page. Of course, readers still managed to find fault: apparently we were remiss not to have mentioned Burkina Faso ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
And one of my own from this week: West Coast Wilderness: Nelson to Haast, South Island, New Zealand, Road.Travel
If you haven’t seen it already and are in NZ or planning on being here sometime in the near future, get yourself a copy of Lonely Planet’s Experience New Zealand. I wrote the Nelson/Marlborough and Northland chapters and it’s a beautiful book.
What I’ve been listening to
The Hungry Ghosts Among Us, Andy Rotman on Tricycle Talks. I’m not Buddhist but I’m curious about it and sympathetic to its teachings, and first came across the figures of hungry ghosts at a cave temple in the outskirts of Kathmandu back in 2013. (I clearly remember the time because I was on a yoga retreat at a monastery in Pharping!) While almost never depicted in Indian Buddhist traditions, they’ve all over the place in Tibetan Buddhism: they’re the poor creatures who are reincarnated this way because of miserliness in a past life, and they can never satisfy their hunger. They’re creatures to be feared, but also to be taken care of and pitied. I was fascinated to listen to this podcast with South Asian religions scholar Andy Rotman. There are lessons there about greed and meanness that can be relevant to anyone.