How a solo trip helped one woman re­cal­i­brate her view of the fu­ture.

Af­ter an in­tro­spec­tive year, An­drea Karr vis­its New Zealand, where an in­spi­ra­tional cast of char­ac­ters help re­cal­i­brate her view of the fu­ture.

Fashion (Canada) - - Contents -

I’m re­tired, you know,” says my cab driver, Rick, as he nav­i­gates his way into the heart of Auck­land—New Zealand’s largest city—af­ter my 14-hour Air New Zealand flight from Van­cou­ver. It’s 6 a.m. and still dark, but he’s quite plucky. “I drive be­cause I love to talk with peo­ple,” he con­fesses be­fore skim­ming over the high­light reel of his life: his former job with Para­mount Pic­tures, get­ting “piss drunk” with Robin Wil­liams, sit­ting next to Tom Cruise at the pre­miere of Top Gun. Rick is my first in­tro­duc­tion to New Zealand, and I quickly learn that its peo­ple are friendly, off­beat and—seem­ingly with­out ex­cep­tion—wildly happy to be alive.

I need that dose of en­thu­si­asm when I ar­rive on North Is­land, the smaller of the coun­try’s two land masses lo­cated far off the south­east coast of Aus­tralia. It’s been more than a year since my en­gage­ment ended, and now, at what would have been my one-year wed­ding an­niver­sary and on the cusp of my 30th birth­day, I re­ally need a lift. It’s my first solo jour­ney ever, and, ad­mit­tedly, I’m anx­ious about trav­el­ling with­out a part­ner in crime—but I en­vi­sion this as a crazy ad­ven­ture that will be filled with breath­tak­ing views and dar­ing feats to push me out of my com­fort zone.

How­ever, in­stead of just un­tamed for­est, pic­turesque wa­ter­falls (though, yes, they’re ev­ery­where) and adrenalin-spik­ing thrills, I find a world of cre­ativ­ity that I never ex­pected. Walk­ing down Pon­sonby Road and Mack­elvie Street in Auck­land, for ex­am­ple, I dis­cover a seem­ingly end­less pa­rade of lo­cal fash­ion brands, like Lonely (a boho lin­gerie and cloth­ing maker), Deadly Ponies (a line of hand­made leather hand­bags) and Zambesi (an avant-garde de­sign house for men and women)— ev­i­dence of New Zealand’s height­ened cre­ative spirit. With Paris about 18,500 kilo­me­tres away and more than 14,200 kilo­me­tres sep­a­rat­ing New Zealand from New York, the res­i­dents had to build their own fash­ion hub. So they did.

At the Weta Work­shop in Welling­ton, skilled artists—and the awe-in­spir­ing fruits of their labour—are plen­ti­ful. This is the stu­dio that pro­duced the con­cep­tual de­signs for the film

Mad Max: Fury Road and the phys­i­cal ef­fects for movies like The Lord of the Rings and Blade Run­ner

2049. While there, I see the alien as­sault ri­fle from

Dis­trict 9, a film for which the stu­dio cre­ated about 500 de­signs for the tech alone; as a writer, I’m fa­mil­iar with the edit­ing process, so I cringe at how many hours must have gone into this. At a ta­ble in­side, I watch a man sculpt a fan­tas­ti­cal clay fish with a long tail float­ing in a gen­tle wave. He’s able to ma­nip­u­late its move­ments with a bend­able wire ar­ma­ture that he built at its core. It’s a per­sonal project, he tells me—a lit­tle piece of art while he waits for the next big film project to come along. Af­ter be­ing in a fog of sad­ness for so long, I find it a rev­e­la­tion to see how th­ese peo­ple trans­form dreams into re­al­ity.

I also find that de­spite its low pop­u­la­tion of 4.7 mil­lion, the South Pa­cific coun­try has pro­duced an ex­cess of pas­sion­ate ec­centrics. Dur­ing a bike tour through the rolling hills of the Hawke’s Bay re­gion, I meet a man named Mor­ton Os­borne. A clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist, he started his bou­tique win­ery, Akarangi Wines, in the ’80s and likes to preside over tast­ings in a re­lo­cated 19th-cen­tury church—prefer­ably with­out wear­ing a shirt.

Then there is An­thony Grant, a young-spir­ited 69-year-old lawyer who gives me a speed tour of his brand-new Matakana-based “sculp­tureum,” a word he coined to de­scribe the sculp­ture gar­den meets mu­seum that he cu­rated with his wife. “One of my goals is to show peo­ple how they can make their en­vi­ron­ments more in­ter­est­ing,” he tells me. “You can make art out of or­di­nary things. You don’t have to be a very spe­cial per­son.”

Af­ter meet­ing Os­borne and Grant, I am left with this lin­ger­ing sen­sa­tion that I need to worry less about what peo­ple think and lis­ten more to my child­hood self, who dreamed big and be­lieved she was ca­pa­ble of any­thing. I wouldn’t say it’s a great epiphany or turn­ing point. (This isn’t Eat Pray Love or Wild, af­ter all.) How­ever, I am struck by the fact that be­cause I don’t have a trav­el­ling com­pan­ion or a hu­man buf­fer on this jour­ney, I’m able to get a new glimpse of the world—one that’s filled with spir­ited peo­ple who in­spire me to be a more weird and won­der­ful ver­sion of my­self, whether there’s any­one to bear wit­ness or not.

It’s my first solo jour­ney ever, and, ad­mit­tedly, I’m anx­ious about trav­el­ling with­out a part­ner in crime.

PIHA BEACH OUT­SIDE OF AUCK­LAND, NEW ZEALAND

ELE­PHANT HILL WIN­ERY ON NEW ZEALAND’S NORTH IS­LAND

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