Week 7: Why not just say hello?

We're a fair way into our travels now, in fact we've almost completed New Zealand and are soon to move onto Australia. Our last week has taken us to Stewart Island, the southernmost point of the South Island. A destination mostly for birdwatchers, the island is a beautiful one, with natural reserves and some of the most rare Kiwi species, including the Kiwi itself. We stayed in a lovely beachside house there, a rare break from the canvas because we were unable to get any other accommodation; and Ben completed a night trip to find Kiwi, albeit he only saw the back of one.

From there we travelled to Dunedin on the south east coast, a location very much akin to Edinburgh, with some similar architecture and naming, but without the beauty of our lovely UK city. We had fun there, visiting their farmers market, and travelling out to the peninsula to see Albatross, Seals and Sea Lions.

Next up we visited Oamaru, cited as NZ's 'coolest town' by Lonely Planet. It has a small part of the town where all of the Victorian buildings remain, and lots of design businesses and cafes have moved in. It is pretty cool, but it's no Hackney or Stoke Newington, so perhaps we're a bit spoiled on the 'cool' front being from London. It's all relative! We did manage to see blue penguins there, both in an official 'experience' where you watch rafts of them come in from the sea at dusk; and on our walk home where we spied a few on the path, waddling along.

Our lessons learned have come thick and fast, and continue to do so. I've never been a hugely social traveller when on holiday, particularly when travelling as part of a couple. It's not that I'm unsociable per se, but often when you're away as a couple, it means you are having rare time to yourselves.

Travelling with a baby means you have no choice but to talk to people, and I love it. Old and young, they're charmed by little Otis (and if they're Asian, they pretty much want to kidnap him). He's an ice breaker, with people constantly asking us how old is, and laughing as he flirts with them. You share knowing smiles with other parents, and we've been lucky enough to chat to quite a few other couples who are sharing similar travel experiences. We've swapped contact details with some, and one couple on a camp site even invited us to stay at their home in New Zealand.

And yet, as we move into a new sociable mode of travel, you realise that some people are just So Bloody Miserable. I am now that person on a camp site that says good morning to everyone, starts up conversation as I wash the dishes, and coos over other people's children (no, I never thought I'd do that either). And it's so nice when people respond. Everyone's day is nicer when smiles and hello's are involved.

But some people look like they've been shot when you speak to them. Like it's the last thing they can possibly handle. They bluster a response, and I'm a bit sad for them that it's so shocking. At home, we walk a lot on the south downs, and there's almost a walkers code that you say hello to people you pass. You're all out there doing the same thing, why not say hello? Here as we've walked, it's very much a mixed bag as to whether people bother, which I find particularly surprising when it's a sparse walk people wise. If you're the only 4 people walking on a beach past each other, wouldn't you want to at least acknowledge that the others exist?

I know it's an alien concept in London, where you live life in a bubble, hoping to be able to block out the insanity of travelling to and from work, and along side that losing the recognition of people around you. This trip has definitely changed us to being people that like to chat, to find out more about others, and I think we're likely to end up living somewhere that facilitates that. In the meantime, to anyone reading this, next time someone smiles at you on a campsite, asks how your day is, why not give them a big smile in return and have a chat? I'm sure your day will be the better for it.

To follow our travels, follow us on instagram at @mastersofmany and @mywaymum and @naturedad

Week 6: I feel so small (said the Snail to the Whale)

This week has felt totally off the grid. We spent a few days in Milford Sound, staying at the amusingly titled Knobs Flat, and then on to the southern most point of New Zealand, on Stewart Island, with the aim of finding Kiwi's (the rare bird, not the NZ local). Both locations meant no phone signal, and no Internet, and although we keenly record our adventures on this blog and on social media, it was really quite nice to have a break from anything digital.

We agreed that on this trip there would be times where we both have experiences we'd like to try that just wouldn't be feasible as a family, and that we'd be able to take turns having them. Some compromises are fine to make as we travel. We understand it's not the same as travelling on our own, and there are new benefits to travelling as a family that don't exist when you travel as a couple. However, it would be such a shame to miss out on those things that you know you'll remember forever.

My first chosen experience was to kayak on Milford Sound. On our first day in the area, we did a cruise as a family, and whilst it was beautiful, the weather, and our perspective from the boat left us a little underwhelmed. Partly this was the hype that Milford gets, and we'd also recently visited Norway and seen the fjords there, which are utterly majestic, and seem to go on forever. Somehow the closed in feel of Milford, with it's towering walls of waterfalls didn't feel the same.

The next day I went on my kayak trip, to the same area, albeit with a blue sky and sunshine vs. our grey, cloudy experience the day before. The trip was emotional for me outside of the experience itself because it was the first time I had left Otis for more than about an hour and a half. He's been breastfed (and continues to be), and hadn't taken a bottle, so was literally glued to my hip aside from me heading for the odd run or swim.

Much as I love the little man, I've been desperate for some time to myself, to feel like me again. When it came to the day, I felt strangely emotional about the concept of leaving him behind. He eats solids as well as breast feeding now, but what if he wasn't ok without me for the time of the trip? Would I miss out on some major development? I arrived at my trip, and found out it was actually going to be 2 hours longer than we thought, which made the start of it all the more stressful.

The stress melted away as the trip began, because seeing Milford from a tiny kayak is an entirely different experience to a cruise. The walls seem to tower in on you, the water goes on for ever and is strangely deceiving in terms of judging distance. We kayaked to Stirling falls and back (20km), but when the instructor pointed to the falls in the distance at the start of our trip, we all estimated it at around 1-2k. The depth of colour and the light is magical, and despite boat trips whipping past you, you feel like you're in your own little world as you paddle along.

We read books to Otis every night (the same few at the moment, which can get a teeny bit tedious at times), and one of our favourites is The Snail and the Whale, written by the brilliant author of The Gruffalo, Julia Donaldson. The snail, which has travelled round the world on the tail of the Great Blue Humpbacked Whale, has a lovely passage in which it says, "and she gazed at the sky, the sea, the land, the waves and the caves and the golden sand. She gazed and gazed, amazed by it all, and she said to the whale, 'I feel so small'.

That's how I felt on the water this week. So small. The best travel experiences make you feel like that. They make you realise the enormity and endlessness of the world around us, and what a tiny part you are of it. They give you perspective on your own existence, and the best ones make you gasp at the wonder of what exists around us. I can't think of any better way for me to have had a break from being a mum for a day and to have felt like myself again.

I needn't have worried either, as Otis was obviously fine and greeted me at the end of the day with Ben, grinning and happy. And I was grinning and happy to see them both too. What a bloody great day.