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.