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Designs on a new life

Craving an escape from city life and inspired by her brother’s travel stories, Alice Herald’s search for a rural retreat led to the shores of Wanaka, New Zealand

Even before she set eyes on the crystal waters of Lake Hawea, Wanaka, Alice Herald, 30, was dreaming of a fresh start Down Under. By December 2004, she found herself craving an escape from her hectic life as a jewellery designer in London. The vast open spaces of New Zealand seemed like the perfect anecdote. Inspired by her brother’s travel stories and boyfriend Jon’s memories of one amazing skiing holiday, the couple opted to take time out to see the country together.

Says Alice: “My partner and I always had a yearning to go to New Zealand and experience it for ourselves having heard fantastic stories of breathtaking scenery, skiing in the Southern Hemisphere and the great outdoor life.” That same month Alice and Jon arrived in Auckland, with plans for their first major purchase – a car. Determined to experience New Zealand’s rich landscape before settling anywhere, the couple set out on the island tour of their dreams. Together, they mapped out a route, tracing North Island’s east coast and South Island’s west coast.

“It was the most fantastic trip,” says Alice. “The country changes so much from north to south and the locals were all so friendly and generous.” The lucky couple were invited out for fishing trips and dined on the fishermen’s most delicious catches, including fresh abalone, trout and crayfish.

But, despite her passion for travel, Alice lost her heart to Wanaka’s secluded beauty.Instantly drawn to the peaceful, cloud-veiled peaks, she still remembers the daunting experience of arriving in her future hometown. “We really wanted to be able to live here and were unsure as to whether we could both afford it and find work there.”

WORKING WANAKA

With savings running low and doubts setting in, finding work became Alice and Jon’s most pressing concern. Says Alice: “people were quite negative when we first arrived about finding work within our professions.” But Alice was determined to prove them wrong.

Both she and Jon were pleasantly surprised by the results. Sports-mad Jon took a place on a ski patrol course. While he was away training, Alice found a profitable new pastime of her own - building up a sports therapy business. After six months, business was booming. They had also found a home to rent in Central Wanaka. Says Alice: “We found that if you’re passionate and committed then finding work is no problem at all.” Outside the office, Alice and Jon were equally thrilled with life Down Under. “everything from work to lifestyle just seemed to lick into place for us,” says Alice, reflecting on the months after the move. The active couple found they were well suited to mountain living. Says Alice: “The outdoor opportunities here are endless and readily available, with less people everywhere. Life isn’t so toxic and I even feel healthier.”

each day begins the same way for Alice – with an early morning run through the calming lakeside scenery. After work, her favourite ways to unwind include kayaking, rock climbing and skiing with Jon. On balmy summer nights, she’ll indulge in a glass of wine and a BBQ on the decking.

Initially Alice worried she and Jon would never become part of the close-knit Wanaka community. “Wanaka is quite a transient place and therefore locals think that you might just be another traveller passing through and not put the time and effort into getting to know you,” says Alice. fortunately, the couple’s passion for outdoor pursuitsprovidedtheperfectmeans to break the ice. Says Alice: “We gradually met like-minded people who are still in our circle of friends today. Once you’re accepted and established, Wanaka people really trust, accept and welcome you in. They love talent and culture.”

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