We all have dreams when we are little, most of these get pushed aside when the rest of life happens. For me, who was born in Dorset, England, I had one dream which I wanted to pursue more than anything, and that was to travel. In particular there were three countries I wanted to live in; Scotland, New Zealand, and Canada. Like a lot of people, I left my childhood home when I was 19 and went to university. Taking this opportunity I ticked the first country off the list and moved to Scotland. I spent a good 12 years up there, and during this time fell in love with the mountains, and more specifically fell in love with mountain bikes. At 26 years old I found the excitement, and adrenaline rush, of putting the rubber to dirt and never looked back. Hobby turned to a passion, which turned to racing. The normal routines of life took over and time ticked on until my 30th birthday. This was my wake up call. I knew that if I still wanted to travel I needed to do it now! The easiest way to get in to New Zealand or Canada is on a working visa, but you can only apply for these before your 31st birthday, so that’s what I did. Taking the plunge I quit my job and sold my house, and every worldly possession I owned and got myself and my boyfriend a 2 year visa for New Zealand.
I won’t lie, 2018 was probably one of the most stressful years of life, finding the right time to tell my loved ones I was leaving, getting everything organised, whilst still trying to race every UK bike race I could. It was worth it tho. I felt I had achieved everything I could in Scotland, and I was getting excited to explore a new world of tracks and trails. Before going I had spent hours looking at photos and videos from some amazing riding spots all over New Zealand; Queenstown, Christchurch, Rotoura, Nelson, the list goes on. As a result I knew I didn’t want to just live on one place, and fall in to the same old routine as before. So the decision was taken to get a van and live the nomad life, traveling between the trails, following the race scene and spending a few months in each location. Starting at the top of the list; Queenstown, for summer laps of the Skyline Bike Park.
This was probably the most nerve wracking bit; arriving in New Zealand with no job, no home, and not much in the way of savings either. A few nights in a motel bought a bit of time, and many hours searching for vans on-line. We had a few viewings lined up before even landing in Queenstown, and it turned out the first van viewed was perfect.
A 1991, 2 litre Ford Econovan. Certainly not the shiniest van on the road, or the biggest, but it had everything we could need. The seating area reformed to make the bed, there was a fridge, gas hob, a hot water pump, and after installing a 100W solar panel there was enough electricity to run it all (and keep the go-pro charged).
The bikes arrived in New Zealand a few weeks later. I had wanted enough time to get set up before they arrived, and at the time it seemed easiest to simply get them (and all the riding kit) shipped over separately. In hindsight, it would have been easier to just take them as extra luggage on the plane. In reality, given the current exchange rate, and that bike frames seem to be about 1/3rd cheaper in New Zealand than the UK, it may have actually been cheaper to just buy new bikes out here. But I am pretty attached to my Trek Slash, and couldn’t see me wanting to build a new bike up any time soon.
So that was it, I had arrived, I had my home, and I had my bike. After applying for a bank account and tax number I even got a job for a few hours a week. Just enough to cover food, fuel and bike parts, and leave all the hours under the sun to ride my bike. I have been riding out here for a couple of months now and still not scratched the surface on all the trails to ride, Queenstown is a riders paradise. You can use the gondola to cruse park laps all day, go on epic all day rides in to the mountains, or grab your jump bike and hit the world famous gorge road. 2018 might have been one of the most stressful and scariest years of my life, but I don’t regret a thing. All the clichés about seizing opportunities and taking the plunge are true. The world is a big place to explore, and you only have one life to make the most of it. Do it!