You know in the movie Midnight in Paris, how Owen Wilson struggles with the issue of nostalgia and wanting to live in a different time period? How he reveres the past so much he actually travels back in time to Paris in the 20’s and gets to meet his literary idols?
Yeah, that’s me. In a nutshell.
God knows what depraved things I would do if given the chance to meet Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and of course, Hemingway. HEMINGWAY!!
Sigh, one can only hope.
If I could live in the past, even for a little while, I would. The early 20th century holds a special, romantic appeal for me, like with so many people, and I find myself frequently attracted to books, movies, and of course, travel that relates to it in any way, shape or form.
And my favorite part? WWII.
Yes, that’s right, I have nostalgia for world war – what is wrong with me?
Call me crazy, but to me it seems to be an era of exploration, lost values, old-meets-new and one of the last great fights of good versus evil. This was a time when things were built to last, when honor and integrity were still prized and there were plenty of frontiers still left in the world.
Growing up with a stepdad AND dad interested in military history, for some reason WWII and to a lesser extent WWI have always caught my attention.
Not to mention growing up around pilots (stepdad) instilled in me an interest in aviation. In fact one of my secret dreams would be to take flying lessons and learn to be a pilot. Can you imagine me in charge of a plane? Run everyone!
So while exploring New Zealand’s South Island with Haka Tours, as soon as I saw the optional add-on activity of a vintage flight in a vintage in Wanaka (the town I’m planning to move to in a month), I couldn’t say ‘yes’ fast enough.
Wanaka? Check. 1940’s plane? Check. Great views? Check. Getting to dress the part? TRIPLE CHECK!
My inner fighter pilot – slash – Amelia Earhart has always dreamed of getting to fly in one of those small vintage planes with open air seats, the wind flipping through my hair, really taking in the flight experience as it used to be.
Who knew I’d find a bit of my favorite European history here in New Zealand?
The day dawned bright and sunny as I waited outside the hostel in Wanaka to get picked up for my early morning Tigermoth experience with Classic Flights. As a little red vintage convertible whizzed up, my smile started to grow. This was going to be an experience I’d remember.
Chatting with the owner and chief pilot Peter, I began to learn a little about aviation history here in New Zealand. Almost everything I knew about WWII was European based. I didn’t know that planes like this were built in New Zealand in the 1940’s to train pilots for the war.
Afterwards they were used to spread fertilizer over the farmlands.
Oh, New Zealand.
Arriving at the hangar, I started to take it all in. Walking in and among the different small planes, gazing at the old photos and memorabilia, I began to internalize everything, realizing I was in for a full-on experience, not just an activity.
Surrounded by evidence of real and true passion for something, for history, adventure, and of course, nostalgia, I realized I had come to the right place.
For me, there is something special about traveling to a place and getting to have an experience with a business that ACTUALLY cares about what they offer. As soon as I walked inside the hangar, I realized Wanaka Classic Flights was a place of passion for aviation, experience and inspiration, not just another New Zealand adventure activity involving planes.
And that makes all the difference, at least for me.
As soon as I saw the jumpsuits and vintage leather jackets lining the wall, I started to get giddy. I barely needed any encouragement, shoving my legs into the soft green pants, ziping it up to my neck and pulling on the wooly cap.
Finally I was getting to experience something that not only allowed for historical dress-up but encouraged it!
Tying the white silk scarf around my neck, pulling the old headset over my ears and sliding my arms into the buttery soft aged leather bomber jackets, I was ready.
Just call me Amelia Earhart.
It turns out I had already started my journey back in time, before I even climbed into the plane.
Climbing into the front seat of the two-seater plane, sliding the goggles over my eyes, plugging in my old headset and getting strapped inside, I was enveloped by the smell of fuel, leather, age and of course, adventure.
Leaving the present behind, the plane started to move forward along, getting ready for take-off. Dressed for the part, seated there it really did feel like you were getting to experience the past firsthand.
Though I doubt they had TOMS or GoPro’s back in the 40’s.
Any doubt I had in moving to Wanaka slowly drifted away as I got to experience the incredible landscape from above. While there are plenty of places in New Zealand to take a scenic flight, how many let you do it from an open-air plane from WWII?
I mean, my god, just look at the view!
Now, I fly all the time for work, crammed in a little seat, gazing out the window, not really enjoying the experience. In fact, I really have come to dislike commercial flying. But there is something very different flying in a small plane like this Tigermoth.
This was flying as it used to be. As it should still be.
After we climbed higher and higher, I got braver and peeked over the side of the plane more and more, ever daring to take a few photos here and there.
Suddenly the antique headset crackled to life, and I heard Peter’s voice asking me if I was ready to try a flip.
Flicking the switch up, I shouted, “sure thing!” and before I knew what was happening, we were upside down with Wanaka was above my head and clouds underneath my feet.
With my screams drowned out by the sounds of the motor, I forgot to play it cool and just enjoyed the pure exhilaration of flying in a 70 year old plane the same way they did in the 40’s.
Before I knew it we were heading back over the blue lake to the green and yellow farmlands dotted around Wanaka towards the airport. Landing on the soft field next to the runaway was like sliding back into reality, saying goodbye to my time in the skies and back in the 40’s.
But just like Owen Wilson gets to travel back in time to the the roaring twenties in Paris, I know this won’t be the last time I get caught up in my nostalgia and time travel too.
I guess the only question is, where to next?
Were you born in the wrong time period? Would you like to fly in a plane like this one day?