It’s crazy for me to think that it’s been over six months since I said goodbye to my established solo life in Wanaka, New Zealand. Exchanging the mountains for the sea, I’m totally in love with Lyttelton and the Banks Peninsula, where I’m now based.
Just outside of Christchurch, my loving partner, Giulio, his two young daughters, and a puppy share my big home. Considering how introverted I am, this has been a big adjustment for me. Throw in a global pandemic, a sudden, devastating loss in my family, and all of my work evaporating overnight, and you’ve got a recipe for rough times.
Luckily, we are weathering the storm, and cautious optimism has slowly replaced dread in my heart. As New Zealand has virtually eliminated COVID19 after a rigorous series of lockdown over a couple of months, life is somewhat back to normal on our little island. Our borders are closed to all but residents and citizens. A government-mandated quarantine in hotels for two weeks awaits any arrivals. But it means that our community transmission of COVID is zero. So no masks, no social distancing, nothing because the virus is no longer present outside of quarantine.
As we transition into this brave new world without foreign tourists, minus those who are (luckily) stuck here, it means that it’s never been a better time for kiwis to get out and about, exploring their backyard.
Currently, I’ve been working on a few somewhat secret projects, and I’m always on the lookout for cute places I can escape to get away and be alone with my thoughts. A true introvert, I do my best thinking alone and in the quiet.
And while I’m not ready to return to a life of hectic travel, I have to admit that my itchy feet have been wanting to carry me towards some new local adventures. Now that I’m living by the sea in Lyttelton, the nearby beautiful Banks Peninsula has been calling to me.
Back in 2012, two friends of mine started Canopy Camping, a booking site that covers all kinds of glamping and unique outdoor locations to get away to in New Zealand. Think nature but comfortable, and usually, on private farms. If you’ve followed me for a long time, you will have seen me cover their spots again and again. I can’t get enough.
Often when I’m looking to get away to a peaceful place, off the grid, and to be inspired to create and write, I head to one of their spots.
Luckily for me, there are several Canopy Camping sites within an hour or so drive from Christchurch, perfect for a weekend escape from the big city somewhere peaceful. I am enjoying having both a city and national parks and reserves right on my doorstep.
During the intense level 3 and 4 lockdowns in New Zealand, domestic and local travel was off the cards. But when we dropped to lower levels in May and then back to normal in June, once again, we were allowed to hit the roads and explore.
Even before moving to Lyttelton, I’ve had my eye on staying out at Cattle Flat Hut on the Banks Peninsula. Hello, look at that outdoor bath!
Near iconic Akaroa and overlooking Pigeon Bay, Cattle Flat Hut is ridiculously cute and charming. Hidden away on Knockindale Farm, it’s a perfect tiny house, solar-powered and totally off the grid. You definitely would never find it on your own.
Driving through beautiful sheep paddocks with the golden hills all around you, just going out here is worth it for the views. It looks pretty glam, but do remember that it’s still rustic. There’s a woodfire to heat it (so you need to make a fire inside), and you’re literally in a sheep paddock with plenty of poo. Gumboots are always a must for me – Salmon Sisters are my faves.
This was one of my first solo adventures since moving in with Giulio. We love to travel and explore together, but deep down, I will always be a solo female traveler at heart, and that means running away on my own once in a while.
Giulio understands this about me, loves my independence streak, and is so supportive and loving, which is phenomenal.
With a few big dreams on my mind but unsure of how to go about them or what they might look like in practice, I needed a few days without any distractions to consider what I was going to do with them.
Cattle Flat Hut was the perfect escape for this.
Arriving with a box of supplies, my plan was not to leave the hut for three days. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I love to nest. I was probably a bird in another life—hopefully something majestic like a golden eagle or bird of paradise, and not a magpie.
With no outlets and only USB plugs, Cattle Flat Hut is solar-powered and definitely off the grid. I love it when I can’t use my computer, and I still write a lot by hand. Ironic, I know. But honestly, the more and more I grow, the more I yearn to be offline more.
I’m super visual, often only being able to comprehend something once I write it all out by hand. Are you the same?
Immediately I carefully placed all of my things around the cute tiny house. Then make a cup of coffee. I sat in the sunshine and got to work. Of course, I ran a bath immediately too, how could I not?
There is something so liberating to live without a plan. I had nothing on my calendar. This gave me space and time to think. It allowed me to work on what the heck I was going to do with my life post-COVID.
Spoiler alert – I am still flying by the seat of my pants, and I don’t have it figured out.
I want to add that I spent the entire time in my sweatpants and cozy jumpers and wooly socks, only chucking on something cute to take some photos of myself. I was hoping to update my self-portraits while here, and I want to shout out (for those who are curious) to Spell and the Gypsy Collective, which is one of my all-time favorite labels to wear these days. Nothing here is gifted or paid. I bought them myself. I just love their stuff so much. Spell works hard to have strong ethics around responsible fashion, which I admire.
Winters in New Zealand are much milder than their northern hemisphere counterparts. When you have a bright sunny day without wind here in winter, it can almost feel like summer. I mean, almost.
Cattle Flat Hut is warm and double glazed. It’s tiny, which means it stays snug and warm, perfect for a winter getaway. I had no problem sitting outside with the sun on my face. Writing with only beautiful views and a few bah-ing sheep for company, it was magic.
And when the sun set and the stars emerged, oh my god, guys, this place was magic. Away from the city lights, twinkling stars filled the sky, and the Milky Way looked incredible. The night sky in New Zealand never ceases to amaze me. In winter it’s the best.
Even though I was on a creative writing retreat, I couldn’t help myself but spend an hour in the dark, taking photos of the stars. Can you blame me?
A slow local getaway was exactly what I needed to recharge my batteries, center myself again, and get to work on visualizing how I might make some of my long-term dreams a reality.
From soaking my bones in an outdoor bath to watching the stars to creating flow charts of my goals, Cattle Flat Hut was the perfect off-the-grid escape for me to inspire me on this weird 2020 journey.
Do you need to escape from reality to recharge too? Is a Banks Peninsula getaway now on your list? Have you been glamping before? Spill!