Starting Wānaka life in lockdown

We are looking forward to making new friends, hitting the slopes this season, and enjoying everything Wānaka has to offer.

As cases of Kiwis stranded overseas become increasingly prominent, Interior Designer and Life Coach Stacey Anderson talks to the Wānaka Sun about her family’s experiences starting life over in Wānaka after the Covid-19 outbreak forced them to prematurely abandon their life in Bali.

“In 2019, we decided to get off the hamster wheel, sell a lot of our belongings, rent our house in Timaru, and book a one-way ticket to Bali to spend some quality time together as a family whilst redesigning our vision for our life. With our children being two and four at the time, we realised that if we were going to go, now was the time. Friends and family had a million questions that, granted, we didn’t have the answers to, but we realised these were all fear-based obstacles that people allow to get in their way. 

Whilst we didn’t have the answers, we had an unshakeable faith in ourselves to figure it out as we went. Within eight weeks, we were gone.  

We had five incredible months living in Bali, and fell in love with the ease of a minimalist nomad lifestyle. We swapped roles - so the kids got to explore the beauty of Bali with Dale (joiner/builder), whilst I coached online and worked remotely on Interior Design projects from cafes and co-working spaces - and made amazing memories together.  

We had decided that, eventually, we would return home to NZ, so that we could give the kids the same kiwi lifestyle we were so lucky to have. Wānaka was a pipe-dream, but, as fate would have it, a perfect little opportunity arose to purchase one of the last properties in Riverside Residence. With a completion date of early 2021, we decided to continue travelling until it was ready and make the most of this opportunity before settling the kids into a new hometown. 

Then Covid-19 hit. Naturally, family at home were concerned, but it seemed like a fear-driven media frenzy for a while, so we let it fall off our radar. As the situation started to escalate around the world, Facebook group chats started to be flooded with people trying to make their way home, getting stuck at the borders, and having to redirect flights only to have them cancelled last minute. It all started to feel like a logistical nightmare. We had a trip booked to Thailand, but with their cases climbing, we didn’t know if we would get back into Bali. 

It was all too hard, and the freedom lifestyle we’d come to know and love was feeling less free by the day. A feeling just came over me to get home. Dale agreed, and within 24 hours we were beginning our long journey home. Given we couldn’t risk contracting the virus and jeopardising our flight home, we left without saying any goodbyes to our friends. 

My Aunty offered her holiday home in Wānaka for our two week self-isolation.  Our parents rallied together and packed a car full of some winter clothes and groceries to tide us through, which was dropped at the airport for us. 

We were prepared for a pretty sterile environment; on leaving Bali, we were heat-tested and the tension was quite high, but when we arrived in New Zealand, it was like nothing was even happening. No masks, no sterilizing, no social distancing, just a pretty normal vibe. We didn’t know what to make of it. 

When we eventually made it to Wānaka and turned on the news the next day, we were even more confused. Fear-based headlines and breaking news updates showed that cases were rising and border security was tightening. Absolutely everything being reported felt contrary to our experience. 

Ten days into our self-isolation period, NZ went into Alert Level Four lockdown. We’d been so looking forward to getting back to see our family, but were forced to sit tight and hatch some new life plans. Thankfully, the kids were well conditioned to making fun with nothing, so we were probably better prepared than most for the mental challenges of lockdown.  

It became increasingly clear that the chances of getting back to Bali were dwindling, so we decided that we would settle into Wānaka nine months early. Once again, doors opened. We had family friends looking for tenants for their property, which just so happened to be perfect for us. Dale landed a job building (when we were starting to lose hope that anyone was going to be hiring), so by the time lockdown was lifted, we emerged ready and eager to start our new life in Wānaka.

Indie (5) now attends Wānaka Primary School, and loves it. George (3 on Saturday) has started Montessori a few days a week. Dale is back to his craft, and I am back to “the Mum juggle” - albeit a far more minimalist one; our storage remains packed away,and I’d almost happily throw away the key. 

Covid-19 wasn’t part of our plan, but it’s all part of our journey. Maybe our digital nomad dreams will have their time again, but, for now, we are looking forward to making new friends, hitting the slopes this season, and enjoying everything Wānaka has to offer.”

Read Edition 980 of the Wānaka Sun here. 

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