Travel presents a lot of chances to go off the rails of a plan, but sometimes what seems like a challenge is really an opportunity. Over the last few weeks we’ve encountered a string of problems that have left us angry, frustrated, and even physically ill, but we’ve solved pretty much all of them and now we’re way better off than we began. Sometimes it’s hard to see an opportunity lurking, but it’s always worth it to look.
After our nightmare WWOOFing job, we came to Wanaka on a whim and I promptly got sick. This wasn’t just a little cough and cold. I had a fever, chills and hot flashes, and had to run to the bathroom every hour, doubled over from stomach pain. I don’t get sick often, but when I do I get really, really sick. This was no exception. Whatever devil-spawn disease I had, it was miserable. And if being sick weren’t bad enough, being sick while living out of the back of a van made it doubly awesome. Just when I was ready to throw in the towel and go to a doctor, I was miraculously better! In your face, mystery disease.
While I was cursing every bite of food I shoved down my throat, we fell in love with this little town. It’s a little sister to Queenstown, which is an hour to the south and known around the world as an adventure sports haven. A lot of that rubs off on Wanaka, and it boasts similarly spectacular views of snow-capped peaks over a massive lake. It reminds me of a lot of Lake Tahoe, California, without the proximity to grimy Nevada. Oh, and it’s got great rock climbing, mountain biking, and hiking, and we’ve made an incredible group of friends here in just two short weeks (most of which I’ve spent on the toilet, unfortunately). What else could we want? So we’ve decided to stay here for the summer and take a break from WWOOFing for a bit. We’ll be back, but we really enjoy making our own schedule and operating independently, two things that don’t exactly jive with WWOOFing. So, the reckoning is upon us: we’ve got to get real J-O-Bs. Shudder.
Christina jumped right on the opportunity (while graciously nursing me to health) to pursue her next career: working in a restaurant kitchen. It’s spring here, so local restaurants are heating up for the coming tourist season and a lot of them are hiring. She hit the pavement, dropping resumes off around town and talking to people. She had her eye on one job in particular, at a new Italian restaurant that’s opening soon and is headed by a well-known chef: James Stapley of Whare Kea Lodge.
After more than a week of silence, she was disappointed. She assumed that she’d been passed over, not only for her gig of choice, but for all the fall-back options she’d applied for as well. She was on the verge of giving up this first attempt at pursuing her dream; she had an email drafted, indicating her willingness to accept a front-of-house job for which she was more qualified and was in heavy demand. I even had a different version of this post written, whining about how sometimes things don’t work out and sometimes you need to accept your second (or third) choice.
And then, the phone rang. It was James Stapely. He wasn’t calling to set up an interview or ask her for more information. He was calling to flat-out offer her a job. He’d liked the passion she displayed enough to overlook the massive gaps in her experience. She’ll get an opportunity to learn on the job and grow in her role, as well as see a new restaurant getting off the ground. Next time, she won’t need to worry about gaps in her experience.
That leaves me. I’ve done the restaurant thing, and it’s not my bag. I want to be outside. There aren’t many paying farm jobs to be had, and other kinds of labor are less appealing to me. One can’t help but question your self-worth if you see few opportunities that you’re qualified for in a town where everyone seems to be hiring. It doesn’t help if you’re shivering and sweating and can’t stop pooping at the time. But I do have a small freelance project that I’m working on and lots of writing and photography to pursue, so I’m seizing this opportunity (while keeping my eyes and ears open) to focus more intently on developing my skills and selling my work. But hey, if you know anyone that needs some help with social media or email marketing, send em my way. I’m officially accepting new clients.
We’ve gone from a miserable situation to something that’s virtually ideal. We’re both developing important skills for our future and having a damn good time doing it. And it wasn’t hard. In Christina’s case, it took putting herself out there and taking a chance at failure. For me, its was as simple as recognizing that this was a shot to do something I’d always wanted to do: focus on writing for a chunk of time. Maybe I’ll call my first book “Sieze the Day.” Surely no one has thought of that.