A spark ignites in the predawn black

Introducing Tamsin’s New Zealand adventure


Final sunset from my Melbourne apartment balcony

At age 27 I moved to the UK for a gap year working holiday. After landing in Heathrow, I made my way up to a friend’s flat in Birmingham. I was grateful to have a roof over my head while I ‘landed’ in a new country, getting my bearings. Still , my friend was away and it was a shock to find myself alone in dark and freezing England mid-January. I remember wandering through the aisles of Sainsbury’s in my cheap wool coat, picking up small plastic tubs of yoghurt and jumbo-size boxes of tea. Then the slippery dash along icy pavements as the afternoon light drained from the sky, slamming the door closed against the bitter wind. The quiet was foreign and a little frightening.

Although those first two weeks in England had moments of loneliness, I was certain that I’d made the right move. The plan was to find a few months work then travel round Europe once the summer arrived. There was a job waiting for me back in Sydney once the year was up, which alleviated money worries and stress about re-entry to Australia. The Europe gap year is an established tradition people in their twenties. The knowledge that I was following a well-established path gave me confidence back then. In the end, it all worked out pretty much as I’d planned.

Six years later and I’ve  jumped the Tasman and moved to New Zealand. I’ve suspended my studies for the moment, giving up my flat and farewelling my work in Melbourne. I don’t have any family or many friends over here, although I hope that the latter will only be a temporary circumstance. My work colleagues gave me a card with the well-loved Robert Frost quote about the road less traveled. It does feel at times that in my thirties now I am no longer moving with the tide. I am uprooting myself and starting over, at a time of life traditionally marked for settling down and building up.


NZ dreaming – by Tamsin Martin

It was hard at first to articulate a single reason why I wanted to make this move. To do a working holiday. Because I want to write more, and the New Zealand environment inspires me and fills me with joy. Because I love to tramp and the South Island is a hiker’s paradise, with endless snow-capped mountains to traverse and no bothersome tiger snakes to worry about. Because I want to spend time in nature and reconnect to my spirituality. For something different. Because I have a hunch that help me to heal old sadnesses, and embrace life more.

In October 2014 I was sleeping alone in the Megalong Valley, my first solo camping trip. Cox’s River, which runs right past the campground, was gushing with freshly melted mountain snow. The sound lulled me into a deep sleep. In a dream I stood on the banks of Lake Pukaki, admiring the sparkling artic blue waters, a treasured memory from 2012 holiday in NZ. I heard my mother’s voice in my head, saying, ‘if you trust me, you will not fall.’ She always encouraged me to follow my dreams, offering unconditional love and support. The memory of this has become my strong foundation, and helps to give me the nudge I need to get off the starting block and dive in.


Aoraki (Mt Cook), Mackenzie Region

I’ve heard it said that committing to the decision is the hardest part of any venture. It is true that once I shared my plan, I was overwhelmed by the support and encouragement offered to me by friends. Offers of a spare room to crash in when I return. A beautiful typed note from my friend Helen, who I stayed with after the removalists had packed up all my things, inviting me to treat her home as my home. Kind words and notes wishing me the best and encouraging me to go for it, ‘full noise’ (thanks Mike). It’s been humbling and amazing to see how much support I have been offered, at every step of the way. Thank you to everyone who has helped me to be brave enough to give this a shot.

More to come once I have settled in a little. And if you know any nice kiwis who wouldn’t mind befriending an Aussie woman new to Christchurch…let me know!!


This beautiful beanie is a gift from my dear friend, and an original Janet  Spink design.


Sauron won

A work of creative non-fiction

Once upon a time there was a girl who sat up three nights in a row finishing The Lord of the Rings. The book that is, not the movies (those came along a few years later). She cried rivers when the hero, Frodo the Hobbit, reached the top of Mount Doom, carried by his wise and loyal friend Sam. She despaired when Frodo realised he was unable to complete his task – to throw the one Ring back into the fires from which it was made. She cheered when the devious Gollum bit the ring off Frodo’s finger, only to fall backwards into a pool of lava. Then she made a resolution: one day she would take this journey too.

She would climb to the top of Mount Doom itself, and look into the pit of fire.

Cue the music, Sir Peter Jackson
Continue reading

How to get the most out of a creative pilgrimage

having the quality or power of creating (Macquarie Dict.)
someone who journeys, especially a long distance, as an act of devotion (Macquarie Dict.)

It is sunrise and I am walking through a vineyard. The long, straight rows of vines are decorated with thick clusters of grapes. In the distance a white church perches atop a hill: it will be my next stopping point for rest and refreshment. Thirsty, I stop to pick a grape, and the sticky juice floods my mouth with sweetness. I pull my journal out of my worn rucksack and begin to write, the words spilling out like clear water from a fountain…

So went my idealised vision of what it was to be a writer on a pilgrimage. The reality, of course, was very different. Continue reading