The alarm was set for 3:45am.
At 3:46am we rolled out of bed, I threw my last couple of items into my suitcase and zipped it up ready to go.
By 3:59am, Maddie and I were in the car on route to the airport.
With it’s wild coastlines, towering mountains, crisp air and the fairy-tale-like forests, New Zealand’s charm is undeniable.
As the pilot announced that we were preparing for landing and to please fasten our seat belts, I glanced out the window to see the snow-capped mountains of the South Island. A clear reminder of why this place remains my favourite country on earth.
After landing, our first stop was to pick up our home on wheels that would be taking us across the island.
It had a little kitchen that came out of the boot, a double bed to fold down at night, a crackly speaker system, big windows, and just enough room for two twenty-something year old girls to live in.
Second stop was the grocery store where we picked up some rice, fruit and vegetables, pasta, drinking water, cereal, potatoes, hummus, rice crackers, pepitas and some treats.
Our plan was to travel throughout the South Island, not planning too far ahead, but seeing where the days and the weather took us.
One of the most wonderful things about travelling through New Zealand is that most of the South Island you can ‘freedom camp’ throughout. Basically meaning that you can park your self-contained vehicle for free in designated spots and you don’t have to worry about any of the check-in / check-out business. It leaves you with total freedom to decide where you want to stop and stay each night. Plus, it makes travelling much cheaper! Hooray!
If you’re thinking about doing this too, I’d recommend downloading the CamperMate app which will give you all the information you need ^__^
We spent our first night in a freedom camp just outside of Queenstown and the following morning ventured an hour down the road to one of my favourite spots in New Zealand, Lake Wanaka.
Looking 40 years into the future, I like to imagine myself having a lake house here with an overflowing veggie garden.
The following day we kicked off our first hike of the trip with scaling the famous Roys Peak.
Now, boy oh boy… why were we not warned…
Here I was thinking this would be a somewhat difficult, but mostly leisurely hike. How wrong my misinformed brain was.
We ended up climbing a mountain. I’m talking a BIG MOUNTAIN. The hiking track shoots directly up into the sky with no places to rest along the way. Are you feeling anxious reading this? You should be.
Long story short, 2.5 hours later we’re finally nearing the top of the peak. By this point I’m barefoot (which won’t come as a surprise to those that know me), but my hiking boots had given me the kind of blisters that would make any living creature cry.
So the shoes had come off, I’d befriended a French couple and some sheep, had taken 100,000 photos and was dreaming of the epic dinner that Maddie and I had planned to cook up that night as a congratulatory present to ourselves.
Fast forward another three hours and after enjoying the incredible view from the top, we’d finally returned to the base of the mountain.
I felt like someone whose ship had been lost out at sea for weeks and they’d finally made it back to land. I would have bent down to kiss the flat ground if my now-crippled body would have allowed me to.
That night we made a delicious pasta dinner in our little van kitchen and snuck into a caravan park at 9pm to use the hot showers.
We were freezing, exhausted, but deliriously happy.
We had planned to venture across to the West Coast of the island to experience the rugged coastline that I’d heard so much about. However, on arrival into Haast (the first town we reached on the West Coast) we discovered that this is the place I suspect people pick up their ideas for horror movie plot lines. I also don’t think the torrential rain and lightning that night was providing Haast with any extra charisma. So instead of following the original plan, we decided to head off in an entirely different direction.
We ventured back towards the East and were treated with the most beautiful sights imaginable.
Around the first of May was when the cold really kicked in. Going to bed we were shaking from the chilly wind that was lashing across the campsite. Our limbs were starting to not work correctly (fingers trying to open car doors was particularly hilarious). We unpacked our suitcases and put every item of clothing we owned on our bodies. Scarves, beanies, socks, everything went on. I vividly remember Maddie putting a big red wooly jumper up her legs as a third pair of pants. We curled up under our blanket and tried to get some sleep.
Unbeknown to us, we would wake up to snow covered mountains surrounding us in the morning.
Fast forward seven hours, we glance at each other out of our tired eyes that had maybe seen an hour of sleep all night.
“Wanna get a warm place to stay tonight?”
That day we were headed to Mt Cook where the temperature would be dropping even lower. We were on a mission to find a warm place for the night. By 10am we had checked into a little cabin lodge, treated ourselves to steaming hot showers to defrost our bodies, and made cup after cup of hot tea.
The sun streamed through the big glass windows and we both lay there like frozen lizards that hadn’t seen sun in months.
We spent the remainder of the day doing the local hikes and laughing about the previous night’s experience.
We were also very excited to cook dinner that night in a fully functioning kitchen. Our enjoyment of cooking dinners out the back of our van in freezing gale-force winds had quickly diminished.
That night we sat by the fire, roasted vegetables in the oven and couldn’t be more thankful for ending up here for the night. Finally warm and toasty.
The following morning we woke up to find a thick layer of ice covering every inch of our car. A clear reminder that we had made the right choice to stay in a warm place for the night.
That day was absolute perfection and we spent much of it running through the golden fields that surround Mt Cook.
The following week we drove through the mountains, went on long walks through forests, took hundreds of photos, woke up to freshly fallen snow, laughed until we had tears streaming down our faces, had Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes playing on repeat, snuck into more shower blocks, and had hours and hours of conversation, swapping story after story.
Our time living out of the van eventually came to an end. It was bitter sweet returning it to the vehicle depot. On one hand it was freezing at times and the fuel was expensive, but on the other hand it held so many new memories for us and took us to see some of the best sights of our lives.
For the remainder of our trip we would be staying in a quaint little apartment in Queenstown.
The apartment was owned by a beautiful French couple who’s fridge was overstocked with home-made jam (which I took a particular liking to). It felt so nice to have a warm place to come home to, and Maddie (being the incredible chef she is) cooked us up delicious dinners every night.
From helicopter rides, to cruises, to scenic flights, to watching the sunrise from 8,000 ft in a hot air balloon, the days in Queenstown were an absolute dream. Quite the contrast from our simple, rugged life in the van.
In the summer of 2016 when I first came to New Zealand, I visited Milford Sound in the middle of a huge storm. With the torrential rain creating hundreds of waterfalls that gushed down the fiord and surrounding mountains, it created an incredible sight, but somehow I’d never let go of the dream of one day seeing Milford Sound on a clear blue-sky day.
That day finally arrived and I took the most magical plane flight of my life from Queenstown to Milford Sound with the team at Air Milford. Their scenic flight takes you right up close to the snow covered mountains, across Lord Of The Rings territory, and then right over the top of Milford Sound itself. From the flight, you then head onto a cruise boat with Southern Discoveries that takes you on a blissful two hour ride through the fiord and out to the sea. As you can probably imagine, every fibre of my being was deliriously happy in this moment.
I could go on and on about this incredible day, but I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
Whenever I was young and saw a helicopter fly overhead, I would continually stare at it until it disappeared into the distance, in awe at the thought of one day getting to ride in one myself.
Six year old Gabi would be very happy to know that on this particular day, her dream would finally come to fruition.
At 10am that Saturday, I hopped in the front seat of a helicopter bound for The Remarkables mountains with Heli Tours Queenstown. Just as happy and excited as I’m sure my six year old self would have been.
We landed on the peak of one of the mountains, jumped out onto the freshly fallen snow, grabbed large clumps of snow and were grinning from ear to ear.
Looking out over the incredible New Zealand landscape from such a high place is a moment that won’t soon be forgotten.
Our last morning in New Zealand was spent doing the sweetest thing imaginable. After spending week after week in each others company, it was quite fitting for Maddie and I to do the most romantic experience possible.
So at 6am on our final morning, we (and six newlywed couples) (which we felt slightly out of place amongst) hopped on board a hot air balloon to watch the sunrise from 8,000 ft in the air, followed by a champagne breakfast.
I’m not even going to try to find the right words that would do this morning justice, so once again I’ll let the photos do the talking.
New Zealand, thank you for being the most magical place on earth. My heart is full, camera memory card is full, and my smile is wider than ever.
☼ ☼ ☼
Photos and words by Gabi Mulder.
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Flight and tour recommendations here 🙂
Scenic flight to Milford Sound – http://www.airmilford.co.nz/
Cruise through Milford Sound – https://www.southerndiscoveries.co.nz/milford-sound/
Helicopter ride – http://www.helitours.co.nz/
Hot Air Balloon – https://www.ballooningnz.com/
A quiet beach. A blue sky. Warm ocean. Straw basket & hat.
Tahnee is someone I’d wanted to photograph for many years. We grew up in the same area but never really crossed paths oddly enough. Finally after many years, we headed to a quiet beach together a few weeks ago to not only capture the incredible raw beauty of Tahnee herself, but also the jaw-dropping sights of the Aussie coastline, in an area that we’re both lucky enough to call home.
It was a blue sky day with barely a cloud in sight. We spent time between the water and the sand, taking snaps between Polaroid cameras and digital cameras, and also squeezed in a little bit of time to ask Tahnee some questions about a few of her favourite things in life.
Welcome to our day in the sun! ☼
Describe to me your perfect Sunday afternoon?
Being nestled outside under the sun, surrounded by good company & yummy snacks.
When do you feel the most free?
Usually when I’m by myself. Driving through the countryside or in the ocean.
What thought crosses your mind the most everyday?
Should I eat lunch at 12pm, 12:30pm or 1pm? Or what’s my cat doing?
What is one thing someone can do to win your heart?
Supply me with a cheese platter and lots of pets.
Your favourite place in the world (other than home) is?
Either Barcelona or the Italian coast! ☼
If you could hop on a flight overseas right now, where would you be headed?
Central America or Africa!
What is the last thing you googled?
How do I get my bogged car out???
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I’m now 21 years old and feel like this is a particularly formative age (as I’m sure everyone feels at every age most likely) haha but nonetheless, I felt like it would be nice to try and capture life right now in some way.
I was recently reading through my friends Sophie and Yazz’s blog (they are two Aussies based in NYC) check it out here, it’s epic. One of the recent posts that Soph put together is entitled ‘The Living Alphabet’. Basically it involves going through each letter of the alphabet and attaching some aspect of your current life to that letter. I loved the idea and thought it might be nice to try it out myself.
I sat down this afternoon and thought about all the different aspects of my life that define me at 21. My habits, quirks, favourite things, the biggest pieces and the littlest ones.
Here is me at 21 years old, condensing my life into the 26 letters that make up the alphabet.
I’ve always been a bit obsessed with airports. They have this ever moving magic about them and so many stories constantly passing through. One of my favourite feelings is looking up at the departures board at international terminals and seeing where all the different flights are headed. Stopping to wonder who is getting on those flights and why they’re going where they are going.
B – Breathe
Reminding myself to stop and take three deep breaths more often.
C – Coffee
Coffee has certainly become a more constant thing in my life. Not necessarily in a craving/addiction sort of way, but rather the events that happen over coffee. Coffee is the thing that we tell our stories over. When any of my friends or I get home from travelling the first text is always “lets get coffee tomorrow and catch up?”. I remember late nights in New York City, my roommates and I would go down to the Starbucks on 81st and Broadway and order large chai lattes that were 90% sugar. On days when I just want to stay home and edit, get work done or just listen to interviews all day, I’ll make a big cup of coffee, wrap myself in warm blankets and wrap my hands around a warm cup. It’s like a hug from the inside out (similar to tea, but with a bit more pzazz).
D – Dreaming
I’ve been making a conscious effort to sleep a lot more lately. With sleeping comes dreaming and I love that. I’m definitely one of those people who life is either ‘GO GO GO!’ or ‘I’m just going to sit here, sip on my 9th cup of tea, look out the window and stare at the birds’. So right now I’m in a ‘stop and smell the roses’ kind of state and I’m loving resting, sleeping and dreaming a lot.
E – Everything
You know that feeling when you just wish everything you wanted or craved could come a whole lot easier? I feel like we all know that feeling. I stumbled across this quote a few years ago and it always runs over and over in my head when I begin to feel a little impatient, “Remember, life is a journey. If you got everything you wanted all at once there’d be no point to living. Enjoy the ride, and in the end you’ll see these “set backs” as giant leaps forward, only you couldn’t see the bigger picture in the moment. Remain calm, all is within reach; all you have to do is show up everyday, stay true to your path and you will surely find the treasure you seek.”
F – Freedom
The most wonderful feeling in the world.
G – Great Adventure
I remember growing up my mum would always say “life is nothing if not a daring adventure”. So here’s to us all daring more and going on more great adventures.
H – Home
As I write this, I’m back at my family home where I grew up and it feels so good to be here. Days are filled with long beach walks, fresh passionfruit from the vine, ocean swims, listening to lots of podcasts and watching lots of interviews, reading old book series, spending time with family and long time friends, lots of alone time and thinking time.
I – Inconsistency
I’ve realised that I thrive off inconsistency. When my environment is changing, my work schedule is changing, where I live changes, that’s when I feel like I’m really living, adapting and growing. I don’t know if all this need for change will catch up on me someday, but for right now it’s keeping me happy and sane.
J – James Vincent McMorrow
The sound of my summer. Particular favourites are If I Had A Boat, Higher Love and We Don’t Eat. I’d recommend lying on the beach or your bed, putting in headphones and closing your eyes. Give yourself 10 minutes to just be still, listen and feel.
K – Kindness
The most beautiful trait to hold.
L – Long Walks
I’m a total sucker for long walks. Back in NYC, my roommate Stef and I would go for 2-3 hour long walks all through the city at 10pm or 11pm most nights. The first time we went, we ended up having walked 160 blocks across Manhattan. We got back to the apartment at 2am, sat on the kitchen floor and ate cereal. The second time we walked through Central park at 11pm and stumbled across a huge movie being filmed at the fountain. We sat up on the railing and watched as they shot take after take well into the night.
M – Magic
Every time I come home I’m reminded of how much casual magic there is to be found here. The way the final rays of light hit the ocean waves before the sun sets, watching storm clouds roll in over the sea, the golden early morning light that streams over the fields and rolling hills, the fresh food, the windows always down and everyone waiting for that 15 minutes spare in their day where they can run barefoot down to the ocean.
N – Nowness
Reminding myself to be ‘here’ now. I think this quote puts it pretty perfectly, “If, then, I were asked for the most important advice I could give, that which I considered to be the most useful to the men of our century, I should simply say: in the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.”
I’m making sure to stop and look around more.
O – Ocean
The ocean is no doubt my favourite thing on earth. Nothing makes me feel more grounded and at ease. I strongly believe “we should all have ourselves regularly overwhelmed by nature”, and I feel like the ocean does a pretty perfect job at it.
P – Planes
I think some of the best views in the world are those viewed from a plane window. I also really like when they bring around cold juice on long haul flights. And I also REALLY love when pilots crack jokes. Hilarious.
Q – Quotes
As you can probably tell, I’m a big fan of beautiful quotes. Here are some of my favourites…
“The difference between an ordinary life and an extraordinary one is only a matter of perspective. Pull the blinds, look around you – it is a weird and wonderful world and you don’t require a ten digit bank account to immerse yourself in it. Travel down dusty roads without a destination in mind. Climb a mountain and scream out into the void. Kiss a stranger. Skinny dip in a lake. Get lost and lose yourself (these are two separate things). Explore the wilderness (particularly the one within). Think less of destiny and more of the moment right here. Because when you are nearing the end of your life, surrounded by all of your family and friends, fame won’t matter. Nor will the extent of your wealth – you are the sum of the stories you can tell.” – Beau Taplin
“What a wonderful thought it is that some of the best days of our lives haven’t happened yet.” – Unknown
“Nobody was perfect. Not even close. And everyone had wrinkles from smiling and squinting and craning their necks. Everyone has marks on their bodies from years of living – a trail of life left on them. Evidence of all the adventures and sleepless nights and practical jokes and heartbreaks that had made them who they are.” – Katherine Center
R – Re-connect
In the past few months I’ve (more than ever) learnt the importance of feeling connected with yourself and your roots. In this chaotic, constantly busy and very competitive world, it can be so easy to lose that connection with your real, authentic self.
I personally found myself getting caught up in a world that really wasn’t me and in doing that you start to question who you are and what you’re doing with your days. I quickly realised I needed to step back from things and re-connect with ‘me’. In doing that, I feel like (especially) for an artist, it allows you to be re-inspired and get back to ‘you’.
As a girl who was brought up with 4 older brothers, on a farm by the beach and a very down-to-earth upbringing (feet always dirty and hair forever a mess), I’m learning the importance of not straying too far from those roots. As much as I love a chaotic city scene, I also love a quiet morning hearing nothing but the birds sing outside your window. I’m making sure to take the time to enjoy both.
S – Seasons changing
Autumn is without a doubt my favourite time of year. The crisp clean air, the golden light, the yellow and orange leaves dropping from the trees in a whirlwind of confetti.
T – Time
Is there ever enough?
U – Uncertainty
“If it is both terrifying and amazing you should definitely pursue it.”
V – Views
One of my favourite views is looking up at the sky as planes fly overhead. When I was living in Sydney I would walk down to the beach in the late afternoon, lie down on the sand and watch as the flights came in and out of the city. I would do the same in New York, where I’d head to the Sheeps Meadow in Central Park, find a soft patch of grass, put my headphones in and watch as plane after plane flew overhead. I loved that at almost any point of the day you could look up to the sky and see at least 3 planes flying over.
W – Wide Open Road
There’s nothing better.
X – XOXO
I just really think the world could really benefit from more hugs and kisses.
Y – Yellow
The shade of an Aussie summer.
Z – Zephyr
Zephyr Definition: “Deemed one of the most beautiful words in the English language due to its euphony, rare sighting and letter composition. Zephyr is described as a gentle, mild breeze. It does not disrupt, nor cause chaos, it merely brings a pleasant sensation on a warm summer day.”
☼ ☼ ☼ Photos and words by Gabi Mulder ☼ ☼ ☼
I arrived home a few weeks ago and it’s been non-stop rain ever since. As I’m sitting here writing, the rain is pouring down outside my window, I’m curled up in a blanket and onto my 3rd cup of tea.
The rivers are full, the ocean waves are wild and the sky has a constant blanket of dark grey cloud.
With that in mind (I feel like you’ll agree with me on this) it’s the perfect weather to stay inside, run a bath, start that book you’ve been meaning to read, and most importantly, pamper yourself.
The girls and I did just that last week while shooting for the beautiful skincare range by Soothe Organics. To be honest, I’ve never been one to be overly into skincare or beauty in general (I think growing up with four older brothers was a big contributor to this), but since trying out their products, I’m absolutely smitten.
We nestled into this beautiful home tucked away in the countryside and spent the day shooting, eating dragon fruit, taking polaroids and sheltering from the rain.
C O M E J O I N U S
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With the Aussie summer having come to an end this week, I thought it would be fitting to put together a photo journal from special moments experienced and captured over the past three months.
From road tripping down the South Coast of Australia with new found friends, to welcoming in the new year on a deserted beach, taking a disposable camera out into the surf at 7am, running through sunflower fields in the rain, and jumping into the ocean at least once every single day, this past summer won’t soon be forgotten.
“It’s all messy: the hair, the bed, the words, the heart. Life…”
S U M M E R 2016 / 2017
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Photos & words by Gabi Mulder.