So why Wanaka? Why not just take a sabbatical without uprooting the family? Stay where Hapless’s professional contacts are, where at least there is a job market, even if it’s not an especially buoyant one?
It started out as a simple cost-of-living equation. If I’m going to withdraw my earning services for a year then we need to accept a significant drop in household income. We can rent our central Auckland-suburbs house out for roughly double what we can rent an equivalent – or nicer – house for somewhere down-country. The difference will buy us groceries and maybe a bit of firewood.
But having said that, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that we’re going to be able to earn anything else down there. Hapless probably won’t be able to get a job in his field of expertise anywhere out of the main centres. So actually it doesn’t make a lot of economic sense.
But moving to somewhere like Wanaka represents the alignment of a few other goals for us. There’s the aforementioned recurring fantasy of moving somewhere remote and beautiful, and Otago appeals for its decisive climate – four robustly defined seasons, compared to Auckland’s languidly non-committal subtropics.
And then, Hapless is an avid skier and is training his boys up to follow in his snow boots. A skiing safari is a long-held fantasy of his, and hell, the boys aren’t going to complain. Deciding to move somewhere within easy reach of some of the country’s finest ski fields did help narrow the geographical focus.
And the clincher is that I’ve got family in the region – an uncle who is generationally more like a cousin and his delightful wife, a pair of toddler cousins more like a niece and nephew, and an elderly and much-loved grandmother.
The family connection is something Hapless feels strongly about. It’s an icebreaker when joining a small community, a back story, something to anchor us in a local context. It means neighbourhood contacts and ready-made networks.
And it’s something to mitigate the inevitable Auckland-wanker effect, the natural skepticism towards city folk seeking an adorably authentic rural experience, stories of which will charm our dinner-party friends as we swill our Central Otago pinot noir, before we roar home in our late-model Audis to our suburban mansions by the sea.
Another reason I find myself hankering to get away – way away – is to step off for a while this increasingly hectic merry-go-round of social and leisure commitments. Endless circuits of playdates, birthday parties, kids’ sport, extended-family duties and pleasures. A wide circle of friends that we never seem to see often enough, but with whom diary coordination has become an ever-more-exhausting logistical challenge worthy of a qualified project manager, or at least an extremely patient PA.
How many weeks – months – has it been since we’ve been able to wake up on a beautiful weekend morning with nothing planned and do something spontaneous and adventurous and fun as a family?
And if we are going to have a year of austerity, it somehow seems an easier prospect away from the bright lights and shallow preoccupations – not to mention sensual temptations – of the big city.
So really, why not Wanaka?