After meeting a French couple cycling around the world for 29 months, the next day I met someone who had taken that kind of approach a step even further.
Mike, originally from Canada and who now lives in New Zealand takes tourists out on his yacht each day to explore the beautiful Bay of Islands region. I joined him for a day with a couple from Germany and found his story fascinating.
He originally worked as a fisherman off the West Coast of Canada – a dangerous job with long exhausting days, but a job that with it brings great pay. His passion for sailing led to him buying his first boat which he, his wife and their young family then lived on, exploring the south pacific islands and basing themselves in either Tahiti, Tonga or French Polynesia for months at a time; home-schooling their kids (or perhaps that should be boat-schooling?) with Mike taking one month off a year to return to Canada to earn enough money to support them for the rest of the year.
‘What’s the normal thing to do? You’ve got to do what’s right for you – even if it seems unlikely or not the norm for most people.’
We got talking about the differences between Canada and New Zealand and he was particularly struck by the positive values for young people that go with being an All Black – a revered position in this rugby-mad country.
‘The position brings responsibility. It is about being a role-model; not just playing, but the things you do for your community. That’s important’
‘My advice to my 16 year old self? I wouldn’t drink and smoke as much. I’ve always kinda done what I wanted to. It takes a lot to make me unhappy, but winters in Canada were tough.’
I was curious to hear more about this perspective on happiness as it has featured in a lot of my conversations and Mike was clearly someone who ensured this drive forward his decisions. He went on to mention a news story he’d heard that outlined New Zealand as a good example of a place where the general attitude of its community – despite potentially not having the same quantifiable benefits as living elsewhere actually brought greater happiness.
As Mike put it, kiwis felt very positive about the things that came from living here – lots of space, knowing their local community and often being near the beach. The OECD report on New Zealand supports much of his claim – notably the number of its residents who indicate they have more positive experiences each day than negative ones.