Tag Archives: queenstown

Turangawaewae And The Currency Of Social Media

St Nicholas Station

Yesterday, I attended the Queenstown Winterfest World Social Media Day Bonfire and BBQ Instameet. I made my way to the wharf to be transported to Mt Nicholas Station by Southern Discoveries, knowing I’d see many familiar faces – not just the speakers, whom I’ve long admired on Instagram, but those local snappers and social media mavens I’ve connected with in a spirit of la belle vie over my time here in New Zealand. I’ve met with these characters frequently to celebrate our craft (for me, creative writing and phone photography), and spied them at other inspiring events, always with the same light in their eyes.

It’s a bizarre yet beautiful thing to sit in the presence of people whose lives you follow – whose images capture moments in time in indescribable places and let you dwell there with them, soaking up the excitement, the surroundings, the sheer feeling, and imagine you’re there too… People who make their living from the pursuits which give you most pleasure.

Bare Kiwi Kyle Mulinder was there – someone whose palpable passion and excitement for his own country zings across the room with every movement. He spoke of the concept of Turangawaewae – in Maori, ‘the place where I stand’. He’s found many places to stand and share, now not just in New Zealand, but the rest of the world. It’s about the connection to the place – the place you can call home – something I understand, having searched across the world to find the feeling the South Island gives me.

We heard from Jason Charles Hill, who had visited seventeen countries in the last nine months, and Emilie Ristevski, whom I’ve followed for many months, in many hats, without seeing a shot of her face. Incidentally, the two are together and get to work on many of the same campaigns. I can’t imagine anything more romantic than a shared passion and the joy of travelling to beautiful places with the person you love. They talked about how to capture that original shot, that unique angle. They answered questions about how they’d come to be where they are, and how they’ve stood out.

There is no secret recipe to success. Why are some people’s talents lost to the world, seemingly unappreciated, when others’ toast and tea for breakfast is celebrity magazine fodder? Why do some people become living legends, and others have their names forgotten?

Social media is saturated with images, with memes, with messages. Sometimes, you might feel your voice is lost in the muddle, but sift through it and you find the people who speak to you – and find that you can speak back. What I loved about these speakers was their message. They haven’t set themselves up as an elite. They acknowledge an element of luck along with the passion, energy, enthusiasm and appreciation it takes to become big doing what they do.

There’s nothing like being inspired by a lovely landscape. There’s also nothing like being inspired by the people who appreciate the same magnificent things – who have the same lust for life and the places within it that drive my journey – and so many other people’s journeys. People who appreciate the sheer beauty of the world around us. ‘There is no ugly cloud,’ said Trey Ratcliff, of Stuck in Customs. ‘There is no ugly tree… Everything is beautiful.’

They all said, ‘Anyone can do this.’ There was almost, at times, a disbelief in their eyes that this is their life. That they’re funding their dream on the back of sharing their joy with the world. And you know what? It was, in part, this true appreciation for the whirlwind their lives have become, and, in part, their open and honest articulation to the crowd of how they might do the same, that brought home to me how much they deserve it.

On a smaller scale, I understand how they feel. Everything I’ve done in the last five years has broken me free of a corporate past, of being chained to a chair, even to a certain country. I still work hard – but I’ve changed the boundaries; I’ve changed the work itself. And I’ve made my life a process of creation, punctuated by adventures. The pictures I share when I climb to a lookout, kayak a fiord, snowboard a mountain, ride horses through a countryside, walk to a river… even just look out of a window – that’s my life, and I’m in love with it. I’m not sponsored in the same way, but I’m brought into contact with the most stunning places and fascinating people in the same way. And it’s a wonder worth sharing.

This was not a space for envy, but one for understanding and communication. Social media doesn’t even exist, Trey told us. A lot like money. We’ve turned it into a currency. As a society, we’ve ascribed it worth. We’ve imposed value upon it. But don’t worry about the numbers. The likes. The plaudits. He told us a story of Sir Patrick Stewart performing his heart out for an audience of three, Trey included. He didn’t do it because he loved the attention – he did it because he loved the art form. He loved what he had chosen to do with that performance, with that day – with his life – regardless of who was paying attention and receiving the gift. When we love something so much, it can only spill over and have to be shared with the world.

Share your shots – your self – because it engages you with what makes your soul soar. Do it because it brings you into contact with others singing the same song. Do it because it makes you blossom with the comprehension of the meaning life can have.

Do what you love; love what you do. Do it in the cracks between making a living, if that’s all the time you can muster. But give your everything into those cracks. And, who knows, life might burst open and become nothing but those moments of sheer delight – a series of adventures in your chosen art – a success story beyond your wildest imaginings. It might become everything you ever dreamed.


Life Sans Regret


Queenstown. Seasons change – folk leave. It’s a transient place with transient people, people with one thing among others in common. They live large. They’re larger than life. They go hard, then some go home, or hound it to the next bright light. Others can hack it and hang out. Some keep coming back. But there’s always another adventure round the corner; there’s always something calling. You’ll meet the most amazing people, though keeping hold of them might be a game of catch-me-if-you-can. Perhaps FOMO is the philosophy here, but if you can embrace it, you live life from outstanding day to outstanding day, ride to ride, wave to wave, moment to moment. And wherever you end up in the end, you’ll never forget how it felt to fly…

So here’s one for the thrill-chasers, the moment-makers, the life-livers – the Queenstowners. And hey, who knows, chase a little life yourself, you might see them again.


Life Sans Regret


I’m a bird, bro

Don’t cage me


Things to do

People to see

Shit to learn

Clichés a plenty


But if you were gonna see

The things that I’ll see


And surf the snow

Ride the water

Hit the dirt

You’d get it with me

How it is just to be


Be here, be now

Be free


And to all the broken hearts

I’ll leave in my wake

Don’t angst out too much

I’m not a mistake


Enjoy me right now

And just don’t forget

Wherever I’ve gone

Whatever the scene

I’ll live sans regret


Life on the drop-off

With GCs I’ve met


No borders, no boundaries

No fun with a ban

Snow’s sweet for a season

Ride hard while you can


(c) 2015 Sara Litchfield

Ideas Worth Spreading: TEDx Queenstown – Illumination

TEDx Queenstown

“Live for Awesome” – Cam Calkoen

Anyone who’s read this blog regularly since I started winding words together in early 2013 will know that Queenstown New Zealand, of Middle Earth & bungy-jumping fame, is not only one of the most beautiful and vibrant places in the world – it’s where I make my home. It’s where I wrote my first book and where I founded my business. And I love it here.

I can go on and on about the mountains and lakes, the activities and aesthetics, the bars and buzz, and, yes, the real estate and rentals… But have I said enough about the people that put the extreme-ideas-capital of the world on the map?

It was my great privilege to volunteer at TEDx Queenstown this weekend. Queenstown’s movers and shakers have fingers in a great many pies, but the creative cooks of this fast-paced, entrepreneurial hub came together to put on something particularly special when they took up the TED mantle.

For the uninitiated, TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It’s a non-profit devoted to communicating ‘ideas worth spreading’, mostly in the form of 18 minute talks. It all began with a California conference the year I was born, 1984, and since then has whipped its way across the world with the help of TEDx events, where the x indicates the event has been independently organised by local volunteers to bring the spirit of TED to the community. All talks are recorded and made freely available on the interwebs.

This year, over 4000 hours of volunteer work went into illuminating Queenstown with the words of some of the finest inspirational speakers the world has to offer. Volunteering, I didn’t get to see everyone live, but those I did get to witness absolutely blew me away.

I’d been looking forward to Trey Ratcliff, local travel photographer extraordinaire, but all I caught was the thunderous applause from the other side of the door I was guarding – needless to say I’m looking forward to the recording! I nearly had a heart attack when I saw he’d followed me on Twitter.

My highlight from setting up on the Saturday was getting to see Graeme James rehearse. On the Sunday I was lucky enough to catch his show-stopping speech, with its powerful instrumental punctuation proving how you can reach people through music.

Mark Balla‘s toilet humour was a juxtaposition to a serious message that really made you stop and think about the things we take for granted – his organisation aims to make sustainable sanitation a reality for the whole world. Jamie Fitzgerald‘s rousing talk was as motivating as they come – inspiration to succeed from an adventurer who’s walked unaided to the South Pole and who holds the world record for rowing across the Atlantic Ocean.

Closing off the day’s brilliance was a name I didn’t previously know but will now never forget – Cam Calkoen. He is beyond a doubt one of the finest and most incredible people I’ve ever heard speak – a standing ovation tells me that more than one person will have walked away believing, like him, that absolutely anyone can live their dream.

And that’s the truth. Anyone can make their mark on the wall of the world. Not only the speakers proved that to me, but the people behind the scenes, seeing it run smoothly, but, above all, making it possible for inspirational ideas to spread – for people to catch fire and light up others upon leaving, in keeping with the theme of illumination.

How wonderful, how powerful, how world-changing words can be.

Who is the most inspirational person you’ve heard speak? Are you a TED fan? Have you ever been involved behind the scenes of something special?

Queenstown, So Long And Thanks For All The Fish


Fly away from Queenstown and you leave this view behind you…

Friends and neighbours, sorry for my silence. I’ve been up and down, round and round… And now I’m in South Australia. Adelaide to be precise. It’s transpired that I’m going to be here for the rest of the year. I came via two other states. In Victoria I stopped in Melbourne, where I gained two hours, then I headed to Western Australia and spent a few halcyon days in Perth, where I gained three more (though my good friend’s 30th birthday celebrations may have stolen a few years of my life). I then hopped down to Adelaide via Melbourne, where I lost three hours but then managed to claw back a measly half. In summary, I’m quite confused. I’m not entirely sure what the real time or date is. But I do know where and who I am.

I also know what I am. I am no longer even a part-time reluctant accountant. I am fully freelance. I am a published author and managing director of my own book editing business. I am a wandering writer and renegade rover of this oyster of a world we live in. I didn’t choose to be cut adrift. But we can only make choices when it comes to what we can control. When it comes to ourselves. Our location, our occupation, our outlook on life and love, lost and otherwise. We can choose not to be beaten, not to be broken, whatever happens. We can choose to bounce back.

Of course, when we’re coming back from being knocked down, it helps to have friends, all around the globe, offering their support and inviting you into their homes. When you’ve lost your own, someone else’s home can be a sanctuary. And that’s how I come to be here, in the beautiful eleventh floor pad of an apartment block in the centre of Adelaide, with a balcony looking east out onto the hills and showcasing the sunrise, fitness facilities shared with the Crowne Plaza next door, and incomparable company.

I know what I’m doing here. I’m writing my second novel (here we go again, National Novel Writing Month!). I’m convalescing. I’m seeing old friends and new places. I’m firing up to gain more business. And I’m becoming even more who I want to be – just in time to turn thirty come Sunday (twitch, twitch).

So I said so long to Queenstown, but it won’t go anywhere, and I’ll be back. It is, without doubt, one of the most beautiful places in the world, where I’ve had the time of my life with some of the best people I’ve ever met. I went on a wee pilgrimage before I left to take shots of some of its highlights away with me. I’ve included just a few of these below.

Have you ever left somewhere with a heavy heart? Did you ever go back? Carrying a heavy heart is like flying with excess baggage – expensive and frustrating. I’m terrible at packing, but I’m aiming to reorganise things and travel lightly into the future.


Rum Curries


Lake Wakatipu


Basket of Dreams, Queenstown Hill


Lake Hayes


Queenstown Hill Summit


Bob’s Cove


Glenorchy Road




Arrowtown to Macetown Track


12 Mile Delta


Have you read The Night Butterflies? Grab your copy here! Would you recommend it? Support your friendly indie authors – leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads 🙂

002.5_Night Butterflies

The Winds Of Change

Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 8.56.47 AM“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”

― Mary ShelleyFrankenstein

I’m waiting, these days, to hear whether I’ll be moving within the week. In the last fortnight, the two friends we’ve lived with since discovering this dreamy, alpine retreat have returned to France. We’re back to the UK for a visit in August and hoping to escape rent bills on top of travel expenses, so it’s time to go. Meanwhile, this lovely place has been put up for sale. Leaving early wouldn’t really be an issue if it weren’t for the fact we signed a fixed term lease, locking us into payments until the house is sold or the tenants replaced, but life’s a learning curve. And if we’d planned for the unanticipated, we would never have ended up living here at all, so I don’t regret it.

The cottage rattles emptily at the moment. It’s also, now the season’s changing, colder than any house has a right to be. But I’ll be so sad to leave it. Leaving conjures feelings the antithesis to those that flavoured the post I wrote when I was about to move here – Home Sweet Home. But I am still excited about the future, still hopeful, just in a more subdued way. I’ve achieved so much of what I set out to do while living here – I’ve built up the business over the last six months, I’ve launched a website, engaged with wonderful writers, edited valuable work. And I’ve written the-book-to-be. Admittedly, every waking hour that’s not spent working is being spent rewriting the damn thing, but I’m still on track to publish this year. So all the big bits of life are where I wanted them.

So why the melancholy? Although I like to be on the move, I don’t like moving. It takes so much time, so much effort, there’s so much mess, and I *hate* packing. Thankfully, a wonderful friend is taking us in, but we’re losing a place of our own and I don’t know when we’ll have another. I’ll miss my window seat study. I thought we’d be here longer, be more settled. I thought many things. I thought this was my perfect pad, a utopian dwelling where everything would go right and nothing wrong. Instead, many things have gone the least helpful of ways.

Queenstown is a funny and unique place. It’s a high-octane, beautiful bubble full of comings and goings. Everyone’s on an adventure. That makes it an exciting place to congregate, and those who hang about feel a real sense of achievement just for being here above a couple of days. After a week, they call themselves ‘local.’ But there’s a saying here, ‘No one stays.’

Do you embrace change? I try to. Sometimes, I crave it. A change can be as good as a rest. It’s a fresh start, a new beginning. It’s freedom. Other times, it’s unwelcome. It’s exhausting.

You can’t always hold onto the people and places you want to. The main thing is to recognise and cherish the value they’ve brought to your life, rather than bemoaning their loss. The winds of change mess up all sorts of things, but they can’t sweep away the memories you choose to keep. Choose to keep the good ones.

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