Tag Archives: Trey Ratcliff

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.


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?