Homebird Flies Down Under
For a long time, I’ve considered myself to be a homebird – while not completely unwilling to budge, the feeling of returning home is incomparable to anything else. That’s why my 2023 Live Free Fund trip was such a marker of personal growth.
It started on Saturday 18 February when I set off on a 28-hour journey to Sydney, Australia. This was the first destination on my tour of Australia and New Zealand, and the flight there was a huge milestone having only ever flown abroad once by myself (and that was a 1-hour journey to France so unmatched by a long stretch!).
I applied for WPR’s Live Free Fund after both my cousin and best friend embarked on solo travels in Oz and NZ respectively and following the passing of my wonderful Opa (German for grandad). It was Opa’s notion that it’s not where you are but who you are with that is important which inspired me to broaden my horizons. Travelling ‘down under’ was the chance to have shared experiences with two people close to my heart.
I spent nine days in Australia enjoying the turquoise sea, sandstone mountains and shimmering cities. Over this time, I built on an already-brilliant friendship with my cousin. First up, we admired the classic landmarks in Sydney including the Opera House which, although it didn’t dominate the skyline as I had anticipated, is much more stunning and pearlescent in person, with a scale-like appearance. Next off, a one-hour walk from Coogee to Bondi beach turned into an all-day stroll as we soaked in the sights along the way.
After Sydney came the Grampians National Park. Seeing roaming kangaroos was easily the standout moment. The final destination was Melbourne, the city my cousin now calls home, where he showed me shrines, sports stadia, museums, art galleries and rooftop bars. And, as swimmers, it would’ve been rude not to try out the 50-metre outdoor pool in Fitzroy. I closed the page on my Oz chapter as we looked out over the city from Melbourne Skydeck on my final evening.
Departing from Melbourne, I boarded a plane bound for Christchurch, New Zealand. It was there that I reunited with my lifelong friend and we kickstarted a stunning, ten-day road trip, campsite hopping from the South to North Island. Stopping at as many destinations as possible on the way, we explored Lake Taupo, Marlborough Province, and a number of national parks: Arthur’s Pass, Abel Tasman and Tongariro.
My highlight was swimming with dusky dolphins in Kaikoura. As someone who loves the sea and marine life, finding a tour that respects wild dolphins in their natural environment meant a lot. We swam with the curious creatures on four occasions, with some dolphins coming within a few feet – totally surreal. Afterwards, we watched as the dolphins swam alongside the ferry and spotted a humpback whale and blue shark.
It wasn’t all rosy though and, in the lead up to my departure, I felt every emotion. The prospect of solo travel was daunting. Although I was deeply excited, the fear of the unknown had my stomach in knots. But it reminded me that nothing worth having comes easy.
I can’t thank the WPR team and Zara’s family enough for giving me the opportunity to create such amazing memories. If there’s one thing to take away from this blog, I urge you to take on that adventure you’ve been thinking about. It might just be the best thing you ever do.
About WPR’s Live Free Fund
The Live Free Fund was established in 2021 in memory of a much loved colleague Zara Free.
Inspired by Zara’s passion for living life to the full, the Live Free Fund exists to make life-enriching experiences possible for members of the WPR team, creating opportunities for them to to broaden their horizons and grow as individuals.
Whether gaining a new skill or qualification, or making a once-in-a-lifetime trip across the world, the Live Free Fund encourages people to embrace things outside their comfort zones, keeping Zara’s spirit of curiosity and adventure alive at WPR.