As you might imagine, living this life among the varied, the weird and wonderful, I get inspired a lot, both as a writer and as a human being. A complete stranger can totally make your day, and transform it from ordinary to extraordinary. But when they turn out to be kindred spirits, well that's just marvellous! We don't meet many 'people like us' outside of campground or motorhoming life, but the other day we had the pleasure of meeting Guy and Olive Lloyd, the new managers of Gore Motor Camp. I was interviewing them for Stuff and felt a little bad for not confessing I was staying at a rival campground but I wanted them to see me simply as a writer, not sussing out the competition or clouding their judgement.
This big, beautiful world and its people inspire me every day!
Besides, the sole reason I was there was to raise awareness of their business and who they are. You see, until Guy and Olive took over in April, the Motor Camp had been managed by someone who wasn't really all that well suited to the hospitality business. As a result, Gore Motor Camp had hit the news for all the wrong reasons. Having heard of their recent replacement, I knew whoever took over the place would have a big job on their hands trying to give the place and its reputation an overhaul and wanted to help get the word out there that guests would now be assured of a warm welcome.
Guy, the new manager is larger than life in every sense of the word - in the best possible way. Huge in stature, with an equally huge personality and laugh and an easy smile that spreads across his entire face. You simply can't help instantly liking him and his petite wife, Olive. They are an open book and what you see is what you get. So refreshing! What we didn't realise, as they invited us into their lounge and we all settled into comfy chairs, was that they were just like us - except on a much bigger scale! Originally from the UK, Guy spent 15 years as a primary school teacher in Indonesia, where he met Olive, also a teacher. He also previously managed a camp in Iraq in 2006, looking after 250 people. No wonder he felt more than capable of being able to run the Motor Camp!
'I've been to 86 - no, 87 countries', he smiled. 'I'd urge everyone to travel. You learn so much about the world, about life. Honestly, I'm like a little boy when I go to a new place. It makes me feel alive again'. 'You should be the one writing the books, not me!' I laughed. 'I've had a lot of amazing adventures, for sure', Guy replied. 'One of the most memorable however was when I had an encounter with a sea turtle whilst scuba diving. That was a really beautiful experience'. 'We love scuba diving! We do it a lot in Bali', smiles Olive. Ah, that explained the big yellow scuba diving tank in the corner of the lounge.
As we talked, for well over an hour, Gareth and I were in no doubt these were the perfect people to manage the Motor Camp and turn its reputation around. 'Our travel experience really helps in the hospitality industry. You get so accustomed to communicating with all kinds of people. We get such a huge cross section here. You never know who's going to turn up at the reception desk. We love having a chat and a laugh with people and take each person as we find them. I'll admit, we do struggle with having a routine now, after living without one for so long. And the house is too big, we only live in this one room', Guy said, pointing out the bed in the corner. Gareth and I couldn't believe it. Here were people just like us! People who live in a house always laugh at us when we go house sitting and only ever end up living in one room, camped out in the lounge by the fire. It just feels foreign and unnecessary to us to be floating around in so much space. 'We don't need it', agreed Guy. 'Right here, in this room is everything we own. It's more than enough for us. We've got a little plaque outside the back door which has a quote on it by Ghandi. It says "Live simply, so that others can simply live". I look at it every day and remember it'.
We could have happily stayed all afternoon in the Lloyd's interesting and jovial company and listen to all their tales from around the world! But it was time to go and visit our friends who we are house and pet sitting for next week, so they could show us the ropes. We met Mike and Irene quite by chance one day when we were still in the van. We got talking and to my complete amazement they were not only originally from Thames, where I used to live years ago, but they actually used to live on the exact same road as I did, when I very first arrived in New Zealand! I arrived in April and they left in October of the same year. To our knowledge, we had never crossed paths but knew a lot of the same people. 'We're getting married in a couple of days! Want to come?' we asked. They did indeed and ever since we have stayed in touch.
Me with my eldest, Liam. Nothing beats special times with family!
It had been a while since we had a good catch up and the four of us were having a good chinwag around the dining table. I'd forgotten the reason for the house sit but soon remembered it was Mike's 60th birthday and a huge crowd of them were celebrating it by enjoying a holiday together in Rarotonga. All the family, their children, grandchildren, friends - I thought it sounded absolutely wonderful. To be so loved and to have such a huge network of people who loved one another to celebrate with all together and enjoy such a special time. 'Life's too short', Mike said in his usual matter-of-fact way. 'We're losing friends now, at our age! You never know when your time is up. Gotta make the most of it. I saw a mate just the other week in the supermarket who I hadn't seen for a while. We got talking and I told him of our holiday plans. He'd lost a couple of his friends too and by the time we'd finished the conversation he'd decided he would book an overseas holiday for him and his wife next year. You've got to do these things while you can'. He's so right.
Life is one big adventure, if you let it be so!
Gareth and I felt truly inspired and full of warm fuzzies after spending the day in the company of these four warm, wonderful people. As different as chalk and cheese, yet so alike in their outlook and philosophy on life. We can't take any of it with us when we go, but whether you go to Rarotonga or Rotorua, Bali or Balclutha, we can all experience and love as much of it as we possibly can while we're here. That's what this brilliant thing called life - this amazing gift we are given - is all about.