Liverpool to Wanaka: Low Impact Living in New Zealand’s South Island

Jake and Jade, both from North Liverpool, have been living in New Zealand’s South Island since January 2018 and aren’t planning on leaving any time soon. They have found themselves more intrigued in sustainable, low impact living, which to them, is by far more fulfilling than any other way of life and they have really found their priorities have shifted since their move. I spoke to them across the other side of the world to get a glimpse of their day to day lives.

Tell us about your background

Jade – We both grew up in Huyton, Liverpool and had really great childhoods but there were very limited opportunities. I knew from a really young age, that I didn’t want to live in Liverpool forever. I never felt content or comfortable and was super keen to go and discover the place where I felt most at home.

Jake – I had an amazing upbringing with an amazing family, but the area where we lived was pretty rough. I always knew that I wanted to move away, travel and try and see as much of the world as I could.  

For the last few months we have been raising pigs for meat. We try not to buy meat from the supermarket, but enjoy eating it so we gave this a shot.

How have your lives changed since leaving Liverpool?

Jake – Our lives have changed drastically. We live in an area with endless things to do; amazing hiking tracks, mountain biking trails, skiing in the winter and some of the best fishing there is. It’s awesome. It’s a dream come true. Living in our small cottage, on a big patch of land – we’ve been able to completely turn around our lifestyle. We have a limitless supply of vegetables that we grow ourselves in our back garden. We eat them fresh as much as we can and preserve the rest to eat throughout the year. We keep two different types of chickens for eggs (and entertainment) and are hoping to hatch some chicks this spring. For the last few months we have been raising pigs on our land for meat. We try not to buy meat from the supermarket, but enjoy eating it, so we gave this a shot. We knew that raising our own animals would either turn us off meat all together, or be something we found really fulfilling. It has been the latter. Other than the pork, we try to just eat fish that I catch and any venison or mountain goat that we can either trade for fish or that our friends have caught themselves. I have just recently acquired my own hunting licence so this is going to be another way for me to provide our food us. 

Jade – Since leaving home, I have found that our priorities have completely changed. Living in New Zealand especially, we try so hard to live more sustainably and eco friendly. We try to reuse as much as we can in all aspects of our life and reduce our waste as much as possible. All of our food scraps go to the animals or on the compost heap as we use as little single use plastic as its possible to. Even the cleaning products we use are all natural or home made. We take our own cups and bottles everywhere to save on single use bottles and cups. Living in Wanaka makes living this way a lot easier than I think it would be in Liverpool as the whole town is  trying to attain the same sustainable lifestyle that we are.

Where have you been so far?

We left home in 2015, to initially travel around South East Asia, visiting Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia Borneo, Vietnam and Laos. After our travels, we flew to Melbourne and immediately began working on securing our Australian visas. We started farm work, to get a second year in the country. During that time we lived on a sheep farm in rural Victoria – where we stayed for three months. After that we lived and worked in Tasmania for a while to save money and then began our epic road trip starting in Melbourne, across the South Coast of Australia to Perth, then up the west coast to Darwin, through the red centre and last in Sydney. We finished our trip in north Queensland 18 months later. After we left Australia to make the move to New Zealand, we visited India and Nepal and spent our time hiking through the Himalayas [whilst coming home in between].

How does living in Wanaka compare to living in Liverpool? 

Jade – I couldn’t even compare the two. Wanaka is the most beautiful, laid back, welcoming town I’ve ever been. You can’t help but be calm and happy here and take a more relaxed approach to life. There are none of the same pressures as there are than living in Liverpool. I will always love where I come from, but I truly feel at home here. People don’t care what you’re wearing; what car you drive; what you have, everyone is more concerned about actually living, experiencing things, appreciating the beauty of their country and making the most of all that on offer. Even work here doesn’t feel like a chore. I have worked as a barista on and off since 2012. I started working in the coffee industry by accident. I applied for another job in a hospital and was asked to consider working in the coffee shop. I really enjoyed it and learned a new skill that came in handy, when I was living in Sydney but it was always just a job. It wasn’t till I moved to NZ and worked on a local ski field as a barista, that I discovered a true passion for coffee.

Jake – Its worlds away. It would be impossible to live the life that we live in Wanaka in the UK. There doesn’t seem to be a class system over here. We consider ourselves working class, and at home it’s almost like there is a status quo for that way of life. We’d probably be struggling with a mortgage, in debt, miserable in our jobs and generally not getting as much from our lives as we want to. I know being a home owner is something that ,any people want from life, which is cool, it’s just not something either of us have wanted and since arriving in New Zealand, and it doesn’t matter. We have been looking into alternative housing options and since arriving. I’ve worked on a few tiny house builds which has been really interesting. After a few conversations and convincing on my part, we decided that we are going to build a tiny house ourselves. There is so much land and space here that its a very feasible option – build a compact, moveable structure and rent a small patch from someone to pitch the house, bring the chickens and pigs and set up our life. After two years we would be living rent and mortgage free the house which works out to be a much cheaper more beneficial way of owning our own home. It would free us up so much to be able to spend our money on things that are really important to us – like a big boat – and even to travel knowing we always had a home to come back to. Something like that would never be possible at home.

There are four very defined seasons and we love them all; Long, hot days in the summer time, crisp and bright cold days in the winter (and of course the skiing). Autumn is when we get our preserving done for the year, as well as our winter veggies planted. Spring, however, hands down our favourite time of year. The tiny lambs gradually start to appear and the land around us comes to life.

What a pair of legends.

What is your favourite thing about the South Island?

Definitely the nature – the mountains and lakes, the wild coastline that runs up the west coast, and the fishing. The south island is a playground for people who love the outdoors. We also love the seasons, there are four very defined, and very different seasons. We get beautiful long hot sunny days in the summer time. The sun doesn’t set till around 10pm so even after we’ve finished work we have hours of daylight to go for a walk, or on a bike ride. Our winters are magical, crisp, bright cold days, snow on the hills and of course the skiing. Theres a real buzz in the winter when the ski community from all over the world converges on our little town nestled in the mountains. Autumn is beautiful as well, and probably the most photogenic time of year, its also when we get most of our preserving for the year done and start planting out our winter veggies. Spring however, is hands down my favourite time of the year. Tiny spring lambs gradually start to appear, we get heavy rains – which we actually enjoy and appreciate here – something we never thought we’d say. The land around us comes to life in a sudden massive explosion of colour. Everything is in bloom, everything is green the colours are so vibrant and we still have snow capped hills that adds to the scene. Its paradise!

Theres nothing more satisfying than eating a meal from food we’ve grown, caught or raised ourselves.

Jake

How do you wind down after work?

Jake – It really depends on the time of year. In the winter time, there’s nothing better than coming home, making something really warm and filling to eat and spending the night sat in front of the fire. Lately, I’ve spent every spare hour of daylight – and sometimes even after dark – in the garden. I’ve massively expanded my veg patch this year and added a lot more varieties of veg than I did last year. I’ve spent ages working on my compost heap, getting it to the right temperature and ph balance and have set up a nursery in there all of which I’ve germinated myself and grown from seed. Once most of the leg work is done though, we’ll mostly be spending our nights outside. We’ll go on a bike ride after work or I’ll go fishing to fill up the freezer. When its warm out, I think that after work, something we both enjoy loads is getting really creative in the kitchen preparing a nice dinner out of all of our own produce. Theres nothing better or more satisfying than eating a meal made completely from food we’ve grown, caught or raised ourselves.

What does a typical weekend look like for you both?

We will try to do something outside every weekend, even if its something small. Again, this time of year most weekends are spent at home getting the veg patch ready and set up but usually we will go into the mountains for the weekend. New Zealand has a really awesome back country hut system meaning we can load up our packs with food and sleeping bags and just walk a track until we come to a small hut. They’re dotted all around the back country and its so cool that you know you can walk as far as you want and you’ll always come to a hut eventually. There are so many that if you’re lucky enough you will have a hut to yourself but its also really nice sharing with others and hearing where theyve come from or where theyre headed. Sometimes we’ll spend the weekend fishing. We have some of the best salmon farms in the country just an hours drive away and sometimes the nets can break in those salmon farms. We try to take complete advantage when that happens and catch as many fish as its possible to carry! Just a few months ago the nets broke and over the course of the weekend we caught 10 massive salmon. We will have the fish in the freezer for months. Its so cool that we can go out and get our food for free like that! As well as that, we’ll always try to do something with our friends over the weekend. We’re surrounded by a group of really good people. Thats another of my favourite things about living here, we have this sense of being part of a  community here that we have never experienced at home. With being so far from home, our friends really have become our family and we are so lucky to have such awesome people around us. 

Photographs of their home life: