An International Love Story
Since my son Harley was born, our family have been travelling the world. I own an international travel company and so being nomadic was the norm for us. We are from Canada, where Harley went to a Steiner pre-school. Then we lived in Thailand and Bali, where he joined a kindergarten class with other ex-pats. We travelled all over the world, and around the globe again and again, through Egypt and Morocco, Italy and Spain, Belize and Costa Rica.
And then after 7 years of this intrepid lifestyle, we began to feel that it was time to find a place to begin Harley’s “school” journey, where we could be in a beautiful, natural setting with a supportive, like-minded and healthy community. We looked all over the world to find a place that would nourish Harley’s spirit and connection with nature with a group of children who were getting an education grounded in a holistic view.
Then we found the Motueka Steiner School and quite simply, fell in love.
I had never really thought much about New Zealand, except from watching scenes from Lord of the Rings. I knew very little about the land or Kiwi culture and didn’t know what to expect, when during our travels I met a lovely woman who lived in Motueka who with a wink invited me to visit her. She told me her kids went to a magical school at the top of the South Island and sent me a link to the website.
Aha! The story of a little school on organic farmland, nestled on a hill overlooking the sea and orchards, captured my imagination. We wanted Harley to be in a school that focused on the outdoors, not a rigid program keeping kids in a box. So it felt that our dream could come true, to have a Steiner education based in an environment where the children’s relationship to nature could flourish.
I had high hopes, and from the first moment I contacted the school, I knew that it was more than I had imagined it could be.
I had a lot of questions, about how we could get a visa, where we could live, and all the fears about moving to a new country and joining a new community. But all my worries were relieved when I was introduced to Konstanza, who is a school liaison for international families. Her warmth and helpfulness were overwhelmingly reassuring. She introduced me to other families who had come from abroad and I got in touch with a recommended visa specialist who helped us apply for a family student visa. It wasn’t long before we had a 1-year visa, and then a parent from the school offered us to rent her lovely farmhouse and it seemed that everything was magically falling into place!
The school even connected us with a “buddy” system, with another family who volunteered to help us with the transition and our new buddies James and Catherine were amazing support even before we arrived in New Zealand, sending us tips and lots of insight into the community and how we could get settled.
I knew the school was special when we were invited to a welcome day at a beautiful beach with all the students in Harley’s new class, with his wonderful teacher Renee. As parents and kids picnicked and splashed and chatted, I felt immediately the spirit of this special school, so inspired by the natural world.
I could say so much about the beauty of the Steiner program, how my son has grown over the past year in this extraordinary school. It has filled my heart beyond anything that I imagined.
But what I was so surprised by was how much I fell in love with the place itself. I have travelled all over the world and it is my job to find the most amazing places on the planet, where I offer outdoor adventure tours. And the “Top of the South” is truly one of the most awesome places in the world. For anyone who loves nature, you will be in awe here.
I fell in love with the golden beaches of Golden Bay, where we often went on weekends to play on the sands of Farewell Spit. I loved how close the wilderness was, the incredible crystal waters than were impossibly blue as I sailed and kayaked along the coast of Abel Tasman National Park. I fell in love with the bird song, the symphony of Bellbirds and Tui birds that created a musical accompaniment to my long walks in the lush forest. We skied at Rainbow Mountain and cycled along coastal trails on Rabbit Island.
School field trips immersed the kids in nature, as we joined a traditional Maori “waka” outrigger canoe trip in Kaiteriteri or a hike in the magnificent Kahurangi National Park.
I fell in love with the pristine lakes and rivers, where were would take our canoe to paddle in Nelson Lakes National Park and watch the graceful black swans, surrounded by white-tipped mountains.
Everywhere here, a haven for outdoor adventurousness!
After a year of living in this magical place, my heart is so full. While our family is taking some time back home in Canada this year, I am already looking forward to coming back to New Zealand and continuing our journey there with the Motueka Steiner school.
For any family from North America or anywhere else that is looking for a special journey to a spectacular land, New Zealand is fantastic. The Steiner school in Motueka is an absolute gem that will warmly welcome you and give your children an educational experience in a heart-centred community that is the best I’ve found anywhere in the world.
You will be inspired, and I hope will fall in love too!