Mel’s story has familiar beginnings – a young traveller falls in love with New Zealand, in particular Queenstown, where she has scored work as a ‘lifty’ at Coronet Peak ski field.
‘I’d always wanted to be around the mountains,’ says Mel. ‘So, that was my motivation to save up and come here. I visited other places, but when I reached Queenstown I knew I’d found the place for me.’
Eight years later Mel is still at Coronet Peak where she is Head of Chairlift Operations and halfway through an electrical apprenticeship. ‘If I get any downtime in winter I find my way to the cat shed and learn all I can from the maintenance boys, and in summer I work with the electrician up here. It’s so much fun – I love learning how things work.’
Mel loves the simple life, shared with like-minded people. ‘For me it’s very important to have a laugh, and enjoy what I do and the people I do it with.’
For Mel, this means hanging with friends and keeping active in the outdoors, with walking, biking and boating among her pastimes.
Then of course there’s her daily swim in a lake, river or the sea – a year-long commitment that has just a couple of months to run. ‘I’m going to miss it. As soon as you get in the water your mind goes quiet and it puts things into perspective.’
Mel’s work at Coronet Peak also keeps her closely connected to nature and all the inspiration it brings. ‘We are the guardians of the mountain and we get to look after it for the next generation – for them, their children, and their children’s children. For the future.’
This year Mel was joined in Queenstown by her friend Lizzy, a fellow Brit who has moved over after several years in Australia. ‘It’s so nice to share the beautiful sights of Queenstown and the surrounding areas with Lizzy. We like to go walking at Bob’s Cove and biking at Wilson Bay. Afterwards we rehydrate at the craft breweries that have shot up around town – Altitude is our current favourite.’
So, would Mel ever go back to the UK to live? ‘You never know what’s going to happen,’ she says. ‘This is where I am for now, and every time I drive or fly back here it feels like I’ve come home. My soul just absorbs it. I feel relaxed, like I’m breathing a sigh of relief.’
With her big smile, buckets of energy and positive attitude, Mel looks like a woman who is living the dream. But she believes this kind of fulfillment is within reach of others. ‘People say to me, “I wish I could do that”, and I say, “well, you can. You’ve just got to go for it.”
‘You can’t take stuff with you so you might as well enjoy what you’ve got while you’re here.’