In - Flight

LOGGED June 7, 2014: A florist who loves space. Who doesn’t love chatting to the person next to you on the plane?! On my flight to New Zealand, the florist I was sitting next to was heading to Spacefest in California to have dinner with a few astronauts, no less than Michael Collins (the man who flew with Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong on Apollo 11).

Turns out the florist is a sponsor and supporter of the Hunter Medical Research Institute – where I worked with many of their researchers to tell their story, through my job at the University of Newcastle as a Features Writer. A job I had just chucked in to be a whale whisperer. Small world (Newcastle represent).

We marvelled at how truly extraordinary human ingenuity is. How truly inspiring the human spirit is and where research will take us next. What our world will look like in five years time. Oh, and aliens and conspiracy theories. Anyway, it was funny how as the florist and I both curled up in our respective seats, our movie choices reflected our personal adventures ahead. He put Gravity on and I turned on The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

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The secret life

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was the perfect movie for me to watch (except the part where he is attacked by a shark or a pooorpooiiseee in freezing cold waters – my Mum has this great fear that dolphins are going to sexually assault me).

Like Walter, the last few years have been a second coming-of-age for me. A grand adventure reconnecting with those parts of me that had felt misplaced and in exploring this big, beautiful world, I was exploring the life I have always wanted.

My favourite Walter moment is when action-man photographer, Sean O’Connell (played to perfection by Sean Penn) is gifted with a magic opportunity to take a picture of a snow leopard (something he was seeking to do for a long time) and chooses not to take the picture. Walter asks why he doesn’t.

Sean replies with: “Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it….. Right there. Right here.”

A moment just for me

And I realised that as for so many of my experiences in Niue, there are different pieces and layers to the experience that I can’t possibly explain or fit it in one conversation over the phone or in a blog post. My experience with the whales was very much like that for me. I am an open person (some could say over-sharer!) and normally express or capture everything in my life – it is the curse and beautiful blessing of being a ‘creative’.

I have told many people about the whale experience but never fully what that day did for me. There’s some things that are just for you. The peace it bought it to my life can never be quantified. Funnily enough, I met the local whale whisperer (who also happens to be my landlord) and he said the same thing to me – that there are many things he has experienced on the water that were moments just for him, that he can’t share with anyone because it felt like a moment made just for him.

Many of my Niue moments have felt like moments just for me. It’s a deeply spiritual place (perhaps that is why it is not as well known as its other Pacific island counterparts – it feels like everyone’s secret place).

I watched the last 20 minutes of the movie as the water rushed beneath me on my way to my new island home. This massive leap I was taking to leave the world I had re-built in Australia felt a little more real and little less scary with every kilometre – nerves turning to excitement, childhood dreams to reality. Cheers Walter!