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2016 was an exciting year for me. I’d spent 4 months working and travelling around America, spent a lovely summer at my home on the Isle of Wight, and on the 5th December I headed off for another adventure – this time to New Zealand.

I know people talk about the beauty of the land of the long white cloud, but I really don’t think I gave it that much thought. After an hour and a half of watching Finding Dory my plane from Sydney started descending and as I saw the craggy coastlines and rolling green hills I can honestly remember the moment when I thought “wow, this place is different..”

My first month or so was spent in Hamilton where my boyfriend was studying. No offence Hamilton, but there is a reason why a lot of travellers pass on through, there really isn’t an awful lot to do. After getting itchy feet, I booked a solo trip up to the Bay of Islands and Cape Reinga for a weekend. Despite the cramped bunk in my hostel, Paihia was one of the prettiest towns I’d ever seen and I spent as much time as I could outside – on land and at sea! One thing I distinctly remember were the incredible sunrises and sunsets. I swear they have their own separate skies over there – I’d never seen anything like it! After the weekend I had a 4-hour bus ride home, and I was gifted with yet another sunset so stunning that I literally had to fight back tears.

This is what New Zealand did to me. The next 9 months were a constant stream of being slapped in the face by mother nature. I hiked active volcanoes, surfed in the crystal-clear sea, walked on a glacier, swam in natural hot springs, saw wild penguins, saw copious waterfalls, some waterfalls with rainbows, some waterfalls with rainbows and dolphins. And I literally wanted to cry the whole time about how in love with it I was.

Before my trip I can’t remember being overly interested in the environment. I’d just come back from the states where you felt like a freak if you weren’t carrying a disposable Starbucks cup. I’d been working in health and beauty PR and thought “hauls” were cool and that I literally HAD to get my hands on that NAKED palette even though I hadn’t the foggiest how to use it.

New Zealand taught me so much. It taught me that in 9 months you can happily live from a backpack. I even donated some of my clothes to charity because I was annoyed at how much stuff I had. It taught me that mother nature is incredible and terrifying, from making me want to cry in awe of a mountain range to making me want to cry in fear of being stuck in the middle of a storm cell in a campervan! Mostly it taught me that I had to clean up my act because how I was living wasn’t good for the wonderful world I had around me. My wardrobe, my makeup and skincare, my belongings, my daily habits. I spent the next few months back home stripping down and donating to charity what I just wasn’t using, whilst choosing to buy more quality purchases that lasted, mending things, clothes sharing and swapping, using up all the skincare and make-up that was just sat gathering dust rather than buying the next ‘in’ thing.

The final piece of the puzzle to clean up was my job. Being unemployed was a scary prospect, and so I quickly went on the job hunt and had interviews with big technology and health companies. I came away each time feeling like it went well, but deep down I could feel that my heart wasn’t in it. I had requests for second interviews and even a job offer but I just kept running from my phone. I couldn’t bring myself to accept anything. None of them felt right. I could feel mother nature’s eyes burning in the back of my head, judging me almost for ignoring everything she’d shown me.

I’m so glad that I did what I did, or I wouldn’t be where I am now. Although I didn’t start Cocoon straight away, I returned to University to do my MA in Digital Marketing and set-up Cocoon alongside my studies and used it as a working portfolio for my course. I gained more clarity, focus and knowledge in that year and it really cemented that this is what I want to do.

After a year, I’ve been lucky to work with Status Row to get them the PR attention they deserved for their incredible cross-Atlantic row to fight plastic pollution. I’ve helped an amazing couple from the Isle of Wight who travel to the wild west of America to find socially responsible and eco-friendly home wear to set up a brand identity and website.

Going forwards, I can’t wait to discover more brands, learn more about what we can do to help the world and its inhabitants, and meet some amazing people too!

Thank you, Aotearoa, you are amazing <3