In this interview Nicky shares the journey she’s been on so far in life and she talks to us about following your dreams, travel and life living abroad.  Nicky is a woman with a real zest for life, someone who is never afraid to step out of her comfort zone and follow her dreams, even when she’s not quite sure how things may turn out.  After heart break Nicky decided to follow her dreams which took her to the other side of the world and in doing so this ended up being the best decision she’s ever made.  In this interview she shares her story with us in a very open, honest and vulnerable way.

Living Proof is a feature that showcases all types of women and men and showcase how they’re living a life of purpose and passion – their way!

It could be freedom entrepreneurs, business men or women and/or even a stay at home parents and anything in between, there really are no limitations.  You see, the way one person chooses to live their life is different to another and that’s the real beauty of it.  We’re all made differently and we all have our own purpose and passion that we’d like to follow in this life and that’s just fine.

This feature will highlight those who are ‘Living Proof’ of living a life they love and we’ll follow their journey together through interviews and photographs of their life, their family and passions.

The Interview

What were you like growing up Nicky?

Throughout my life I have continuously felt lucky and immensely grateful to have been born into the most beautiful, loving and thoughtful family. For as long as I can remember, I have always been comforted, encouraged and nurtured by my Mam and Dad, which made me feel forever happy and full of confidence. My Mam and Dad often described me as a bit of a ‘bossy boots’ and a ‘mother hen’. I always nurtured and cared for animals, family and friends. I became vegetarian when I was 11yrs old and remember paying most of my pocket money towards memberships for animal charities and ‘Green Peace’.

I have always loved my sister dearly and have continuously cared for and guided her throughout her life. Today we are best friends and are continuously there for each other through thick and thin. Throughout our childhood we spent a lot of time together making camps/huts/dens, tea parties and performed a number dance shows for our family.

I was very sporty and danced inside and outside of school. I always auditioned or volunteered to perform in school shows and assemblies. My confidence allowed me to stand up in front of others and voice my opinion thoughtfully and passionately. I have always had a mischievous nature and love to make my friends laugh. I would say I made safe choices and always mindful of my family, however I still managed to break some of the rules!

Throughout school I worked hard, reached for my dreams and gave most things a go. My friends always described me as friendly, bubbly and fun.

I had very few fears apart from the occasional times I was bullied which tortured my soul. There were occasions I developed the courage to stand up to them and not allow them to influence my plans or happiness. This felt so frightening and I will always remember those feelings of fear and anxiety. My mother never condoned violence or physical defence, however my dad had conflicting views and always encouraged me to defend myself and confront their fierceness.

What did you want to be, do or have when you grew up?

When growing up there were several things I wanted to do. I always remember being fascinated by explorers such as Christopher Columbus as well as astronauts seeking out destinations where others had never ever been before. That phase passed and I then expressed my interest in being a nurse or a vet, my Mam was also a nurse.

When I began secondary school I often asked if I could explore more dance and drama classes and attend a performing arts school. I was discouraged by my parents as they highlighted the expense, distance and time away from my family.

Later during my time at secondary school I wanted to be a PE teacher. There was also a small phase where I wanted to be a physical instructor in the Army or Police. When I had the realisation of the depths of horror that I may encounter and the thoughts of killing a rabbit (in training) let alone a human, horrified me and so I focussed on being a PE Teacher.

You’ve done a lot of travelling throughout your life, where did this desire to travel come from?

I have been very blessed growing up as both my sister and I went on several holidays with our parents. Although the majority of holidays were spent making fun memories on the beach we always explored the culture and real towns and lives of the locals. History, cuisine, architecture and tradition always fascinated me.

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As a teacher I was blessed with 6 weeks holiday in the summer so I wanted to make the most of this time, packed a backpack, tent and ‘Lonely Planet’ and off I went. Over time this became a bit of an addiction. I mainly travelled with my ex husband and or with another couple.

Unfortunately, my husband and I separated and it was since this horrible chapter of my life I felt the need to explore more. I wanted to travel by myself as I had seen many people do this in my previous journeys and their stories really inspired me. So now was the time for me to find myself and enjoy this beautiful world and the people and unique environments each country holds.

Were you a little daunted going travelling alone or were you excited about a new adventure?

I was obviously very excited but, also slightly nervous about this big leap of faith, I was fully aware I was stepping outside of my comfort zone but, I took the leap anyway.  I was always used to having someone there by my side and being close to my family and friends but, this was something I knew I needed to do. I know this may sound a little strange to some, but that feeling of slight fear also fused my excitement to be living life on the edge and try all that there is to offer and really get to see the ‘real’ lives and habitats of others.

I made quite structured plans and organised a schedule for the start of my trip with lists of possible experiences and accommodation. This made me feel secure, especially having left a pretty organised routine life of working days and weekends. I began my first three weeks travelling with a very dear friend who also loved to travel and had similar aspirations about the trip. Julie had seen a lot of the world throughout her job working for a flight company.

We had an absolute blast and thoroughly enjoyed every moment. Together we explored Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam and Bangkok. We had some interesting moments of fun and crazy situations such as karaoke taxis, the unique nightlife of Bangkok and the quirkiness of some of the people we met along the way. There are so many funny stories to tell you but, there are too many to mention.  I could probably write a book just about those first three weeks and what was most memorable was what we saw and experienced in Cambodia and that will stay with me forever. Julie and I said our farewells in Bangkok and then I was on my own.

I will never forget that feeling of being in this big city alone. The city was extremely busy with the hustle and bustle of working commuters, tourists, market sellers, massage parlours, and the waiters and barman selling their food, drink and various other experiences/ entertainment. It was so much fun!  I then hopped onto a bus to the north of Thailand to experience a few days with what they call the ‘hill tribes’. This was where my journey of feeling alone all changed. This was where I began to build on my self confidence; experience things that I would have never of dreamed of, meet and make life long friends with some amazing and inspiring people.

My backpacking trip continued on through South East Asia and I finally ended up in Australia to start a 12 month working holiday. I had no real plans, just going to roll with what the Universe had to offer.

On arrival, I caught up with a very close family in Melbourne who were so kind to invite me to stay for a few weeks. Nadia and Gary had very recently taken the step to immigrate to Australia with their 3 year old son! These guys were living the dream. I loved being there to support them with settling into the community and sharing some quality time. Later my sister joined me and we spent Christmas, New Year and our Birthdays in Manly, Sydney. This was the best time I have had in my whole life! Emma and I found some work cleaning the backpackers, which funded our accommodation and we made friends with some amazing people from all over the world. The backpackers were a little bit like the Big Brother house at times. There were so many long term relationships developing with friends and couples. Some of the couples are still together today, including my partner Mehdi and I.  This place had a certain type of energy that I cannot describe. At the end of January my sister Emma found work in Brisbane and so we went our separate ways and hooked up occasionally as the year progressed.

I found lots of work in Manly and stayed for several months with my new friends and French boyfriend Mehdi, aka Romeo.

I had open ended plans after the 12 month visa and thoughts of travelling to Canada for the winter season and then onto South America but I chose an even better option ….. I fell in love and built trust with a man. All of which I never thought I could do after the divorce 2 years prior. We then moved back to Europe and realised that the values, politics and speed of society were making us miserable and we both wanted more in our lives and our future. This was when we decided to apply for a resident visa in NZ. And here we are now 8 years from the day we met living the dream in NZ with our two beautiful boys. No wedding ring yet though (wink, wink)!

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Did you have any idea how long you’d be gone and did you know then you’d never return for good?

When I decided to travel I thought it may be for around two years but I had no definite plans of returning. I was certainly in no rush to return home and thought I would keep exploring until the money ran out or until I had an urge to come back

Tell me more about your love story with Mehdi (Romeo).

Mehdi and I love to share our story of how we met, as it was a very funny moment and at the same time so very magical.

I had only been in Manly for 4 nights and so still quite unfamiliar with the area. One night I staggered back to the backpackers from the nightclub at the end of the road having lost my sister and friends. When I reached the door of the backpacker I had realised I had also lost my key that I needed to swipe in order to get inside. I waited for 1 minute to see if there were any other backpackers coming and going. I then began to worry as I was stranded on this quiet back street on my own and unaware of the safety of the area. In my panic I began to shout up at the balconies for help and asked for someone to let me in. At this very moment a handsome Frenchman, Mehdi stepped out and just looked at me. In relief I proceeded to ask him politely to let me in and explained I forgot my key.

Mehdi thought it would be fun to play a long and tease me and refused to let me in. “Noh”, he shouted in a French accent. I was stunned and lost for words. I stood and thought, ‘Is he being serious here or is he going to let me in’. So from nowhere, my drunken state I began to recite Shakespeare. I obviously thought it was quite apt with all the shouting up to and down from the balcony. “Romeo oh Romeo……” I began to call. This tease and creative banter went on for sometime and Mehdi still refrained from letting me in and instead absorbed the humour of it all. Luckily another guy I had made friends with that day was on his way out and let me in.

For several days after this absurdly amusing scene, Mehdi and I would shout Romeo or Juliet to each other as we passed in the corridor until one night I had the courage (or may I add the ‘Dutch Courage’) to call for Romeo again. With no idea whether Mehdi was in his dorm that night I called for Romeo. Unknown to me Mehdi had just returned home from his shift and entered his room. Today he explains to me that he immediately ran out when he heard my voice. After some more Shakespeare, I paused as I did not know what else to say. Mehdi then shouted down “ Hey, don’t move! I’m going to kiss you” (with the most sexiest French accent.  So I froze and for a second contemplated on running away with shock but thankfully I stayed and we kissed and the rest, as they say is history!

Mehdi was also travelling on a working holiday visa. He had already worked and toured for a year prior to when we met. He accomplished several weeks’ seasonal work on a sheep farm in Tasmania so he could apply for an additional 12 months to the usual 12 month visa. So the year we first met I continued to travel and we met up for 2 or 3 months here and there until we finally settled in our last months in Noosa. It was here that we worked and played hard saving money so that we could purchase cars and visa application fees when we got back to the UK.

We did not make big plans for our future together until it was time for me to return to home. When the reality hit that my visa was about to expire we agreed we could not live apart. We struggled to get an extension or a more permanent visa in Australia and in the process we decided that although we loved Australia it was not the country for us. We later pursued a visa application for New Zealand. I had travelled to NZ 5 years prior and loved it. So we thought, ‘Why not?!’

What were your overall plans for living abroad and how did you plan for the big move?

We moved back home to the UK and both stayed with my parents and saved up so we could move to NZ.  We had just less than 2 years in the UK before leaving for NZ. The application process took almost a year. I researched online and discovered I would get extra points as a teacher as teachers were on their list of job shortage. So we began our research and collected our evidence and documentation to apply for a ‘Skills Visa’. After collating a folder full of evidence, a health screening and telephone interview we were awarded a resident visa.

We were so excited but, overwhelmed with the thought of leaving our family and friends. We agreed that we would take the plunge and give it four years. It was hard announcing this to our family and friends as they were all extremely happy for us but, deep down quite sad that we were leaving to the other side of the world. Reality hit and we were spinning with a whirlwind of emotions, but still it felt so right. This visa was valid for two years until we could prove that we had permanent jobs and residence and today we are officially permanent residents, indefinitely. In fact, now that we have lived here for over 5 years we can apply to be citizens.  It’s all very exciting!

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How did you choose where you were going to live having visited so many places?

Two months into our relationship Mehdi and I took a mini holiday to Tasmania. Mehdi had already spent over 3 months living and working in Hobart and loved the place. We planned to tour the whole state in a campervan. We had the most amazing time and fell deeply in love. This particular trip gave me butterflies, as I knew we were in it for the long hall and we were so perfect together. Whilst we toured the country I had recognised lots of similarities to New Zealand. I explained to Mehdi, ‘You know what, if you love it here, you will love New Zealand. They are both very similar.’ Mehdi replied, ‘Let’s do it!’

This was the point where we began to visualise our future together in a new and exciting country. I loved Mehdi’s spontaneity and zest for life! When we spent time together we created the most thrilling and fun energy that encouraged each other to live life to the fullest!

How did you feel when you arrived and how did you find settling in?

September 2011 was the month we arrived in NZ after a short tour of the Cook Islands. We arrived in Auckland in the middle of the Rugby World Cup. The city was buzzing and there was an amazing atmosphere. We arrived with no job so we were on a mission to find some work as soon as possible. Mehdi decided to change his career from hospitality to a building and carpentry apprenticeship, which he thoroughly loves still today. I applied for several teaching jobs in Secondary Education but there was always high numbers of around 80-90 applicants. Although I felt disheartened I managed to pick up some supply work, a lot of which was in Early Childhood Education.

The more I experienced Early Childhood, the more I fell in love with it. I am so passionate about making those early years count and supporting the emotional wellbeing of our future. The thought of not having to do sports fixtures, dance rehearsals or planning outside of school hours really influenced me to change my career. I always had a the feeling of dread that all of these extra hours you put in as a teacher will be taken away from precious time I could spend with our children once we started a family. This was and always has been a huge concern of mine. I always asked how I could be 100% an amazing mummy and 100% amazing PE teacher.

So I took the leap and left all that I knew of PE and Dance teaching in secondary education and signed up for Graduate Diploma in Early Childhood Education. I began my first permanent job in a preschool in the Bay of Plenty and studied online. We both love it here in Papamoa and I often describe it as paradise. I graduated from university in April 2014 and started my dream job in a brand new, purpose built Kindergarten just a few streets away from our home.

Whilst I was studying I fell pregnant with our first baby boy Noah and recently been blessed with our second baby boy Austin! Life could not be any more complete! Both Mehdi and I have both built the most perfect environment around our precious boys and last year we celebrated the purchase of our first family home.

How do you view your life now?

Reflecting back on my life and all that I have experienced I can proudly say that I am an extremely lucky lady. I feel so blessed to have been presented opportunities that I grabbed with two hands. I have met so many wonderful people who have inspired me. A lot of which have been the children I have worked with.

Although there have been some challenging times with bullying from childhood and on into adulthood as well as my divorce which happened not log after my ex-husband cheated on me, I have always shared and felt incredible love.

Three years ago I lost my beautiful mother whom I have always been extremely close to. We were best friends and spoke almost every day (even though I was on the other side of the world). This was the most difficult time of my life and I still feel emotional heartache every time I think of her. I miss her dearly and continuously involve her in our boy’s life although she is not here physically.

Since her parting I have travelled the most inspiring and spiritual journey, which will continue to influence my thinking and decisions. This particular chapter of my life as given me peace and confidence in the thought that the universe will always be there for me, guide me in the right direction and deliver opportunities that will allow me to achieve my desires.

On looking back I am so grateful that I always followed my dreams and took the step to just give things ago. I have always lived with the mantra which include;

‘If you are not happy, change it.’

‘You have nothing to loose. If it does not work out you have not failed, it’s not a test’

‘Follow your dreams and celebrate!’

After taking this time to remember and reflect on my life I feel like celebrating. I really did follow my dreams. Don’t hold back, hold on tight and ride this wave of life. It is so much more enjoyable than sitting back and watching those waves roll by.

What are your plans for the future?

I am presently on maternity leave with our second bundle of love and feeling so very grateful for this quality time away from work with my boys. It feels so right and fills my heart. I would like to finance more time at home with my family so I have recently taken the step to set up my own health and wellness business that I can build around our children. This business allows me to support other mums like myself to find their inner power and live a fulfilling life of health, wellness and deeper connections with their family.

I would like to build on my knowledge and study the role of a life coach to continue this journey of supporting others. I would also like to build more expert knowledge and skills around Positive Psychology and Neuroscience.

I always remember my Mam or Dad being available to pick me up from school and attend those special school events or experiences. This is is something I aspire to do with our children. Having my own business will allow me to have this flexibility and be there for the family when they need me most.

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What would your advice be to anyone who wants to travel or live abroad?

Do whatever it takes! Firstly research the country’s visa process and see if you are legible to apply and if not, find out what you need to do and then make a plan to work towards this.

Have some savings aside to allow you to set up a home and feel secure until you have a job.  Or you could apply for a job before you arrive.  Be prepared for the cultural shift and even though I thought New Zealand would be very similar to the UK, I was so wrong. Obviously there are significant differences and traditions with Maori culture but, for the white New Zealanders there is also a big difference in culture, sense of humour, lifestyles, values and expectations. Sometimes this can be challenging and it is important you appreciate and understand these differences as well as retain your own identity. This has probably been my biggest challenge.

The number of times my self and other immigrants have said ‘They just don’t get me, or they have misunderstood what I said and made contrasting assumptions.’ All of these differences obviously stem from the country’s history, politics, law, logistics and tradition. On a personal and wellbeing perspective there needs to be balance of adapting but, also remembering who you are and be strong and true. It can sometimes feel a little overwhelming and I can see how some people can feel lost and homesick.

Otherwise, go for it and enjoy every moment!

What’s the biggest life lesson you’ve learnt so far?

You need to find what you love and live your life! Be true to yourself and avoid living the life that the government and society dictates and conditions. If you question things, find the answers and thrive in the experience. If things don’t feel right don’t continue to pursue that direction. It does not feel right for a reason and you have to create your own pathway to happiness.

Surround yourself with friends and family who love you and will be there for you no matter what. Don’t suffer people who drain your energy and chip away at your soul. Love is the most essential part of life. It feeds your health, wellness, energy and allows you to confidently be yourself. Never get swept away with others judgements and opinions. Always stay strong to what you believe and lead the way. Don’t follow! Be open to love and you will receive it in the most unimaginable ways.

Nature is essential for emotional wellbeing and it is of extreme importance to connect to our natural living world. It is our world that keeps us alive and provides us with everything we need. Stay close to it and connect. Be mindful of your surroundings and don’t get swept away with the worries and stresses that chatter in our thinking. Breathe, feel, touch, see and absorb.

Money is just paper and there is more to life than a pile of paper. It’s the feelings that count and they are what allow us to reach our goals and fly.

When times are hard and challenging, you will get through the other side. It is throughout these times that we learn the biggest lessons of life and strategies to survive and conquer.

I try not to think negatively about life and I have always wanted to serve and care for others and our living world. I am extremely grateful for all that I have and feel and I believe it is this positive mindset that I have that enables me to follow my dreams and live life to the fullest. I am forever grateful for my family and friends who have picked me up on the way and held my hand no matter what. Everything that surrounds you came from you and only you! If you don’t like some of what you see or experience then only you can change it. I can proudly say I’m Living Proof that you can follow your dreams and achieve them.

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