Normally, I spend the majority of my year living on an otherwise uninhabited island in the South Pacific with my husband, Mark.
For as long as I can remember, I dreamt of living by the ocean and then in 2007 Mark had a life-changing epiphany. As a result, our vision to live on a large piece of land by the ocean was born. It then took us over four years of great effort; tolerance and persistence to secure our piece of heaven on earth; and eight years before we actually started building. Many times, it didn’t look like happening and we felt like giving up. We developed a pact. If one of us was down; the other wasn’t allowed to be. This worked and together, we never gave up.
We now live on an 80 acre island in Tonga. As you may glean from the photos; it truly is paradise. The palm trees arch out over our white sandy beaches. We gaze out over a giant lagoon painted a ridiculous number of intense blues, greens and aquas. Sea turtles; manta rays and many, many fish share our “front pool”. You can watch them from our verandah. The water is that clear. A day may include yoga; a swim; snorkelling; pottering in the tropical garden I created; tending the vegie patch and orchard; a long beach walk; maybe fossicking for shells & driftwood; relaxing in the overwater hammock; a stroll through the ancient rainforest; exploring neighbouring islands; playing games; lazing under the shade of a giant tree by the water’s edge getting lost in a good book; watching the sun and/or moon rise perched upon our eastern cliff tops, while waves crash and splash way below; watching the sun sink into the western lagoon with a cool drink; gazing at more stars than you have ever seen; or maybe sitting around a beach bonfire; or; … doing pretty much nothing at all. In other words; just; being!
It has been an amazing journey and adventure, with many obstacles to overcome along the way. The outcome of this journey has been our growth as individuals, a couple and family. Our persistence in pursuing our vision has resulted in a deeper understanding of who we are, what excites us and what we can achieve!
I met Mark on a Contiki bus in London. His ridiculous opening line was whether I knew how to mend jeans! I know I was quite within my rights to tell him to get lost! My intuition told me not to. By the end of the trip, we had become a couple. Nothing to do with jeans though; which I never did mend!
I am a Kiwi. I moved to Mark’s homeland of Australia. We got married and we raised two children. We enjoyed a wonderful family life, many joyous highs and some challenging lows including me suffering from anxiety and depression. I was a “stay at home mum” until the youngest went to school. I had several jobs before following my passion and pursuing a career in Child Care reaching Director level. Mark did a number of things including coaching & some senior corporate roles. Basically, we both worked hard for a long time. We grew to resent being tied to ‘The System’.
Our children were becoming adults and creating their own lives and we started talking about the possibilities for the next phase of our life together.
It wasn’t easy to resign from our jobs, sell up, build on a remote island in another country and move away from our family and friends. Amongst the many challenges; the largest was ‘leaving’ our children in Australia. We gave this a lot of thought. Many people didn’t understand how we could possibly do this. In hindsight, it was the best thing we could have done as it was a pivotal catalyst in the last stage of their journey to becoming strong; well adjusted; and independent adults. We visit Australia and New Zealand regularly throughout the year and the internet has been a fantastic tool to see their faces and chat.
I truly believe anyone can achieve their dream(s) as we have done. We shared a vision; worked together and never gave up. Ultimately, people can create their own stories, by believing in what they “Can” or “Can’t” achieve.
Now 30 years married, my relationship with Mark is stronger than ever. This certainly has been a key enabling factor in our recent achievements. And this despite the fact that he is from that strange place called “planet male”. Our relationship continues to grow. We have really questioned modern society’s stereo-typed expectations regarding relationships. We have both stopped trying to understand each other’s ‘whys’ and lowered our expectations of each other. Recently, circumstances beyond our control have seen us needing to live in different countries for periods of time. We now view some period of time apart as beneficial. It would be easy to label these strategies as negatives however we see them as positives. All of these strategies have only increased our respect and love for each other.
Like most women, I have had many roles in life; daughter; sister; niece; friend; employee; girlfriend; co-worker; boss; aunty; confidant; wife; mother; and now recently a Nan! I love these roles. Over the last 18 months I have spent many weeks by myself on the island, which has given me real time to reflect and rediscover me. Being engaged with others is one of our basic human needs, however I also have discovered and believe that spending time by yourself can be liberating and empowering, and something I highly recommend. I have become more resilient and realised I am responsible for my happiness regardless of where I am and who I am with.
We welcome guests to our shores in a private and exclusive manner. To help give you the surreal experience of being on your own deserted tropical island; we have only one couple or solo adult stay at a time. So if you and your partner, or just yourself, would like to escape the modern madness; immerse yourself in nature; and “rediscover real” here in paradise; then you can contact me at email@example.com and we can have a chat to see if our sanctuary is right for you.
Check out the Umuna Island Instagram page: umunaisland