Born and raised in Cornwall, UK, Tom Powell is a storytelling photographer with an affection for bicycles and the outdoors. Currently residing in Vancouver, Canada.
Even if you’ve never been to New Zealand, you probably have a good picture of it in your mind: big turquoise lakes, endless mountain ranges, empty landscapes free from human activity. An untouched wilderness playground that offers a dream lifestyle to anyone with an outdoor inclination.
The reality isn't far off, especially on the South Island. But if you want to move to New Zealand and work there in any sort of career-focused capacity, you’ll most likely wind up living amid the urban sprawl of Auckland on the North Island, where half of the country’s population resides, far from the tranquility of Te Waipounamu—the Maori name for the South Island—and that vision of natural wonder.
"No deadlines, no crowds, no rent."
I discovered this firsthand when I moved there in 2015 from my home in Cornwall, on the Southwest coast of the UK. I spent seven years working for an outdoor apparel company in my dream role as resident photographer, but the job kept me close to Auckland’s concrete jungle. Seasonal photo shoots brought me to some of New Zealand's most incredible places, but those trips always had set end dates, and the city always pulled me back.
Recently, though, I made new plans for life, including an imminent change in countries. While I waited on the processing of my new Canadian visa, I found myself with a full summer free of work commitments on the horizon. So, as one drawn out farewell to the country that had become my home, I decided to trade the North Island’s hustle for the South Island's natural majesty.
"I headed south looking for empty trails and right hand point breaks in a land of lefts"
I packed my camper van with my favorite toys—bikepacking gear, a surfboard, and a range of digital and film cameras—and headed south looking for empty trails and right hand point breaks in a land of lefts.
It was a pilgrimage I had wanted to take for the entire seven years I lived in New Zealand, and a lifestyle that had initially inspired me to move to Aotearoa in the first place. No deadlines, no crowds, no rent to pay. Just adventures with friends that I’d soon be living in a different hemisphere from. It was the perfect way to say farewell to this Land of the Long White Cloud, and a summer that will leave me always wanting to return.