My happy place is Russell, in the Bay of Islands. It is a beautiful, peaceful place where I also get to teach dance. Once I leave the boundaries of Auckland and drive north I can feel the pressures of life and work drop away.
When I'm there I can relax in the peace and quiet as I look out over the bay. The place clears my mind. It is a combination of the surrounds and the people.
Where we stay, at the Bay of Islands Cottages, we are in a self-contained cottage surrounded by bush-like gardens overlooking the bay, with a view of the oyster beds when the tide is out.
There is that clear, refreshing air from being by the coast and the earthy smells of the gardens and countryside, accompanied by the calls of native birds and the chickens roaming through the garden.
Outside the cottage window is a bird's nest in a tree. Last time I was there a fantail was busy flitting to and fro. Every morning we have breakfast with our hosts on their balcony if the weather is fine. Everything is homemade, fresh and delicious.
I enjoy my time there either on my own or, wherever possible, with my partner, Li. Preferably with Li, as life makes it difficult to have much time together.
I've been running weekend dance workshops up there since I was first invited by the Russell Dance Club about three years ago.
I now travel up there to teach every four to six weeks depending on when I am available and when most of the dance club members are there.
The first time Li and I went to Russell it was a wet, stormy weekend. After teaching we went out to dinner and just as we were about to finish, the lights went out because of a power failure - awkward, since I was intending to pay using Eftpos or a credit card. Fortunately, I found I had enough cash to settle the bill.
The Russell Dance Club was holding a dance that evening so we went back to see if they had been affected by the power cut. When we arrived, the dance was still going and the room was lit by candles. They had stopped to have supper while one of their members went home to get a generator.
When he got back, the generator was started up to run the stereo and the evening carried on as though nothing had happened.