Waiheke Island walking guide, Janine James, shares what she loves about her own slice of paradise.

I have many happy places, because Waiheke Island is one giant happy place. You step off the ferry and you're instantly immersed in the culture of the place, and the people. I like to say the people here celebrate your strengths and choose to ignore your weaknesses. It's a really, really great community.

I've lived here since about 2004. I broke my back about 10 years ago while mountain biking and I moved here because I needed a quiet place to restore. Waiheke's just an amazing place. It's a really restorative place and a really good place to heal, and obviously I had some major injuries, including head injuries and things. I'm lucky to be alive - and walking, because I could easily be in a wheelchair.

Everything came to an absolute grinding halt. You don't often have that opportunity in life, where everything falls apart and changes. I had to sit down and really look at everything clearly, every aspect of my life, and start again. It was quite a traumatic time. I left my job as a ranger, and broke my back, and my relationship had ended.

Every now and then my life has been going really well, and then, crash, boom, bash ... It's interesting though - I've faced each bad aspect of my life as well as I could, with my head up high, made the right choices, and apologised to the right people, and made peace with the right things, and then suddenly you've got an empty slate. Now I'm a much better person in myself. I'm much more defined about where I want to be and where I'm heading.


I used to be a park ranger and I've gained the confidence to get back into the things I have a passion for, which is the outdoors, and taking people out into the outdoors. Over summer, I've been doing professional guided walks funded by the council, so I can share my happy place with people who come to visit Waiheke. It's been really, really successful. People just absolutely love it. That's one of my happy places: it's a buzz to present the outdoors in a way that people can learn about it and enjoy it, and want to go out again, perhaps by themselves.

I still suffer from permanent health issues, such as pain and energy problems, but I'm obviously very grateful; a lot happier than most, really. I'm happy for simple things. You get to the right mind state - you have to - and be grateful for what you have, and make the most of it.

- as told to Bronwyn Sell
* Janine James takes walking tours all over Waiheke. Contact her at 027 465 7479, j9geddes@hotmail.com