I was taught long division and multiplication so long ago now that I can't really remember how to do it. But one thing I do recall is being told that although I could indeed solve the maths problem more quickly with a calculator, I could never understand how to solve it without using my head.

And so it was that I laboured with a blunt pencil and sharp mind until I could crack the code and solve sums in my head.

I did it the long way but I gained knowledge as well as the answer to the problem.

Which is certainly something I can't make a claim to now.


My smart phone with its built-in calculator is practically an extension of my arm these days, so forgetting how to solve sums in my head doesn't bother me.

But I was reminded of the true value of the lesson on doing things the long way around while on an inter-generational holiday in Queenstown this week with Edward and his Granny and Poppa.

In a bid to tick every box and ensure all scenic opportunities had been pursued and appreciated, we spent the first three days in and out of the car with an increasingly fractious toddler (aka. a screaming, wild-eyed mini-monster who attracted looks of pity and horror from surrounding tourists).

When a scenic drive along the famously beautiful but excessively winding southern end of Lake Wakitipu ended in projectile vomit across car seat and child, I concluded that being a tourist with a toddler wasn't worth the angst.

With the windows down, we returned to our timeshare with tails between legs and a defeated attitude.

The next morning I rejected the planned outings to Lake Hayes, Arrowtown and the top of the Coronet Peak road (yes, I know, that one was always a dumb plan with a kid, right?) and wandered out the door and down to the lakefront with the stroller.

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Two hours later I realised that we'd had our happiest little outing since we arrived.

More than that, I gained an insight that I can already see is going to make the next few years with a small child infinitely more enjoyable: The simpler the plan, the better.

I'm sure most mothers discover this in the first few months, but because my natural inclination is always to pack just a little more into life than is advisable, I've been slow to learn.

Anyone could have told me this, but I had to travel 900 kilometres from home to figure it out for myself.

Just like a calculator could solve the problem but it was only by doing it long division that I understood how to solve it.

That's really what life is about. Not necessarily solving the answers to the difficult questions we are faced with, but gaining knowledge and learning in the process.

This is the sort of observation that would never have the chance to filter to the front of my brain were I at home and caught up in life's fast lane.

It's the sort of thing one only thinks about while sitting on a large schist rock looking at the show-stopping work of nature to the soundtrack of a toddler in fits of laughter because he's throwing raisins into the lake.

It's funny how we can sometimes see "success" as managing to "do it all" without any enjoyment whatsoever, when in reality it's probably a better measure of success to do very little sometimes but to truly appreciate it.

- Eva Bradley is a photographer and columnist.