The summer holidays are for many, a favourite time of year. But for some, this holiday season is more special, or a bit different, than usual. Or both. In a Herald series, Our First Summer, we are profiling people who are celebrating their first summer with a change in their lives.
The first time someone stopped to offer Graeme Atkinson a ride to his new home in the Tongan capital of Nuku'alofa, he was suspicious.
They must want something, the Dunedin father-of-two thought.
Now, when a vehicle stops, he gets in no questions asked.
The 56-year-old moved to the Pacific Island country with his wife, Joy, in August, to volunteer as an ICT Adviser at the Ocean of Light International School.
But the lessons go beyond the school gate.
Atkinson has discovered a different way of life, where generosity comes more naturally and is more easily accepted.
"Here, if you're walking down the street, quite often someone stops and asks if you want a lift. Being from New Zealand or Australia or Western countries, you're normally a bit cautious ... soon you start to realise people here are simply doing it just because they think you might need a lift. Now if I want a lift, I just say yes.
"They're very kind and thoughtful."
Graeme and Joy Atkinson had seen the youngest of their two daughters off to university when they realised a long-held ambition to volunteer overseas.
The couple, originally from the United Kingdom, backpacked all over the world before emigrating to New Zealand 25 years ago and starting a family.
Last year they discovered they were "empty-nesters", Graeme Atkinson said.
"We always want to be useful ... that's one of the motivations for us to come out and volunteer, is to hopefully use our skills and be useful. We don't necessarily need a career anymore but we still want to be doing things and have adventures."
Joy Atkinson, 55, is a former teacher but moved to Tonga as an accompanying partner under the Volunteer Service Abroad programme her husband joined.
She doesn't have to work but volunteers with a women's refuge organisation and a project teaching women to sew environmentally-friendly alternatives to plastic bags.
It's been a busy first few months into their planned year-long stay.
But Tonga celebrates the festive season just as New Zealand does — with holidays — and after a multi-national Christmas hosted by a long-term American expats, the Atkinsons and their visiting daughters are travelling around the main island.
New years are a time to reflect and, sometimes, renew, and the couple have plenty to think about before deciding their next adventure.
Fortunately, the slower pace of life in Tonga makes it a good place to do that, Graeme Atkinson said.
"It's a nice place to sit back and reflect on where you are and what you're doing."
It will be a time for all of us to do that, and Joy Atkinson hopes more people will do as Tongans had done - offer to help strangers.
"I like to see a little bit more kindness in the world. Because when you're kind to each other people smile. One thing we found here is people are kind ... everyone's really helpful and kind and they look out for each other.
"I think if you pass that onto the world, kindness takes you a long way."