A glitter ball dangles over Nicola Smallwood's head as Hospice ramps up for dance floor extravaganza of the year.
Nicola Smallwood was born with globetrotting feet and a heart programmed for a charitable future.
Our People feels in need of a tracking device to keep tabs on where she's been or, more to the point, where she hasn't.
But we come to learn there's far more than wanderlust that defines this effervescent, feisty 33-year-old. She's a gun sportswoman, holds a honours degree in Physical Education bolstered by a BSc in psychology, her papers were completed in Canada.
Add in her passion for the hard slog of working for not-for-profit organisations ahead of the cushy corporate sector, and it's clear what made her the ideal candidate for the demanding role of Rotorua Hospice's fundraising and marketing manager.
At present, the emphasis is heavy on fundraising.
There's a glitter ball spinning over Nicola's head as 20 contestants are deep in rehearsal mode for the organisation's annual biggie– Harcourts Dancing For Hospice (HDFH).
It's the 2019 rebranding of the more familiar name, Harcourts Dancing With The Stars, far and away Hospice's largest community revenue source. All up, Nicola needs to raise close to $1 million a year.
The dance has become the hottest tickets in town, table numbers have increased to 160 this year and within days of ticket sales opening only three tables remain as the general admission area fills fast.
To establish what motivates this go-getter we hand her our imaginary plotting device, inviting her to lead us down the diverse trails she's taken.
Our People: Dissecting Mike Creswell's medical career
Knowing when to hold 'em and fold 'em key to champ's success
Our People: The woman who's run with the opportunities life's tossed at her
She left school without a clue about where she was headed.
"I was one of those kids who went to school to pay sport." Cue a sports-focused gap year in the United Kingdom.
Joining a South African girl and a couple of Aussie guys she coached sport at Oundle, Britain's third-largest boarding school.
"We lived in a flat above the English department; it was odd because we were the same age as the kids."
With Europe on the doorstep downtime was spent there.
"I did the traditional 18-year-old's tiki tour."
We're treated to a lot of giggling as she inwardly recalls all that involved, leaving it to Our People's imagination to fill in the unspoken details.
One thing the tour did bring her was clarity where her future lay.
"I suddenly decided to go to university, I had two days to get my application in for Otago's Phys ed course. What I hadn't realised until I was queuing to enrol was that I'd have to do other papers too. I chose psychology simply because the girl behind me said she was doing it."
Like her tiki tour, Nicola is reluctant to provide a detailed account of her student social life.
"I will say I witnessed burning couches but I won't incriminate myself by saying anything further."
Drinking had to be moderated to fit into her sporting schedule.
"At school I'd played netball, basketball, volleyball, captained the touch team, I introduced it to my school [Auckland Diocesan], ran a bit of cross country. At Otago it was much the same."
She hadn't quite finished her four-year course when her feet itched too much to be salved and Nicola headed, via India, for a US summer camp in Vermont.
"I loved it, it was such a cool, laidback place, a little bit hippie, the home of Ben and Jerry ice cream. I didn't only eat ice cream though, I was teaching kayaking too."
When the camp season closed Nicola crossed the border to complete her psych degree at the University of British Columbia, working in a Vancouver show shop and pub to support herself.
A second shot at summer camp was a must do. "If I had kids I'd send them to an American summer camp, they're awesome."
There was a return to Europe and time exploring South Africa before flying home "pretty broke".
Her first job on home turf was teaching rock climbing and team building at an Auckland leisure centre; it was not a happy experience bringing her feisty side to the fore.
She took her boss to the Human Rights Commission and won.
"He'd acted inappropriately towards me, I didn't go to the commission for the money, I was worried for other girls there more timid than I am."
Our blindingly obvious next question was "are you a feminist?" "Absolutely," Nicola shoots back.
She returned to university, Auckland this time, with becoming a clinical psychologist in her sights but was seduced away by the offer of a free return flight to camp Vermont.
Next stop Fort Lauderdale working as a deckhand on a multimillionaire's super yacht.
"We sailed to the Bahamas and stayed there, the owner would fly out for a few days but never leave port, it was ridiculous, it wouldn't surprise me if he was in the Mafia."
Nicola quit, spent a few weeks at a winter camp before returning home to work with Oxfam as its events supporter and engagement coordinator.
"I'd previously done the 100km Oxfam Trail Walk fundraiser at Taupō, I said 'I could do this job [organising it]', suddenly I was."
While at Oxfam she "snuck away" to run a marathon in Aussie's Outback. "My one and only."
She met partner of five years Clement Holgate, at a barbecue; biking was a shared passion.
Together they country-hopped through South America.
"We took a tent, did a whole lot of hikes off the beaten track, it was awesome."
Arriving home on New Year's Day 2017, they cast around for someplace to live.
"Anywhere but Auckland, somewhere more community, Rotorua kept popping up because of the mountain biking and it was closer to the snow, we both ski."
They'd barely arrived when they were offered work managing the Pureora Forest's new Timber Trail Lodge.
"It was an eye opener, we had to cook three meals a day for 25 people, that wasn't in our skill sets, I had to learn to make beds with hospital corners."
They lasted three months: "It was very isolated."
Nicola's next job was operations manager at the Rotorua-based office for the Taupō electorate handling the 2017 election's admin.
Two months' unemployment followed before she was roped into the Tarawera Ultra's management team.
Just as that wrapped up she spotted an ad for the Hospice role.
"Jobs with not-for-profits don't come up very often, I just love it, it's nice to be able to support the nursing and clinical teams, I most certainly couldn't do what they do, they're amazing. That's why we need events like HDFH to fund them."
About Nicola Smallwood
Born: Auckland, 1986
Education: Milford Primary, Auckland Diocesan (intermediate and secondary), Otago, British Columbia, Auckland Universities
Family: Partner: Clement Holgate, mother (Auckland), father (Katikati), brother (Auckland), niece, nephew
Interests: Travel, adventure, the outdoors, mountain biking, skiing, hiking, sustainability, feminist issues.
On Rotorua: "I love the easy access to the outdoors and its community aspect."
On her life: "I've been very lucky."
Personal philosophy: "Do what you love."