Huffington Post

How Travel Inspired Me To Change My Life

I trained to be a teacher back in 2012, but I am not a teacher – instead the power of travel pulled me away from the only job I thought I would ever do – and now I have qualified as a personal home-working travel counsellor. I love to travel and now I get to help others have amazing holidays as my job!

IMG_6319.JPGFinishing my PGCE (teaching qualification in the UK) back in the summer of 2012 was a real achievement. I won’t lie, the year had been the hardest of my life. There had been so many highs and lows, often in the same day, or even the same hour. Training to be a Secondary English teacher was such incredibly hard work and also so rewarding too. There were so many moments I loved — lessons that had gone really well, getting praise from fellow teachers, school trips, student achievements, making a positive difference to students’ lives, taking our year 9 girls on an adventure to Paris.

However, being a perfectionist I wanted every lesson to be good, to be amazing even, to be the best it could be. I wanted to do the best I could for every single child in that class. I didn’t want to cut corners, but the reality is teachers need to cut corners. In my opinion there aren’t enough hours in the day to do every single thing that is expected of teachers.

I started applying for jobs after finishing my qualification and for one reason or another I wasn’t getting them. Without sounding arrogant I knew I was a strong candidate (my previous pupils and teachers vouched for my excellent teaching style and aptitude for teaching) but somehow these jobs weren’t being offered to me.

I started to question myself, and I thought, I was so right for teaching. Yes it was hard, but I had felt I wanted it. But did I? Did I just think I wanted it? Maybe the alternative was just too scary, too unspecific, too unlike me? I had been sensible my whole life — reliable and trustworthy Nicola, always doing well at school and succeeding in everything I did. Teaching was just next on the list and I would soon be a teacher.

But then I stopped and I asked myself the most important question of all, was I truly truly passionate about it, deep in my heart? And my answer was no.

Maybe it was time to find another path, the path I was passionate about, and destined for.

I spoke to my sister (who was living in Australia) on the phone, and she asked me, somewhat out of the blue, if I could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Without hesitation I answered, Queenstown, in New Zealand.

Having been lucky enough to have travelled all over the world, this was the place that came to mind.

We had visited New Zealand twice before, once back in 2006 on a round the world trip and again in 2010 on our honeymoon. After two previous amazing trips I always felt like I had left part of my heart in New Zealand — and in Queenstown in particular. It had just never crossed my mind before to go back to live.

One thing led to another and the next thing I know I am suggesting to my husband John that we move to New Zealand to live for a year! Within a month we had booked our flights to leave a few months later and I started planning. We were going to have a 5-week holiday first before settling down somewhere we could get work. I loved planning our itinerary for the trip (I had spent the last 15 years planning and booking trips all over the world, including our honeymoon, as well as various trips for friends and family).

The time had soon come to leave the UK on a jet plane and not look back. Some might call the decision rash; I was turning my back on a teaching career after all, and after such a challenging year training to be a teacher, but it just felt right, really right.

IMG_0029.jpgWe had a really amazing first few months in New Zealand. It was during this time that I was inspired to set up my own business helping other people to have their own amazing travel adventures in New Zealand.

I got to work, a strong passion burned inside of me like never before, an entrepreneurial passion. It felt like, although it might sound cheesy to some, this is what I had been destined to do. Over the next few months I worked with branding and IT experts and a logo design company. I created a logo, wrote all the copy for and designed my own website, designed packages and services to offer my clients, collected feedback on my idea and website, set up a Facebook page, created a youtube video for my website, and much more. My business, and my passion – Blue Penguin Travel – was born.

For the next three years and a half years I was lucky enough to work with clients all over the world in helping them arrange bespoke itineraries for their trips around New Zealand – including a Christmas honeymoon. I loved working on their itineraries and being a part of their own life-changing travel adventures.

After living in New Zealand for a year we moved back to the UK in 2013 and the following year had a wonderful baby boy called Elliott (now 20 months old), who is just amazing – so sweet and cheeky and he fills my days with smiles and laughter.

Since having Elliott, and despite loving my business with a passion I have felt that I could do so much more. The idea of working as an independent travel agent is one I often thought about but had never made into a reality. I felt that if I did this then I would be able to not only plan trips for people, but book them too – with full financial protection behind me. This idea repeatedly came back to me – and so after much research I found the amazing Travel Counsellors. They provide the option to run your own business, using their own amazing support system (both in terms of their incredible IT system with access to all areas of travel, and their support teams).

Travel Counsellor’s focus is on personal tailor-made holidays for travellers — where we as travel counsellors get to know the client and tailor the holiday of their dreams just for them and will always go that extra mile. This ethos very much fitted with my own, and as a result I have qualified to work as an personal travel counsellor – where I can book any kind of trip anywhere in the world!

New Zealand, and travelling in general have changed me, inspired me and I’m excited for the future – I am ready to finally be who I am supposed to be.

This article was also feature on the Huffington Post.

Travel Counsellors imageI work as a personal travel counsellor and have over 15 years experience of planning and booking trips – including my own destination wedding to Lake Tahoe, California, and my round-the-world honeymoon. I have specialist experience in planning bespoke off-the-beaten-track New Zealand itineraries.

Take a look at my Travel Counsellors web page and Facebook page.

Categories: Huffington Post, New Zealand, Photographs | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Destination Feature: Great Barrier Island

Great Barrier Island Collage.jpg

Wild, unspoilt and stunningly beautiful – Great Barrier Island lies just 62 miles off the coast of Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city – yet is a world away. 

With a permanent population of around 940 people, visiting Great Barrier Island feels like you have stepped back in time. It offers off-the-beaten-track bays and coves, stunning deserted beaches, beautiful rare birdlife, illuminating sunsets, peace and tranquility and a completely unique New Zealand experience.


Seeking a truly special off-the-beaten-track travel adventure, myself and my husband took a trip to Great Barrier Island during a year we spent living in New Zealand and we were blown away by how different it felt from not just the rest of New Zealand, but from anywhere else in the world we had ever been.

Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and take the 30 minute flight from Auckland. Immediately on landing you are aware you have landed somewhere special. You feel an imminent sense that you want to explore, and your best choice is hiring a car and exploring the island yourself. In fitting with the laid-back style of the island, the cars tend be a little ‘historic’, which only adds to the experience.

The stepped-back-in-time-feel extends to everyday basics one might usually take for granted – including electricity! There is no mains power on the island so they rely on generators and solar power. Arriving at a cafe at lunchtime one day we were offered ‘only coffee’ but we could have food after 4.30pm when they switched the generator on! The locals (many of them barefoot) were incredibly friendly and welcoming.


Whilst being quaint and unusual Great Barrier Island also has much to offer the off-the-beaten-track traveller. Most of the beaches were completely deserted – shining with desolation and untouched beauty. The least accessible beach but perhaps the most stunning, was Kaitoke beach – down a steep gravel track and really worth the trip.

There are many panoramic lookout spots (Windy Canyon was our favourite) on the island that can be reached by a number of hikes. You can also take a hike to the fantastic Kaitoke Hot Springs and bathe in your own natural hot springs amongst the shade of the trees, listening to the birds sing.

The wildlife on Great Barrier Island is also very special – we spotted many smaller native birds (tui, brown teal) and were very lucky to see a few of the rare and beautiful North-island kaka. We also heard the little blue penguins on the beach at night.

The serenity and peacefulness, as well the stunningly beautiful scenery and very different way of life make Great Barrier Island a truly special and unique timeless paradise, and an escape from nearby city-life.

Make sure you include it on your New Zealand itinerary – you won’t be disappointed.

All photos are copyright of Blue Penguin Travel.

This article was also published in the Huffington Post’s Travel Section.

Interested in travelling to Great Barrier Island as part of your trip to New Zealand? Let Blue Penguin Travel help. We are an independent travel company who offer a bespoke itinerary planning service, to help you create an amazing off-the-beaten-track travel adventure in New Zealand. Feel free to drop us an email: or check out our Facebook page.

Categories: Destination Feature, Huffington Post, New Zealand, North Island, Photographs, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

First piece published in the Huffington Post!

I am delighted to announce I have been accepted to write for the Huffington Post in their travel section. I will be writing about my travel experiences all over the world, with a focus on off-the-beaten-track adventures in New Zealand (the speciality of my travel company, Blue Penguin Travel).

Check out my first post featured below that has been published on the Huffington Post. It is titled Great Barrier Island: New Zealand’s Timeless Paradise Close to The City. It is also currently being featured on the Huffington Post Travel homepage!

Please like and share if you want to. Thank you for your support! 🙂

GBI Huff Post Screenshot



Categories: Blue Penguin, Huffington Post, New Zealand, North Island, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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