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I’ve always been a creature of change. I like to be a little different and to go against the grain.

As a child, I was constantly picking up new hobbies (and dropping them a few months later). I always had the craziest hair cuts and the most adventurous outfits. As a teen, I moved from riot grrrl to goth to rock chick to science geek. As 20-something I flitted between groups of friends, moved between cities and countries always trying to find a groove I fit into.

Somewhere in all of this, I worked out travel gelled with my personality. I wasn’t into having a career or being wonderful at anything in particular. I just wanted excitement and change. I wanted to explore the world. I wouldn’t say I have the soul of a gypsy. I do like my creature comforts – a warm bed, a hot shower, a kitchen to cook in. You might say I’m even a home body.

I just don’t mind where that home is.

As I’m approaching 30, I know who I am. I’m working out how I want to live my life.

Delicious Seven Month Old Reuben

Lee and I had a perfect life at home in Christchurch. We had a delicious seven month old baby, a gorgeous house filled and a fancy cars. We busied ourselves with endless activities and appointments. It was a nice enough life. Farily typical outside of the fact that, because of Lee’s work situation, we spent our days mostly together as a family.

But, after almost two years living back in New Zealand, I was starting to feel restless. The cravings for excitement and change I always experienced didn’t subside with my becoming a mother. Nothing prepares you for how difficult motherhood is. It is, in a sense, giving your whole self to another person. In a world of spit up, nappies and bottles, life was getting monotonous.

One night, Lee and I stayed up talking until one in the morning. I was expressing my frustrations (read: having a minor meltdown – a bit of a scream and cry). I felt like a prisoner at home all day with a demanding baby. For the first time in almost a decade I had no travel plans on the horizon and I felt trapped.

We talked about making something happen. Going away for a while. We didn’t need to be in Christchurch as Lee has always had a location independent income. We could travel, live somewhere else for a bit. It was always our intention to spend three months or so of the year abroad – bumming around Thailand, eating our way around Italy or snowboarding in Colorado. The only reason we were in Christchurch was because it was convenient and safe.

The next day, this happened.

Christchurch City Under a Plume of Dust and Smoke

We watched our home town crumble, burn and fall to the ground. It’s really to hard for me to talk about so I won’t go into too much detail.

A Neighbour’s Home

Our Kitchen

Our Wedding Photos

Lee’s Office


Reuben’s Room

Our Wardrobe

Our Street

No one I know was killed but almost every part of what our life had been in Christchurch was destroyed. No playgroups, no supermarkets, no restaurants, no gym, no Kung Fu, no music lessons. Our possessions lay scattered and smashed. We were lucky enough to still have a house. Some of our family, friends and neighbours weren’t so lucky. For almost a month had no power, water or even doors. We know longer felt safe living in our home and life certainly wasn’t going to be convenient for quite some time.

So we ran away.

We spent the rest of 2011 in and out of Australia and the USA with brief stints at home. We lived abroad, we travelled and I got the life I wanted. It wasn’t exactly how I intended to kick it off but it has been working for us.

Our goal is to do this on a permanent basis – at least for the next few years. To be truly free we need to sell our house which, as you can imagine, is not the easiest thing to do in an area plagued by natural disasters.

In a sense, we’re running away from the physical and emotional effects of an earthquake. (Most people don’t know that there are still frequent, significant aftershocks which can knock out power and water in our area for up to a week. Not to mention they scare the crap out of us!).

We’re also running toward the kind of future we know we want. Deep down I’ve always known I’d never be satisfied with working a 9-5 or filling my days with school runs and meaningless appointments. We just needed a little push in the right direction. We got more of a big jolt but, hey, we’re in one piece and we finally feel like we’re on the right track.

As a mother, I know that home is always where my husband and child are. If we are together, it doesn’t really matter where that home is…. so long as the “where” isn’t fixed for too long a period of time.


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Showing 12 comments
  • Lainie Liberti

    Wow! What a story. Thankfully no one was hurt, and is seems like loss gave you so much more than you thought possible. Thank you for sharing!

    • Bethaney

      Thanks Lainie. It’s amazing how quickly you realise what’s important in your life when something significant like this happens. It’s easy to live without “stuff” when you see all your stuff smashed across the floor but don’t give a shit because you’re just happy to be breathing. There’s always a reason for these events. It’s been a huge wake-up call for us.

  • Stacey

    Great post. For me it’s made it both easier and harder to live away from home-easier because everyone else is moving away too, and there’s nothing to do there, and harder because obviously we all worry about family left in the city.

    I’m glad it gave you the final push you needed to do what you love though 🙂

    • Bethaney

      I know exactly what you mean. It’s easier to cut ties when a city has caused you so much grief and bores the shit out of you. The only reason I go back is to see family… and of course the fact that we’re still waiting on our house to sell.

  • Lou

    Wow, what a post, B – your photos of the aftermath are incredible…. wow. The one of your wardrobe is just crazy…. unimaginable.

    No wonder you got out of there, seriously, it was hard enough going back just to visit family – I don’t know how they live there amongst the constant unsettling (and damaging) rumbles plus the unknown fate of the city. It’s so crazy.

    What are your plans after Thailand? When are you next back in Aus?

    • Bethaney

      Oh yeah. It was unimaginable. At the time it felt a lot worse than it even looks in the pictures. We spent a whole day just cleaning up the kitchen (using the water from the pool as we had no water for almost four weeks!). I’m STILL finding bits of broken glass and crockery in places. Not ideal for a roving child!

      We’re just so lucky nothing happened to Reuben. He was just learning to crawl and spent most of his time underneath where the wedding photos were or on the kitchen floor banging pots. If he’d been in either spot he would have been in serious danger. As luck would have it, he was having his first piece of fruit toast fed to him in his little chair. Thank god, it was lunchtime eh?

  • Sara Lake

    Hi, I’m from Christchurch too (found you through Lou’s blog) and we are still here. We are lucky, with our sturdy house and still-functional and legal log burner. Our neighbours lost both their chimney and have been for more than a year with a plywood wall in their old house (it’s a big wooden one that had a brick firewall that crumbled into their bedrooms – scary shit). One side of their house is freezing, damp and can’t be heated up no matter what they do, so they live in the other half with their 2 year old (or come visit us :D).

    I know what you mean about feeling restless if there isn’t some travel on the horizon though. I’ve been blessed (ha, didn’t see it that way at the time), by my sister marrying a Liechtensteinian man and moving there. As we can’t really live without seeing our niece regularly this has motivated us to make yearly trips to Europe. I think this year, it will be skiing at xmas. However, the current cold temps are making me doubt the sanity of the idea…

    • Bethaney

      Hi Sara,

      I feel so badly for the people that are still living rough in Christchurch. A friend of mine had no toilet for seven months. SEVEN MONTHS! We’re just lucky our house was new and built really well into the rock. We’re up on the hill in Redcliffs so quite a scary part of town to be in. We’ve had quakes that have been centered a few hundred metres from our house.

      I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone being “from” Liectenstein. That must be so cool! I’m itching to get back to Europe. Think I’m done with Asia for the time being. We’ll go next year I think and find some spots we can stay long term cheaply.

      Skiing in Europe sounds like a lovely idea for Christmas!


  • Izy Berry

    I wasn’t at home, in Christchurch, for the earthquake, but as you know I lost someone close to me in it. It’s changed my life and I no longer see Christchurch as a home to go back to, it’s going to be a temporary, comfortable pit stop when I need some time in between other places. How badly damaged was your home? Looks like you were high rolling on the hills 😉

    • Bethaney

      About $100K worth of damage to the structure and about $20K of contents. Yeah we’re high rollers! Literally!

  • Ghada

    I still get chills looking at photos from the aftermath. Oddly enough we had just moved up to Auckland a couple months before – in July. We’re not sure how easy it would’ve been for us to leave if we had still been living there during the earthquakes.
    We had plans of selling during the Rugby World Cup – of course that didn’t happen.
    I guess things happen for a reason – its kicked off your adventure 🙂

  • Arianwen

    What poor timing that you were talking about leaving but didn’t get away before this happened. Looking at those photos I can’t even begin to imagine how scary it was or how many of your belongings were damaged. I hope you’re over the worst of it and that you eventually receive compensation.

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