Updated: Jun 26
| This is the 366th story of Our Life Logs |
I was born in 1980 and brought up on a farm in Limavady, Northern Ireland. As the oldest, I had five brothers and sisters I looked after and took on many of the chores. Simple routines on a farm had me dreaming of life beyond our vast fields. I decided at a young age that I would love to travel the world someday.
Finally, in 2002, after spending a few years working on the family farm and part-time in a café, I realized that I needed to stop waiting around for an adventure to fit into my schedule. I needed just go out and do it. I applied for a working holiday visa to New Zealand.
I was buzzing from the moment I got the visa to the moment I landed in the breathtaking New Zealand. From the cascading beaches to the snow-capped mountains, I was enraptured by this new place.
But most of all, I was enchanted by the people. I quickly made friends and spent my free time at a local pub named Frankie’s. It was there that I met a captivating Kiwi man named Dan, who was a kayak instructor. He was blond and cute with a cheeky grin. We started a holiday romance that lasted two months. In the time we had together, I learned so much about him. He always had a story or something funny to tell. I loved sailing with him on his boat as we explored the coast and islands around the bay. He was incredibly romantic and often took me out for picnics on deserted beaches.
What I had with Dan was special, but I knew that this small town in New Zealand couldn’t be my last stop. After all, I couldn’t halt my adventure that had just begun! Eventually, I left to see the rest of the country and continued my quest of seeing the world. But I never forgot Dan.
After a year of travel, I returned to Ireland in 2003 and threw myself into running the family farm with my two brothers. I fell back into the habit of waiting for life and adventure to work with my schedule. I wanted to keep traveling, but the money wasn’t there.
In the years of saving, I started to breed and train sheepdogs for competitions, while I worked a variety of shop, café and office jobs. During that time, I also got married but within five years, I discovered we weren’t meant to be and got divorced.
Years like this passed, me going through life in Northern Ireland keeping busy, but still craving another adventure. I wanted to go somewhere new, but I also found myself wondering what had changed since I’d last visited New Zealand. Was Frankie’s still there? Did Dan ever think of me? Were the beaches as beautiful as ever? I buckled down even more to save money.
Tomorrow came and so did my next adventure in 2012. I packed my bags and headed for Australia. From the arid deserts to the expansive grasslands, I explored the country for a few months. Then, I made my next move. I just couldn’t resist a visit to New Zealand. It wasn’t that far off, and I was excited to revisit places I’d been to and meet up with some friends. Most of all, I was secretly hoping that I would see Dan again. But my hopes weren’t too high. It had been 10 years after all! He had probably moved on. But in my heart, I prayed that he hadn’t and that I could see his cheeky grin once more.
I apprehensively entered Frankie’s. The small dingy pub looked almost the same as it did 10 years ago. The bar was crowded, and I couldn’t see anyone I recognized. After visiting for a bit, I got up to leave. Of course, Dan isn’t here. I thought. Why would he be?
Just then, Dan entered the bar. He was dressed casually in shorts and a t-shirt; his scruffy blond hair was sticking out in all directions, and a cheeky grin appeared on his face. We recognized each other straight away, and I felt the same strong connection we had a decade ago.
We sat together all night, reminiscing about the past, about our time together. It was like we had never been apart. We spoke about my life in Ireland and about his kayaking business and life in Paihia; filling in the past 10 years of our lives. Just like that, we were connected once more.
The following weeks passed in a blur, we spent as much time as possible together, becoming almost inseparable. We explored the local beaches, caves and bays and went to Frankie’s every Wednesday for the open mic night. Sadly, after almost three months, my visa was coming to an end. I didn’t want to leave Dan, so I started thinking up ways to extend my stay. I wound up making a deal with the hostel owner to let me do some cleaning for free accommodation, and I was thrilled to be staying!
I had expected Dan to be pleased with this news too, but he seemed disinterested. The days following my news, Dan seemed distracted and unusually grumpy. I began to wonder whether I was being stupid, that perhaps it had all been a holiday romance after all. But I couldn’t just leave New Zealand and forget about Dan. I loved him. I decided to tell Dan about my feelings. Fate had brought us together 10 years ago, and now we were here again. I know it sounds cheesy, but I felt like we were soulmates. Like we were meant to be together.
I was left disappointed by his reply. He told me he needed some space and that he felt like our relationship was moving too fast. I could tell by his demeanor that it was more than just needing space, that there was something he wasn’t telling me. When he refused to tell me anything more, we argued and Dan stormed off, saying that he needed time to think things over. He promised to call the next day.
As I watched him walk away, a lump caught in my throat. He’s just being stubborn, I thought. But when I didn’t hear from him for a couple of days, I began to worry.
The sky seemed to darken, echoing my mood. The hostel was unusually busy, everyone had been driven inside by the blustery weather. We started playing a game of cards, and someone turned on the TV. Suddenly the camera panned across Paihia’s main beach. The room fell silent as everyone’s attention was drawn towards the screen. Someone was missing at sea.
My breath caught in my throat as a photo of Dan filled the screen. Dan had last been seen yesterday and was missing. It was thought that he had gone out in his kayak late yesterday evening or this morning. I began to feel shaky. It’s all my fault, I thought.
I headed for the beach. The rain lashed against me and sobs shook my body. When I looked out to the sea, I was filled with doubt. What was I doing here? Did I really expect to find him? The waves crashed against the gravelly shore, creating a swirling whirlpool of white water. I longed with all my being that Dan was safe.
I was overcome with fear and guilt. I should have called him yesterday and apologized. Thoughts flooded my mind all at once, and I felt suddenly exhausted. My legs gave way, and I sat down on the wet sand, huddling against a rock for a bit of shelter.
Was I acting like a silly little girl? Had it really been a good idea to come back to Paihia after all these years? What was I really hoping to achieve?
I realized there on that wet beach that I truly loved Dan, and I wasn’t ready to give up on him. I knew that he was out there somewhere; I could feel it. He’s not dead, I suddenly thought, knowing that it was the truth.
The local radio station reported that the coast guard helicopter had been searching along the coast, and local volunteers had been scouring the coastline. The community had all pulled together and were out looking for Dan. Some friends came and found me on the beach and took me back to the hostel. I couldn’t stop shaking. I sat by the heater crying for the rest of the day and most of the night. I felt helpless.
The next day, we finally got the news everyone had been waiting for. The music on the radio stopped playing. A reporter’s voice announced that Dan had been found. The whole room held their breath, waiting to see if Dan was dead or alive.
“He’s been airlifted to Auckland hospital; his condition is said to be serious.”
I immediately headed to the hospital and found that things were worse than I’d first thought. Dan was in intensive care and had pneumonia, as he had swallowed so much water. He lay covered in pipes and tubes. A drip was attached to his arm, and he seemed barely conscious. I sat down on the chair beside Dan’s bed. I watched the lines on the monitor go up and down with his breath and wondered how long he had been laying on the beach unconscious.
It wasn’t long before Dan’s wife turned up.
Yep, you read that right. His wife. At that moment, I wondered how I had been so stupid to think that Dan was single. He had never mentioned a wife, and I had just assumed that there was no one in his life. Were they really still together? I later learned they had split up, but she had recently come back looking for him and wanted to get back together. But at the time, I wasn’t sure, and I left the hospital in tears.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see Dan before I left New Zealand. His family didn’t want me to see him, and as I had a flight booked, I had no choice but to go. I did consider changing my flight, but I didn’t want to hang around waiting for a man who might not even love me.
Before I left, I spoke to Dan’s mom, and she told me that he had come around and would explain everything later. I gave her my phone number and address in the hope that Dan would get in contact when he was ready. I didn’t know if we had a future together, but I hoped that we would be able to stay in touch.
Leaving New Zealand was excruciating, and I couldn’t stop crying, but I had a feeling deep in me that wasn’t the end for Dan and me.
Three weeks after arriving home from New Zealand, I received a call from Dan. He told me he realized that he was lucky to be alive and that he wanted to be with me. We ended up talking for almost three hours where he told me about his wife; they were no longer together and hadn’t been for four years. He had no interest in getting back together with her. I could tell by his tone that he was telling the truth.
Since that call, we have been in a long-distance relationship, communicating through phone and email every day. For the past five years, we have arranged to meet up once a year, usually somewhere in Europe. As Dan’s kayaking business is seasonal, he gets time off in the winter so we can spend some time together. It has put a strain on our budgets, and sometimes I wish we could live in the same country, but it is fun meeting up when we get the chance. We hope to live together and be in a proper relationship soon.
All my life, I lived like the next day was promised. If I couldn’t do something today, there was always tomorrow. After Dan’s accident, he and I realized we weren’t guaranteed a future, so we had to love each other the best we could in the present. We couldn’t wait for tomorrow because tomorrow may never come. Dan is planning to sell his kayaking business and moving to Ireland next year. I can’t wait for that tomorrow when we’ll be together, but for now I’ll be grateful for what we have today.
This is the story of Mary Mac Cába
Mary was born in Northern Ireland in 1980 and grew up on a farm with her parents and five brothers and sisters. In 2002 Mary went on to New Zealand on a working holiday visa for a year. She worked in various job including fruit picking, cleaning hostels and worked as a nanny. One of the jobs she had was picking tomatoes in a greenhouse. It was here that Mary met a local boy who was a kayaking instructor and had a holiday romance with him that lasted about two months. Ten years later Mary went back to New Zealand. During that time, she had been living back in Ireland where she was from, had got married and then divorced and had had a variety of shop, café and office work. Mary and Dan now keep in touch by phone and email and are good friends. They visit each other once a year but live separate lives. Mary lives in Ireland where she breeds and trains sheep dogs and compete in the National sheep dog trials as well as helping to run the family farm with two of her brothers.
This story first touched our hearts on June 26, 2019.
| Writer: Abigail Latham | Editor: Kristen Petronio, MJ |