Aug 14, 2014

Guest Post: My Greatest Holiday by Jennifer Gilby Roberts

My Greatest Holiday - Jennifer Gilby Roberts

My greatest holiday will always be the four months I spent in New Zealand after finishing school.  I was old enough to do everything (except hire a car, oddly enough), but young enough not to have to do anything.  There was money in the bank to pay for the trip and a hostel bed wherever I showed up that day.  Bliss.
I lost a lot of weight that trip, because I walked everywhere.  The best travel advice I've had is to get a good map in case you get lost and then put it away and get lost.  I saw so much more just wandering around the places I visited.  Though the treks between bus stops and hostels with my life on my back were a challenge.  I remember almost crying when I discovered the hostel in Dunedin was three-quarters of the way up a very steep hill.  I did climb Mount Eden, but that was because the hostel I was staying at was most of the way up it.  I often walked to the top in the morning to enjoy the view, before heading down into Auckland.  One day, I was joined by a coach load of Japanese tourists.  Several of them indicated to me that they wanted to take a picture with me, presumably as a genuine New Zealander.  I didn't have the heart to tell them I was English, especially since there was no one else up there.  Or perhaps I have a famous doppelganger out there?

Visitors to NZ have to partake in adrenaline sports.  It's practically a condition of the visa.  And I did everything on offer.  Hand-gliding, para-gliding, para-sailing, bungee jumping, sky swinging, zorbing.  I started with skydiving, so everything else seemed no big deal.  True, I spent most of the way down slowly losing consciousness and I don't remember the last few hundred feet at all, but I still did it.  Somewhere, there is a video of the dive, but I've never dared watch it.
They say you should take half as much stuff as you think you need and twice as much money (good advice, in my experience).  This was long before ereaders, so books didn't often form part of my luggage.  Fortunately, every hostel had a 'take one, leave one' bookshelf.  You read a lot of odd books that way.  Somewhere, I'm sure I have a list of everything I read.  I do recall picking up a biography of Princess Grace of Monaco, Harry Potter and Victoria Beckham's autobiography.  I also read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, because the second film came out while I was there and, of course, it was filmed on the south island.  My biggest regret for the trip is that I didn't go on the location tours offered.  Because I had such an open schedule, when I was tired or ill or the weather was bad, I just stayed at the hostel and read.  That trip really reactivated my imagination after it had been ground down by A-levels and no doubt contributed to the writing of The Dr Pepper Prophecies, which I wrote later that year.

It's a wonderful time of your life.  The future stretches out in front of you, packed full of possibilities, and you haven't started work and had your first reality check yet.  After I finished my degree I went away again, this time to Australia, where I wrote After Wimbledon (are you noticing a theme here?), but even that wasn't quite the same.  Sometimes, I long for those days again.  But back then it was just me and now I have a husband and little daughter who I wouldn't want to spend that much time away from.  Maybe I should get out all my photos and write a book about it instead...
Jennifer Gilby Roberts has a degree in physics and a postgraduate certificate in computing, so a career writing fiction was inevitable really. She was born and grew up in Surrey/Greater London, but now lives in North Yorkshire with her husband, small daughter, two middle-aged cats and a lot of dust bunnies.


  1. Wow. Wish I had travelled. Two places I wish I had gone too. X

  2. I love that remember what you read while on holiday...for me books really mark the spot!


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