Gypsy’s, Intrepid, Wanderers, Nomads or maybe just slightly mad. Call them what you like these Travelling Wāhine go by the names of Katrina and Tamara and they are definitely making a name for themselves. After meeting these girls through Qantas, the pair set off to London to lead a life for the brave and fearless. With no physical sense of the word home these women are making their way around the world carrying their belongings with them (the rest is in the storage unit!)
To learn more about these two travellers will ignite awe, admiration and pure bewilderment as we delve deeper into the lives of these two wāhine. Katrina and Tamara are two people you all should know about!
First of all, I think an origin story would be a good place to start and we’d love to know about the both of you and where you come from?
Katrina: I’m from the Far North – I grew up in Opononi, Kaikohe and Whangārei and after high school I went on to University in Wellington. After Uni I did a stint in Melbourne for a few years, but eventually moved home and soon realised there was still so much I wanted to see of the world. Long story short, my younger sister gave me the idea to become a long-haul flight attendant. The timing was right as they happened to be hiring so I applied. Two years later I applied for a base transfer to London, and here I am, part way through a two-year secondment.
Tamara: I was born in Auckland and grew up in Papakura but I also call Pukekawa (Waikato) home. Just like everyone I loved travel before I became crew – I had a corporate job that I’d been in for 5 years & never really thought about becoming a flight attendant until a friend at Jetconnect mentioned they were hiring. So I thought why not. Fast forward 3 and a half years and here I am ticking off bucket list items, living in London!
The Travelling Wāhine have their own Instagram which is where the two of you showcase your travels together and individually. How did the Travelling Wāhine come to be and why did you choose to share this part of your lives?
Travelling Wāhine came from a shared desire to travel as much as possible while working from London and to share that with everyone back home. Hopefully our travels will encourage others to travel too. Our tūpuna (ancestors) were a curious people, especially about the world – after all that’s how they discovered Aotearoa, why they welcomed Pākeha so that they could utilise their knowledge and technology and why many of our tāne joined the Māori battalion. So we think it’s in our blood to explore and travel. Growing up we always thought travel wasn’t accessible to us and that you needed to be rich. That’s not true, sometimes you just need to think outside the box. So, our Instagram page is more about sharing our travels, not to show-off, but to show-case to others what we do, how we do it and how they can do it too.
Now, what I’ve been most excited for people to read about is an explanation about your current living situation. Can you share with us where you both currently “live” and the ins and out of how that works?
We do what we call in the flight attending industry the “gypsy/nomad” life. Instead of paying the high rental costs in London, we’ve moved all our things into storage and basically travel on our days off and with extra money to get us about. It’s definitely not for the faint hearted as a lot of the time things don’t always go according to plan, so you have to think on your feet and problem solve – but to us that’s half the fun and sometimes makes for a better story. We essentially don’t have a home or our own space most times, but we always have the option of going back to flatting if we want (which as of July Tamara will be doing) so that gives us peace of mind. For now we enjoy the ability to travel wherever our hearts desire, it’s meant ticking a lot off our bucket list quickly and deciding last minute where to go next. We are lucky to have a very supportive whānau of fellow flight attendants who house us sometimes and are there for us when we need. We’ve also learnt so much about ourselves and what we’re capable of, especially travelling on our own. The biggest challenge for us both has been dealing with the jet-lag, trying to be organised, deciding where to go next (you’ll often see us putting it up to a vote on Instagram) and the big one – washing! We invite the excitement & uncertainty into our lives. The adventure of not knowing for sure (staff travel roulette) has given ‘spontaneous’ a new meaning.
It intrigues me to know how the conversation went and how the decision was made to displace yourselves! Can you give us a little insight into the conversation and discussions behind your decision to live out of a storage unit and spend your days off travelling? Was the decision made on a whim or was there a lot of planning involved?
Before we moved up we had both individually heard about gypsy life and liked the idea of it. But once we were in London, it was easier to find a home. We were going away and travelling more often than we were spending in our expensive flats. In November 2018, Tamara was in London, staying in her flat for 3 of the 30 days – the rest of the month she was off exploring leisurely or away for work. That was when she decided – LETS DO IT! And the same thing happened for Katrina across Dec/Feb, she wasn’t in London for basically 2 months. So one day Tamara just suggested we give it a go together and it just made sense. Initially we wanted to give ourselves some time and start the nomad life in March/April however once we made the decision to put ourselves on the road of this journey, everything fell into place. Tamara basically moved out of her flat the morning she landed back from Perth and then 12hrs later she was in Austria kicking off her first solo nomad trip!
The flight attendant life is in no way stable and I wonder, is it hard for you both to align and travel together? I do notice that often times you both have to head off on your own solo adventures. Can you describe to me the first time you had to do this and how you felt? I can imagine it takes a whole lot of confidence and bravery!
As we had done a few trips together already, we had a sense of what type of travellers we are, which is very important for this to work. We are similar travellers in that we like a mix of culture, getting off the beaten track, history, adventure, partying and we don’t mind mixing it up between travelling boujee or on a budget. At the same time, we also have a whole lot of friends back in London who join us on our travels and we aren’t the only gypsy’s as well. So, there’s a lot of options for when we do get sick of each other. But there’s also a sense of empowerment when you can go off and travel on your own, it can be scary at first as you only have yourself to rely on. We are always there for one another to vent and support if we are travelling solo. Also, you’ll be amazed at the friends you make on your solo travels. Hostels are your friends because that’s where you meet people, can easily organise tours, have someone to ask for local information – it’s a very easy experience and you can find some very cute boutique hostels, just make sure you read the reviews first!
Your platform on Instagram has enabled you to share your travels to some of the most exotic and ancient places in the world. Showcasing culture from every corner and importantly sharing a part of your own Māori Heritage. How do you both impart the Māori culture with the people who in turn share their culture with you.
The most surprising thing for us has been learning the similarities between our culture and others. It’s opened us up to our own cultural identity, inspired us to learn more about our own whakapapa (genealogy), tikanga (customs) and the importance of learning Te Reo Māori (language). We’ve come to realise our culture is an important part of who we are and we are proud of that. No matter where we are out there in the world we know our tūrangawaewae (stomping ground), where we come from and who we are. Maybe that’s why this lifestyle is not so scary to us. We also don’t take lightly the fact that we are a manifestation of those that came before us, we represent our whānau, hapu and iwi back home. We think that in some way or another we are paving the way for those that will come after us for sure.
From an outsider flight attendant’s perspective, in no way does the lifestyle you lead seem easy. When I finish a trip going home is what I look forward to the most. So, my question to you both is with no physical sense of the word home where do you both find comfort? What keeps you grounded, motivated and content to continue pursuing the lifestyle you’ve chosen?
This is something we struggle with a lot, not really having a home and our own personal space. We definitely miss things like home comforts, routine and it takes a lot of digging deep to remember why we are out here doing this. The big thing has been not boxing ourselves into thinking that we have to do this because essentially this is a choice. If we ever tire of this lifestyle we can stop whenever we want, we can have a break. The beauty of our job is we get staff travel and are able to go home to Aotearoa if we want, and Katrina does that a lot and Tamara recently went home. Going home helps us refill our cup, which is important. Self-care is an important part of this lifestyle. The best thing we’ve learnt about not having a home though, is that we are a lot less materialistic and we will both really appreciate having a home when we do.
Update: Funnily enough Tamara has chosen to take a break from the nomad life and will have a base/flat in London again – which is exciting, it means home cooked meals, machine washed clothes (instead of hand washed in the basin) AND it also means Katrina can come stay whenever she needs rest or is on standby or just simply wants to lay in bed watching Netflix for a day! Tamara gave the nomad life a long 6-month stint and loved it. I know for sure that I’ll be back, I have 8/9 months left on my visa which will go by fast but for right now to be happy, healthy, have a little stability and routine is what I needed to create. Katrina put it above – we can stop whenever we like and that goes both ways, I can kick start nomad life all over again fairly easily
Currently, how do you both feel about your lifestyle. I want to hear about the ups and downs, displacement and loneliness, independence and freedom, lessons and tribulations. All that good stuff!
The worst thing is being tired all the time! Things always seem worse than they are when you’re tired and sometimes you just want to cry to be honest. It can’t be healthy for us running around on empty all the time, not to mention being on a plane as often as we are. We find it hard to decide on where to go next, especially when staff-travel falls through. Money can also be an issue as we get paid monthly and are limited on how much we can work up here and sometimes we need to go to work just to have a bed to sleep in, to eat and to get some money. Other times we rely on friends letting us sleep on their couch because we can’t afford to go away or book accommodation. The last thing you want to do after a 20hr duty is catch a train full of people to your storage shed, change your bags around, ensure you have a clean uniform for your next work trip and wait around sometimes until the end of the day to catch a flight out of London to your next destination. Those are the moments you miss a home, a shower and a bed. The flip side to that is we are having so many experiences that many people can only dream of. Imagine yourself staring up at the pyramids in Egypt one week, sailing off the coast of Turkey the other week, exploring caves in Iceland or watching the locals play soccer in Zanzibar, a place most people have never heard of before. These are all things we’ve collectively done between us in the last 6 months! We literally go on holiday every other week and we love that we can decide on a whim where and what we feel like doing. We do things like go to Italy because we feel like eating the best pasta in the world, meet up with friends in Spain who are on holiday from back home or go to France to rest. We love that we get to wing things a lot right now in this phase of our lives.
We’re also low-key unorganised. Generally we decide the day before where we’re going. And if we are staff travelling to that destination – sometimes that even changes while we’re on the way to the airport. There is definitely freedom in winging it and it’s such a thrill not knowing where exactly we might end up – however you have to be fairly chilled out person to handle this kind of travel because we can understand how stressful it would be for others. We on the other hand don’t really get stressed, at least not by things that are outside of our control. We both sort of laugh it off and think “ok what shall we do instead” we were at Gatwick airport one time, running late as usual, we were planning on using staff travel to go to Malaga – the flight was closing in 5mins (BA can be quite strict with this) so Tamara was running to check in only to find out there was no seats. 15mins later, big switch up and we’re now checking in to go to Madrid instead! Fast forward 2hrs we’re in Madrid and there is NO accommodation available because we somehow managed to be there while Carnaval was on (yay). But we are pretty level headed and stay positive and someone stumbled upon an amazing two-bedroom apartment right in the city centre and had an amazing weekend in Madrid! The power of positivity is truly something else.
But with every high there are going to be lows and thankfully these don’t come as often as the highs, however they do exist and it’s only human to feel your feels. And why we feel it’s ok to do what we need to refill ourselves with love and happiness. This life is exciting and fun but it can also be lonely especially when you’re family are on the other side of the world and the window to call/message is so small because of the time difference. It’s also hard when major life changes are thrown at you that you need to adult-up and deal with but you’re on the go and you don’t have the time or the place to deal with whichever emotions may come forward. Through all of this we are both very blessed to have such an amazing network in London and we have both found peace by returning home and being surrounded by our whānau recently.
Finally, I know there are so many people who look at travel as being unachievable or unrealistic for them. To do what you do as flight attendants and furthermore to fill your days with more adventure is something that so many people would love to do but lack the confidence to take a leap of faith. Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for people who need that extra little push?
A good place to start from is to figure out your “why.” Why is it you want to travel? Once you understand that you can always refer back to that during times where you feel unsure, afraid or need that motivation. It could be because you want to see the world, for growth, to challenge yourself, to travel while you’re young rather than when you’re retired, to visit those places you’ve dreamed about or to inspire others. But also start off small because you don’t have to do it all at once. Also the thing about travelling and life in general is that things don’t always go to plan and that’s okay, sometimes the best things come about when they aren’t planned. Trust that at the end of the day everything will always work out and take the lessons on board. Have your support network and use them when you need to. Always dream about the fun to be had, the beautiful experiences you could have by making the leap. We are constantly pinching ourselves and thanking the universe for our travels.