real life

KATE: Meeting new people. Awesome or awful?

Kate with her husband, Jim


Remember Gilligan’s Island?

Such a great show, such a simple concept: What happens when a millionaire, his wife, a professor, a farm girl and a movie star are marooned on a desert island with a sailor and his ‘little buddy’? Genius.

I watched episode after episode as a ten year old, stretched out on the lounge room floor, my chin in my hands.

Last week, I walked the Milford Track in New Zealand and thought about Gilligan’s Island a lot. Stay with me here.

Sure, the environment was different, about twenty degrees colder than Hawaii, and more mugs of soup than coconut cream pies; but the dynamics of what happens when a  random bunch of people are thrust together in a remote location, was just as fascinating to me as the waterfalls and ferns. And there were some pretty awesome waterfalls and ferns.

As I get older, I seem to meet fewer new people. I don’t have enough time to see the people I already know and like, so I sort of avoid strangers. I read on buses and at parties, I stick to people I know. I’ve lost the energy for small-talk.

In my twenties, I was well up for making friends, getting out there, meeting new people. Also, I was single so I always had an eye out for ‘the one’.

But then ‘the one’ showed up and soon we were five and we cocooned. We saw our friends and our family and know our neighbours, but opportunities to get to know people different from ourselves didn’t present themselves, and I didn’t look for them.

Walking the Milford Sound track

And until last week, I’d forgotten what I was missing.

A guided walk isn’t my first choice of holiday, but Jim likes that kind of thing (active, outdoorsy) and once I’d established there were beds and bathrooms and wine, I was good to go. A holiday without the kids can’t be all bad.


I prepared myself to be awestruck by snow-capped mountains and trout-filled rivers and I was; but it was the people that gave me the biggest lift.

Our group was made up of 44 walkers and four guides. It was Gilligan’s Island, at altitude. Walkers included:

– A Canadian network news director

– A family from Manhattan (Dad looked ridiculously like Stephen Spielberg)

– A doctor from Haiti

– A Kiwi farmer

– A nurse from Melbourne

– An elderly Korean couple

– The production manager on the Mary Poppins stage show

The group

– Three retired gents from Quebec

– A dour Yorkshireman and his perky fiancé

– A banker from Missouri

– A geologist from Chicago

– A Houston ‘oil man’

And others. And us.

Dinner in the lodges every night was a ‘Pull up a seat wherever,’ affair. I groaned, a little.

And it was awkward at first, then hugely entertaining, like Gilligan’s Island.

The old conversation-starters were out in force, ‘Do you do a lot of walking?’ ‘Is this part of a bigger trip?’ ‘What’s the weather like in Missouri?’ Cheesy, but those lines did their job and before long, people were nattering away.

I’ve remembered that you don’t have to dig too deep to find something in common with someone else and how much I enjoy people. Their stories beat a pretty view any day.

Do you enjoy meeting new people? Have you made a really good friend in the past few years?