Wellington’s Walking Paths: The Road to Discovery

In February when I moved to Wellington New Zealand in February, I found the topography of the city utterly disorienting. Curvy streets end unexpectedly, offering spectacular harbor vistas but no road forward.    Walking paths add to the confusion.  Signs mark some destinations, though many of the best routes must be discovered through trial and error.  I soon appreciated that these paths are the essence of Wellington’s charm.  It’s an adventure, and sometimes a personal challenge, to find “the best” path.  Of course, “best” depends on the criteria.  Is the goal transport, exercise, a nature walk or some other purpose?

At first I played it a wee bit safe, following clear routes.  As I settled into routines, walking became my primary mode of transportation and I delighted in each journey.  Soon I started exploring with gusto.  I traversed backyards, climbed interminable steps and relished getting lost and discovering new gems.  With the onset of winter, I took more direct routes for protection from wind and rain.  When earthquakes shocked Wellington, I avoided bridges.  As I strolled in August, my final month in Wellington, I cherished hints of spring such as the strident call of Tui birds and bursting blossoms.

My exploration of Wellington’s quirky pathways mirrored my fellowship journey.  I hadn’t faced a new role in years and I learned a lot about myself as I pursued this remarkable opportunity.

1. Getting my bearings

I started out cautiously, relying on tried and true approaches such as building relationships, asking good questions and sketching a mind map. I remained open as I sought to refine a research hypothesis.

2. Test various paths, while keeping an eye on purpose

As I gained a better sense of context, I strove to refine my research focus.  I wandered into some unproductive territory and kept revisiting value and purpose.

3. Feedback and co-creation

At first, I reached out to individuals to clarify needs and opportunities.  Over time, I engaged community networks, finding value in connecting people across boundaries.  Once I stepped into the circle, the work shifted to co-creation.

4. Expediency

When it was time to synthesize my research and write the final report, I needed to be disciplined – not easy for me!  I suffered through some stormy winter days as I searched for focus and clarity.

5. Share and celebrate

As the fellowship came to a close, I had a unique opportunity to travel the country to share my ideas and engage in energetic conversations about implications.  These forums were creative and joyful.  In Wellington, I took time to wander along favorite paths and find closure with friends and colleagues.

Wellington’s unique layout is magical.  The city’s quaint urban centre and dramatic hilly contours are linked by a web of glorious walking paths.  The reward is the discovery as much as the destination.

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