Oamaru has all the ingredients Caitlin Smith and Sye Johnson need – the people, the quirkiness and the opportunities.
Since moving to the North Otago town last year, the couple have achieved things they could never have imagined in their hometown of Auckland.
Mr Johnson has found his perfect job, they have bought a house and Ms Smith is fulfilling a dream.
Last March, she started her business, The Sweet Smith, using her home kitchen as a base.
She creates treats that are both decadent and down to earth, and sells them at the Oamaru Farmers’ Market.
The couple both work at St Kevin’s College an English teacher and Ms Smith in the hostel’s kitchen.
They love the Oamaru secondary school.
“It is amazing,” Mr Johnson said.
“I am supported by every staff member and the kids are phenomenal.
“There’s something in the air – I’m definitely going to be happy there for a long while.”
Some would say Mr Johnson was a born teacher – his mother and father spent their entire careers as educators.
He resisted the idea for a long time, but eventually made his love of learning into a career, Mr Johnson said.
“If I wasn’t a teacher I would be a perpetual student, constantly getting more degrees.
“[Teaching is] a way to learn and get paid doing it.”
Similarly, Ms Smith also resisted her current career path.
She completed a bachelor of communications, majoring in journalism, before working as an online writer for 3 News for 18 months.
Not feeling the passion she observed in her colleagues, she soon realised journalism was not for her and moved to Japan, where she worked as an assistant English teacher.
Three months later, her mother, Sue Smith, was diagnosed with cancer and Ms Smith was forced to re-evaluate what she wanted to do in life.
She had always wanted to be a baker and had always been good at it but did not think she could do it because of the hours.
But after coping with journalism’s early starts and late finishes, she decided to go for it, and completed a diploma in patisserie at Auckland University of Technology.
“It was the best two years of my life, studying,” Ms Smith said.
She loved how she could start with the simplest ingredients – such as egg, butter, flour and water – and create so many different things.
“It’s like magic.”
The feeling of giving someone a cake and seeing their happy and “smiley” face could not be beaten, she said. She hoped to eventually open a pastry cafe in Oamaru.
Once she had qualified as a pastry chef, the couple moved to Wanaka where Ms Smith worked at Pembroke Patisserie and Mr Johnson was a teacher at Mount Aspiring College.
During a visit to see friends who lived in Oamaru, the couple fell in love with the town and steampunk, and made the move.
“We are so glad we are here,” Mr Johnson said.
“I think we have found our forever home,” Ms Smith said.