As this is being written, the very idea of even travelling around other parts of the North Island of New Zealand seems a long way off. In the challenging times we’re currently living in, it can sometimes feel that, as more mature Kiwis, we’re watching many things we took for granted in our world being stripped away. But I guess all generations are feeling some of that at the moment. It’s easy to feel both detached from our communities and powerless to ‘do our bit’ when authorities urge us to continue to self-isolate as a vulnerable age group.
And yet, at a more local level many people, having found themselves with enforced time on their hands, are getting to know their neighbours better than ever before. Despite the social distancing protocols people are finding ways to look out for each other and many of the domestic practicalities of the past have made a return.
There’s a delicious (no pun intended…well, maybe a small one) irony in the fact that while both the bread and biscuit aisles in supermarkets, together with the in house bakery are bulging with goodies, there’s little flour available in the baking aisle and yeast has been missing for weeks. So it’s not out of necessity that we’ve turned into a nation of bakers. One suspects parents are using baking sessions as part of the regime to entertain and educate children. The devil and idle hands…..etc.
The Government is, rightly, cautious in lowering alert levels. The hard-earned gains on Covid-19 that New Zealand has achieved during Level 4 mustn’t be squandered by relaxing measures before we have a thorough ability to test and trace through the general population. The last thing we, as a nation want, once we move away from Level 4, is to have to return to it later if the virus begins to spread again. We’ve seen how this thing can rampage through an unprotected population elsewhere in the world. So, at least for the moment, our horizons have come closer and the things that occupy our minds originate closer to home.
But the successful containment of Covid-19 across New Zealand under Alert Level 4 offers light at the end of the tunnel. The time will come, in the not-to-distant future when some of the other distractions in life will begin to return. Providing the opportunity to get out and travel beyond our immediate neighbourhood again starting, maybe, with a day out and meeting up with friends. By then (perhaps already by now, for many) people will have had enough of their own four walls and be wanting to spend some time venturing a little further afield. It seems likely that as we move further down the alert level system and movement is relaxed, that authorities will open things up on a region-by-region basis allowing travel firstly within a region and then, perhaps, to neighbouring regions.
Tourism, for some years now one of NZ’s top international earners, has been obliterated with the very necessary closing of borders. It’s difficult to imagine another scenario where an entire industry could cease to function within a matter of weeks. The saving grace, particularly for Hawke’s Bay, is the little discussed fact that prior to this current emergency, domestic (Kiwi) visitors to the Bay have always outnumbered international travellers. And with international borders likely to remain closed at least until a vaccine for the virus has been widely taken up, New Zealanders will be focussed on travelling through Aotearoa as various regions open up.
The reset of our travel horizons will provide the increased chance to support our own and other Kiwi communities and to reacquaint ourselves, over time, with parts of our region and country not visited in a long time or perhaps for the first time. The proven benefits of new forms of mental stimulation through travel shouldn’t be ignored either.
Here’s where belonging to a reputable and experienced tour club which understands the interests and needs of mature Kiwis will open up many opportunities for local travel. The value of shared experiences and memories has never been more important and the fellowship experienced with likeminded people enriches everyone. A tour club focussed on mature Kiwis and offering an array of firstly local, then regional and, ultimately as things open up, national trips and tours will provide us all with the opportunity to ‘shop local’. We can then all feel we’re supporting Kiwi businesses showcasing our beautiful country.
Well, for the moment, the ‘international’ thing is a no-go but in anticipation of New Zealand reopening over the next while, join a tour or travel club near you that will offer, to begin with, day trips to distract and delight. New friends will be made and you’ll enjoy your country with a different perspective and through refreshed eyes.