Will our borders ever open again? If they do, will air travel go back to its cheap, decadent yet destructive days? Guest writer Fiona Ralph explores all the places she’ll go when she can go somewhere. From clothes optional campgrounds to adults-only romance resorts, we have your, er, niche level two travel sorted.
As a travel addict and (somewhat conflictingly) an eco advocate, I’m simultaneously mourning the loss of travel due to Covid-19 border closures, while celebrating the small wins. As in many other industries (hello, media), the airline and tourism industries have suffered a huge blow due to the pandemic. And on top of the devastating death toll and impact of the illness on people’s lives, there are people who cannot return home or visit family and those who have cancelled once-in-a-lifetime trips. But there are a few silver linings to this flightless world we now live in. As well as the massive reduction in carbon emissions, destinations which were previously overrun with tourists have been given time to recover. Although with many places relying on tourists for income, this has obviously had disastrous economic consequences, as seen in Nepal, with Mount Everest closed and sherpas and other tourism operators out of work.
Closer to home, the border restrictions offer time and space to explore one’s own country and, for me at least, provide a kind of relief. I have always used overseas travel as an escape card. Still, you can’t stop a planner, and so, facing the loss of the trips I had booked this year to Raro and NYC, I began dreaming up local alternatives – as well as making new international plans for the post-Covid future.
The post-vaccine world: 2021? 2023? Or ever?
While New York is off the cards for the foreseeable future due to its tragic status as a Covid-19 hotspot, when a vaccine is available I’d love to head back to my favourite city. I also want to explore more of the United States. Last time we were there we bought a van in the Bronx and drove it across the country, sleeping in car parks, campgrounds and quirky motels along the way.
Since I may be a few years away from doing this again, I’m getting my weird travel fix from A Pretty Cool Hotel Tour. It’s the passion project of Midwest-raised, Los Angeles-based Margaret Bienert (aka @aprettycoolgirl) and her husband Corey, who travel to theme, vintage and adult motels and hotels across the US, recording their visits via photos, videos and a handy map.
Inspired by the pair, I’ve been dreaming of visiting Cove Haven. The trio of couples-only lakefront resorts in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains exude a wholesome Dirty Dancing summer camp vibe with an adult twist. Facilities include a faux ice-skating rink, movie theatre, mini golf course (with a slide entrance) and, in case you need it, a gift shop with a curtained-off “SeXXXion”. There are also in-room heart-shaped and Champagne glass-shaped hot tubs and really, I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to spend a whole year quarantining there. The hotel group is currently making sure “your romantic getaway is clean and germ free” according to the website’s Covid-19 statement, which is something you’d hope for somewhere like this, even outside a world-wide pandemic. The original resort has been there since the ’50s, so here’s hoping it sticks around for me to visit post-world lockdown.
Local love: Levels 1 and 2
As someone who once spent a year and a half travelling around New Zealand in a house truck, I cannot recommend exploring Aotearoa enough. So many things we head overseas for are right here – secluded landscapes, unique wildlife encounters, small town gems and diverse cultural influences.
In January this year I took a cruise (remember those?!) from Auckland to Wellington with Oceania Cruises. While it’s not that common to cruise one’s own country, I found it an amazing experience seeing NZ from onboard a floating hotel. And luck was on my side, as I somehow disembarked just before the pandemic became world news, and the link between coronavirus and cruising became devastatingly clear. I’ve since been pondering the viability of cruise ships operating for the domestic market once NZ is free of the coronavirus – but I assume it would be hard to fill a ship with enough locals to keep the industry afloat, and harder still to reinstate people’s trust in climbing aboard a giant incubator.
With Rarotonga off the cards, my husband and I are considering the Bay of Islands for our anniversary. Many luxury hotels are offering substantial discounts to encourage local travel. Alternatively we might try our luck at a socially distant flight to Nelson, and check into the clothes-optional campground at Mapua Leisure Park where we got married (I wore a wedding dress, don’t worry – clothes are only optional two months of the year).
Traversing the Tasman: Australia and Pacific bubbles
If and when trans-Tasman and Pacific travel bubbles open up, we hope to rebook our flights to the Cook Islands, and the hotels that kindly cancelled our reservations free of charge. While there are currently no cases of Covid-19 in the Cook Islands, travel will need to wait until it’s completely safe, and the islands are open to receiving visitors again. While the Cook Islands and neighbouring Pacific Islands rely on tourists for much of their gross domestic product (70 percent in the Cook Islands’ case), they are also extremely vulnerable to a pandemic, as was seen in Samoa’s recent measles outbreak.
Of course, we’ll also be able to visit family in Aussie again. In case you’re not super excited about the prospect of visiting the same old Australian cities in lieu of a trip to the Amalfi Coast, don’t forget to think outside the box. Sure, Sydney, Melbourne and Surfers are fun, but what about a West Coast roadie or an outback adventure in North West Queensland? We did the latter last year, and apart from the constant background fear of snakes and crocs, it was amazing – landscapes for miles (largely Covid-free) and Crocodile Dundee vibes (you can still grab a beer in the pub made famous in the movie).