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Time to stop and smell the [local] roses

Our country is a beautiful place, there’s no doubt about it, but how often do we actually stop to take it all in?

There are parts that aren’t that nice to look at, such as when urban and industrial zones collide with skyscrapers and plumes of smoke from manufacturing plants [unless that’s your idea of beauty].

This writer used to laugh at people pulled over on the side of the road in their hired campervans taking photos of the hills, or the ocean, or forests.

Sometimes I’d even brand them as “stupid tourists”.

Having grown so accustomed to the landscape I’m surrounded with, I took what they were seeing for granted.

What was it that they found so intriguing about those hills? Or the water? Or the trees?

They were fascinated by something that we see every day.

On a trip down south this past week, I finally took the time to stop and see what it is that has others so in awe.

For the first time in my life, I pulled into a parking bay on State Highway 1 just north of Kaikoura. I watched dozens of tourists walk the paths above rocky outcrops where seals were soaking up the fleeting rays of the sun, and it gave me a new perspective on the whenua and the sea that we call home.

After covid-19 restrictions were lifted in New Zealand, and while the rest of the world was still closed, Kiwis were forced to admire the picturesque landscapes of their own country and, remarkably, the number of travel blogs promoting New Zealand tourism seemingly boomed overnight.

In Wairarapa, it has been reported recently that tourism levels have been increasing, which is unsurprising when you consider the vast and varied landscapes available.

Rolling hills and wineries surround Martinborough, long sprawling beaches in the likes of Castlepoint and Riversdale, and views to the South Island and a seal colony in Cape Palliser are only some of the highlights you’ll find within an hour or so drive – and plenty of places to stop and take in the scenery on the way.

Our little islands away from the hustle and bustle of Europe and the Americas may feel isolated at times, but it’s worth acknowledging the beauty we have right on our doorsteps.

The age-old saying about how the grass is always greener could never be more appropriate when we see people jetting off to the other side of the world for a taste of travel.

Thousands of Kiwis jump on a plane for their big OE to the UK every year, and while numbers have dropped significantly in recent years [due to the cost of living and a struggling housing market abroad], there’s no doubt that the numbers are slowly rising again.

The most popular visa for Kiwis – the Youth Mobility Visa – has opened its regulations to allow people up to 35 years old to move for three years rather than the previous two.

While this writer is preparing for three months of Aperol spritzes and brushing up on her German, she’s also feeling the beginnings of homesickness already kicking in.

The experiences abroad may be exciting and full of history, but nothing will truly beat the connection to home and the parts that might have been missed but that will be happily travelled upon my return.

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