For many of us, it’s been three years since we had the opportunity to head to the airport, board a plane and go somewhere new. Three years since we experienced the unique feeling of flying, being in transit and out of our comfort zone. Three years since we could meticulously plan a travel itinerary, or wing it and spontaneously explore with no knowledge or agenda. And for many of us, the pandemic has been a reminder of the complete joy - and privilege - of being able to travel freely, creating lifetime memories and opening our eyes to new cultures.
Now, with Aotearoa’s borders reopening and new direct flight paths opening up (hello Auckland to NYC…), the concept of travel is becoming more of a reality again. To celebrate that - and our longtime passion for travel - we asked some creative friends to look back on their overseas holiday memories and share a photo from a favourite trip, whether it’s the last time they went overseas pre-pandemic, or from a beloved childhood family holiday.
Keva Rands, founder and designer of Papa Clothing
When my mum Melanie turned exactly half the age of her dad, Keva (snr), she ran excitedly up to him and told him about this very special revelation. He turned to her and was confused as to why this might be a big deal, shrugging it off and going about his business. So as you can imagine, when my sister and I each turned half her age, she made quite a big deal about it and treated us to adventures.
When I turned 29, she and I decided it was long overdue for us to visit one of our ancestral homelands, Samoa. The two of us spent hours chatting in the ocean and eating amazing food and buying everything we could from the markets. In this beach photo mum is limping her way back into the ocean after standing on some coral and cutting her foot badly. This is my favourite photo because something we share is our love (obsession) with ocean swims and this is proof that nearly nothing will stop her from having a second swim. Not even a bleeding foot.
Dianne Ludwig, owner of Welcome Back Slow Fashion
When borders closed in 2020 we were planning a trip to Algeria for later that year. That went on hold, but I'm hoping it will be our next destination. Our trip to Egypt in 2015 inspired us to think about Algeria. We had a week in downtown Cairo staying at the most amazing old hotel, Pension Roma, which was like walking back in time.
Most tourists seem to avoid Cairo, but we fell in love with the people, the architecture and so much great street food too, including a Sudanese alleyway we stumbled upon where we had to order with sign language. We had three days sailing on the Nile, lots of it spent in the water hanging off a rope being towed by our Feluca as the temps were hitting over 40 degrees. Any holiday for me has to include swimming (and not in a hotel pool). So many great meetings with families farming and fishing on the Nile who showed us so much hospitality. The locals didn't believe I could row a boat, so of course I was up for the dare.
Trupti Biradar, Stuff travel editor
I didn’t know it at the time of course, but cruising through the south of France in September 2019 was one of the last times I’d go overseas for more than 2.5 years.
Starting in Arles, where Van Gogh resided before his infamous descent into insanity, and winding our way along the River Rhone to Lyon, we made quite a few stops along the way: Tournon, an idyllic village; mediaeval town Vivers, population 4000; Avignon, once the seat of power for the Catholic Church; and Camargue National Park, wetlands that are home to wild horses and pink flamingos.
I ate entirely too much cheese and saucisson brioche, and drank far too much French wine - the names of which I can’t remember now. It was carefree and hedonistic. I was comfortable in crowds, talking to strangers and didn’t even notice when someone coughed.
I don’t take the privilege of getting on a plane for granted any longer. Soon I’ll make the long-haul journey to India to see my parents. I’ve travelled this route dozens of times before but it’s different this time. It’s been 2.5 years since I saw them last. So much has changed.
Kiekie Stanners, makeup artist
My first time travelling by myself. I had just turned 18, and had saved all my money as a fashion student to get lost in London for a few weeks, and jump over to Paris for a weekend. This Polaroid is from the balcony in Montmartre, where my accommodation was most definitely an ex-bordello, and the lights from Moulin Rouge flashed all night through the window. Those red heels were from a Parisian vintage store (and fell apart not long after) and I’m looking smug because I could legally go to bars since the drinking age was 18 in Europe.
Whenever I have had big life moments to celebrate or tough times that I need to recover from, I seem to disappear to NYC/LA for a few weeks to reset. Some people might buy cars, I like to buy flights. This photo is from Brooklyn, New York, on one of my most fond runaways after a breakup. The NYC summer was super hot, I stayed with my dear friend in his tiny apartment which was like a sauna and this was one of those dreamy Brooklyn nights, hanging out by the river and staying up too late talking shit coz it was too hot to sleep.
I’ll be getting on the plane back to NYC/LA as soon as I can, since we’ve been through a lot in the last two years, and I’m desperate to feel that celebration/closure from my sabbatical place before the next chapter starts.
Olivia Vincent Healy, owner of Muse Boutique
My last international trip: NYC, The Big Apple. I'm dressing to the theme here! This was taken during New York Fashion Week, which is technically working but it always feels like a holiday as it's always such a good time. We have such incredible relationships with our US suppliers, they're like friends and we always go out for lovely dinners together after seeing the collections.
The first place we'll be escaping to is Fiji. I've had two children since the trip to New York: pandemic babies. I can't fathom taking them on a long haul trip just yet, but Fiji is a quick flight and the warm ocean and tropical fruit buffet are calling.
Jessie Wong, founder and designer of Yu Mei
My parents were great travellers and always used our holidays as an excuse to teach us about the world. I feel so fortunate to have grown up in a house where so much care was taken to make sure we had a broad understanding of culture.
Weeks before any trip, my Mum would get us special diaries and we'd do 'research projects' on the destination we were visiting. We'd learn about the language, history, culture, native animals and anything of national significance to the place we were travelling. Once we had arrived, we'd write about our adventures every day.
In a classic move, Dad always had a packed itinerary in a clear file folder full of maps and notes about which audio guides to listen to. It must've been quite a big task for my parents to organise all that looking back on it, but I think this deepened our appreciation of the places we visited. I know that box of diaries (which is huge) is one of my mum's most treasured possessions.
These pictures are from Hawaii and Thailand. We have family in Hawaii and I think we must've been visiting them. I can't wait to travel again... there are a few places on the list to go for work, but I'm looking forward to a family trip through Ireland that we are planning. My brother recently did a family tree to find out more about our history on Mum's side, so I think the plan is to retrace our lineage and have a yarn with the locals in a corner pub.
Armagan Ballantyne, filmmaker
I don’t really go on holiday but I did love travelling for work! This snap is from my friend Malgorzata Szumowska's lounge window in Poland. Malgorzata is a wonderful Polish filmmaker. She and I had spent the afternoon sipping Żubrówka and discussing stories and life.
Rebecca Wadey, Ensemble co-founder
My family is really good at holidays and we’ve been incredibly lucky to have some amazing adventures. Our last trip was in September 2019. We went to a film festival in Austin, Texas, where we stayed with dear friends who had a party catered by the legendary Franklin’s BBQ, before doing a road trip (largely along Route 66) from Austin to LA via Marfa, TX - where we ate one of the best meals of my life, saw the creepy alien lights and played influencer outside the Prada artwork installation - and the Grand Canyon, where we camped and cooked sausages and s’mores under the stars surrounded by deer.
The second half of the trip we spent on the Caribbean (rustic) side of Costa Rica where we stayed at an eco-resort where monkeys flung poo at us as we walked to breakfast and howled as we lay on the most beautiful white sand surf beach with sloths watching lazily over us.
We met a lovely young man called Warner at the local coffee shop (Costa Rican coffee is excellent) who offered to take us on a midnight jungle excursion. I’m like Indiana Jones - I do most things but not snakes. We were asked to wear clothing head-to-toe for protection with socks tucked into pants. It was about 40℃ and within a minute we saw poison dart frogs, bullet ants and a deadly fer-de-lance snake. The boys were in heaven. I was not. This photo was taken as we finally exited the jungle and I could strip my sweatshirt off and drink some water away from some of the world's deadliest creatures.
We plan our trips as a family; we travel (and always dine) with a pack of cards and devices are only used in severe emergencies like when Houston airport was engulfed in a flash flood and closed around us. We don’t stay in fancy hotels and most often all bunk in the same room (usually my husband and I split the boys up and each share a bed with one to stop the fighting). I’m so excited to start planning our next adventure. We’re tentatively contemplating Galapagos.
Me in Rome, 1991 - Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi in the Piazza Navona, I think. It was around Christmas and my first (and only!) time in Italy. Fin and I spent Christmas Day in Rome and went to St Peter's Square at midnight on Christmas Eve, where there was a real life nativity scene (real people standing in, crazy!).
Jaquie Brown, writer, presenter
When I was in my twenties I had a terrible nightmare. I'm in a hotel room in Japan, an earthquake hits and the building goes down with me in it. While I'd always been fascinated by Japan and had wanted to go there, that nightmare lingered in the back of my mind.
So, when I was offered the chance in 2019 to fly there to interview the cast of Netflix's Stranger Things for The Project, I was ecstatic but nervous. I told myself that nightmares aren't real and there was nothing to worry about Jaquie, you silly weirdo.
But when I entered the hotel room in Japan I immediately recognised it as the room from my nightmare. I called my husband back in NZ who reassured me that surely it was a coincidence and I tried to relax. The interview wasn't until the following day so I got up leisurely and planned how I'd explore this amazing city.
As I sat at the desk an earthquake hit.
My room swayed but I froze. Is this it? A woman ran into the corridor in a panic, I ran down the stairs to the lobby where nobody seemed worried. The concierge told me yes, it was a fairly big one, but not to worry. The hotel is built to withstand it. But I wasn't built to withstand the anxiety (or the feeling that I better pivot my career now cos I'm obviously a real-life psychic witch cos I can see the FUTURE!).
I took myself off to find an Onsen to try and relax. These are traditional Japanese hot pools where (to my surprise) you have to get completely naked to enter. That's quite a liberating* experience, being naked in a room of other naked strangers. (*bit weird for me at first tbh.)
I navigated the Tokyo subway on my own, explored the city on my own, ate dinner on my own and I bought some shoes and used some very basic Japanese. Being in another culture and not knowing how to speak the language made me feel isolated, so I tried my best to learn greetings, questions and a few phrases each day.
But it's so good for you to be out of your comfort zone, it gives you confidence when you overcome it. This is what I miss about international travel and this is why I can't wait to get back out there and explore the world again.
Courtney Mayhew, film publicist
I took this photo in a post office in Havana, Cuba. We were sending cigars home. They never arrived; but I always think about how it was worth it for this picture. That trip was eye opening - yes there are the old cars and grandiose but crumbling buildings that you associate with Cuba, but it was the incredible people, along with how the politics there shapes their daily lives, that stuck with me.
I've already booked my next trip, a family wedding in England, followed by some corners of Europe I've yet to travel. Being somewhere completely different to home, with camera in hand, is my purest happy place. I feel so fortunate to be able to do it.
Zoe Walker Ahwa, Ensemble co-founder
Pulling my signature awkward tourist pose on my last international trips: Tokyo, October 2019, and Fiji, January 2020.
I was lucky enough to be sent on a work famil in Fiji with my husband, a few decadent days where we were hosted on two private islands. This was the first, Dolphin Island, a small 14-acre spot that we had to ourselves (aside from the small number of staff) - outrageously extravagant. This was the same week that the skies of Auckland turned red from the horrific bushfires raging in Australia, and Covid was news that I was obsessing over but hadn’t yet spread beyond China. Here we were in our own secluded, opulent paradise, dancing on the beach around a bonfire and drinking cocktails as the sun set. I look back now on this carefree moment, and photo, and see pure naivety at what was just ahead.
The earlier Tokyo trip was a personal one, and a dream come true. I'd wanted to visit for years and it was everything I wanted it to be and more. I didn’t speak the language and it was all very fish out of water, but I felt like I was home.
We got a bus from the airport and as we drove over what I think was Rainbow Bridge into the city, the sun was setting and I had that thrilling feeling of being somewhere totally foreign, new and exciting. I love that pit in the stomach feeling of arriving in a city and having to immediately acclimatise; it’s why I always try to get the subway/tube/train from the airport, as it forces you straight into it.
That first groggy, jet-lagged night, we got lost dragging our suitcases around Shibuya trying to find our AirBnB, explored and strayed from my neurotic travel to do (mostly ‘to eat at’) list, and had the most stupid drunk fun at the touristy Lost in Translation karaoke bar.
This photo was later in the week at the Shibuya 109 department store - there was a cat themed purikura [photo sticker booth] pop-up and of course, I was in heaven. Upstairs there was a K-Pop boy band doing a signing for lots of giddy well-dressed girls, and I had just bought a Gudetama [lazy egg] toy from the Sanrio store. Tokyo, in all its cute, chill and chaotic glory, is the first place on my list to visit when I’m comfortable enough to board a plane again.