Back to New Zealand
… When the Going Gets Tough, Keep Traveling
by Alan E. Lewis
Entry: May 2011
When Christchurch recovers from February’s devastating earthquake, we’ll be back.
A natural disaster such as an earthquake seems so capricious—often appearing to strike from nowhere at some unsuspecting corner of the world. Aside from grieving for the innocent victims left in its wake, one rarely knows how to properly respond to a tragedy in a distant land. But good people so often rally together and try to help as best they can.
Our Grand Circle Foundation has contributed funds to many regions of the world devastated by acts of nature over the years—it’s only right since so many people have shared their culture with us by welcoming us to their country, even into their homes. Our travelers, too, have been extremely generous in this regard, donating thousands of their own dollars to the people of Haiti, Japan, and many other destinations in dire need of assistance.
But through it all, we keep traveling—we must.
I’d like to tell you why I believe this, first by sharing with you our response to a recent crisis in New Zealand. After a powerful earthquake hit Christchurch this past February, the nation's second-largest city was left in ruins. Our first concern, of course, was for out travelers in New Zealand at the time—including some in Christchurch itself. They were indeed all safe. But going forward, what should we do? With its rich colonial heritage, Christchurch was an integral component of our Pure New Zealand OAT adventure, as well as Grand Circle’s Australia, New Zealand & Fiji Escorted Tour. Should we simply cancel all future departures of these trips until the people of Christchurch could recover from their loss and the city could be rebuilt?
No, we did what we always do—we adapted. In order for our travelers not to miss out on experiencing this beautiful South Pacific country, we quickly retooled our itineraries. This is not an easy thing to do, however. The logistics alone make it very difficult to shift groups of travelers to new destinations, book new hotels, and arrange for alternative transportation. But having a regional presence in New Zealand (and in many other countries) makes it all possible. And it allows us to respond quickly to events of almost any magnitude, almost anywhere in the world. Other companies can’t do this, but thriving in change is one of our hallmarks. It has made us grow over the years and is what separates us from other travel companies.
So while we were forced to sidestep Christchurch while the city recovers from its tragedy, we quickly decided to keep traveling to New Zealand. But Christchurch would be difficult to replace. Where would we go? I remember putting this question to members of our regional office in New Zealand. They didn’t hesitate in unanimously voicing their recommendation for an itinerary replacement: “Welly!” they shouted. After they were greeted by silence on my end of the phone, I heard laughter as they quickly explained to me that “Welly” is what the locals call Wellington.
With its charm and scenic locale, Wellington is rapidly emerging as a world-class travel destination.
And they were right. Wellington is a charming North Island coastal city nestled between hillsides where Victorian homes cling to their slopes. And with its wealth of cultural and artistic treasures, it is quickly emerging as a world-class travel destination (in fact, Lonely Planet recently named Wellington as one of their top 10 cities in the world). So through lots of hard work, our itineraries have now been refigured to allow travelers to continue to enjoy a seamless, discovery-filled journey to New Zealand.
But whether it’s natural disasters in New Zealand and Japan or revolutionary shock waves in Egypt and the Middle East, it would be a shame to miss out on realizing a travel dream due to unforeseen global circumstances. Paul Theroux, a wonderful novelist and travel writer, nailed some of the reasons why we mustn’t ever be discouraged from traveling a few weeks ago in The New York Times (April 3, 2011). Visiting other countries during times of historic change and natural disasters, he wrote, can be inconvenient—or worse—for a traveler. But it can also be “… an enrichment, even a blessing, one of the life-altering trophies of the road.” Travel, his article concludes, “… has never seemed to me of greater importance, more essential, more enlightening.”
I couldn’t agree with his sentiment more. The world is too fascinating—and life too short—to miss out on its breathtaking beauty and rich cultural diversity. I believe that those who wait to travel until the world feels perfectly safe are waiting for a day that will not come. And as they wait, dreams linger unfulfilled—not just their own, but the dreams of the cultures which would welcome them. If you’re like me, you want nothing more than to keep making discoveries in this wonderful world. As a company, I can assure you that we will continue to adapt, change, and do everything possible to allow our travelers to safely return to a destination as quickly as possible.
In spite of a seemingly endless series of wrenching events unfolding before our eyes around the world in recent times—some initiated by Mother Nature, others by the hand of man—our mantra hasn’t changed one iota: “Keep traveling.”
Alan E. Lewis