It’s Good to Get Away by Trevor Plumbly

Getting Away New Zealand Style

One of the oddest things about New Zealand is the enormous enthusiasm most people have for ‘getting away’. Given the size of the country, it’s pretty tough to get really far away from whatever moves you to flee the nest several times a year. I tend to be a bit cynical about it all really; it seems to me that most people getting away from ‘it all’ want to pack most it of ‘it all’ in the car with them, before heading off with thousands of fellow motorists in an endeavour to find somewhere as unpopulated as the place they’ve just abandoned, inhaling half the country’s carbon footprint in the process.

My Attitude to Getting Away

Prior to my sight problem, I found this spasmodic nomadic frenzy hard to adopt; it just seemed that the packing and travelling induced more stress than the stress you were trying to get rid of in the first place.

These days I am excused the annual search for sea and solitude on compassionate grounds: I have a medical condition known as ‘chronic grumpiness’ which prevents me from doing anything I don’t enjoy. But even the most afflicted must travel at some time, and in that event I hope the following tips will help you and your travelling companion.

Tips for Getting Away

  • Pack frugally; you don’t need the fripperies that others can’t leave home without. Remember you’re not going to a fashion show. Think small and essential, it saves you from the ‘Have you seen my?’ scenario which involves frantic searches for stuff you probably didn’t bring in the first place.
  • Always, always pack two pairs of glasses; if you need more than that, go home! It’s just not going to work for you.
  • When flying, I usually adopt a confused and vulnerable attitude at the airport. This usually puts the ball firmly in the airline’s court; they don’t want you clogging things up, so they prefer to stick you towards the front of the plane which is handy to the toilet and the exit door. This is a win-win situation for everybody; after all, who wants an aisle seat with some old geezer with a weak bladder bumbling up and down in search of the loo. Being close to the door is also a plus: boarding a plane is a pretty ordered affair, but when it comes to getting off, it always seems as if a civilised stampede is about to happen. For everyone’s convenience and safety I’m better off out of the way. And of course it gets me to the baggage claim early.
  • On arrival, if you become separated from your companion, don’t panic, it’s not like being stranded in the supermarket. Airports have lots of people wandering around just looking for someone to help, so try to look bemused and isolated (do practise this at home as it’s important). This serves two major purposes, it enables them to parade you through the concourse on a sort of ‘see I found one!’ victory lap. Secondly, and more important, your helper has powers akin to Moses: regardless of gender or official trappings they part the waters of procedure without breaking step. For you, procedure does not exist. You and your baggage don’t need to stand in line. You breeze past Immigration, Passport Control and Airport Security with endless lines of ordinary travellers gazing enviously on. Past that, relatives whisk you outside and prop you up against the car in the no waiting area whilst they go back for the baggage. The parking attendant, whose basic instinct is to slap tickets on anything with wheels, becomes your friend and guardian until the baggage is loaded and watches you drive safely away…ticketless.
  • Generally speaking, buses and I don’t really click, though this is more my fault than theirs. The problem is mainly that they know the system and I don’t. For them destination means some bloody great garage out in the sticks; bus stops are just minor irritants on the way. For me destination isn’t quite so prescribed or easily arrived at. Put simply, the ‘operator’ (what happened to drivers?) knows his route and timetable. Sure, the timetable is posted for all to see but you need a microscope to read it. At the risk of incurring the wrath of the Public Transport Authority, my tip is that buses should be treated with caution, or avoided altogether, as far as the elderly and short sighted people are concerned.

Staying at Home

There’s no doubt about it, getting away from it all can be an awful strain, from trying to fit half the house contents into a hatchback with two kids and the dog or trying to convince Airport Control Officers that the small Swiss Army knife in your pocket doesn’t make you a terrorist. Whilst others take such things in their stride along with sunburn, mosquitoes, traffic jams and airport delays, I rejoice in my personal medical condition as the family drive off and I watch it all get away from me.


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