The danger of travel – dangerous in ways many don’t or won’t understand

The Southern Alps. New Zealand

In this time of Covid-19 (coronavirus) and racism and riots in the United States, it sometimes feels the world is going mad and we’re powerless to stop it.  Only one thing is certain, I am powerless to do anything to stop it.

The sadness this has caused me is because I’m a traveller.  I’ve been to so many of those places, perhaps have even talked to people who are now dead or dying from the virus, or are in jail from protesting, and it reminded me of a column I had written when I was the travel editor of a newspaper in Christchurch, New Zealand.  (Christchurch Citizen)

These weekly columns, which I’d planned to be monthly, gave me space to write anything I wanted about travel – stream of consciousness travel writing was easy for someone who loves to travel – albeit someone who was a late starter to travel.

However, with wall-to-wall coverage about this latest new virus, and the ongoing racism that resulted in yet another death in ‘the states’ I remembered a column I had written some 18 years ago.  I believe it still has currency now.

sailing down the Nile

I’m feeling sad. Once again I see the dangers of travel. Not the rare physical danger of airline or vehicle crashes; not the occasional danger of being robbed or becoming sick, but the every-day common danger of your heart getting to know people and places. People we would not usually meet. This week, hearing of train accidents and even more deaths in the Middle East, I am very conscious of that emotional danger.

Geography was always of more interest than history at school. One could have a stab at answering questions if I knew a couple of other facts. Distance from the equator would give clues as to temperatures and climate. Mountains, plains, rivers all added up to some understanding of a place that dates and historical facts didn’t – well for me anyway.

Now travel has given me a different perspective on places. Geography remains important, history helps with understanding people and the two, combined with travel experience, gives me a sense of, not exactly ownership or belonging, but something rather like kinship, I’m attached. I leave a bit of me in every place, and take some of the places away with me

To me this feeling of human-oneness is particularly acute at times of high emotions; small countries achieve a goal; overcome an obstacle; a national team wins; and in particular, really acute in times of national pain.

My first real experience of this came after I’d been to Ireland and then shortly afterwards ‘the troubles’ began again. I was devastated that the wonderful little city of Londonderry (or Derry, depending on the map consulted) was yet again the centre of violence. Streets I’d walked down were now dangerous. Those people I had maybe spoken to or walked past were now dead or injured had me crying in front of the TV or newspaper.

Turkey and Greece had earthquakes, people in Israel and Palestine killing each other, London had rubbish bins removed from the street for fear of terrorism, New York and the New Yorkers I love have been devastated and traumatised, monsoon floods happen in Asia, and now Egypt, fabulous country and generous people, is grief-stricken with a train tragedy.

With all these,  I think of the diverse people whom I have come to know, love, judge and compare and empathise with their pain. Yet what can we do to ease that pain? Nothing. The one thing that would help – having loved ones alive again – is way beyond anything we can do.

However, maybe travel-writing that gives the texture, flavour and smells of a place helps bridge that gap between us and them. After all the scenery and monuments are the same in everyone’s photos. It’s our experiences that provide the difference.

Travelling, or reading about travelling, help us realise people are not like those presented in the headlines of our papers or in the sound-bites of radio or television. Young or old, male, female, Christian, Pagan, Muslin, or freethinker as a Japanese friend describes herself, we’re all part of the human family and when a  family member is in pain we feel it.” Travel editor” First published – Christchurch Citizen Feb 25th 2002

 

Grief is affecting us all right now

Are people who do it ‘control freaks’ or are they just susceptible to the marketing practices of funeral directors or insurance companies?

Do what? Arrange their own funeral, that’s what.

A few generations ago grandma lay in the front room, someone washed the body, friends and neighbours paid their respects, bought meals, cakes, and supported the grieving. There was little planning as funerals were similar, the minister knew the deceased and cemeteries were often beside the church.

Funeral directors, as with all commercial enterprises, are always looking for new ways to increase their profit and many years ago, they convinced us, for ease and hygiene, to take grandma out of the family parlour. Be modern they told us, bring her to our parlour, save all the worry and show your friends and neighbours how sophisticated you are.

Well, maybe not those exact words, but the result was the same and grandma was taken off our hands and another layer separated us from death: they are doing it again.

As a result of suggestions, adverts, and free books for funeral planning, it seems already 5% of Kiwis are arranging their own funerals. Adverts tell us how helpful it will be for our grieving and stressed family. Nonsense. Funeral rituals are for the living, a vital part of our grieving process.

Planning the funeral helps us move through the beginnings of grieving healthily. Getting in touch with all the feelings that such planning exposes is painful but helpful – it also gives us another chance to express love. Conversely, it allows us to work through feelings that are not so love-based. After all, not all funerals we are involved with will be for people we love absolutely. Working through those so-called negative feelings is important too: relief, guilt and anger are just a few we may have.

Children also benefit by being involved.  As a bereavement counsellor, I was often told how younger members of a family came up with a suggestion that really struck a chord and the adults grasped it with appreciation. As with the adult’s grief, children too are helped by being involved, so don’t remove them from the rituals. Reading a poem about grandma at her service not only involves the child but also allows the expression of their grief.

Sitting beside my husband’s coffin I was horrified at the sight of my daughter walking back into Rehua Marae with her beautiful long, blonde hair gone. Her gift to her stepfather was to place her hair in his coffin. Where, at twelve, she found that idea I have no idea but she’s still happy with her gesture of love.

‘They’ say time heals. Not true: it’s what we do with the time that does the healing, and working through the funeral planning is just part of the doing.

Remember, the amount of money spent on a funeral does not equate with love, however, the appropriateness of the funeral rites, showing we have really thought about the person does equate with love.  It’s also possible to have an economical funeral that is sensitive to our needs so get quotes for all or parts of the funeral: in fact, the funeral process and service or ceremony can be undertaken by anybody. A funeral director, undertaker, or minister of religion is not required by law at any stage: nor is embalming.

Despite simple (New Zealand legal requirements, they can appear overwhelming, especially when we add our perceptions about what’s required.  We must have: a death certificate, issued by a Doctor, showing the cause of death or, a coroner’s burial certificate the body must be contained in a coffin or other suitable container – solid enough to be handled by the pallbearers, and burial must be in an area permitted by law or cremated in an approved crematorium

Then, within three days of the burial or cremation, the following forms must be lodged with the Register of Births and Deaths.

death registration form

medical certificate as to cause of death, or the coroner’s burial order

And that’s all. A helpful friend can be delegated or may offer, to get these certificates and take them to the Register of Births Deaths and Marriages.

So, if you think you will help your family by planning your funeral, think again – you may be delaying their grief process just as pills, or alcohol, do.

To help, leave money to pay for the rituals if you can, and make sure you have talked about death, and organ donation, with your family, then leave it up to them. After all, our bodies belong to our next of kin when we’re dead: don’t try to control them – they don’t have to do what you planned! END

©Heather Hapeta 2008 (first published in the Press, Christchurch, NZ)

Heather Hapeta, previously an alcohol and drug therapist, studied bereavement counselling under Mel McKissock at the Bereavement CARE Centre in Sydney Australia. She then worked for the Canterbury Bereaved by Suicide Society for four years, had a private practice in Napier, and was a founder member of NALAG NZ (National Association of Loss and Grief).

 

Post COVID-19 we will travel again – so solo, or with others?

Do you travel with others or alone? What are the pros and cons? And once this virus is under ‘control’ how will you travel? Alone or with others?

Which do you prefer – on a bus with strangers; with a friend; with your partner, or independently?

Whichever you choose, your travel journey becomes different because of that choice!  I mostly prefer solo, independent travel – however, I have friends who think there could be nothing worse!  I once travelled in parts of Europe on a bus with strangers – at every stop, we were always waiting for someone and that drove me nuts.

When travelling with a friend, we have to be very specific about what is, and isn’t, acceptable -especially if you’re sharing a room.  Of course, it’s very easy to say, but sometimes it’s hard to do -leaving one of you, sometimes constantly, inwardly fuming.  It’s very easy for one of you to minimise your requests, wants, or needs.

Over the years, during times of travelling with another person, these have been the issues of being confronted with.  Not always easy to solve – although if you both can compromise 50% of the time things work out.

  • Someone with a well-developed fear of germs and food that’s ‘different’
  • Night owls who want to talk – I’m an early bird
  • Coughing, but not taking, or refusing to buy, medication
  • Proposing things to do, we agree, then changing their mind – resulting in more convoluted conversations about option A B or C
  • Struggling while carrying  many bags instead of one or 2
  • Train travel only because ‘a friend said the buses were dangerous’

What has been your experiences of travelling alone, or with others?  What problems have you encountered, and what advice would you give to someone who was planning travel?

Britomart

Big travel lies – and the the truth: I have an Ayurveda massage :)

I could tell you a great big lie about why I have massages when I’m travelling.  I could say it’s for research, or I could say it so I can write a blog, but neither of them would be true.

Sure, I may write an article or blog about a massage – and I confess I have one everywhere I go – but nearly always the main reason is pure pleasure and relaxation.  Of course, sometimes I  have tight muscles or a sore back and massages are my go-to treatment for them too.

About 18 months ago, while staying at the Kannur Beach House in Kerala, I gave myself an early Christmas present – the day before Christmas – and had an Ayurvedic massage, here in what must be the Ayurvedic capital of the world (Kerala) – the first time I’ve had one.

So, what is Ayurveda?  Firstly, the word is evidently Sanskrit and translates as the knowledge of life or life science. It’s a holistic way of living that combines meditation, yoga, diet, herbal remedies and massage.  Its beliefs include: everything in the universe is made up of elements, including ear fire and water.  It is the balance of these bodily energies, which governs our physical and emotional health.  According to a book I read at the beach house.  These were written in the ancient Hindu scriptures, The Vedas, which describes health as balance and illness, as an imbalance.  Imbalance can be set right through eating foods based on body type, proper digestions, physical exercise and yoga or meditation.

Enough of my research, what about the massage?

I arrived by Auto (a 3-wheeled, Tuk-tuk type vehicle) and was first interviewed about my health history.

She started with a head massage, which was lovely, and finished with my face being massaged at the end. It felt luxurious having very warm oil poured over me.  No oil on her hands but poured directly onto my body in copious amounts.

The massage included long dramatic, two-handed swirls and strokes from my foot to my fingertips.  Smooth figure-eight movements travelled all over the front of my body and included long sweeps over my arms and torso.  This certainly was a different sort of massage and not at all like a Thai massage or Swedish.

With great care,

I climbed off the oil-covered massage table – fearing I would slip right off. I thought that was the end of it, but no, I was then put in a steam box and wish I had a photo of the box with my head poking out.  I found it very claustrophobic and quite scary and asked to be let out after about 5 minutes, which she did gracefully.  A shower followed – with shampoo and body wash provided.

So, I’m not sure if the herb-infused oil used in the massage purified me, detoxed, cleansed or removed any toxins, but I can say it was a great massage and next time I’m back in Kerala I will return for another!

However, like all massage therapists each one differs: that first one was magic, it felt authentic, but then I had another one further south, which seemed more tourist orientated, and more like a regular massage> I’m pleased I was able to ask a local where to go, who they could recommend,  when I was at the Kunnar Beach House 😊

 

Are you a slow traveller? What is slow travel?

interact with the locals

Are you a slow traveller?  What is slow travel?  I’m sure it means different things to different people.

For me, slow travel means pacing my travel, not having every moment accounted for, and therefore leaving time for the unexpected. The unknown and the unplanned for.  Leaving time to sit in the coffee shop and watch how locals live and interact.

Florida – well caught

For me, the difference is about the difference between being a tourist and being a traveller. I like to think I’m a traveller.  It means going to a country but only visiting one small region, not rushing around so you can take off everything on the must-see or must-do lists.  I like to create my own list with lots of gaps 🙂

A spirit tree in Bangkok
The KiwiTravelWriter checks out the manatee in Florida

So are you a slow traveller?  Tell me, what does it mean to you?  I do understand people taking tours, but I guess I’m selfish and self-centred and really just want to leave when I want to leave, to stay longer when I want to – or to jump on a bus and get the hell out of somewhere. 🙂

In particular, I want to have an early breakfast and get out exploring not waiting for other people to wake up have their breakfast and then join a bus group.  It is easy to see why most of my travels have been solo 🙂

taking off in a hot air balloon – Canterbury, New Zealand

 

 

Open letter about NZ rugby – sent to the NZRU

I sent this letter to the NZ Rugby Union Board 24th April 2019. The topic line said to the Rugby Union “Please forward to the Board Chair (Brent) and Crusaders (Grant) and all board members”

To Brent Impey, Grant Jarrold and your boards,

This is an open letter to you and other rugby fans.

I am 73-year-old All Blacks, Canterbury and Crusaders fan. I’ve been a one-eyed Cantabrian since I began, as a child, listening to the games on the radio and/or standing on the embankment at Lancaster Park with my Dad. I also expected my younger son to play for Canterbury – he played for Shirley, and once, in a junior team, played for Canterbury. Sadly, his coach-father died when he was 12 and then, at 15, a motorbike accident saw his leg being ripped off at the groin – killing his dreams and expectations of a rugby future.

The reason I’m writing is that I want to have my say as I’ve not signed any petition or been included in any poll. I also believe a letter is of more value than a signature.

I want the name ‘Crusaders’ to change. I’m glad the extras have been stopped and I hope the horse and knights will never return – in any form. I was disturbed, no – actually I was horrified – when the team was named in the mid-90s but put it down to ignorance of history and assumed most people/fans would be ignorant too.

That passive acceptance on my part changed in an instant when the white supremacist terrorist killed Muslims in my home city. (I live in Wellington now but you can take the girl out of the city but not the city out of the girl).

You don’t need a history lesson from me, others more qualified will have advised you. I also don’t believe a nation-wide poll should drive your decision either. Just do the right thing for all of us – a decision you will be able to capitalise on, as proof of a team of honourable, inclusive, diverse, people.

Please do not consult the local mosques unless the first question is – do you want to have a say about a name change? You would just be setting them up for more vitriol when you change the name – people not wanting a name change will blame them entirely.

Without a name change, this topic will come up every year. Will fans like me be able to wear our jerseys with pride? Not really. We will still love our team no matter its name or rankings but keeping the name and branding will cause issues for us fans too. If we can’t wear our red and black with pride, I suspect many will lose interest.

Please consider these points when you vote about the name change . . .  long before the new season starts, so we, and you, can buy the new red and black kit!

I look forward to hearing from you.

Heather Hapeta

Here’s their bounced back reply: 24th April – I’ve received nothing more.

Kia ora,

Thanks for contacting New Zealand Rugby.

We greatly appreciate you taking the time to email us, we’ll do our best to respond to you as soon as possible, however we are currently experiencing a high volume of emails and may require an extra few days.

If your email is about All Blacks schedule, public appearances, tickets or for signed memorabilia for charity, please go to http://www.allblacks.com/Contact

For all other questions and queries, we’ll come back to you as soon  as possible.

Nga Mihi

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