Homeward Bound

Homeward Bound

Yes, I’m homeward bound after being one of the first South Africans to travel to the USA after President Biden lifted travel restrictions on 31 December 2021.

My visit was a trip to see my son in Texas.  I won’t go into the drama filled detail leading to my departure suffice to say we changed my flight seven times and in the end, I missed Christmas and New Year with him but I got there and for that I am very thankful.

My trip to Texas included a week in New York and Washington DC.  I have travelled widely but this was my first visit to America and the chance to visit the Big Apple and DC was top of my bucket-list.   Being winter, the weather was a shocker resulting in a 9-hour delay in Houston to LaGuardia.  We arrived in NY around 1am to discover that this indeed is the city that never sleeps.  Not wasting any time, we headed to Times Square at 3am finding New Year’s Eve confetti still in the streets.  At this late hour people were milling around, a few pot-selling merchants were hustling for another sale and a few stores still trading.

Lady Liberty

Our boat tour to the Statue of Liberty on a very cold afternoon resulted in a very special photograph with a crucifix cloud positioned directly above Lady Liberty.   We spent a number of hours at the 9/11 Memorial, this tragic day deeply affected me and was a priority on my to-see list.

Travel during a Pandemic

America is in their Omicron peak which was evident by the many free Covid testing stations located on New York street corners and mall parking lots in Washington.  Mask wearing was mandatory in New York and Washington and we were asked to produce vaccination certificates and proof of ID at all restaurants, museums, airports and Federal buildings.  Texas is a Republican state giving individuals the right to make their own choice regarding mask wearing and far fewer people wear them.

Regrettably we were only able to visit the Natural History Museum in Washington as all other Smithsonian museums were closed due to Covid.  At least we have new experiences for our next visit.  We spent a couple of hours in the Arlington National Cemetery where over 400 000 souls have been laid to rest.  On this cold morning I was moved to discover that each resting place had a Christmas wreath placed at its headstone.  This considerable undertaking is done yearly by volunteers who honour those who have given their lives to America.   Our tour guide told us that on Memorial Day an American flag is placed at each grave.  Our visit to Arlington National Cemetery was a quiet and humbling experience.

Time was limited and unfortunately, I missed the chance to visit two tourism friends who live in New York.  In Washington however I was able to spend an evening cooking dinner and drinking local wines with a school friend.  What a wonderful catch up, I am hoping to see her in SA for our 30th reunion later this year.

Appetite for Travel

The appetite for travel remains strong.  Mine was influenced by the desire to see my son.  It is obvious that challenges to global travel remain but the inconvenience is small compared to the memories created, new friends made and value of experiencing new cultures.

South Africa has so much to offer visitors.  Our country will inspire you; it will leave you speechless at its vast beauty, big blue skies, scenic vista’s and people with heart.   South Africa has an energy that will touch your soul, its charm and vibrancy is colourful and sincere.  We are open and ready for international tourists, our outdoor lifestyle, social distancing, a vaccinated population and mandatory mask wearing we cover all the bases in terms of safety protocols.  We have some of the best medical care in the world and it is affordable.

Travel restrictions and safety protocols have made travel a lot more challenging but for those with adventure in their heart it is worth jumping the hoops.

South Africa is ready

Nelson Mandela said it best: ‘As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give permission to others to do the same’.  South Africa is a beacon to the continent, we have a thriving tourism industry.  Some of the best lodges, hotels, restaurants and attractions reside on the tip of Africa.  Our wines win awards across the world.  Breath-taking safaris stays are accessible in Southern Africa.

South Africa is tourism ready.  What are you waiting for?