Gold Coast conference a learning experience

It is nice to be on Australian soil again — especially the sunny Gold Coast.
It is nice to be on Australian soil again — especially the sunny Gold Coast. PHOTOS: ALEX HANNIGAN

Catch me if you can ... the world is ready and waiting for us ...

Travel is part of Kiwis’ DNA. We live and breathe it and we have always been more than happy to fly far and wide to reach exotic places to experience new and exciting cultures. Planning the next adventure before we return from the one we are on, the constant excitement of travel pumping through our veins for year after year.

In early 2020, that dreaded word starting with C took over and the handbrake was pulled on our travel realities, hopes and dreams. So much so, it felt like it was a bad dream that just would not relent.

Fast-forward to 2022 and it’s time to dust of your passports, buy a new suitcase and get ready for take off as borders are open! I was presented with the opportunity to attend my first overseas conference in Australia since pre-Covid, and the thought of leaving the country for a few days gave me goose bumps.

In all honesty, and I’m not trying to sugar coat things by any stretch of the imagination, it dawned on me that "shivers, I have a few hoops to jump through before I can even board my flight, not to mention coming home".

I flew up to Auckland the day before my departure as our flight to Coolangatta left early Sunday morning. Shortly after landing, I jumped in an Uber and headed over to the Chemist Warehouse where I had booked my supervised Rat test so I could board my flight in the morning (this was just before Australia lifted this prerequisite).

The first trip overseas since the pandemic is a cause for celebration. PHOTOS: ALEX HANNIGAN
The first trip overseas since the pandemic is a cause for celebration. PHOTOS: ALEX HANNIGAN
Passport in one hand and a swab in the other, I followed the instructions hoping for the best. After about 10 minutes my name was called and my negative result was presented — phew!

Next, I need to make sure my Australian Digital Passenger Declaration was in order. I am thankful I did not leave this to the last minute as it proved a bit fiddly to fill out. I got the word "complete" and had my reference number so took a screenshot of this to show at check-in.

I got to the airport super-early as I just want to get checked in sorted. I expected there to be plenty of people checking in, ready to show their homework to the teacher. I followed all the prompts on the check-in kiosk, boarding pass prints, followed by my bag tag and before I knew it I had checked in my bag — that was easy, no-one even asked for anything!

I whisk through security and head into Duty Free — yes, Duty Free! I vow never again to take perfume smelling, spraying and buying in this neck of the woods for granted ever again! Smelling good for 8am on a Sunday, we head up to the Air New Zealand International lounge. It is so cool seeing passengers excitedly popping Champagne at this time in the morning as they head overseas on holiday for the first time since the pandemic. We decide to join in and eat some Kransky mini cheese sausages as well! Why? Because we can!

Our flight is completely full, which is cool to see. With Wi-Fi in the sky, I eagerly text people from the plane and manage to fit in King Richard, which I have been dying to watch. Oh the joys of flying internationally!

Before I know it, I have landed on the sunny Gold Coast. The warmth so inviting. It is so nice to be on Australian soil again.

Again I have all my Covid documentation ready to show. I scan my passport and look up at the camera to go through E Gate. I get the egg timer and the big green tick — good to go. I notice some people getting asked to show documentation, which makes me think this is done on a random basis. I then get pulled aside and asked for my international vaccine pass, which I have at the ready. I then proceed to baggage claim to collect my luggage, eager to get this show on the road.

The next few days I attend a rewarding conference filled with reconnection, great laughs and learning, It’s like a magical tonic after not being able to do this for so long. The feelings are surreal and I’m grateful to be given the opportunity to travel again.

The time has come to get ready to head back to New Zealand, but first I find time to nip over to the newly done up Pacific Fair for a spot of shopping!

Thankfully, my group passes our supervised Rat tests to fly home and have our QR codes ready to fly back to New Zealand.

At check-in the next day, this proves to really slow things down, so much so our flight departs 40 minutes late!

Key take-away from this is to make sure you are prepared before you fly!

I return from this excursion feeling pumped, motivated and pleased to have experienced this new travel process as I now know what to expect next time.

Travel is well and truly back and people are raring to get out of the starting blocks for their turn.



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