''You just have to live your life.''
That is how young Kiwis who are flying in the face of Covid-19 and the war in Europe feel as they head off on what was once considered, a rite of passage - their big Overseas Experience.
The global pandemic, rising death rates and border closures quashed the dreams of a generation, but now the lure of adventure is making a comeback.
Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine was "scary to think about" for many, but it is not putting them off their travel plans.
And they're not alone.
Travel agents told NZME their phones were ringing and, while the full impact of the conflict on international travel was not yet unknown, the escalating conflict had taken the focus off the pandemic globally.
Families are still heading for France and Italy and booking cruises.
Nicole Holmes plans to travel to England later this year with her partner, Rob Dormant, who will be reunited with his family.
The 28-year-old from Tauranga is "super excited" and the couple plan to work before travelling around Europe.
"I think an OE can give you a new sense of independence, maturity and confidence; you learn so much about yourself and others. You get pushed out of your comfort zone and you get to meet some amazing people along the way."
Holmes said Covid would always be at the back of her mind "but there comes a point where you just have to live your life".
"We can't let it hold us back and stop things forever, I really want to travel and see more of the world. I want my partner to finally see his family again and now is the time."
Holmes said she felt a "surreal" sense of anticipation about the trip.
"There are all these amazing places that I've only ever seen pictures of. I can't wait to experience it all."
Asked about the Russia and Ukraine conflict, Holmes said: "I guess being from New Zealand, I am pretty naive to it because we feel so safe away from it all here. It's scary to think about but we don't plan on going there."
Holmes acknowledged most people travelled in their early 20s but she was lucky enough to own a home so "it feels nice to know I have this to come back to".
Meanwhile, Sam Iliev has thrown in two jobs and is off to Melbourne next week to be the best man at his brother's wedding on March 29.
Iliev said he had already secured a new higher-paying logistics role in the second-largest city in Australia and he planned to take on another.
"Australia is just crying out for workers at the moment. I like money and I like to spend it."
Iliev said he would miss his family, friends and godchildren and would have to swap boil-ups for barbecues.
He would also have to start cooking "instead of going to everyone else's house for feeds".
However, he was excited and hoped to travel further, to Europe, in the future.
"I'm too big for little ol' Rotorua," he joked.
"There is heaps of the world to discover, so why not go for it I reckon."
In his view, Covid was a minor inconvenience.
"I don't think we can sit around locked up in our houses forever, we have to get out of there at some point. I am double-vaccinated and boosted and I already wear my mask and do all the sign-ins.
"I am ticking all the right boxes and should be able to live my life."
He did not agree with Russia's invasion of Ukraine, "but I guess we will just see what the rest of the world does about it".
Ashleigh Gatiss-Ward said she planned to travel the world for three months in 2020 with her partner Jeremy Marnane but Covid changed things.
"Then we got to re-evaluating what life is like here and the risks we live with compared to overseas. I think now is the best time as there are fewer tourists. So hopefully, we can enjoy more sights and have more personal space."
The 23-year-old said their itinerary was extensive. They will start in Hawaii before heading to Greece.
''Then we will make our way up through Europe to Prague, Monaco, Croatia and then Italy. From there we are going to France for a month. We have only got 90 days so we are going to see how much we can smash in ... it's been such a long time coming.''
Gatiss-Ward said there was "nothing holding us back" and Covid was part of everyday life.
"Going to the supermarket is just as dangerous, in my opinion. We have got all our vaccinations and booster shots and you have just got to take the leap to live.
"I know from experience how small New Zealand is compared to other countries and travelling totally changes your perspective. It opens you up to different cultures and builds your character."
Travel agency Galaxy World Rotorua director Joanna Corbett said she had two clients who were heading to Scotland at the end of this month.
"They have been waiting but have now got their visas confirmed and with it opening up they are off. It is a slow burn with the [Covid] announcements of self-isolation, and many travellers are still suspicious of further backtracking and change."
She said the phones were busy with bookings and people had been walking in, despite Covid and despite the war.
"Kiwis are resilient and creative.
"We will travel."
You Travel Bethlehem managing director Kay Rogers said the United Kingdom seemed to be the starting point for young Kiwis who had family ties before they ventured further into Europe.
Many were travelling via America.
"The families we have going on their family OE are heading for France and Italy, as their main area of exploration.''
She said since the reopening of New Zealand's borders was announced, the travel agency was inundated with new bookings.
European holidays that had a cruise component and were popular alongside holidays to Scandinavia.
However, things had become unusually quiet within the past week.
''We are putting it down to what has happened with the Ukraine. It is likely to have an impact on European travel if it continues and escalates to neighbouring countries. We will deal with that if it happens."
Tauranga House of Travel owner Shane Kennedy said he had already seen young Kiwis start moving to the United Kingdom.
"The re-establishment of OE opportunities and having their futures unlocked instead of locked down is encouraging for so many reasons."