With any luck, this new year will bring new horizons.
It'll bring both time with friends, and time alone; the bustle of foreign places, and the huge unknown landscapes that give us perspective; new foods to try and streets to navigate; beautiful views, new experiences and, always at the end of a trip away, the joy of returning home.
It's my hope that we'll all be looking a little further afield this year, so this week I'm thinking not just of where we could go right now, but where we would most love to go, if and when it becomes possible.
Here is the dream list of where I'd really rather be, this year.
Sailing New Zealand waters in luxury
In late December the news came through that Ponant, one of the world's most luxurious cruise lines, had received conditional approval by the Ministry of Health to return to New Zealand. Ponant has 11 small luxury vessels, and in the past half-year they've led expeditions in France, Iceland, Sardinia, Russia, the Arctic and French Polynesia.
Next month, Le Laperouse will launch twice from New Zealand, taking passengers on two incredible itineraries. The first begins in Auckland and ends in Lyttelton, taking in the Chatham Islands and the Subantarctic Islands along the way. The second, a round trip from Lyttelton, covers Stewart Island and Ulva Island, The Snares and Fiordland. Le Laperouse carries fewer than 200 guests, and features a spa and hammam, two restaurants, beautiful personalised suites, and the Blue Eye deck, an underwater lounge that offers a unique view into the depths of the ocean.
More departures are being planned for later in the year. au.ponant.com
In Sydney, experiencing the city's first six-star hotel
With world-class dining options, a suite of sexy bars, and luxury accommodation that frames views of the Sydney skyline, Crown Sydney opened in December and offers gorgeous facilities. There's the spa with yoga and meditation terraces and vitality pools, the harbourfront tennis courts, and rooms with views to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House.
And the food? Where do I start? There are 14 bars and restaurants in the complex - from world-famous Japanese fusion at Nobu, with Harold Hurtada, a classically trained sushi chef, to Woodcut, which offers the best of Australian produce prepared with fire, charcoal and steam. There is a 12-seater fine dining option at Yoshii's Omakese, and authentic Cantonese yum cha at Silks, plus a teahouse with cocktails and champagne, a Shanghai noodle house and Italian from award-winning chef Alessandro Pavoni at a'Mare. Yes please and thank you.
Drinking gin at an historic boutique hotel in Western Australia
For a quieter stay, in a quieter spot, the port city of Fremantle is known for a laidback artsy vibe and all-year al fresco dining climate. It's a small but bustling stop just outside the WA capital of Perth, and it's here that the boutique Warders Hotel has recently reopened after extensive restoration. In historic limestone cottages, the rooms have been restored to their original timbers and stonework, yet look modern, comfortable and stylish, with pale colours, handcrafted furniture, and original local artwork.
This bed and breakfast (and pre-dinner cocktail as well) also houses a small aperitivo bar, Gimlet, and an Asian-inspired restaurant, Emily Taylor (named after an 18th-century ship that sailed from England to Fremantle, collecting tea, spices and likely opium from Asia on her way), which is open every day till late.
Sunshine and relaxation in the South Pacific
I no longer believe anything until I hear it straight from the PM's mouth, but there has been so much chat about Pacific Island air bridges, it's hard not to start daydreaming about a tropical holiday. Sometime this year, we could be swinging from a hammock on Aitutaki, snorkelling around Niue, and swimming in Samoa's crystal-clear water holes. Somehow our closest neighbours have never felt further away, but I can already practically taste the ika mata and hear the coconut crabs scuttling along the roads.
Soaking up the culture in Europe
As all our calendars can attest, 2020 was the year of cancellations and postponements. Gigs, events, holidays, and flights, all rescheduled and either rebooked or pulled from the diary altogether. Among those to get a raw deal were the port town of Rijeka in Croatia and the harbour city of Galway, Ireland. These two places were named years ago as the European Capitals of Culture for 2020, an honour bestowed on one or two towns in Europe every year for decades. Capitals of Culture arrange an entire year of cultural events to bring in visitors, raise their city's profile, and highlight diversity and shared history within Europe.
To make up for the lost time that 2020 brought, Rijeka and Galway will now hold their titles through to the end of 2021, and this year's planned new Capital of Culture - Novi Sad, on the banks of the Danube in Serbia - will carry the baton along with Elefsina (Greece) and Timisoara (Romania) in 2022.
Hiking the trails in South Korea
Last year the Travel team walked the length and breadth of New Zealand. From the Hokianga to Stewart Island, over the Banks Peninsula, up the Hooker Valley, around the Coromandel, coast to coast across the South Island, and through the lashing rain around Great Barrier Island. This year, I'd love to lace up my boots and hit a foreign trail.
In South Korea, hikers can discover ancient temples, waterfalls and lost temples along the way. The country is 70 per cent mountainous terrain, with 22 national parks, and hiking is a hugely popular national pastime. Perhaps the country's best-known trail is the Jeju Olle Trail around Unesco Heritage listed Jeju Island. Here there are waterfalls, volcanic peaks and some of the world's finest examples of lava tunnels to discover, as well as Hallasan Mountain, the country's highest peak at 1950m.
In Haenam County, at the southern tip of South Korea, Dalmatian Mountain is just 489m high, but offers views over "Land's Edge", and out to Jeju. There are also beautiful views inland, with stunning temples seemingly cut right into the mountain's rocky outcrops.
A family holiday and adventure in Britain
Perhaps it was the steady diet of TV dinners and Hi-De-Hi! I was fed as a child, but I've always wanted to visit a holiday park. In the UK, Centre Parcs and Butlins are the best known, with forest accommodation, lakes and boating, restaurants and adventure all available for families. But a recent new wave of openings has turned my head, and each sounds like a perfect family holiday.
At Three Mile Beach - which opens in April - guests can enjoy surf lessons and board hire, plus food truck dining at Gwithian Beach near St Ives, Cornwall. Accommodation takes the form of 15 gorgeous beach houses painted in candy-bright hues, each with a hot tub, sauna and outdoor barbecue. threemilebeach.co.uk
In beautiful Snowdonia, Wales, Adventure Park Snowdonia offers adventure, from surfing (and lessons) on an inland surf lagoon, to zip-lining, pump tracks and climbing walls. There's also weatherproof adventures like indoor caving for kids, extreme slides and a "ninja assault course" which is suitable for 5-year-olds, but looks awesome enough for 40-year-olds. For accommodation, there's a Hilton hotel onsite, and glamping options.
Walking with the animals in Zimbabwe
A candlelit table by the side of a lake, fine wine and food, and just across the water, mere metres away, wild elephants, drinking contentedly. At Zimbabwe's Kanga Camp in Mana Pools National Park, they call it an "armchair safari", where guests can sit and dine, or simply read a book, and glance up to find elephants and more slaking their thirst in the water nearby.
Kanga Camp, open from April to November, is a haven for wildlife. The lake is actually the Kanga Pan, the sole source of water in the area (the next closest is the Zambezi River, many kilometres away), and it draws in wildlife such as leopards, wild dogs and antelopes.
The camp is made up of six luxury tents with wooden floors, canvas roofs, and floor to ceiling mesh windows to maximise your wildlife spotting chances. There are en suite bathrooms with hot running water and a honeymoon tent for starlit outdoor bathing. There is also a shared viewing platform - an open-air lounge, which sits above Kanga Pan, and a plunge pool. During the day there are wildlife walks, drives and activities, and at the hide, guests might take binoculars and cameras to better capture their memories. africanbushcamps.com/camps/kanga-camp
Dining and culture in New York City
New York City is a magical and mad place and one that feels like a very distant hope right now. The pandemic has not been kind to New York, especially the city's once-thriving hospitality scene, which has been through a dizzying number of restaurant and bar closures, and about-turns on its dining and service regulations in the past year. At the time of writing, the rules were outdoor dining only, as well as takeaway and delivery, but that seems to change from one moment to the next.
But one day, this will all be over, and New York will once again be on travellers' wish lists. When that's possible, I'm dreaming of giant pretzels, bagels and lox, and huge slices of pizzas eaten right on the sidewalk. I'm craving late-night dive bars as much as fancy historic hotel bars serving red snappers and Manhattans. I want to queue on the street for a pastrami on rye at Katz's, sit at the counter of Momofuku Ko, and eat barbecue in Koreatown. In between meals, I'll take in opera at the Met and musical theatre on Broadway, and learn the city's history at the New-York Historical Society. I want the highest and the lowest brow offerings the Big Apple can serve me.
Here's to a 2021 full of hope, and adventure.
For more New Zealand travel ideas and inspiration, go to newzealand.com