Photograph by Mark Tantrum/Getty Images
Photograph by Mark Tantrum/Getty Images
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Will New Zealand show us the future of travel?

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By George Stone, TRAVEL Executive Editor

New Zealand’s success in moving toward eliminating the coronavirus is a bright light in a dark season. “While governments worldwide have vacillated on how to respond and ensuing cases of the virus have soared, New Zealand has set an uncompromising, science-driven example,” writes Aaron Gulley in our report on how the island nation used strict lockdowns and austerity measures to bring COVID-19 to heel.

Optimism played a part. “We have the opportunity to do something no other country has achieved: elimination of the virus,” said New Zealand’s prime minister at one of her daily briefings. The only thing more novel than this coronavirus is the clarity of purpose that 39-year-old Jacinda Ardern brings to her job. Three cheers to the brave souls—from caretakers and community organizations to scientists and civic leaders—who respond to the daunting challenge of the pandemic by digging in to find solutions and save lives.

Cooperative plans for economic recovery will play another part in creating our post-COVID world. New reports that New Zealand and Australia are discussing the possibility of creating a “travel bubble” between the two nations (separated by 1,243 miles of sea) offer a promising proposal for leveraging tourism dollars to support communities in need. This plan might especially benefit Kiwis, as tourism is the country's biggest export industry. It will be interesting to see what other recovery plans emerge.

Governments are made of people, and ultimately it’s up to individuals to share ideas for repairing our world. Some people are dancing their pandemic anxieties away, turning to streaming raves and dance therapy sessions on Zoom to channel positive energy. Some travelers—including Genna Martin, who is stranded far from homein the Azores—are finding creative ways to tell tales of making connections with new people and places. And many locals, such as our Istanbul-based editor Onur Uygun, are looking at their cities with fresh eyes and seeing in their fellow citizens a noble resilience. It all reminds me of a quote by Winston Churchill: “I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else.”

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Your Instagram photo of the day

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If Salvador Dali painted ice: Forget about bent clocks. Here’s a real-life morning that dawns with cotton candy skies and pristine (if bent) ice in Clearwater County, in the Canadian province of Alberta. The combination of sky and ice, says photographer Kahli Hindmarsh, “made the frozen bubbles reflect all kinds of colors.”

Subscriber exclusive: What these ice bubbles in Alaska say about climate change

Travel on Instagram: Are you one of our 38 million followers? (If not, follow us now.)

Today in a minute

How hotels will change after the pandemic: Do you know what UV sterilization rods are? They may be part of your hotel experience in the months and years ahead, writes Fodors. Experts say domestic travel may pick up first, as will as preference for condominium-style accommodations, with self-contained kitchens, versus large hotels.

How airlines will change: Some carriers are planning to keep middle seats empty. Higher fares, fewer routes, pre-flight health checks and less free food also will be part of a halting return to air travel over the next two or three years, Bloomberg News reports.

First things first: A comedian honed her routine. Yoga, singing, and dancing all were on the card, CNN reports. Welcome to an Israeli hotel that became a temporary home for strangers who had mild cases of COVID-19.

A different Cinco de Mayo: Granted, things will be a little muted this year. Here's how the day, historically, merited a little celebration.

Island dreaming? Maybe she’s not flying there yet, but Nat Geo’s Jennifer Barger has her eye on islands with this list of 10 books inspired by water-bound lands. Readers responded with their own favorite island reads. Ksenia Lakovic recommends William Finnegan’s wave-catching memoir, Barbarian Days, set in “Hawaii, Fiji, Madeira, and other amazing surfing places around the world.” Frank DiCesare tips his hat to Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. “One of these days I’m gonna get to Cuba and visit Finca Vigía [Hemingway’s home outside Havana],” he says.

The big takeaway

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Behind the propaganda: Photographer David Guttenfelder, who has covered North Korea off and on for two decades, worked under constant supervision as he gathered images for a major anniversary in this isolated nation. Nonetheless, he was able to focus beyond the pageantry. “I remember,” the photographer says, “that behind the most extravagant spectacles are ordinary people.”

Subscriber exclusive: Cutting through the official story for traces of the real North Korea

Overheard at Nat Geo

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We asked Winston Groom, author of Forrest Gump and several histories, what globe-trotting work he’s been leafing through these days. His response:

"World Beneath Their Feet is a thrilling new account of the struggle to conquer the towering Himalayan mountains. It begins in the late 1920s after the death of the great mountaineer George Mallory, who disappeared in the vast wastes of Mount Everest in 1924, and continues for the next twenty five years under the looming shadow of World War II, as teams of aristocrats, athletes, tough guys and screwballs attacked the snow-covered Himalayan peaks for the honor of their countries and their personal glory. Many died at such high altitudes (including some of the German mountaineers photographed, above, in 1934). The mountaineers were constantly buffeted by fierce storms, avalanches, and sub-freezing temperatures as they picked their way upward through shifting rocks and ice into the thinnest air above 20,000 feet. They used no oxygen tanks. According to author Scott Ellsworth, there was a passionate competition between climbers from Great Britain, France, Germany, and the United States—as well as Japan, Italy, and Switzerland—to be the first atop Everest. That is, until May of 1953, when Sir Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa guide-partner, Tenzing Norgay, reached the top of the tallest mountain on earth—using oxygen. So far as adventure stories go, this book is tops.”

Winston Groom’s books include The Allies: Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, and the Unlikely Alliance That Won World War II and The Generals: Patton, MacArthur, Marshall, and the Winning of World War II.

The last glimpse

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Even more haunting: “Istanbul is known as a party,” say photographer Emin Özmen. “People drinking their tea noisily outside, street vendors, ever-full cafe terraces and restaurants, and many walkers and tourists.” But now, the old city’s Sultanahmet Square, which holds the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, is empty except for a handful of photo-snapping locals. The same for Taksim Square, a ghostly memory of its mezzes-eating and raki-drinking past. The scenes make the city even more haunting, as these photographs attest.

This newsletter has been curated and edited by David Beard, and Jen Tse and Eslah Attar selected the photographs. Have an idea or a link? We'd love to hear from you at david.beard@natgeo.com . And thanks for reading!