By HOWARD FELDMAN
When on holiday in the Kruger Park recently, I woke up on more than one occasion to find myself alone in the chalet. In all instances I was completely unaware of the betrayal that was taking place while I slept and only on waking did I notice that my family had snuck out of the chalet to go on a game drive without me.
Evidence in the form of my wallet, open, plundered and gasping, and the kettle warm, but not hot enough to make tea, was there to be seen. As if they hardly cared. In their defence, had they even bothered to offer one, they would say that I am not a game reserve die-hard and that I might have complained once too often on the day prior. My wife, in fact, might even say that she had made it clear that I was to be left at home the next day because I was no fun to have around. But I didn’t think that she actually meant it.
And now I find myself dreaming of a Kruger holiday. I find myself following more travel sites on Instagram than I have before, and daydreaming about visiting places that until this year I had no interest in visiting. Fortunately, I have not yet developed the desire to get a tattoo, even of one of the big five.
I blame Covid and lockdown. And I blame this time of year.
Every year around this time, I find myself repeating the same thing to friends and colleagues: “You don’t need to emigrate, you just need a holiday.” The phrase is easily substituted with “you don’t need to resign” or “get divorced” or “get a tattoo” or “shave your eyebrows”. It is just time for a holiday. And if this is a trend in what is considered a normal year, then we can expect the most dramatic increase in emigration, resignations, divorces, tattoos and shaved eyebrows ever over the next few months.
Because 2020 has been that type of year.
The emotional and psychological impact of lockdown has not been fully understood. Where it is possible to quantify loss to each economic sector through financial analysis, the understanding of the mental strain is much more difficult. Loneliness, isolation, negativity and the need to “escape” needs to be understood through other factors.
One of them is emigration. A recent article in Biznews highlighted a trend with regard to South Africans who are looking to leave the country. Multiple factors, including crime, the economy and concerns about government, have contributed to this increase. These factors have undoubtedly motivated increasing numbers of South Africa’s rich to pack their bags. New World Wealth expects this trend to continue. This much is evident in FNB’s annual Estate Agents Survey. The Survey shows the proportion of households selling their property. The main reason why people sold their property was to downscale with “life-stage”, followed by downscaling due to financial pressure, and emigration. The proportion of those selling their property because they were emigrating, stood at 17% in the second quarter of this year.
But South Africans are not alone. A recent article in Business Insider USA listed “20 of the best democratic countries for Americans to move to after the pandemic”. According to the article, there has been an increase in Google searches related to moving to Canada after the US presidential debate. The New Zealand Herald also reported that during the debate, there was a rise in searches related to moving to New Zealand. But the increase in interest has been steadily growing since the beginning of the pandemic.
Each country has its own factors. Where South Africans might have crime and a worrisome economic future, the Americans, the Brits and even New Zealanders have their own factors that have been magnified during COVID. The need to “escape” is not a usual emotional response and we know that in times of extreme crises our survival instinct to “fight or flight” kicks in.
It is vital is that we understand how stressful the year has been so that we don’t make decisions about our future based on a primitive need. We also need to appreciate how important it is to take a break when we need one – so that maybe next time we visit the Kruger with our families, we are better behaved.