Monday Musings 14 December: Stepping into the New Year

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With 2021 just two weeks away, our musings have turned to the year ahead – and all that it might hold.

While we know things aren’t magically going to get better as the clock strikes midnight (especially with another presidential address looming tonight), January 1 always feels like a brand-new beginning. A chance to recalibrate, regroup and refocus.

Among our New Year’s resolutions? To say goodbye to toxic productivity; to stay calm in the midst of chaos; to find (or at least start the journey to) balance, to change up our routine; to read more; to develop good writing habits; and to produce ‘quality’ rather than ‘quantity’.

Interestingly, in one of our Zoom huddles last week, the Big Ambitions team was discussing 2021 and what our perfect year would look like. We kept coming back ‘quality over quantity’ and the idea that, somehow, it’s impossible to ‘churn’ out good work.

We know that balance is important, and that no one in the travel and tourism industry can be expected to maintain the unrelenting pace of the past nine months. But what we have all achieved is extraordinary. And perhaps the parable is true … quantity leads to quality.

The parable is simple:

“A ceramics teacher announced that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. On the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pounds of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an “A”. Grading time came and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat theorising about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”

We have all learned so much over the last year. The industry, in Natalia’s words, is ‘fixing the plane as we fly’. We’ve rallied, lobbied, experienced amazing highs (like working with incredible #IAmTourism women) and disappointing lows (remember the u-turn on interprovincial travel back in June?), have become a whizz at webinars, produced quantity and quality, formed deep connections with partners, clients, suppliers and friends – and survived quite a year.

So, what’s ahead for the travel and tourism industry? Amadeus have just released their 2021 travel trends, and there’s no doubt that the pandemic will continue to drive behaviour over the next few years. We can expect more bucket list trips, nomadic travel, conscious travel and touchless tech. Most importantly, a commitment to health, hygiene and safety is now emerging as a driver for consumer loyalty – and travel advisors will remain an invaluable partner when it comes to travel planning.

Forbes believes the travel industry will win back tourists in 2021, through increased online engagement; environmental, cultural and community activism; and travel bubbles among other things. There is much to be optimistic about, including: a COVID vaccine; better testing procedures and overall policy-making; the advent of a digital COVID passport; the fact that travel agencies will continue to make travel better and safer; and that travellers will be more mindful about the trips they take.

It’s been a year of big challenges and small steps. But we’ve learned that small steps are important.

Monday Musings 14 December: Stepping into the New Year 1

And so, we’re stepping into 2021 with intention, gratitude and grit. But first, we rest! Big Ambitions will be closed between 21 December 2020 and 04 January 2021.

Wishing everyone a peaceful holiday season.

The Big Ambitions team


What the world was musing over this past week:

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South Africa’s Search History

Google has released its annual top searched for trends in South Africa and it’s like a 2020 ‘year in review’ all on its own! Life in lockdown dominates, including our family meetings (what time is the president on tonight?) and how to make pineapple beer!


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Things we Learned in 2020

Global pandemic aside, the year was filled with bizarre, weird and fascinating stories from around the world. Did you know, for example, that if Apple AirPods was a standalone business it would probably be the most valuable startup in the world? Flux author Tom Whitwell has done a roundup of 52 things he learned in 2020 and it’s a fabulous read.


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33 Things I Stole from People Smarter Than Me

Looking to make a few New Year’s resolutions of your own? Ryan Holiday shares his favourite pieces of wisdom – and it’s advice you’re allowed to steal!


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To Infinity and Beyond

With plans afoot to return to the moon this decade (and perhaps Mars in the next), space exploration has taken a decidedly sci-fi twist. And Hibernating lemurs may be the key to cryogenic sleep for human space travel– now that’s a headline you don’t see every day!


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Custom-built Raft Rescues Giraffes in Kenya

The year was also filled with plenty of good-news stories, including this one out of Kenya where an NGO called Save Giraffes Now has built a special raft to save giraffes from rising floodwaters – taking endangered Rothschild’s giraffes across crocodile-infested waters to safety.


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Adopt a Penguin

We’re all about #ExperiencesNotThings this Christmas but if you’d like another idea, what about adopting a penguin? African penguins are now more vulnerable than white rhinos, polar bears and giant pandas. For just R600 you can adopt a penguin through SANCCOB and help prevent the species from going functionally extinct on South Africa’s West Coast in the next 10 to 15 years.