Monday Musings 21 September: “After terminal wait, cleared for liftoff”

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Can you tell a story in six words? Cape Talk had us asking the question when John Maytham reminded us of the six-word memoir project, started by Larry Smith, founder and editor of SMITH magazine, back in 2006. A passionate storyteller, Smith was inspired by the legend of Ernest Hemingway, who (it is said) when challenged to write a story in only six words, produced the ‘saddest novel ever written’:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

Smith has continued to challenge people to write their stories in only six words, and now has an impressive library of six-word memoirs, including:

  • I can’t keep my own secrets. – From Smith’s wife, Piper Kerman (of Orange is the New Black fame)
  • In 1948, I was a refugee. – From Madeline Albright, US Secretary of State
  • Bears are my number one fear. – A six-word story from Nava Krieger, aged 9
  • Humans are my number one fear. – Six words from the aforementioned bear

And many, many more:

  • The psychic said I’d be richer. – a personal favourite
  • Don’t make me come down there. – God (as seen on a church billboard)
  • RBG. Six words not near enough. – This weekend’s powerful entry, following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg
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Of course, COVID-19 has inspired many to write their own lockdown stories, with social media having a field day:

  • Clapping at seven. Pots, pans too. – For frontline medical staff in New York
  • Mask on, gloves on, sanity off.
  • Our eyes locked in Zoom yoga.
  • You’re on mute. Still on mute.
  • Just renewed passport, longing to travel.

For those longing to travel, Wednesday evening’s address brought welcome news. Borders open on 1 October and we’re all keen to get back to work. In six words: South Africa is Travel Ready 2.0

But as Natalia Rosa said, ‘Buckle up, there’s still a long road to walk.’ If you’d like to get involved in the South Africa is Travel Ready campaign or interested to see what plans are afoot, please visit or join the Tourism Tuesday chat.

It’s a busy week for Natalia who is also leading Africa Travel Week’s next tourism Masterclass. Join her, Gillian Saunders and Lee Zama, CEO, Fedhasa, as they focus on what travellers want in a COVID world. You can register here.

Advice from a road well-travelled

After a decade of writing life-changing advice for The Guardian, Oliver Burkeman decided it was time to move on. Fortunately, he shared his eight secrets to a (fairly) fulfilled life before he left. Grab a cup of tea and settle in, it’s a wonderful read. Did you know the capacity to tolerate minor discomfort is a much-underrated superpower? From conquering imposter syndrome, to facing life choices by choosing ‘enlargement’ over happiness – Burkeman has you covered. It’s nice to think he is now setting off on new adventures, something which awaits us all.

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Talking of roads well-travelled, Kingsley Holgate is about to trace the outline of Mzansi in a bid to deliver humanitarian aid to those in need along the way. According to The Good Things Guy, Brent Lindeque, our favourite humanitarian explorers Kingsley and Ross Holgate will lead the 70-day, 10,000km Mzansi Edge Expedition, which follows the entire land border of South Africa and tracks the Atlantic and Indian Ocean coastlines.

Looking for a little excitement of your own? Knysna has just launched the longest zipline in South Africa (a staggering 2.4 km!). Or take it one step further by starting with Mossel Bay’s spectacular ‘over-ocean’ zipline – before heading up the Garden Route to conquer Knysna’s!

Of course, all these outdoors pursuits are good for you. National Geographic reports that the Norwegian concept of friluftsliv, or open-air living, which encourages outdoor adventures for all ages – and in all weather – may help banish COVID-19 blues. And while we’re moving into warmer weather down in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s still a good lesson, especially for those who have felt the walls closing in!

Hopping aboard a flight to nowhere

While we’re not going anywhere quite yet (as we wait patiently for South Africa’s international travel list to appear), Qantas’ ‘Flight to Nowhere’ sold out in just 10 minutes, becoming the fastest-selling tickets in the airline’s 99-year history.

cleared for liftoff

The seven-hour flight, which doesn’t land (or leave Australia’s borders), takes in landmarks like Sidney Harbour Bridge, Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef. It’s not cheap either, proving that people have really missed travel and the experience of flying!

It’s a cruel, crazy beautiful world

Lyrics from the late, great Johnny Clegg came to mind this week as we collected cool, crazy and colourful stories from around the globe.

Despite uncertainty around Level 1, South Africa had some good news when The World Health Organization commended the country on its declining COVID-19 infections. Apparently, South Africa’s figures have dipped to about 2,000 new infections each day – in stark contrast to the 12,000 daily cases just two months ago.

Cape Town is in the running to win some serious accolades in the annual World Travel Awards, including nods for Africa’s Leading Beach Destination, Africa’s Leading Business Travel Destination, Africa’s Leading City Destination, Africa’s Leading Festival & Event Destination, and Africa’s Leading Meetings & Conference Destination. You can play your part by voting here.

Uganda has also reported good news – in the form of a gorilla baby boom. Seven infants have been born since January, and five in the last six weeks, compared to just three during the entirety of 2019.

We also had a few misconceptions quashed this week when we uncovered this oldie (but goodie): Thought Mount Everest was the tallest mountain and coffee was made from beans? Think again … The Museum of Curiosities in London’s Piccadilly Circus commissioned a study back in 2015 and compiled a list of commonplace misconceptions, myths and ‘faux facts’.

Believe it or not, Everest is not the tallest mountain in the world (that’d be Hawaii’s Mauna Kea); coffee is not made from beans (rather they’re seeds); the Great Wall of China cannot be seen from space; and chameleons actually change colour depending on their mood, temperature and exposure to light. Perhaps we can include Cape Agulhas in that list – where our two oceans actually meet, and not at Cape Point where so many would like to believe!

This week, a Michigan woman received a 100-year-old postcard in the mail, prompting a search for Flossie Burgess’s long-lost relatives, while Manchester residents got the surprise of their lives when a bus passenger’s ‘mask’ started wriggling. Don’t read this story if you have a fear of snakes…

German soccer side, SG Ripdorf/Molzen II found themselves on the wrong side of a hiding (37-0) when they fielded a socially-distanced side of just seven players. This comprehensive drubbing was equal to scoring a goal roughly every two-and-a-half minutes!

In other weird news, this year’s Ig Nobel ceremony (celebrating dubious but humorous scientific achievements) took place on Thursday – recognising Metin Eren for testing the theory that you can make a knife from frozen poop (spoiler alert: you can’t) and Richard Vetter for his paper looking at why entomologists are scared of spiders. Spiders give entomologists the heebie jeebies. There’s a six-word story for you!

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Another ‘piece’ of good news to make us smile? Lego has just announced that it is investing £310m to change its famous colourful bricks. By 2030, Lego bricks will be made of sustainable materials – with a team of more than 150 engineers and scientists testing different plant-based and recycled materials.  

That’s a wrap for this week!

Stay safe & strong!

The Big Ambitions team