Monday Musings 24 August: Smiles, avatars and a long way to go

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Many South Africans have felt a little lighter this week, raising a glass to Alert Level 2, planning an interprovincial trip or heading back to the gym after nearly 150 days of lockdown.

Family visits, beach days and excursions are all back in play, cigarettes no longer cost R1500 a carton, prohibition is over, and spring is just around the corner.

Why then are some of us still feeling so drained? According to elemental.medium.com it’s because our ‘surge capacity’ is depleted. Not quite depression, not quite anxiety – but an emotional ‘fog’ that leaves us tired, irritable and unable to focus.

Psychologist Anne Masten believes “surge capacity is a collection of adaptive systems — mental and physical — that humans draw on for short-term survival in acutely stressful situations, such as natural disasters. But natural disasters occur over a short period, even if recovery is long. Pandemics are different — stretching out indefinitely.”

So how do we get back on track when COVID’s tentacles stretch on indefinitely?  Masten recommends looking for activities, new and old, that fulfil you; maintaining and strengthening important relationships; slowly building your resilience bank account (by focusing on sleep, nutrition and exercise) – and being kind to yourself while you gather momentum.

We’ve all been working longer hours, often at the expense of productivity and creativity. Could ‘Untouchable Days’ be the answer? Neil Pasricha, writing for the Harvard Business Review believes that everyone needs at least one untouchable day a week: “As our world gets busier and our phones get beepier, the scarcest resource for all of us is becoming attention and creative output”.

Could you make yourself 100% unreachable in any way … and by anyone? Give it a go and watch your productivity (not to mention your resilience) soar.

Another strategy? Control what you can control.

Tourism bodies continue to fight tooth and nail to get international visitors back into South Africa, lobbying Government to reopen our borders. We might not be able to control an actual opening date, but we can play our part. Big Ambitions’ Natalia Rosa believes we need to demonstrate that travel is safe and normal, show South Africa’s readiness, and support the South Africa is Travel Ready movement by:

  • Adopting stringent health and safety protocols – here are the TBCSA’s protocols
  • Telling our customers about these protocols, how they’re being implemented by our businesses and what we are doing to safeguard guests and staff
  • Proving to Government that we’re serious about keeping people safe, and so we are travel-ready for international guests
  • Encouraging those who are travelling to tell this story … and sharing these stories far and wide.

Get in touch on info@traveltosouthafrica.org and share your stories. Together we can create or amplify content for #SouthAfricaIsTravelReady. 

Because we are. The Mother City just received the World Travel & Tourism Council’s ‘Safe Travels’ stamp of approval (and our other cities can’t be far behind), while their beloved red buses have just scooped 10th place on Tripadvisor’s list of the world’s best hop-on hop-off tours!

A week of snowflakes and avatars

Monday Musings 24 August: Smiles, avatars and a long way to go 1

Last week’s cold front brought snow to many parts of South Africa, which meant that our social media feeds were full of ‘winter wonderland’ images from afar as Bloem, Queenstown, Molteno and the Garden Route – there were even rumours of snow on Table Mountain.

And while we were all shivering in our shorts (at least the boys on Table Mountain were), Death Valley National Park in California recorded the highest temperature ever reliably recorded on Earth, a toasty 130 ° Fahrenheit or 54.4 ° Celsius. The team at Forbes hopes this record will cause us all to sit up and take notice, as climate change has been ringing in new temperature records across the globe in 2020, including in Asia, Scandinavia, Western Europe and Mexico.

In the meantime, the village of Olten in Switzerland experienced an entirely different weather phenomenon after a malfunction at the Lindt Factory caused chocolate snowflakes to fall from the sky. And while a light dusting of fine cocoa powder sounds like a chocoholic’s dream, it’s a bother to clean.

But what really got us all aflutter? Facebook avatars. More avatars, in fact, than you can shake a stick at. And while it’s all good fun, Wesley Diphoko from fastcompany.co.za takes a closer look at why Facebook wants your Avatar. Hint: your Facebook identity has become an important commodity in Facebook’s ever-expanding virtual world.

In other potentially villainous behaviour, Google has ever-so quietly debuted its game-changing tours and activities advertising product. A move that Skift warns will have a far-reaching impact – unless regulators step in.

How goes working from home?

Monday Musings 24 August: Smiles, avatars and a long way to go 2

Despite the move to Alert Level 2, many companies continue to support remote working – especially for office-based staff who can work from home. But it’s not getting easier.

According to the BBC, people are turning to artificial background noise, like printers, coffee machines or office chatter in order to feel a little more normal. It turns out that the peace and quiet of working from home is not all it’s cracked up to be, and the isolation is eased by ambient noise and the sense of ‘connection’ – improving one’s concentration.

Zoom fatigue remains a thing, and while we wait for face-to-face meetings to make a comeback fastcompany.com has 10 tips to making virtual meetings more interactive, it’s great advice, because although business travel will return, McKinsey reckons corporate travel has a long road to recovery ahead.

Harry Potter and the Secret Staycation

Monday Musings 24 August: Smiles, avatars and a long way to go 3

Last week was a mixed bag, both locally and internationally. We heard the news that Cape Town’s iconic Mount Nelson Hotel is being forced to retrench about half its staff, and will remain closed until at least December; Qantas announced that it doesn’t expect to be flying any international routes before July 2021; while the Maldives island archipelago is opening more resorts – and the oil clean up in Mauritius continues ahead of its (hopefully) imminent reopening.

In quirkier news, Alaska Airlines’ new hand sanitiser wipes contain pure organic French lavender, chamomile flower and white tea essential oils – bringing a touch of “air-omatherapy” to airline safety.

And in the UK, a recent study shows that movies like James Bond (Skyfall) and the Harry Potter franchise are influencing local travel trends and staycations, you can check out the top 10 hotspots on film buffs’ lists here.

Let’s meet the week with compassion, kindness – and a smile

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Is your surge capacity well and truly depleted? Do you need a little more self-care? Our very own Jide Olowookere has been thinking a lot about compassion – and how it’s not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.

Need a smile to start the week? The proudly South African Jerusalema challenge continues to make its way around the world – with the mega-hit even being playing during half-time in one of the most talked-about UEFA Champions League games this season: Bayern Munich vs FC Barcelona.  

Even better? A group of Romanian firefighters took up the challenge and the full fire-fighting kit and flashing lights (and a few missteps along the way) just make it more fabulous.

If that doesn’t do it, Jay Weinstein’s powerful project “so I asked them to smile” certainly will. The photographer’s lens captures how “a simple human smile speaks through whatever barriers class, economic status, ethnicity, sex, religion, or geographic location create.”

Stay safe & strong!

The Big Ambitions team

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