Monday Musings 5 October: When truth is stranger than fiction

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You’d be forgiven for thinking 2020 was a year-long April Fool’s joke. If 2020 was a movie, what genre would it be? We’d wager an eclectic mix of science fiction, horror and fantasy with more than a good dose of dark comedy. 

Truth may just be stranger than fiction. In our current reality, here’s what made headlines this past week – from the pragmatic to the downright bizarre.  

Up in the Air or Lost in Translation 

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Borders are open! While the announcement is joyfully welcome, as we’ve come to expect, there are still many more questions than there are answers. 

Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, Tourism Business Council of South Africa CEO, talked borders on 702’s The Midday Report with Mandy Wiener. Yip, borders are officially open but what to expect and what does this mean for the tourism industry? Listen to their conversation here.   

If you’re desperate for a foreign holiday, Business Insider took a stab at which destinations are open to South Africans – at least for now.  

Globally, National Geographic reports that work trips are down by more than 90 per cent, and it’s affecting everything from when and where we travel, to how long we stay. 

The article considers some shifts in travel behaviour, and how the line between business and leisure is going to become blurrier than ever: 

  • The obliteration of bleisure 
  • Short trips for the long term – “Longer, and fewer, trips could be another direct result of the remote-office revolution. ” 
  • Lower impact, heightened awareness  

“If we’re spending a month at a hotel close to home and working remotely, is it truly a vacation?” says Kurt Bjorkman, general manager of the Ranch at Laguna Beach in the US. “Or is it simply the new-look bleisure trip? 

Gone with the Wind 

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Is travel for the holidays a thing of the past too? Things will get spooky on Halloween, Saturday 31 October, but for the most part, COVID-19 has scared off Halloween events in these 37 states in the USA. And thankfully, Halloween masks made to look like the COVID-19 virus have been pulled from sale after complaints they made light of the disease, which has affected 35,1M people across the globe. 

What you can catch safely this Halloween, is the rare blue moon, visible to most of the world, rather than just parts of it, for the first time since World War II. 

Across the pond, Madame Tussauds Amsterdam is taking no chances and have placed their wax figure of Donald Trump in ‘quarantine’ after his  COVID diagnosis. 

Meanwhile in South Africa’s favourite Southeast Asian destination, the government is using the lockdown period to rejuvenate their national treasures. In September, tourists who had stayed at Thailand’s Khao Yai National Park received a package in the mail: rubbish that they’d left behind while staying at the park.  

“You forgot something in Khao Yai National Park,” an attached note read, “Allow us to return it to you.” 

In a country grappling with the effects of overtourism, the lockdown has allowed some time for nature to start breathing again. The country’s national parks, usually visited by more than two million people, were closed for two months. 

Environment and Natural Resources minister Varawut Silpa-archa, allegedly the mastermind behind the genius rubbish package, has recently proposed that protected areas in Thailand should be closed for between two and four months per year to allow nature to recover from human impact.  

France is also turning its eye to the environment. The use of wild animals for entertainment was finally banned, although it doesn’t apply to animals in zoos. 

The Butterfly Effect 

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Wish you could travel back in time and alter the past? But, to what effect? 

We humans are skilled at fooling ourselves – sometimes for good, sometimes for not.  

One not so foolish skill has now risen to the forefront: agility has shot to the top of the CV list for 2020. Combine creativity with agility and you’ve got the two skills companies need to survive a global pandemic.  

Here’s why and how businesses need to get creative if they want to survive coronavirus – and any other crisis in the future.  

Another essential skill to surviving a crisis? Read the room. Perhaps never before has social media played a more valuable role in content, comms and managing a crisis. Learn how to gauge sentiment and create (and repurpose) meaningful content for your social media with guest speaker, Suze Bouwer, in ATW’s Masterclass Thursday 8 October

If you’re wondering how to be a good boss in these challenging times, Stanford experts say, “offering compassion, predictability, and control” can help, along with the below: 

  • Don’t pass the buck 
  • Show compassion 
  • Offer as much predictability as possible 
  • Watch your tells 
  • Create community from afar 
  • Build psychological safety 

In My Country 

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Closer to home, South Africa has had a week of recognition, showing off our virtues to the world.  

Conde Nast Traveller pulled up a seat in the 35 most beautiful restaurants in the world – from a candlelit courtyard in Ibiza to a kitchen lost in the woods of Maine. On the list? Wolfgat in Paternoster. The tiny beach cottage restaurant seats just 20 patrons and showcases its now legendary ‘foraged fresh from the sea and fynbos’ menu.   

South African wine label Vinoneers’ Orpheus & The Raven was announced as the runner-up in the international Drinks Business Awards for Best Design & Packaging for Wine. 

A local diver on the KZN South Coast was treated to a spectacular sight on a recent dive at Aliwal Shoal – swimming alongside a humpback whale mother cradling her calf in her mouth

And in the Western Cape, a group of whale watchers were also treated to the sighting of a lifetime when a southern right whale made a very close approach to their boat in Hermanus.  

The Matrix 

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Think the computers have taken over and need a break from reality? South Park has released its ‘Pandemic Special’ to much acclaim. Yet even the show struggles to satirise the coronavirus in a time when truth seems much stranger than fiction.   

If you’d a child of the 90s, travel back to the time of big hair, neon and cassette players. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air aired its first episode 30 years ago. To celebrate the milestone, Airbnb is allowing people to spend the night in the same mansion used in the popular 90s sitcom — but only if you are a resident of Los Angeles County. 

The Gods Must be Crazy 

Parents, if you’re surprised you’re still standing at the end of the day, give yourself a pat on the back and check out these hilarious virtual learning videos.   

Perhaps you could identify with this group of African grey parrots? A group of parrots were quarantined together at a UK safari park when they taught each other how to swear. They have now been moved to an out-of-sight enclosure where it’s hoped they will learn better language from another group of parrots.  

Truly, some bizarre things have happened in 2020 – and no, a global pandemic didn’t even make this list. Did you know a star went missing, Poland accidently invaded the Czech Republic and the US Department of Defense released three videos showing, in layman’s terms, UFOs? 

Want more? These 22 ridiculous headlines from around the world prove what a wild ride 2020 has been already.  

Hold on for the ride!  

Stay safe and strong,  

The Big Ambitions Team 

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