NO PHOTOGRAPHS, PLEASE


 

To travel to discover a destination is one thing.

To travel to fulfill a quiet dream is quite another.

We all have our little lists of ‘must see‘s in the world – places near and far where we would one day love to dance, to dine, to take that oh-so-local adventure, find that oh-so-beautiful artwork, to do the daring, and to share ‘I was there’. And then there are those places that quietly whisper in our spirit an enduring wish of ‘how incredible it would be….’ – a place where one’s imagination of what might, just might be, becomes real.

To have these moments come to life, these quiet dreams fulfilled, is to discover true awe. It is an enduring quest of travellers.

Yet pure awe in travel can be so hard to find…..because all too often we are looking so hard to find it.

When one does find it and feel it, however, it is unmistakable – there are no words, there are only tears.

And soon, very soon, the secret to its discovery is revealed: being still, being quiet, and being grateful.

This is where awe is found. This is how travel dreams are fulfilled. Time slows, seconds stretching out to be able to squeeze in as much as possible. Senses seem heightened, sounds and scents dialed up, peripheral vision closes in, the eyes taking in all that is seen as though with a magnifying lens, not a detail overlooked.

How best are these moments preserved? Which device does the best job? Filtered or unfiltered? For sharing on which platform? Friends or all Followers?

None of the above. None will truly do the moments justice.

The only, only essentials of the experience:

Stillness.
Silence.
Gratitude.

 

Such was recently the discovery when finally, finally, a dream to see the sea turtles came to life.

The place: Tortuguero, Costa Rica.

The species: Tortuga Verde (Green Turtle)

The timing: October – end of turtle season, under an almost-full moon.

The encounter: a magnificent est. 30 year old grand lady returning from a journey of thousands of miles to the safe shores of the national park, setting in motion a next generation of ancient life.

The echoes and images: intense.

The photos/videos: none – these great creatures are nocturnal. No photography is permitted. Absolutely none. No exceptions.

Reflecting on the experience, while at first there was sadness to learn from the guides that no cameras, mobile phone or otherwise, were permitted on the beach during the night visit to the turtle nests, in the end it was this absence of devices that made the moments magic. Suddenly, responsibility for the richness of the time shifted from what was in one’s hand to what was in one’s heart. From what one saw in front of them, to what one felt within.

The rules of Mother Nature, and her appointed guardians, are non-negotiable.  The park guides strictly yet sensitively trained to protect the giant sea turtles who have, as a result of man’s hunger for exotic food and souvenirs, put these ancient sources of life that spend their lives migrating across the world’s waterways, into a state of global endangerment. The shame of the situation, and the innate truth that it is us, we who feel entitled to roam and often ruin the world around us, has lit a fire in the turtle guides who reinforce that an encounter with these incredible creatures is a gift, never an expectation. Respect for the great turtle, in one of her most private moments, must, must come first, for as long or short as one’s encounter may last.

Tractor-like tracks on the beach from the night before seed hope that maybe, just maybe, the night ahead will see green turtle return once more. Ledges of sand pressed down along the shoreline, and then pulled almost 100m inland, start the quiet conversation with oneself – inaudible prayers take flight.

But again, there is no guarantee. Mother Nature decides, and quite honestly, does not care about the travel plans of tourists. Her only concern is her precious green turtles.

At last the long-awaited time came: time for a walk to designated stretch of beach, and then a wait……waiting, waiting, and hoping that a silhouette emerges from the water and slowly, cautiously shuffles to a safe nesting spot…..as guides carefully look out for what only their naked eyes would be able to detect, while travellers looked up at a magnificent moon-rise scattering gold-dust on the waters of the Caribbean.

And then a firm whisper breaks the silence: it is time to go see her. No talking. And absolutely no cameras. Seconds tick by slowly, so slowly, nearing the still unseeable beautiful beast. Suddenly all is blurry – the overwhelming intensity of anticipation causing tears to fall.

In the darkness of night with only the glow of the rising moon over our shoulders, and a faint red light over the turtle’s shell as a guide for our vision, tiny movements were evident in a giant dugout of sand. Enormous, yet so vulnerable, she has safely nested in the sand and was ready to lay her eggs. In silence, with only the sound of her legs slowly shifting sand filling the air, guides whisper her entering into a trance – the pain of the process of laying her eggs had begun. One by one, times an estimated 120, her soft-shelled eggs, glowing white like little moons themselves, began to fall from the safety of her protecting body to their sandy, exposed, dangerous new world.

Ssshhhhhhh.

Gathered in a small, tight, limited crowd, onlookers were able to close in to see a cycle of life unfolding. One by one by one, the eggs continued to drop, mooshily stacking one on top of the other, rebuilding their new home until time for their little lives to break through their individual shells.

Unexpectedly, undeniably, the extreme intimacy of the moment – her moment – caused a deep, urgent need to look away…..to shift the soft red light from her tail to her face, to absorb the beauty of her, as she shared this incredible moment with us. Seeing her so closely, her head heavy, her aged eyes teary, her nostrils buried in the sand, she had evolved from being ‘a sea turtle’ to a gentle, graceful sight, her raw, rugged presence making a softly touching connection, unmistakably, to the storybook of, in this case, my life.

Something in those moments, on that beach, with only the sound of the sea gently lapping on the shore in the near-distance, caused a penetration of spirit beyond anything imagined, anything which could be analysed. Any attempt to find words caused child-like tears to flow. The darkness of the night allowed for a safe mask from the eyes of others. ‘Alone’ was desperately needed to be able to take it all in, to not let the emotion run out.

It was a feeling of pure awe.

 

While no more than 180 seconds were spent in each of the two rounds of viewing over the 80 minutes of the experience, the time was timeless. Priceless. With images and emotions of the encounter still so vivid, so real, there is no question about it: the quest to find the perfect photo would have resulted in a complete loss of the perfect memory.

It was a profound learning. And its truth still lingers. Sometimes the best way, the absolute best way, to capture a moment in time is to simply take it in, slowly, deeply, unfiltered, in the moment, allowing each and every single second, each emotion, to embed itself in one’s memory, in one’s personal storybook. These so often simple, subtle occurrences carve lifelong impressions…

A tropical moon rising.

A slow walk into sandy darkness.

A stumble into night nests from nights before.

A teary approach towards an ancient creature creating life.

A fixed stare on the power of Mother Nature.

A whisper of thanks for the blessing of the here & now,

Quickly followed by echoes of appreciation for those who made the dream come to life, more perfectly and profoundly than could ever have been imagined.

Stillness.
Silence.
Gratitude.

Gracias con todo mi corazón, Señor Ministro Ventura y Alejandro. Muchas gracias. x

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2017

THE DANCE OF DIPLOMACY


 

September. A month in which the world shifts its focus onto the United Nations.

The 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly has commenced in New York. The period of the 12th through to the 25th September brings together literally thousands of diplomats, direct reports, decision makers, donors, delegates and media determined to stay ahead of the issues that form the agenda around which 193 member states unite.

Across the city national flags from across the world splash out their colours, while sirens and blue lights signal VIPs in transit. Mobility is challenged both on the main roads and in the meeting rooms. Getting from A to B whether a place, a policy or a principle, can and does demand careful maneuvering.

It’s all about diplomacy.

To see diplomacy in action is to watch a slow, subtle dance unfold. The steps are ever so carefully choreographed – the movement of a hand, blink of an eye, shift of a shoulder…each a form of communication. Together, apart, together, together, together, apart. Nothing ever stays the same. The tempo of the music, the style of the steps – each and every motion becomes an expression of interests, intentions, intrigue.

For many in the audience, the dance can become frustrating to watch.

Who is leading? Is the follower happy to do so, or actually wanting to be change the song, seeking to lead? Why such hesitation?

Being ever so careful not to step on toes, the dance works its way through. Externally, it appears a graceful management of energy and emotion. Below the surface, however, diplomacy can in fact be an invisible, full body sport.

Such was the case recently when another UN General Assembly took place, this time in the global Travel & Tourism space. The stage: Chengdu, China. The occasion: the 22nd General Assembly of the UNWTO – the United Nations World Tourism Organisation.

Over 1300 global tourism leaders came together to shape a shared future of one of the world’s most important sectors – a sector that is today responsible for 1 in 10 jobs worldwide, 10.2% GDP, 30% Services Exports. The stats are one side of the powerful story. The other: the ability of Travel & Tourism to act as a priceless vehicle for preserving cultures and identities of peoples across the globe, protecting natural environments and communities, and promoting peace through the alchemy of understanding and respect that travelling unlocks.

Over the course of the UNWTO GA week, statutory meetings put the plan of work of the organisation front and centre. Initially meeting by region, the global collective then came together to tackle critical issues of the day. Of highest priority: confirmation of the Secretary General-elect, the individual who would define the course and culture of the organisation for at least the next four years, commencing 01st January, 2018. But this was no usual nominee confirmation process. These were no simple, easily resized shoes to fill.

Who would, who could, possibly succeed one of the finest, wisest and sharpest Secretary Generals that the organisation, perhaps even the UN system, has ever had at the helm? Organisational meaning, momentum and unity were all on the line. Who would be able to smoothly, confidently cut in on, and take over, this critical dance with the same style and substance?

When the time came to confirm the leader charged with the responsibility of leading the organisation, the diplomatic dance took a dramatic twist. The music could not have been more deafening, more penetrating. Intense debate, with unprecedented moves, at times left the dance floor boards close to cracking. The floor that connected one and all started to splinter away. Fatigue, frustration and fury – powerful, deep bass notes muting any trebles trying desperately to break through.

And yet somehow, somehow, a collective rhythm was found. The mental gymnastics spontaneously, diplomatically performed by the outgoing Secretary General to shift individual styles into a line dance of 1300 were exhausting to even watch. With fierce strength of spirit determined not to let the floor fall through, finally, masterfully, a piece of music, a proposed way to move forward, was found. Its chords penetrated people’s hearts, shifting their steps from ‘I’ to ‘we’. It was a United Nations show of truly united nations.

So rightly, so deservedly, as the music stopped, a wave of standing ovation began. Instantly, the thick, heavy heat that had built up in the room was pushed out as fresh, pure air washed through. The music hushed…the tears fell.

Crossing the globe, the steps that will carefully, cautiously, thoughtfully unfold in New York this week will, no doubt, prove to be history-making. Thankfully we have within the global community a few, just a few, masterful dancers of diplomacy who not only understand the steps that need to be choreographed to reach a truly inspired, uniting outcome, they seek to teach them.

Dr Rifai, please take a bow.

 

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2017

 

 

NO GREY AREA


 

When did the lens change direction?

When did we stop looking forward, and start looking back?

When did vision and idealism begin to fade in credibility and practicality?

It this truly a reflection of the ‘civilised’ world?

How did we get here? And how on earth to we go forward?

Events of the past 30 days have been a punch in the stomach to the global community, to the human psyche.

Sickening.

Clearly, in today’s day and age, passivism is no longer an option.

The issues our world is facing, across geography, languages, religions, political positions and predispositions, are real, they are raw, and they risk tearing us apart.

Sitting back and watching is no longer an option.

Whether Brexit, the US Elections, the French Elections, or any of the other decision days around the globe over the past 24 months, and in the months ahead, ‘democracy’ is evolving from a noun to a verb.

From a theory to a responsibility.

From a ‘before’ to an ‘after’.

And sadly, from an ‘above’ to a far, far ‘below’.

How is it that the hype, the short-term rhetoric and political pageantry, has been able to penetrate the concept of dignified, uniting, uplifting legacy?

Whatever decisions we have the right, and responsibility, to take, whether related to nations, institutions or otherwise, our focus must, must shift beyond today, past the noise, above the storms.

We are bigger than this. We are better than this. Our definition of the future looks further than this. Not just because it can – because it must.

And because ‘idealism’ is not simply a word, it is an essential verb.

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2017

 

PLEASE, CHOOSE ONE.


 

Every day, everywhere it often seems, an overwhelming number of issues find themselves taking over our social media feeds.

Our minds.

Our hearts.

Urgent pleas from someone, somewhere, calling out for our attention, our support, our money. Now. Or it may be too late.

The need to know, to do something, seems to be growing.

How can this be? In so many ways, for those of us spending our days looking at screens, one can easily believe that our generation has never been more blessed, never more connected to one another. The living is easy.

Yet, somehow it still feels as though there are so many who have so little. And so many more are being forced into a reality where they are having to run with nothing at all. Crisis calling out for compassion, for caring. At times it can feel overwhelming, the social media noise making it hard to hear a single heartbeat, the noise creating the illusion that others are listening, responding. Something else needs us….and so we look away, maybe retweeting, but moving on.

And nothing happens.

Another night falls with a heart full of fear in finding a place to sleep, a meal to eat, strength to keep going, keep praying.

This need not be the case. There is always someone, somewhere, who can make a difference for someone, somewhere. Even if it is simply through the words “I see you.”

It takes just one. One person, connecting to someone else. Near, far, wherever sits in your heart as a reason to reach out. There is no ranking of what matters, who matters. The choice, the reason, the method of outreach need not be for anyone else to know. Put your heart, mind and name behind something that matter to you, truly matters, for whatever reason.

Please, just choose one. Do something: Donate. Advocate. Hold onto it tight for the long-term. Short-term hash-tagging may be a quick ego-rush, but it does not take away the pain for those who living in fear.

One cause, one hope, one hand to reach out to. One cause, one heartbeat, that really matters to you.

It takes just one. And suddenly, for someone, a very dark night starts to show signs of the dawn.

x

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2017

 

 

 

KNOWING WHEN YOU ARE NEEDED, AND NOT


 

 

Ours is an ‘I‘-driven generation.

Hashtags, ‘likes’, ‘selfies’, images and impressions so far from shy,  have come to dominate what is supposed to be social messaging, social media. The ‘Look what I am doing’ phenomena has gripped the world across ages, classes, colours, cringe-worthy emoticons. Somehow shyness has been eclipsed by ‘I’ness. The right to know, and tell, becomes a reason to raise ones voice, whether rightfully involved or not. The laws of the universe are rewritten based on the perceived laws of the cloud.

It is a global warming of sorts, raising the temperature of tolerance. And throwing back the curtain of exposure. Even elders at first questioning the buzz of the feeling of talking to the world through the click of an ENTER key are falling to its seductive sense of importance. Information once beyond comprehension is easy to be accessed.

As much as it can challenge conventional logic of days now past, redefining the rules of social exchange – not just the what but the when, where and why – the forces of connectivity crossing our globe can be a very good thing. Awareness is raised. Something far away which may never have appeared on one’s information radar is suddenly in one’s hand and heart, inspiring action. This force of global knowing has become a source for global caring. Nations, people, facing crisis suddenly feel less alone as their world is hash-tagged around the world. Appeals for help yield unprecedented levels of immediate support that would never have been possible just years ago. Crowd-sourcing is occurring not only in cash, but in compassion.

With these waves of human sensitisation to global matters rising, stirring how people view the world and their role in it, compassion naturally turns to a strong desire for taking personal action.

Events unfolding across the world over the past years have shown, however, that when crisis hits – natural, political, financial, hurtful – our borderless world of connectivity is needing borders when it comes to getting too close. Social media awareness and action from afar is one thing, but on the ground emergency response is quite another. Qualifications go far beyond compassion. This same can be said for any horrific act of man or Mother Nature. To arrive with a heart packed full of best intentions can, and is most often, a bad decision if core skills needed to ensure survival are fulfilled. The desire to assist can easily, quickly, and dangerously turn into a distraction of attention and energies of aid workers needing to help those directly impacted, not those showing up to help.

So evident is this truth when, even a little over a year on, the scars of natural disaster are visible across Nepal. Just minutes before noon on Saturday the 25th of April, 2015 (thankfully a Saturday or kiddies would have been in school), Mother Nature unleashed her fury, an earthquake measuring a magnitude of 7.8 brought Nepal to its knees. The world cried as scenes of collapse unfolded on-air, online, its shock waves reaching across the world. Nearly 9,000 lives were lost, with tens of thousands suffering direct injuries, millions suffering heartbreak and horror. Centuries of relics and monuments were turned to absolute ruins, their rubble wiping out core identity. From the peaks of the Himalayas to places of prayer in Kathmandu’s valleys, life as the people of Nepal once knew it slid away.

It was gone. All gone. Aftershocks made certain of that.

In the days and weeks that followed, global familiarity with the Nepal’s heartbreaking fate brought on an odd fashionability for the country. Concern inspired citizen investment into recovery and rebuilding efforts, which was invaluable. Images of suffering from aftershocks sustained global interest, compassion continued to generate the much-needed funding to push away the rubble and reinforce the future strength of the people. Still, many sought to do more, go further, by going there. Desire to help? Absolutely transparent. Skills to offer? Not overtly clear. Knowing is one thing – going is another.

A year on, rubble remains despite surrounding rebuilding. International aid, heritage, hope, and humanity agencies continue to stand by the people of Nepal, acutely aware of the fact that rebuilding physical infrastructure is easy compared to rebuilding psychological stability. Action really needed: stay put and ask how best to act. Is if building funds? Is it building awareness? Is it building awareness?

Everyone, absolutely everyone, has the ability to help. The best way to maximise one’s impact? Ask what help is needed.

From Kathmandu to Tacloban, Sendai to other centres of crisis the world over, when the world is hit with unnatural horrors, something quite remarkable happens: as the skies fell, heroes rose.

The people of Nepal continue work tirelessly, daily, to ensure that one moment in time does not define who they are, and what their future holds. For the watching world, with hearts ready to jump into action, one of the most important things we can do, from wherever we are in the world, is this: never forget those who rise up once more. Their priceless determination is worth every measure of our hope, our help, and our hashtags.

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2017

 

OUR GIRLS, OUR VOTE, OUR WORLD


 

Monday morning.

Two sleeps ago, news broke across the world that 82 kidnapped schoolgirls of Chibok were finally being returned home to their families after over a year in the horrific hold of Boka Haram. The exhausted sounds of cries of relief of families in Nigeria were audible around the globe. Quiet yet firm pride was rightly demonstrated by government officials as they conveyed their confidence that these were the girls who were taken from their lives and loved ones while simply trying to learn, resolute in their determination to see all stolen girls safely returned home. The strength of the embraces the girls received from loved ones no doubt penetrated their bruised hearts and minds, starting the process of healing…putting to an end the horror of over 1000 days as captives.

12 hours ago, as the people of France confirmed their choice of President, sounds of relief and celebration could be heard across the European Union and even nations further afield. As the sound of Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy‘ – the anthem of the European Union – filled the Paris night air, Emmanuel Macron, the youngest President since Napoleon, calmly took to the stage in front of the Pyramide du Louvre. Crowds thousands strong roared with youthful applause. Powerful symbolism, penetrating signs of change, putting to an end the fears of rising populism, with its risks of break-away of the country from the EU. And the French people from one another.

Two distant, dramatically different parts of the world. One thought: “Oh thank God….”

Once again, the world was watching as events in one nation spilled out emotional and ideological waves in all directions, borders between countries and continents washed away. Why the anxious global gaze? There need not be a reason for the ties that bind people across nations, as different as they may be in language, location, beliefs or backgrounds. Because these are our girls. These are our elections. What happens matters to us all.

Especially when risk is seen, felt, of breaking the bonds that keep our world moving forward as one.

The past year has given voice to deep, desperate frustrations of people feeling lost and left behind. Challenges to traditional political systems and structures have put entire populations in a position of vulnerability, not just in terms of how the nation looks at its relationship with the world, but how the people of the country look at one another. First Brexit, then US Presidential Elections, both events a frightening reflection of the fact that separation has become a selling point. The contagion has continued to spread, European elections putting forward fiery rhetoric encouraging nationals to vote to put their countries first, not caring about the value their neighbours bring to their lives. Especially when their neighbours have recently moved in next door after running for their loves from the place they ‘home.’

But with the choice to go it alone comes the reality of aloneness – economically, socially and spiritually. Insecurity, at all levels, only grows. No walls can keep out the fears of what is on the other side. Only doorways that allow the other side to come in open nervous minds to the knowledge needed to know that one can absolutely love and trust thy neighbour.

Nations need one another. Cultures need one another. People need one another. It is through our erasing borders that we find an access point to our better selves.

What value is all of the technology, all of the travel, we have in our lives is not to bring us closer? To enable us to learn more about one another, love more about one another?

As the Chibok schoolgirls find their way back home, babies in the arms of many – little souls representing the heroic spirit of a new generation – their nation is there to help them put back together the pieces of their shattered lives, while continuing to search for the others left behind. Each and every one a very real reminder of how vital it is for the world to never let a person, a nation, feel they are forgotten.

There is no power of one when it means turning one’s back on the ones who count on us. Nations, whether protecting schoolgirls or protecting economic and social structures, can and must do better. Citizens must do better.

It is not just the strength of the body of the global community, with its vital organs of the global economy and global security, that depend on it – it is the strength of the global heart.

#BRINGBACKOURGIRLS

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2017

IT TAKES JUST ONE


For those of us in the global travel & tourism industry, to call it, now them, ‘heartbreaking‘ would be a profound understatement. Scenes of airline passengers being abused by staff and, systems.

First it was a medical doctor being forcefully and ultimately bloodily removed from his seat by local police on request of the airline in order to make room for crew. And then, just days later, a mother in tears as a result of an airline attendant aggressively separating she and  her baby from her baby’s stroller, with shouting between the attendant and surrounding passengers thereafter.

One after the other, these incidents have horrified the watching world, the images and audio penetrating the hearts and minds of millions seeing the amateur videos created by passengers watching on being played over and over and over, online and on news networks.

Naturally, and rightly, outrage at airline staff and overbooking systems has ensued. The latter, an economic model that allows airlines to maximise capacity and minimise costs to passengers, is something the travelling public has seen for years, ideally for the benefit of passengers, even those incentivised to give up their seat for a later flight. Never before, however, had it been seen to be applied with such force, directly and violently violating the promise of flying the friendly skies.

The actions of United Airlines in the moment, and afterward, simply fueled the already raging fire. Failure of the CEO to see the suffering of the passenger, rather choosing to protect the airline’s crew, will go down in history as one of the most shameful moments for our industry. As stated by Sir Tim Clark, President of Emirates Airlines, and an elderly statesman of the global airline community,:

“Let me say it was a disgrace. It shamed the airline industry as a whole. We don’t go about our business in that way. Had it been me in that position I would’ve have had blue flashing lights on cars going right through the company to find out how this could’ve been allowed to happen in the first place. That was probably the last thing I do before I resigned.”

Sir Tim’s words capture at a cellular level the depth of disgust felt by those of us in the travel and tourism sector – a sector that we so proudly serve, feeling each and every day how our work is connecting people and places in a way that builds understanding, respect and appreciation of differences at a time when our world so desperately needs to connect in peaceful spirit.

As for the inability of the airline to then apologise for the incident, United’s CEO Oscar Munoz only managing to find the words to rightly own the situation on a third communique? Forget policy. Where was the humanity?

It just takes one. Just one moment of disgrace has the ability to scar a remarkable industry that works across the world to enable, as expressed by IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac,:

“some 10 million passengers (to) board planes. And 100,000 flights will take them safely to wherever they are going, almost always without incident. That is no less than a modern day marvel of technology, coordination and dedication to safety.”

And now we have a second incident tearing off the BandAid on a still fresh wound. As video continues to replay of a deeply rattled and tear soaked passenger on American Airlines protectively holding her baby, shielding her child and herself from attendant shouts and shoves, once again we hang our heads in shame.

Thankfully, in this case the airline stood up in protection of the passenger, American Airlines immediately owning the wrong, putting forward an unedited apology (and suspending  from duty during investigation of the incident the attendant involved) in hopes of taking a first step to making it right.

It just takes one.

There will never, ever, be an excuse for the behaviour seen recently on aircraft, and that which we know goes happened but unreported/videod. Nothing makes the actions of the individuals involved acceptable. They, in their selfishness, took down the eyes of their companies, and their industry.

Similarly, there will never be good reason for bad behaviour by a disruptive passenger, the ‘right’ to travel taken as permission to become obnoxious, causing an entire cabin to cringe, and making all passengers look ungrateful of the blessing of flight.

What there always will be, through the millions and millions of interactions that take place on the ground, and in the skies, in aviation, and in life in general, is the opportunity to just stop for a moment, and before seemingly putting policies first, putting humanity first.

It just takes one second to say those two precious words: “I’m sorry”.

Then, and only then, can our gaze begin to look to the skies once more.

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2017

 

TAKING CARE OF TRAVEL’S CRITICAL ENABLER


Tickets. Passport. Money. Mobile & charger. Go.

For millions of travellers, the ability to pick up and venture off, whether around the corner or across the world, has become a daily reality, not to mention necessity. Mobility is a must to make each day count. And to make each day an exciting learning. The possibility discovering new places, meeting new people, unlocking new possibilities, magnifies the blessing of today and the anticipation of tomorrow.

In the process of travel planning and doing, there are many things that regular travellers take for granted. Flights will be available, taking off and landing on time, with one’s belongings neatly tucked in the belly of the aircraft. Weather, air traffic control, pricing levels, all will coordinate to make it all happen. Onward. Even when things go wrong, frustration is met with a degree of acceptance and understanding. It happens. Plan B is out there. One’s sense of control is still high, even if movement is low.

But then the completely unplanned and unwanted happens. Movement is brought to a stop. Not because of some moving part out there that has slowed or even paused. But by our own engineering failing us.

Suddenly the most critical enabler of our ability to move – our body – is unable to. Dreaded words enter into conversations with oneself and, under duress, with others: “I’m sick”

It is only when one is grounded by one’s own health that one truly appreciates the ability, the ease, the privilege, of perpetual movement. And the ability to find help, especially when far from home base. Symptoms emerging with an underlying not knowing of not just what the problem is, but where and how to fix it, suddenly turns a carefully scheduled day into a significant cause for concern. Not to mention a scheduling mess. Next meetings, next flights, next commitments, raise red flags around the ability to move from sickness back to health. Even if able to keep moving, fear sets in around not just passing something on, but passing by airport temperature screenings and flashing red.

A safe place needs to be found.

For any traveller, regardless of frequency of travel, establishing that safe space is critical to on-going wellbeing. That ‘safe place’ need not be a specific geographic location. Being a nomad more often than not makes being back at base when unwell an exception, not a rule. That ‘safe place‘ is instead a little place that travels with the intrepid traveller – a small space in one’s carry-on bag where essential TLC is kept: medication & first aid treatments to keep one’s body strong, small personal totems to keep one’s spirit centered. Whatever is needed to immediately calm rising panic of unwellness, helping set in motion the steps towards getting real help to get through the fog.

Because the quiet reality is that, when out in the world, a huge part of not feeling out in the cold is feeling like one is not alone with one’s worry. Tucked within one’s safe place should be the things that allow one to feel they can take a breathe, focus, and safely figure out what next.

Moving to the what next, especially when still moving from city to city, hotel to hotel, ultimately poses (and imposes) a distinct test to oneself. Is a sniffle something more serious? Will OTC drugs be the SOS needed? Or is it time to make the call and make an appointment? Being strong is one thing. Being silly is another. No matter what others may say, what advise they may give, listening to the voice in the back of one’s head reveals whether one really feels safe pushing through the unwellness, of pausing to get qualified help. Now.

The value of our greatest travel enabler – our body – sometimes needs a reminder. The incredible blessing of the strength of body and spirit we need to do what we love should never be taken for granted. Sometimes a brief push of the pause button can be a good thing. Only when we pause do we really appreciate the gift of the ability to shift to fast-forward once more.

Safe, healthy travels.

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2017

 

 

NOT MY FLAG


 

Patriotism. The pride felt for one’s flag, one’s people, one’s national identity and one’s overriding ideology. It is something that is felt, deeply, even if not on show overtly.

At times, however, the love of country can reveal itself in full force. Moments of national victory, be it in sporting or political combat, tops the list of overt expressions of national pride. Chants of national jubilation unite citizens of differing backgrounds, different beliefs. In that moment, all are one.

At others, one’s sense of national identity is felt most vividly when among others of another nation. Whether at home or out in the world, immersion into another national identity can make clear unique elements of one’s nation. Its voice, its values, its vision of the future. All are amplified to oneself (and often others) when among others of a different flag.

To stand beside one’s flag with hand on heart, expressing solidarity in spirit, is something in which every national should feel confidence and pride. Rarely in one’s lifetime is this feeling of connection to national identity ever challenged.

Rarely does one feel a shame in revealing their flag, be it through accent or actions.

And yet, sadly, these moments can happen. A single event, a single signature engraving one moment in time, can leave literally millions in shock, their feeling of pride of flag shattered, while people of other nations look on shaken, their respect for a once celebrated flag shredded.

Such was the case on January 28th when, with the stroke of a pen, the land of the free shut its doors. And for millions across the nation and world, shut its heart. The travel ban imposed by recently elected President Trump under Executive Order immediately tore families apart, openly rejecting people, principle and the promise of a nation once known for the possibility of dreams being realised. Employers and educators scrambled to secure the safe return to the United States of valuable and valued people under their guard. Students, scholars, staff alike were now at risk of being locked out, indefinitely. Border officials and boarding gates across the world raced to understand what exactly the new ruling meant for those travelling. Law abiding, legally registered American citizens suddenly felt rejected from their adopted home.

Painfully, citizens once celebrating their allegiance to their flag felt shame, deep shame, at the actions of their elected leaders. The threats of the newly elected President were being acted upon, the ripples of fear reaching far and wide. Even if, as the new administration argues, only a few are impacted by this act of intended national protection, the impact on national psyche will and has hit millions. Love, trust and pride of flag – gone.

Within minutes o the Executive Order being signed, airports filled with protestors pushing back on what their new President defined as the new America. Fury erupted across all both sides of the country, both sides of the aisle. American citizens separated themselves from the actions of their head of state, clearly stating the actions of one man not being reflective of the fabric of the flag.

Caveats are suddenly expressed in conversations:

“This is anti-American”

“I am an American but this is not my President”

As days have passed, unedited expressions of anger, shame and condemnation fill conversations and official communications. Across industries and individuals, the overriding statement: this is not what America stands for. This is not what our global community will stand for.

Rarely is a person’s national identity defined by what they are not.

This, sadly, is one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ times.

There are no words. Only deep, deep feelings of sadness.

And for millions, same flag or not, shame and separation.

Surely we as the global community, wherever we are, are better than this.

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Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2017

COUNTDOWN TO CLOSURE

 

Just a few hours left……

As Washington DC concludes final rehearsals in anticipation of today’s inauguration of the 45th President of the United States of America, rehearsals of not just events related to the ceremony taking place in front of the nation’s capital, but also events set to take place once President Trump takes over the Oval Office, the city, under the gaze of the waiting world, is bracing for profound change.

At the moment of the taking of the Oath of Office,  swearing in a new President of the union, moving out of the nation’s capital will be a first family that has lead a number of firsts in not just American politics, but society and ideology. Being the first African-American President of the United States started was the first of the first. Many subtitles soon followed.

As the people of the USA and world look upon the legacy of President Obama, many positives and negatives will emerge across the economic, political and social spectrum. Viewpoints will be as many as voices. Over his eight year term, President Obama has established an immense portfolio of highest accolades, and of heartaches. Debates will continue for decades.

What cannot be debated, however, is the show of character that President Obama brought to America and the World. Importantly, to the White House, and the American people, he brought remarkable class, commitment, compassion, courage.

And now it is time for closure.

So much can be said, and no doubt will, about POTUS #44. As is the case for POTUS #45, still due to rest his hand on the Bible in swearing his service to the American people as the rest of the world watches on.

Whatever happens, whatever may be for the US, and the world, as the winds of change blow through Washington DC today, immediately reaching out to the world through the media and global markets, one thing is certain:

“The sun will rise tomorrow…”

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2017