Best way to test one’s position on the impact we have in our world? Put oneself ‘out there’ in direct conversation with Mother Nature.

And so, the moment came. Destination: Antarctica.

For over 3 decades, I have been incredibly blessed to work worldwide on a professional path and within critical economic sector that has always stretched my vision, pushed my mind, and filled my heart: global Tourism, Aviation & Development. Acutely aware of the scope and scale of interdependencies of the sector that must, must work together to ensure a world connected by travel is truly good for not only the visitor but the visited to be able to stay true to principle of travel as a force for good for all for generations to come, the past 3+ years acting as a ‘behind the velvet curtain’ advisor to leaders across the globe rebuilding their economies, societies and environmental policies has been the honour of a lifetime.

As we as an industry work to reconnect the world the right way, at the right time, through the right decisions, as captured in my latest book authoring THE CALL TO LEADERSHIP, we as global leaders are being loudly, clearly and urgently called on to own the impact we will have on those near and far, now and in the future.

Which is why a recent hit of the professional pause button to undertake a journey of a lifetime to the bottom of the world was, without question, one the most penetrating tests of my position on the value and values of Tourism Development.

11 days on serious expedition including 4 days of intense sea kayaking through iceberg waters, visiting the frozen world homes of tiny little tuxedoed locals waddling about as sea lions stretched out on shorelines, while Orca and Humpback whales puffed out signs of their presence nearby…all across Mother Nature’s breathtakingly beautiful canvas of icy blues, greys and whites. And of course, the Polar Plunge – joining creatures great and small in their frigid environment of play.

‘Holiday’? Perhaps in traditional terms as a carefully crafted time laptop-free (especially as anticipating network challenges being at the southern tip of the world where creatures great and small have absolutely no interest in email). Very, very special thanks to Al Merschen for turning a lovely, loving, milestone-celebration idea into an adventure of a lifetime.

Soon, very soon however, and as sensed it would be, active vacation time to be shared became a call to action connected to vocation. As soon our port of departure started to fade into golden sunset light, an ‘Impact Immersion’ began, masterfully executed travels to the bottom of the world by the team at Quark Expeditions –, leaders and firm advocates of our possessing a deep, sincere understanding and sense of responsibility towards the world we are blessed to explore.

Their mission was on. Day after day, both at sea and when anchored, time was filled with not only seeing a truly untouched part of the world, but understanding it, feeling it, and deeply appreciating it, stop after stop, paddle after paddle, landing after landing, sight after sight. The awareness and appreciation building was not through simple exposure, emotional osmosis. The learning was direct, the expertise of the expedition staff positioned front and centre so that each leg of the journey carried with it exceptional insight into what was there before, what will be found now, and what is at risk in the future. Lecture after lecture, the learning added layers of richness to the experience: maritime history, marine biology, natural physics, ornithology, glaciology, climate science, safety, the keyholes of understanding were there for us all to unlock. Participation was mandatory, as was commitment to protection and preservation because this we all knew and felt to be true: presence in the places we explored was an absolute privilege.

Returning ‘home’, back to the busy days, streets, and screens that shape what we define as our real world, it is impossible to simply release the pause button and return to business and busyness as usual. Our vision has changed. What was once conceptual is now crystal clear. What was once take for granted now stings as we see, and feel, what is being taken.

To Mother Nature, my immense, loving thanks for not only making the journey through the notoriously treacherous (8m – 12m swell high) Drake Passage extremely unusual with its (relative) calm, magically accented with a magnificent golden full moon rising over wide open waters, but for allowing us, through your daily (often hourly) changes in climate to stay, to see, to silently absorb, and to so deeply feel both the blessing and the responsibility of the awe you have created all around us.

Why write this post?

Because her message is clear: our ability to see her increasingly fragile world is a privilege, not a right, and we as her messengers must never forget that. Nor must we fail to remind others – especially the decision makers shaping the future of our industry, and therefore sharing responsibility for the shape of the world we are influencing, impacting, and hopefully inspiring, near and far, now and for generations to come. Talking about the climate crisis, embedding the word ‘sustainability’ in our strategies, hash tagging the need for action is one thing. Seeing the impact of inaction is quite another.

Mother Nature, I see you, I hear you, and I thank you. x


Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2024