My attraction to travel is purely selfish. Whilst I love the culture, the Kiteboard conditions or the places you visit in between. It's more about the frame of mind you quickly find yourself in.
You get a very rare opportunity to look at your life in a macro lens. An out of body experience; taking a step back and assessing your true priorities, the decisions you've made, what you want, what your values are and how ambitious you'd like to be next.
For many, at some point, the travel ends. Life is 'normal' again. Friends. Family. Your priorities immediately somehow push further from experience and closer to that thing called money. And as for the out of body experience, it can be impossible to reach; I guess you're just busy.
It feels like there is something very similar about this pandemic.
This week, my 89 year old Grandmother put an alarm on for 2am. She had a job to do. The alarm buzzed, she stirred, woke, got up, put her dressing gown and slippers on and did the unsteady walk - not forgetting her emergency pendent alarm - to her desk and her device to connect to the internet. The customer services had advised her that new slots came live at 1am, not long after that, they are gone. She was ordering her food shopping.
Grandma is lucky. She has access to the internet, can use it, has a family close by, friends to call and neighbours who are bending over backwards in kindness. But you can't deny the frustration you feel when hearing a 90 year old woman needs a 2am alarm to get some bread in. It pains me to think of the reality for the even more vulnerable in need and the heroes walking towards this fire as they commute into work each day.
I'm very lucky to have a healthy group of friends and family, some are pregnant which brings huge caution, but many of us already work remotely. One of the biggest changes is having to let perfect waves, wind and beach conditions pass us by. We can spend our time thinking, reflecting, finding peace and meditation or focusing and preparing for our next progression in sport or progression in lives... Dare I say it, from someone with an incredibly busy lifestyle, it's… kind of nice.
Let's remember for a moment the reality in these words; "unprecedented times". In the UK they have lost as much weight in their value in a week as what it means to be a "feminist" has over the years. This is big and people's reactions to it is very interesting.
For one half of my life; the corporate world. True colours are starting to shine. The corporate decisions reacting to these times are evidence of behaviours that either clarify the sincerity of their values and proving they are indeed, core. Or these same values were once labelled as core, simply to aid publicity. Sadly, the latter is becoming more apparent for many.
For the other half of my life; the extreme sports world. It's a very different and very real fear. What does it mean for competitions? For competitors? For salaries that cease to exist if the circuit collapses. If we lose sponsors, do we lose athletes, and if we lose athletes, do we lose attention and if we lose attention, is it all over? Travel habits will change for a long time to come. The extreme sports world relies entirely on peoples travel habits.
So for business and economics, whilst we can analyse the behaviours, the result is unpredictable; no one knows and we simply have to wait this out.
So what does it mean for individuals?
It's weird, right? One of the few words I find useful to explain it. On these endless video calls that now fill my day, that familiar reflective sentence always pops up; "it just feels, weird, doesn't it?"
I'm starting to see a very small but what could be a bright light. When greed is not an option and privilege is removed from you, taken away, you have no choice but to cherish what you have. Resentfully or not, you have to think carefully how you use your time, your resources, your money, your actions.
I wouldn't dare down play the danger and destruction that this disease brings, I daren't think with my statistician mind of the exponential numbers that are playing out before me, but as we sit in household isolation, waiting for the storm to pass, our worlds are slowly becoming a very interesting place.
Actions and things are changing. Our previously unknown neighbours are now friends and our primary support network; I've lent a lawn mower, a lift and a bottle of wine. Our family seems closer than ever; 'just checking in' is no longer a text but voices on a phone or faces on video calls. Our words are different, there is no longer reason to ask what they're up to today, but the more pressing ask is how are they feeling, what are they thinking.
I was transfixed to a podcast just a month ago that was talking of this next decade being that 'of the woman'. Their reasoning was that compassion is becoming just as important - if not more - than money. Environmental activism, the employees voice, the fourth wave of feminism, socio-political change. It all requires compassion to win. This pandemic is no different.
Driven by very real fears, we are suddenly compassionate for our elders, the vulnerable. We are grateful for those working on the lowest wage of us all to save the lives of those elders, those vulnerable. The people who have to work; for childcare, for food production. We recognise the people we perhaps didn't give a thought to on a normal vote for ourselves; the homeless, the zero hours workers, the people who live in a 1 bed flat with 5 children to fill it. We now have time to be and have to be, considered, reflective, understanding. The things that we don't allow time for in our very busy lives.
It not just our behaviour that changes when our control is stripped from us.
Let's hone in on exercise. You may love the ocean; surfing, kiteboarding - the sport that get's you connected to nature and wildlife. But what about the exercise outside of that. Our lives as we know them could be filled morning, noon, night with exercise but this choice means we often don't find the time - more likely we don't make it a priority.
Watching the beautifully fit, healthy, slim and sun kissed woman telling you from Instagram that 'exercise is really easy and it will make you feel fantastic'. For a moment, you would fall into this wondrous image that, yes, if you just went on that short run or did a few squats, for just a couple of days, you too would feel incredible and slowly start to look like this beauty. Then your WhatsApp would ping and you'd remember that thing you needed to do that was on that list you made that is much much much more important than donning some gym gear for a very long and arduous 30 minutes out of your very important, very stressful and very tight schedule.
When the Government, using words like 'death-toll', 'lockdown', 'pandemic', announces you are no longer allowed to leave the house. In a matter of seconds, the perception of both the short run and the long and arduous one have completely changed.
I live by a quiet canal, about 20 steps from my house, I can be on a 5-10k run and see only 30 metres of road and normally, even less people. That path has never been so busy. My never before seen neighbours are out in their (cautiously 2m distant) dog walks, podcast walks, runs, park workouts, rowing - you name it.
Never before have the benefits of exercise been so stark.
What is the message we can take from this?
Right now, business and the economics are hard for us to predict. As a business, you can look at your reaction, your behaviour and put your values where your mouth is. You should be strong and smart, but you don't need to be selfish. Recognise that compassion will soon be of more value than money. Do the right thing.
For individuals, we are learning, right? We are learning about ourselves, our limits and we are learning that the things people have told us for so long, really are true. If we give these things the time they need - be it exercise, compassion, consideration for 'other people' - they start to show their true value.
Women are notoriously good at compassion. The world needs you right now.
This pandemic is an opportunity for the world to take a step back, to have the out of body experience and view your life, your values, your actions and how your decision effect the world. You will never have that opportunity again, and you have one chance to put what you learn during this time, into practice when life get's 'normal' again. Don't waste it.