If the past few months and weeks have taught us anything, it’s about the power to question pause, listen and look closely — even deeply — at the world the around us and ask, what next?
I’d like to think that the global pandemic has been a giant and much-needed reset button — albeit a very hard one. I acknowledge that I say this from a place of privilege, while there are countless others dealing with unimaginable loss, stress and hardship. For many, this experience has been traumatic and will be difficult to recover from.
Facing the Facts
At LOJEL we saw our sales plummet in March much like every other travel-focused brand. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really sure I’d have my job much longer. No one could say what “recovery” could or would look like (or when!). So we rallied together to begin a process to reimagine a new future, but as I dug into conversations, research and paid attention to what is happening around me, it sunk in hard that there is no single winning solution. To be honest, none of us really expected there would be. Instead, this examination has highlighted how important it is to stretch well beyond our own knowing and comfort so that we can in fact see a new reality.
We have all arrived at varying degrees of awareness about how interconnected we are as a world. The quick and easy spread of a virus was just one giant indicator of how far globalization has come. But another large part of that is the global economy. How and who we manufacture and trade goods with. Where our tourism dollars go and how individuals to an entire countries GDP rely on it. We’ve also observed changes in our environment like reduced air pollution, but also alarming indicators like the recent heatwave in the Arctic circle. And as people, our habits are changing. Working from home, buying less, buying locally — and of course staying close to home. Where is this all going to lead us?
Another sobering reality is the inequality faced by so many. Truth be told, it is inequality experienced by the majority of the people who inhabit this planet. There is a reason we use the term 1% to describe the wealthiest — because it’s true. And we have to ask who is responsible and why these structures have been put in place and what we want to change about them now.
The Black Lives Matter movement has been an important catalyst for examining institutional racism, and oppression in the United States. It is also a chance for us to see that institutional racism and oppression is a global issue, not just an American one. So what do you do with that information? How do you begin to shape a new reality? These are questions that I’m realizing must come from an individual awakening. You will see only what you’re willing to see.
The Next Step is Where?
So how does this all lead back to reimagining travel and shaping a new world? Again, I am extremely privileged to have had to chance to travel more extensively than most. So I can only bring my perspective which is shaped by what I have witnessed. From the streets of Tehran to refugee camps in Palestine, to galleries in London — I have been called to reflect more closely on the connections I made and the stories that were shared with me. I am working harder at seeing the impact of classism, income inequality and racism experienced by Indigenous people from Mexico City to my own community here in Vancouver. I am reimagining an even slower, more purposeful approach to my travels. One where I specifically seek out small family-run businesses who are championing sustainability and prosperity in their communities.
I am also educating myself with language and understanding to practice allyship wherever I am. What I apply here at home, may not be appropriate for other cultural contexts. Therefore, I strive to observe and listen before I speak. To be better at knowing how I can help not hinder. As a traveler that is my commitment. That is how I see change unfolding in the world around me. I know that there are many more like me who have similar commitments and are asking the same questions.
It’s Up to You
So dear reader now is the time to look the future with a new lens. You are a part of changing this new landscape. Your decisions matter. From where you go, what you buy, who you support — or don’t. You create a footprint and an impression wherever you go. Step forward with purpose and let’s build something new together.