A Whole New World

The Magic Carpets Have Unraveled

I work in the travel industry. Or should I say worked? My company put all its staff on unpaid leave as the pandemic ramped up and murdered our business. The chances of its survival are slim to none; the company was a startup, and was looking to break even on cash flows in 2020. Our government does not bail out small companies, and the 300+ employees that lost their jobs are on their own. It’s disconcerting to suddenly be unemployed, without any income or healthcare insurance, just as a pandemic blankets the Earth.

Ours was the first industry to be sideswiped by the Covid-19 pandemic, and that roadside accident has turned into a 100-car pileup. Or in this case, a 10,000-airplane pileup in runways-turned-parking lots across the world. Hotels are empty. Resorts are silent. Travel offices are shuttered. Tour buses are parked. Beaches are closed. Airports are ghost towns. The current estimate is 75 million jobs in the global travel and tourism industry will disappear in the wake of Covid-19. Recovery will take years as the financial fallout from the cascade of defaults on financial obligations sweep through the banks.

I chose to stay in the travel industry because I enjoyed it. Seeing the world is one of the great joys of being alive. Being in new places every so often stimulates everything from passion to creativity to curiosity. But moving people across borders is a complex pursuit, especially through the air. It takes a lot of money, and a lot of people working around the clock to deliver the best travel experience with the necessary degree of safety. When the planes stop flying and the flow of people stops, the intricate web collapses. Putting it back together will be a thing for lawyers and bankers to clean up the financial mess. That includes the mess for us who worked in the industry. Our paychecks are gone, but our mortgages and car payments stay.

I’m fortunate in a way – my skill set allows me to try and find a job in a different industry. Many of my colleagues have skill sets that are specific to travel. For their sake I hope that the experts are wrong about how long it will take. Even then, it won’t be the same for a long time; perhaps even permanently. It’s sobering to think that the industry that made the world smaller, and put us all within reach of each other wherever we live, became the delivery system for the pandemic. That forces everything about it to change, and the people will be direct casualties of all the changes.

I’m going to miss travel. I hope to eventually return to moving people across the world.


Faith Alone

“Symbolism is uniquely human. We use symbols to represent intangible things like our beliefs and emotions, and to convert the abstract into something understandable. This week, share a symbol with us.”

I am drawn to architecture, symbols and trappings of human religion when I travel. They represent so much of the culture to which they are tied, and reveal much of what comprises the elements of the communities surrounding them.


Too Late to Be Early

“6:00AM: the best hour of the day, or too close to your 3:00AM bedtime?”

Six in the morning is good, but five in the morning is far better. That’s when you can start to see the sun rise. The world is just beginning to wake up, but I’ve already been up for an hour or so. You’ve heard it from me many times before, so I’ll stop now.

3:00AM will never be my bedtime as long as I have any control over it.

The picture above was taken at just after 6:00AM. I love morning flights.

This post is a response to the Daily Prompt of June 25, 2015.


Learning Out of the Box

As a kid that was really good at academics, I enjoyed school a lot. When I graduated and started working, I longed for those summer months where I had no responsibilities. That time was filled with reading books, playing games, watching television and listening to music. School was also easy, at least when it came to the “work”. I had little trouble with most subjects, perhaps excepting Calculus. I blame the teacher, because he blew me off when I asked the most important question. “Please explain what the practical, everyday use of Calculus is?” I didn’t fail the subject but I had very little interest in imaginary numbers.

These days, I have occasional dreams of eventually being an educator. Not a professor or teacher, though I could see myself doing that. (I’m already a sometime instructor in my current career.) I’m interested in being an educator. Build a school. Design educational frameworks. And the way I would do it isn’t like anything in the world today. (The Finns appear to be at the forefront of education reform.)

I’d do away with “specialist” subjects that are core to many of today’s educational frameworks (bye, Calculus and Trigonometry). I’d revise the way certain subjects are taught (really, local and world history can be interesting if properly presented). I’d add in life skills to core “curriculum” topics, like cooking and accounting and writing and dancing and listening to people and music and at least two languages that aren’t your native ones. (Most kids these days appear to be bilingual by reason of parentage, geography and/or affinity.) And I’d make sure that kids aren’t stuck in school buildings all the time. There somehow, someway has to be travel to foreign places as part of education. It’s necessary. Appreciation and understanding of world history and cultures and situations is essential to a true education. We would teach religion,

I don’t know how to do a competitive grading environment in this theoretical education regime. I personally feel that competition is essential to education. It drives kids to excel. It’s also a true reflection of the world. When the kids grow up they can opt in or out of the rat race if they so choose, but it’s important that they see and experience it in an environment where they can’t get permanently hurt.

So yeah. I would want to return to school in the future. This would be my agenda.

This post is a response to the Daily Prompt of June 19, 2015.

“If you’re in school, are you enjoying your classes? If you’re out of school, what do you miss about it — or are you glad those days are over?”


Muscat by Dawn

Waking up to meet the dawn in a new country is something I never miss doing. Sometimes it’s a dud, especially when I’m staying in the middle of a city built vertically with steel, glass and concrete. I can get some interesting visuals, but that’s not very common. Some days, when I’m in the right place at the right time, I can get a surprising image. I’m a total duffer with a real camera, and I’m using a camera phone. On this one occasion, waking up in the city of Muscat, I got the image above. Capturing the bird in flight was pure luck. I didn’t even see it. Don’t tell anyone I know though, I’m claiming to be an undiscovered Annie Leibovitz.

“The theme for this week’s photo challenge is “Vivid.” Perhaps it’s your favorite flower in full bloom, a beautiful sunset or the color of your ice cream. Vivid is limited only by your imagination. Have fun with the challenge!”


Through the Desert

I don’t get to visit the deserts of the Middle East that often. I already wilt in 40 degree (Celsius) weather. Temperatures in excess of 50 degrees are incomprehensible to me. It’s a very different way of life out here in the GCC. I avoided experiencing a massive cyclone/sandstorm by a day. This region of the world will always seem to be off-season to me.

“This week, we challenge you to show us what off-season means to you. It could be the shuttered ice-cream stand in the Southern Hemisphere where winter is drawing near. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere it might your snowmobile peeking out from beneath its tarp, or your Christmas decorations arranged neatly in the attic. Feel free to interpret this theme loosely — consider objects at rest and unmoved, places that are stagnant or abandoned.”


The Need for Speed… Boats

“This week, share your photographs that have captured motion, and tell us the stories behind the images.”

The throng of houses-on-stilts in the background is Kampong Ayer, the Water Village of Negara Brunei Darussalam. The only way to get there is by taking one of the little speedboats that crisscross the banks of the Brunei River. I didn’t have the time or motivation to get into one of the water taxis to reach the village, at least on this visit. Maybe next time.


Attention to Detail

Just imagining the patience that it took to plan out the intricate tile patterns that decorate the exterior of this massive tower made me thankful that it wasn’t my job. Even more thankful that setting the tiles into the pattern (likely done under the heat of the sun) wasn’t my job. There isn’t a single one askew or out of place.

“What does the word “intricate” mean to you? It could be the deep, fibrous bark on the ancient oak tree in your yard. Maybe it’s the robin’s nest under construction near your window — that ornithological engineering marvel of mud and twigs. It could be the treasured piece of needlepoint your grandmother crafted, or maybe a drawing you made. It could be the leaves falling from trees in the Southern Hemisphere — the wind arranging them just so on your lawn.”


A Bird’s Eye

I’ve been flying a lot in the past few weeks. While travelling for work gets exhausting, looking down on the world from thousands of metres up in the air never gets old. The mass of humanity living in some places is amazing. You spend a few days on the ground and encounter a miniscule fraction of the lives that inhabit that space of the planet, and then you’re on your way again.

“For this week’s photo challenge, stop and photograph the metaphorical roses (or the literal tulips). Share a shot of something you saw, did, or experienced on the way: a photo not of your destination, but of an interesting thing along the way. Show us something stunning others might have missed, or find some unexpected beauty in a mundane moment. Maybe we can all start looking at the in-betweens a bit differently!”