Life has always held uncertainty at its core, but daily life as we know it has now come to a standstill. Humanity all over the world is facing an invisible but very real threat: SARS-COV-2, otherwise known as COVID-19. Businesses closed, public spaces empty, and only essential workers in fields like healthcare and supply chain remain active out of necessity. Aside from them, only those who are ill-informed and have a false sense of invincibility still roam the streets. This pandemic, the likes of which we have never seen before, is a serious matter. Mother Earth is very clearly telling humanity to sit still and take a breather.
Necessary changes like physical distancing will likely feel extreme at first, jarring you from the comforts of routine and a sense of normalcy. Sequestered at home, you may become physically, mentally, and spiritually restless. It is natural to feel anxious about the wellbeing of your family, friends, community, and the rest of the world. Reach out to them, share memories of happy times, and be sure you make plans for the future together. Read travel blogs and research stunning locations around the globe because dreaming up your ideal luxury vacation is one way that you create positive intentions that will uplift you. Determine if you are in a position to help others in some way, shape, or form in the here and now as well because serving others always inspires a sense of purpose and goodwill. Remember that civilization itself begins and ends with our willingness to help others through difficult times!
As with all difficulties in life, it always helps to look for positives within the problem. If there is one upside to this pandemic, it is clearly the fact that the world-wide rates of pollution are the lowest they have been in many years! In light of recent events, responsible people are staying at home for the foreseeable future, and therefore emissions are much lower. It is definitely time to come up with solutions for the imminent climate crisis we are also facing. It is a looming threat that we cannot continue to collectively “sweep under the rug” to deal with another day.
Aside from indulging in the typical and fun distractors that can occupy your mind for a while, like consuming the many different forms of media at your fingertips such as tv and movies, don’t forget to take this time to reflect on the current state of affairs with a critical eye. What are your priorities, the things you think are the most important aspects of a life well-lived? Perhaps this pause is necessary for humanity to take stock of its priorities and look long and hard at itself in the mirror. Since the status quo has been derailed, there is no better time than the present to reflect on the suitability of your current path and make plans for an even brighter future.
For indigenous groups like the Kichwa Añangu, this self-reflection can be relatively short and sweet. This community in the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest has been committed to conservation efforts and eco-tourism for more than 20 years. In the local language, “Sumak Huasi” and “Sumak Kausay” represent the core belief that people must live in harmony with nature in order to thrive. That ancient knowledge is exactly what much of the world has forgotten. It is also what will restore our ailing Mother Earth and her plethora of children who call this planet home.
Of particular importance are the elderly knowledge keepers who teach the cultural beliefs and traditional practices to younger generations and the adventurous travellers who come seeking both a luxury travel experience and an authentic connection with the Amazon Rainforest. That is arguably the most profound loss the world is experiencing throughout this pandemic. The loss of our elders, and the wealth of experience they have gathered over so many years, is priceless and irreplaceable. In these troubled times, figuratively hold your near and dear loved ones close to your heart while keeping a safe physical distance from them to avoid any possibility of compromising their safety.
Though it will cause tremendous hardship, temporarily closing Yasuní National Park to protect the entirecommunity of 200+ people as well as uncontacted communities well within the embrace of the forest is necessary to ensure the wellbeing of everyone, both locals and tourists. Safety is always priority number one. Forced to seal itself off from the outside world, for now, the Añangu await the day when it’s safe to welcome the outside world once more. In the meantime, the power of technology means that you can pay a virtual visit to this lush Ecuadorian destination and many other gems around the world.
The cities, our jobs, tourist sites, luxurious travel destinations, and the great outdoors will all be waiting for us once it’s safe to return to the “new normal”. But maybe we will be able to do so with a better understanding of what is truly valuable about the world we live in, and we will return to a more natural state of prioritizing the health of our planet. During this time of reflection and global unity against a common enemy, will you listen to the Earth’s plea for change? How will you choose to realign yourself?
Miguel Andy is General Manager of Napo Wildlife Center. Napo Wildlife Center is an eco-lodge offering unforgettable experiences in the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador, inside Yasuni Biosphere Reserve, which is managed by the Añangu kichwa aboriginal community.