New decade. New promises. Vision 2020!
That was music to our ears as we kissed 2019 goodbye, ready to embark on new adventures, filled with so much promise for the year ahead. On the horizon, there were reports here and there about a dangerous virus in China, but news items mainly focused on other important issues of the day. It wasn’t long before what seemed like a problem elsewhere came knocking on our doors in all four corners of the globe. I watched, like many others, as countries, populations, businesses and livelihoods took cover from the dreaded coronavirus.
Lockdown and quarantine became the new normal as people were encouraged to stay at home to save lives. Unfortunately, precious lives have been lost and, as I write, most people around the world are still in some sort of lockdown. Global and local businesses have been grounded to a halt. The Great Shutdown or Great Lockdown is now before us, as a global recession due to coronavirus gathers momentum. Many have lost their jobs almost overnight. No one knows what the future holds but one thing remains true: this current crisis will take years to recover from. We can only hope and pray that there won't be another pandemic to contend with.
What happened to the new promises and declarations of beautiful things as we took steps into 2020?
Like many others, I didn’t know how to react to this unprecedented crisis except go with the flow.
Observe. Prepare. Reflect.
Views from an Aviation Perspective
The storyteller in me tried to make sense of the unfolding situation before us by attempting to gain inspiration from yet another crisis that took place just before the coronavirus was declared a pandemic. The U.K. was battered with storm winds thanks to Ciara and Dennis. They caused total disruptions to travel plans; planes delayed, grounded or even diverted to land elsewhere in Europe. As an avid enthusiast of the aviation world, I followed with interest the comings and goings of planes during these storms. Crosswinds were the biggest threat. I thought of the people who had set off from an airport somewhere in the world with one goal, to get to their destination. Some did take off, only to experience the onslaught of crosswinds just before touch down. There were heroic landings and, indeed, take-offs, as some planes defied Storms Dennis and Ciara. Words from another pilot I once interviewed echoed in my mind: “The size of the aircraft determines how much turbulence you can go through. In other words, choose your battles wisely.”
You see, you and I are designed to cope with all sorts of challenges: personal and external, but it takes wisdom to know when to fight, and when to let things be. Planes that took off did so because they were designed and equipped for it and, most importantly, they were being manned by pilots who had gone rigorous training to be able to manage such difficult and delicate manoeuvres, which allowed passengers and crew to get to their destinations safely.
Could we learn something from the aviation industry as the coronavirus continues to be a threat to not just lives, but the way we live our lives? I had to speak to a pilot!
One picture is worth a thousand words
There are many ways to express yourself or share views with others. At Ubuntu Courtyard, we use hearty and nourishing stories so you can be empowered to face challenges and embrace opportunities during your journey. Musicians sing melodies or dazzle us with instrument ensembles that can take our emotions on merry-go-rounds. Orators deliver memorable speeches to live audiences. Authors string words together to pen books. Culinary chefs utilise different ingredients to deliver memorable meals. Teachers demonstrate. Some preach. Do you get the idea?
When I first got in touch with Santiago, he said he’d try to answer my questions, although he was “a man of few words.” When I introduced his works to one of my closest friends who is fascinated by all things galaxy (78 this year), she had a few words to describe him. “He might as well be a poet. He is highly gifted, and you can see that he’s using his God-given gifts to good use.”
About Santiargo Borja
I’ve always known that pilots often share inspirational views about life thanks to their travels around the world. Ever since I landed on Santiago Borja's Instagram page, I’ve never looked back. He captures hearts and minds with some of the most compelling photographs of scenes you'll never see in your day-to-day existence. From beautiful sunsets and constellations to thunderstorms in the skies above, Santiago has captured them, when he’s not piloting of course! He’s no stranger to unpredictable weather patterns; #stormpilot is one of his hashtags.
Sharing beautiful images taken during his travels across the globe as a Boeing 767-300ER pilot is his passion. With more than 250 Atlantic Ocean crossings, Santiago describes himself as a Commercial Pilot, Software Systems Engineer and Photographer. He doesn’t just cruise past nature and its never-ending parades, his tells inspirational stories through photography that make you marvel at how beautiful and vast the universe is. His work has been featured by organisations such as CNN, BBC, Sony, TIME, Wired, Washington Post and many more.
Here are some of his awards to date:
It was such an honour and a privilege when he responded to questions about handling uncertainty and going through challenging times. You see, it doesn't matter how hopeful one is, just like we were at the beginning of 2020. The coronavirus has not only brought many dreams and visions to a halt, but it has also given us something to think about. Just like the storms that pilots often encounter as they transport passengers to destinations around the globe, we have to navigate this new threat around us with all the knowledge and experience we can have, but also, love, kindness, and empathy, in the knowledge that this pandemic will be defeated if we join forces in our different ways - big and small.
As an experienced pilot, nature observer and photographer, Santiago Borja helps us to navigate the COVID-19 Crisis.
As an international pilot, what inspirational lessons have you learnt from your passengers and colleagues during the Coronavirus Crisis?
I loved how some passengers were extremely thankful and that everybody felt we were doing something really special. I enjoyed how humans can work together and forget about our differences in such circumstances. Watching colleagues flying people back to their home countries, being extra kind and attentive to everybody onboard, made me happy. Passengers were extremely thankful; taking photos, leaving a bar of chocolate for the crew, etc. It’s small gestures like that which showed how much they appreciated being able to return to their home countries under these circumstances. This for me is the greatest inspiration you can get from all this.
With many airlines grounded, do you think that things can go back to the way they used to be before the crisis? Do you think it might affect how we connect with others around the globe? If so, how?
I am confident businesses will go back to where they left off, but not in the near future. I think it may take several months to return. As for us, the people, I think that the way we see some things globally will be forever changed, mostly in a positive way.
As someone who knows what it takes to navigate complicated and unexpected challenges as you fly from one destination to another, what would be your message to those who are finding themselves grounded due to job losses and maybe having to start afresh?
Not sure how to answer this, but I remember when I was first assigned this wide-body aircraft. Although I could fly it, the challenge was really at a psychological level. The simulator was perfect, but the fact that I was flying with 250 people behind me was mentally shocking. It took some time to realize I was able to handle it. It has happened to nearly every other colleague when transitioning to a big aircraft. Once you get over this mental challenge and realize you’re perfectly capable of achieving what you want, you can find a way out of these problems.
What other lessons can we learn from crosswinds and turbulence as we go through this crisis period?
Well, in aviation, all these situations may seem like a bit of a surprise on arrival to an airport, but the reality is that there’s a lot of planning and training behind every single detail around these situations. Normally you face these scenarios because you’ve been preparing and training for a long time. I believe this is what increases confidence in yourself.
What do you think is the most important thing to focus on right now?
Right now, I believe the most important thing is to first stabilize the situation. Follow the rules that governments have established and assess how they impact us at a personal level. With that in mind, we have to make plans for at least a couple of months ahead. I don’t believe we can have certainty of anything beyond a couple of months ahead.
Once you get over this mental challenge and realize you’re perfectly capable of achieving what you want, you can find a way out of these problems.
Some people say that the earth is being renewed because of the lack of pollution and other industrial activities. Have you come across any evidence to suggest that this is the case?
Aircraft don’t just burn fuel for no reason. They burn fuel to take people from one place to another. So, the point is to make that trip worth the resources it consumes. I don’t think such a small pause will have any significant effect on the earth. But I do believe that this is a great moment to pause and think about how are we going to behave after this. We could stop living like it’s a race and think about using our resources in a smart and responsible way.
As an avid photographer of nature from skies above, what can we learn from your general observations about life in its many forms - sunrise, sunset, light, darkness and storms?
I think that each one of us will have something different to learn from these images and nature itself. My goal is to present a different side of nature to people who don’t normally see it from this perspective. Some will love nature even more and this will make us treat it better.
What do you miss the most about flying?
What I miss the most is sharing the cockpit with my colleagues. It’s always a mixture of doing what you enjoy the most but at the same time, being extremely careful to be professional at all times, especially when things are not routine, such as in recent humanitarian flights.
Which country would you like to visit first when this crisis is over, and why?
Spain of course. I have travelled there many times before and always enjoy the people and the culture.
What have you learnt about being a globetrotter under lockdown?
Honestly, I have enjoyed this time at home. I don't usually have such a long time with my family so I have had the opportunity to spend a lot of continuous time with the kids and do some family projects.
As you can see, he is a man of few words, but his responses were straight to the point. I gleaned a lot of inspiration from what he said. He painted such a lovely picture of human nature, even in the event of disasters. May we continue to nurture that. He also drove an important point home about being confident as we go through these challenges, or even utilising our experiences so far to relaunch careers. You and I can do it. We just have to believe that we can do it. He also made me reflect on how lockdown isn't just about saving lives and containing the disease, as well as utilising what's known about it to help us go back into the world with confidence. It's also a gift to spend quality time with your loved ones, to rest, and be grateful for what we have, now. As he rightly said, it's all about focusing on the now. The future will take care of itself, so we must stop worrying and continue to take the right measures for our safety and that of others. Our actions can greatly affect others. May we always remember that our wellbeing will be enhanced if others are also safe. I am because we are. That's the ubuntu concept.
Life as a journey...
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard as Ubuntu Courtyard takes you through a series of inspirational travel stories so you can reach for the stars.