A word that just a few short weeks ago, we would use as a synonym for ‘required’, ‘necessary’, ‘important’. But that was then, and this is now.
In the weeks since, this singular word has now taken on a whole new, critical, global significance. ‘Essential’ has become a term denoting ‘lifesaving’. It is a term that now reflects care and absolute priority. The word has now become a basis for protocols around the world connected to COVID-19 – the global Coronavirus pandemic that has proven itself merciless, ominous and invisible, yet with the ability to touch each and every one of us.
We have all seen its impact from different parts of the globe, from different parts of our lives, and from different points of view. We are also now entirely connected to one another by the same virus, even if we are having to stand 6ft apart. COVID-19 is a threat that is putting us all of us at risk not just in terms of our physical health, but also our financial and mental health.
It was not that long ago when all of this generation-defining drama began, that the word ‘essential’ initially came into our vocabulary in the context of the Coronavirus. Our first indication of something going wrong was less than 60 days ago, when news from China communicated the spread of a health crisis severe enough that it was literally grounding all travel during a period of mass human migration – Chinese New Year – when over 3 billion trips are estimated to take place as families reunite across the globe.
Come February, as the virus travelled west, rates of spread and concerns rose rapidly. People started to consider what was essential to have at home, especially if they were limited in mobility, and were having to keep fears of this mysterious yet aggressive virus at bay.
One question eclipsed all others: what am I going to need at home?
Suddenly store shelves became completely devoid of hand sanitizer, toilet rolls, paper towels and cleaning products that people believed were going to keep their homes safe. Sadly, this rush for all of these essential products created a retail craziness that resulted in hoarding and aggression, as people tried to get what they thought was necessary to keep themselves free from fear and contagion. In so doing, we actually started to do damage to our global community – its respect of, and responsibility towards, one another.
More rapidly than we can even grasp, soon the word ‘essential’ was imposed on our work, on products, and on services deemed cannot live without as, one by one, lockdowns and stay homes became not just a recommended way of dealing with the Coronavirus, but instead an ‘essential’ mandate. Countries from East to West, have now found themselves in a state of emergency. In Switzerland, my home, this “extraordinary situation” has created a complete state of confusion.
As a result, we are now seeing the astounding news that over 2.6 billion individuals are currently in different forms of lockdown around the world, confined to our homes. Now the word essential has taken on an even wider meeting. It has taken on a more humane meaning, and a more tangible identity.
What is deemed ‘essential’, and who?
The word ‘essential’ has now become a synonym of the word ‘hero’ – the people that so often were overlooked in our society, but who now play a critical role in keeping us strong and moving forward: the vital doctors, the nurses, the drivers, the store stockists and cashiers, and the people working each and every day to help us face the weeks of isolation ahead.
That is our outside world. And then there is our inside world.
As social-distancing and lockdowns now define the immediate future, what has also become essential are the small pleasures we each now recognise we formerly took for granted. The ability to reach out and hug someone we love, the ability to look someone eye as they are standing right beside us. The ability to go out, reach out to the world, to travel, to connect.
We are finding the word ‘essential’ is now reflecting what we also value deeply in our ability to simply move around our world, connect with the world, celebrate our being a valued part of the world. To travel.
For over a month now airlines have been grounding aircrafts, hotels have been turning the lights off as their doors close, and governments have been closing borders. Our world view has become severely curtailed as our passports are put away, our plans put off. Normal life is no more.
And we will never go back to ‘normal’. We will never go back to the way we were. There is no going back.
Instead, we must move forward, and in moving forward we must take this opportunity to look at what truly is ‘essential’ for our lives – to be in a position of wellbeing as individuals. But it no longer stops there. We also now recognise and actively demonstrate the community in which we live with the people right next door, and the global community around the world. Take the time to be grateful for the big things like our health, and the simple things, like the sun on our face. A definite positive to arise from this situation is that with the spread of Covid-19, it is proving that as a society, the commonalities that we share not just as people, but as countries, are far more powerful than what keeps us apart. We are inescapably interconnected, and the more we can come together to solve our problems, the better off we will all be.
To ensure a truly sustainable future – economically, socially, culturally, environmentally, and also spiritually – our sense of community is essential, online and on our doorstep.
In my own definition of ‘essential’, what I am finding as ‘essential’ is my need to continue to keep alive my relentless love of travel. The brands I run have always had, and will always have one sole purpose – to inspire and enable guests to connect to the joy of travel. Whilst I am saddened to see the ‘essential’ action of the worlds borders now being closed, I know it is not matter of ‘if’, but more so one of ‘when’, we will travel again. Giving our guests the opportunity to travel the world, to become stronger people, to become more sensitive people, to become smarter people, more connected and more compassionate. Our hearts and minds need to travel, not just our bodies.
But for now, to be able to travel the world tomorrow, we must stay home today.
That is ‘essential’ to ensure we are ready for our new tomorrow, stronger, smarter, and together.