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Why a delay is better than a disaster

Posted on 15 April 2020 by

Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger was the pilot who saved US Airways Flight 1549 in 2009 by landing in New York's Hudson River. He once visited a Chinese restaurant many years before he became a hero. There he received a fortune that read: “A delay is better than a disaster.” He kept that fortune with him on every flight. It reminded him to have the courage to reject the merely expedient”; it was with him when he emergency-landed his plane after a bird strike, saving all 155 passengers and crew.


Those same words might serve us well in these less certain times, particularly while we can’t travel far beyond our proverbial backyards.


Indeed, the freedom to travel is one of the great pleasures of modern life. While some of us may have become blasé about this privilege in the past, the current coronavirus pandemic reminds us what a blessing it is to be able to hop across borders - and across continents.


With airports either closed or running at a fraction of their normal capacity, and with the UK and international lockdowns continuing, the prospect of enjoying a holiday seems somewhat distant at present.


But we might take heart from the fact there is nothing we can do about it. We can, however, take pleasure in planning our next getaway, at least in terms of where - if not when.


One day, hopefully soon, you might experience the joy of stepping off a plane in Barcelona Airport; of feeling the hot white sand of a Thai beach between your toes; of gazing up at the roof of the Sistine Chapel; or even climbing to Everest Base Camp. Right now, such moments seem far off, but in time, they will be possible once again.


A rejuvenated planet?

As fun and economically critical as tourism is, it often places pressure on ecosystems and wildlife - and even local communities. While terribly sad and worrying in many ways, one upside to the pandemic is that forests and beaches and endangered species will have the time for natural recovery. Plunging CO2 emissions from Shanghai to Chicago mean cleaner air - for both ourselves and for wildlife.


The virus might also spell the end of 'wet markets' and the sale of endangered animals for medicine or food, as many governments - most notably China's - look to ban such practices.


New tourism?

Once we emerge from this pandemic, the lockdowns lifted, a great many of us will look forward to an overseas holiday or short break.


Having spent so much time indoors, we may view the world with a newfound love, respect and fascination. We may be more mindful of how precious our time is - and keener than ever to make the most of every moment, with the people we love.


Right now, Sullenberger's fortune can give us some succour: A delay is indeed better than a disaster. So while dreaming of relaxing on a Spanish beach or enjoying Bangkok’s nightlife or exploring the ancient city of Petra, we should remember that delays don’t last forever, and are far better than the alternative.


When we do get to explore our world again, it will, perhaps, be more intense and enjoyable than ever before.




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