When Gayle and Malcolm invited me to write a short reflection six months after returning from Antarctica as part of Homeward Bound, the first thing I did was count the months on my fingers from December 2019 to now. I could not believe it had actually been 6 months!

Of course, most of the last six months has not been anything like I imagined – nothing you or I or the rest of the world has seen before. But strangely enough the impact the magic of Antarctica had on me feels like it has remained untouched.

I can still see the exquisite beauty of the snow, sea and ice, the enormous expanse, the sheer size of the mountain ranges. I can still feel the clean, crisp air in my lungs. I can still hear the sounds of penguins squabbling and the breath of humpback whales when they surface from a dive. I remember glistening giant glaciers, ice cracking and groaning as the frozen river continues to move, giant petrels soaring on the ocean currents, and endless summer nights as though I experienced them all only last week.

It is impossible to reflect on my journey now without considering the context the world finds itself in. I have been deeply affected by the terrible things people across the world have endured, and continue to endure, during the pandemic.

With so much uncertainty in the world, I feel even more grateful that I was able to take part in the Homeward Bound program and complete the voyage when I did. Almost daily I draw on something I learnt about myself, about others or about leadership to help inform my decisions and path in life.

One of the things most valuable about being in Antarctica was the three weeks to stop, reflect and learn. Similarly, COVID-19 has forced the world to stop and reflect. But have we learnt?
The pandemic presents an opportunity to reset and do things differently. The need for strong, courageous leadership in our world is more evident than ever. I am hopeful, but sadly somewhat doubtful with many of the current world leaders, that this opportunity will be truly seized.

In my home of Western Australia, we are very fortunate to have returned to a new form of normal, with only limited restrictions. However, I don’t think I am alone in recognising some of the positives of COVID-19 lockdowns. Life slowed down, we had more time for family and our homes, and we had a better work/life balance.

These are things I set the intent to maintain, though already I am guilty of allowing life to get ‘busy’ again.

Similarly, on a global scale, the pandemic has presented an opportunity to change the way we are living as a species on earth – to challenge the way we’ve done business and to show that it can be done differently. There is a lot of discussion about this, and good intentions being set about doing things in new and better ways. I am curious about the degree to which these are going to play out.

Of course, COVID-19, while unprecedented, represents only one of the future challenges our world faces, including of course the greatest threat – climate change.

In this, we all need to be insistent that, as individuals, businesses and governments, we don’t just return to business as usual. We must look for new, better ways of doing things that will help protect the socio-ecological systems we are dependent on and create a more sustainable future. We need strong and courageous leadership to achieve this.

I know I am going to keep asking ‘what can we do differently/better?’, to make family time a priority, to travel less by air. I will continue to work to inspire others to make positive changes too, and to demonstrate an inclusive, empathetic, authentic and courageous leadership style I think the world needs.

What are you going to do?

Read more of Gillian’s posts about her Homeward Bound journey here.

Photo by Matt Palmer on Unsplash.com