Staying engaged in the time of COVID
Deb Niven and Allison Frame call Friday, March 13th, 2020 the day the music died.
Two days earlier, the World Health Organization had deemed COVID-19 a global pandemic, but it didn’t really hit home until the 13th when the federal government asked Canadians to cancel all non-essential international travel, and schools closed in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, and New Brunswick.
“That’s when the bottom fell out,” says Allison. “The weight of it all just hit us.”
It turns out the two Divine Destination Collection co-founders were attending a workshop that day about looking at their business from a more spiritual perspective. “We had a breakdown during one of the sessions,” says Deb. “We didn’t know what was ahead. What did this mean for the travel business? Were we going to lose everything?”
Deb remembers being crippled by fear. “The full realization that COVID was real and travel was out meant that my livelihood had ceased to exist.”
By Monday, March 16th most of the country was going into lockdown. Clients were frantically calling Wynford, the corporate meeting and incentive travel company that Deb co-leads, and The Divine Destination Collection had to cancel several trips they had been planning, including a journey to the South of France in June.
“I just wanted to stay in bed and pull the covers over my head,” says Allison. “But Deb and I had work to do. We had to find a way to connect to our Divine Destination Collection travellers and keep them engaged during these uncertain times.”
New ways to experience the world
Deb and Allison got to work right away creating Divine Live and Online a series of six virtual travel adventures that was so successful it has continued into 2021 and will become a permanent part of The Divine Destination Collection even when the pandemic is over and it is safe to travel again.
“We really started from scratch – not only learning the technical requirements, but reaching out to our contacts around the world to figure out what would make a compelling and exciting online experience,” says Allison. “I don’t think I’ve taken on such a massive learning experience since I was in school. It was hard!”
But delving into a different way of experiencing the world also gave them the strength to get through the fear and uncertainly of the pandemic. “These adventures to remote locales, exotic cultures, and majestic landscapes have really been a sanity saver and soul expander for me,” says Deb. “Each Divine Live and Online encounter has been a new area of discovery. The wonder of it all keeps me wide-eyed and hopeful.”
Connecting to friends
With social distancing in full force, Deb and Allison meet up once a week for an outdoor walk – ensuring they stay safely apart – to talk business, but also to stay connected.
“I was not a huge nature girl, and before walking the Camino during our trip to Spain I wasn’t really a walker – but now I’ve developed a real love of both,” laughs Allison. “Going out for a walk is a great way to keep in contact with friends and family. And through Zoom calls I have been chatting with friends outside the city and the country more than ever before. It’s helped me make deeper connections and conversations.”
Deb agrees with the power of a Zoom call. “Each meeting I have now brings me face-to-face in a much more intimate way than I connected before. It fuels my day and is also helping me reimagine my corporate business and offer digital solutions so my clients can continue to value and reward their employees.”
In fact, thanks to technology such as virtual meetings, Deb realized a life-long dream to spend almost the entire summer at her cottage. “When you are working from heaven it doesn’t feel like work at all!”
Keeping busy while at home
Besides taking at least four or five walks a week with friends, Allison starts off each morning with some mediation and Wim Hof breathing exercises to help reduce stress and boost her immune system. “I also do yoga every morning. It really keeps me sane through the monotony of having to stay at home.”
And although she says she has never been a cook – Allison has been trying out recipes from the New York Times and Deb has discovered Hello Fresh. “My 22-year-old son Jack kills the prep, and the recipes are out of this world,” says Deb. “A few Netflix series have also been consumed, such as The Crown and The Queen’s Gambit. And yes, I did watch Tiger King early on, but c’mon… who didn’t?
A journey inwards
Deb and Allision have also been using this time to focus on their own personal journeys. “COVID has really pushed on everyone’s demons. But since we can’t travel right now, it has given us the opportunity to travel inwards, to take a look at ourselves in the mirror,” says Allison.
Right now both are reading The Untethered Soul – The Journey Beyond Yourself, a book about inner peace and serenity by spiritual teacher Michael A Singer. They also find inspiration by listening to thinkers such as Eckhart Tolle and Russell Brand and Deb enjoyed the daily mediations by Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra.
Allison has also decided to reduce her social media consumption – “so I don’t go down that wormhole” – and is limiting her news intake to one dose a day. But she continues to love listening to podcasts, especially before bed. Some of her favourites are by author Brené Brown, Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations and This American Life.
“COVID has been a time of restoration, reimagining and rebuilding. Although March 13th was a traumatic day, it ended with a more peaceful me – ready for whatever was coming my way and in full faith that all would be okay whatever the outcome,” says Deb. “It was an epiphany.”
Where to next with Divine Live and Online?
Need an inspiring adventure to lift you out of the winter doldrums? Turn those February blues to bright orange by traveling to Central Mexico on Wednesday, February 24th, for The Butterfly Effect – The Majesty of the Monarch Migration. You’ll have the chance to visit the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Michoacán, Mexico, where millions of monarch butterflies fly from southern Canada each year to escape the winter.
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