It started strangely one day this spring. I started seeing caterpillars appear on my brick sidewalk and crawling up the wall of my house as I sat on the patio and drank my morning coffee. So many things were changing in our world that sitting outside and looking up at my trees and listening to birds seemed to be the best antidote.
Until the caterpillars started crawling all over and taking up residence on the eaves of my home, my garage, and, even worse, the trunks of all the trees in the yard. At first, my neighbors and I all laughed—what else could go wrong this year? And then we started phoning each other and asking if anyone had found an exterminator who could fit another customer into their overwhelmed schedule.
It turns out that my corner of the world was being taken over by gypsy moth caterpillars who were hell-bent on destroying all the trees in our rural area. How were they doing it? By eating every leaf on every tree—the oaks, the poplars, the maples and even the pine trees. I mean come on, who eats pine needles?
And then it got worse.
The noise started out one morning sounding like drops of water dripping off branches, but it wasn't raining. There isn't much car traffic on my dirt road so you can actually hear a lot of nature. It turns out that this gentle background noise was not rain—but caterpillar droppings falling through the trees as they ate 24/7.
Once I realized that, I knew having the exterminator spray my house wasn't going to help out the trees. Our neighborhood has watched helplessly as the trees now look as bare as they do in early March. It was so bad that the local news came out to document the tragedy.
But guess what?
I have a big 80-foot red oak tree in my backyard that was eaten bare. It made me so sad to look at it—until one day last week, I noticed a change. There was a small burst of green at the end of some of the bare branches. Could it be possible? Yes! My tree is growing a new set of leaves. It won't be a tree full of leaves like usual, but it's something. The tree has the will to live built into it. It didn't give up when all seemed impossible. And it is starting to grow again—albeit in a completely different way than it started in 2020.
A LESSON FOR ALL OF US
It's hard to stay optimistic when things seem so bleak and hope for a recovered tourism industry seems far off. I get it. But I also know you are just as tenacious as the trees around my home. I know that our beloved industry has a great future. But we have to realize that this year is like no other. You will have to try new things and step way out of your comfort zone.
Every week I get emails from subscribers who ask me to add their personal email to my list, since they have now been let go and won't have access to their work emails. There are more people than there are jobs in tourism right now. But there is always a reason to have hope and there are always opportunities.
Don't give up now. The trees around me every day remind me that tenacity is built through challenging times. And tourism professionals like you will also get through this year.
Written by Sally Davis Berry.
This article was republished with permission and originally appeared at Sally Davis Berry.
Photo courtesy of Sally Davis Berry.