"The Disney Bubble." This is often our response when explaining for the millionth time why we repeatedly return to Disneyland, Walt Disney World, or Disney Cruise Line for our vacations. These are the words we use to justify the expense of these destinations. We describe "The Disney Bubble" as this intangible thing that hides us from the outside world.
In recent years, our bubble became compromised after the horrific mass shootings in San Bernardino, Orlando, and Las Vegas. The nature of these tragedies led to additional security check-points and resort room policies across Disney properties. We didn't feel quite as insulated anymore as we passed through the gates of each park. But now our barrier that shielded us from the rest of the world has completely shattered. It was no match for a pandemic or the massive wave of casualties left in its wake.
While we’re still wading through its effects, we struggle with how to continue on safely and responsibly. Is it too callous to think that some good could potentially come from reality infiltrating our happy place? While we are certainly capable of finding the good in challenging situations, it may require us to change our mindset first.
Whether acknowledged or not, it's always been possible that our actions were affecting those around us. You've likely seen these behaviors before; cutting in line, loudly reciting an attraction script, putting kids high up on shoulders in front of others, or stopping on a crowded sidewalk to look at a map. However, Disney is now requiring us to do something entirely selfless and it is impossible to ignore. You want to play in the land of magic? Then you must wear a mask. Your belief of masks being effective or not as a protective device is irrelevant. Other rules or safety measures are usually things we can’t do; we can’t bring weapons, we can’t wear offensive clothing, we can’t bring a wagon. But now, we must wear a mask.
Essentially, it means we must think of others. We are being forced to do something that benefits our fellow visitors and the cast members. That seems so counterintuitive to how we have perceived Disney guests in recent years. Try to count the number of threads on the DISboards that mention entitled guests or articles on the DIS that address the annoying actions of others. We, as vacationers, are usually thinking only of ourselves on our vacation that we worked so hard to make happen. But now that we must slap a badge of thoughtfulness on our faces, perhaps we won’t forget about how our actions are affecting others.
The other area that may see a shift in attitude is how guests approach Disney cast members. Fortunately, the DIS community has always been a place that is supportive of cast members and appreciative of their role in making Disney Parks & Resorts the amazing places they are. However, reading that 28,000 cast members would be losing their jobs put them front and center of the Disney discussion. We were suddenly connected to them in a whole new way because this same thing is happening to people in our own communities all over the country. Cast members are publicly going through a painful part of the human experience that forces us to recognize them as more than pixie dust spreaders. They are our friends, neighbors, fellow school parents, and volunteers. They are more than their job. Hopefully, fewer guests will approach them with some grand expectation in the future, and rather appreciate them for the talent, skill, or service they are sharing. Perhaps we will try harder to give as much joyfulness as we hope to receive.
Finally, I believe our outlook on vacation and the purpose it serves in our lives will be changed for good. Throughout this pandemic, many of us have experienced a gut punch of a wake-up call in terms of our priorities. An appreciation for the health of our loved ones, our ability to make a living, and our responsibility to each other has been a common thread of 2020. I no longer see us viewing vacation as our pay-off for all our hard work. I think it will be seen more as an opportunity to live for today by experiencing the wonders of our world that are either natural or man-made. What greater compliment can we give to a person than to appreciate something they have created? Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and Disney Cruise Line are the achievements of thousands of builders, engineers, artists, technicians, inventors, musicians, chefs, and storytellers. Maybe we’ll start to view them not only as places for us to simply have fun, but places to appreciate the gifts of others.
Our Disney vacations have been cherished moments in our lives that were never approached with selfish intent. While we have always appreciated the magic of these destinations and the escape they provided, we might find our appreciation shifting focus. Perhaps the loss we’ve collectively experienced will remind us to not take for granted the opportunities in front of us today, because they may not look the same tomorrow.