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I believe in living an intentional life. And thus, I believe in intentional travel and I travel a lot, so that’s a whole lot of intentions getting thrown out there into the traveller’s ether. See, from a personal standpoint, travel has the ability to show us what we’re really made of, to expand our minds, hearts and spirits, and to transform us, among so much more. Before I embark on yet another adventure, I’ll sit down and thoughtfully tease out what I want to gain from my upcoming experience. We always get what we ask for, so be intentional and specific! In my past, I’ve travelled with the intention of growing closer to my family. I’ve travelled solo to prove to myself that I am capable, powerful and can rely on myself alone. I’ve travelled to have fun and to learn. I believe that travel is this beautiful little respite from the normal grind or hum-drum of the everyday responsibilities, and in that elevated experience, we have the opportunity to expand ourselves.
The days preceding my EcoTraining Trails Guide Course were no exception. WHAT WAS MY INTENTION?! See, I’m in the yearlong Professional Guiding Course with EcoTraining and true to my creative nature…I’ve had a creative yearlong schedule. During what should have been trails with my original group, I had to fly back to the USA for a sister’s wedding. OK, reschedule, check! Then, what should’ve been my trails round two, I flew back to the states yet again, that time to educate on endangered species at the Coachella Music and Arts Festival. In other words, educating about the plight of wildlife during the day and twerking to the likes of Beyoncé and The Weekend by night. ‘Rad’ does not even begin to cover it.
Essentially, I had a study-work-study sandwich experience. While I didn’t have the benefit of my Back-Up qualification for my internships, I did get real-world experience to test what I wanted and didn’t want professionally, which was…perfect for me.
Thus, approaching my Trails, I knew for certain that I had no interest whatsoever in becoming a field guide professionally. Truth be told, I never wanted to be a guide when I enrolled in the year-long programme. What I really wanted was to learn about the bush and get into conservation, but I just knew in my gut that I had to get into the bush in South Africa and then my next step would reveal itself.
OK, I didn’t want to be a guide. I don’t want to go into grassroots conservation anymore. What exactly do I want to do?!? Well, I figured that I had at least 28 days to get some answers.
My intention was suddenly clear, use the time as a retreat. Disconnect with the world to reconnect. Reconnect with myself, honour myself, respect and love myself. Yes, I enjoyed the challenge of getting my qualifications because I like qualifications, knowing how to do things and having goals. Despite that, my true goal was to be there for myself. People travel all over the world to take spiritual retreats: Bali, Sedona, Hawaii, Fiji, etc… I chose the South African bush, surrounded by like-minded brothers and sisters, caring instructors and much of the world’s remaining mega-fauna.
I always say, “Get Lost to Get Found,” and that’s what I gave myself the time to do. I started working out again, I meditated more, I stopped some of my more shameful habits, I took the time to read, and I walked. I walked in pristine nature in silence and amongst the elephants nonetheless! The only sounds aside from bird calls were my thoughts. I was almost forced to have space and time to think about and consider myself. I couldn’t escape into some project or some social gathering. I had the built-in structure and parameters to truly be with myself. No running away. Because, after all, there’s no running in the bush…
I loved trails. I loved feeling empowered! I passed my ARH (Advanced Rifle Handling) and Back Up Trails assessment and am legally able to walk with a loaded rifle with a lead guide through the African bush in the Northern Kruger National Park with the Big 5! How wild is that?!? Seriously?!? How did I get to that point in life?! It’s so cool! and I’ve done it! I proved to myself that I can be strong and take care of myself in that way, something that is so important to me as a woman; it makes me more confident in my everyday life and gives me just a bit more swagger—and I always love me some more swagger.
Time with oneself is a beautifully challenging experience that will result in transformation. We bravely face our own personal fire and allow ourselves to burn. As we burn, the dust and debris we’ve collected over the years burn away with the rest of it.
I lived in California for 8 years, the home to the majestic Sequoias and Red Woods. The crazy thing is, they need fire to reproduce. Their pinecones are so tough, that it requires the heat from seemingly devastating forest fires to pop the seeds out and facilitate germination. They will literally cease to exist without fire. I believe the same goes for us. We need the fire in order to be reborn, evolve and progress in life.
That’s what my Trails course facilitated for me because that was my intention: to face the fire, go within, and figure out how I fit into this conservation world. Beautifully, as well as predictably, I got my answers and I am forever grateful.
If there’s one thing that Bruce Lawson, one of our instructors, hammered into my goal-orientated brain, it was to “enjoy the journey”. Enjoy being lost, for you’re never truly lost, you’re present and are exactly where you’re supposed to be. Bumble along, be present, react, explore, enjoy and honour the self. Of course, life is not about the destination, it’s about the journey. If you miss the ride, you miss all the fun.
Be intentional, be present, honour yourself, honour others’ journeys and have fun. Always, always, above all else, have fun.
“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” -Henry David Thoreau