I recently spent some time with my family in Namibia, Southern Africa. Where I was, is not as important as what I re-discovered.
We were camping in the wilds, we were on safari, watching, studying the landscape and the amazing creatures that inhabit this dusty land and wild sea. As well as the stunning orange desert dunes, Namibia has a wonderful coastline including the formidable ‘Skeleton Coast’.
I love spending time outside and find being close to nature calming and the perfect place to reflect and find inspiration. My usual haunt is the New Forest in Southern England or the beaches around the South Coast. Here in Namibia we had all that I usually have when working (I do a lot of my coaching while walking) or relaxing outdoors – it is however what we didn’t have that reminded me what is really important in life.
We had what we needed, but didn’t have many of the things we take for granted in life in the UK today. There were no mirrors, there was one plate per person so we had to wash it up after use, there was no phone signal or internet, there was no electricity or central heating, there was no TV, there was no supermarket around the corner. We slept in tents, often with all of our clothes on, as the temperature dropped to freezing some nights. We had wood to make a fire to cook on; we had to think about and plan our meals as there was no corner store for items forgotten or takeaways! It is amazing what you can conjure up on a bush fire – bread, pancakes, stews, even homemade pizza – and it all tastes so much nicer having spent time making it and knowing there is nothing else in the cupboard as an alternative!
We had time. Time to appreciate and absorb our surrounding, time for each other. Time to talk, time to plan the next stage of the trip. Time to share our feelings, time to express our emotions, time and space to analyse our lives back home and time to discuss options for change and opportunities that we could make happen on our return. There was no TV, no phones to distract us. Once dinner was made and cleared away (very important as food or scraps would attract unwanted wildlife!) we had each other and the stunning night sky, the stars are simply awesome! Namibia has one of the southern hemisphere’s few certified Dark Sky reserves and the only one in Africa. The Milky Way simply takes your breath away; you do not need a torch to walk around at night!
We were reminded of how important our environment is – of how much we need the natural environment for our own peace and harmony. We felt privileged to be sitting under this array of fabulous stars. The stars are always there, they may not appear quite so bright in the UK, but they are always there – sometimes hidden by clouds, but always there. How often do we look up at night? Take time to walk outside, spend time sitting around talking with friends admiring the wonder of the night sky? The stars are free, they are always there, yet so many never seem to take the time to look up and marvel at this wonderous sight.
We had a couple of minor medical issues – nothing that would have been discussed back home, but when you are 2 days drive from a hospital, it is critical to be aware of your own wellbeing and ensure minor ailments – such as irregular bowel movements – or cuts and grazes don’t become infected. In the UK today, we often transfer the responsibility on to others, rather than looking after our systems we run to the pharmacy to get a quick fix remedy – or leave a minor wound to become infected and then go to the Accident and Emergency department at the local hospital. When you are miles from anywhere, you have to take responsibility for your own health. This starts with understanding your own body and mind, and ensuring you do everything you can to keep yourself healthy. Not doing this means you can quickly become a liability and require others to put their own health and lives at risk.
Our health is another aspect of our busy western world that so many people seem to take for granted – until something goes wrong – and then it is someone else’s responsibility to fix it! Our health is something that we are given for free. It is up to us to look after it, to keep it in good shape and improve our physical and mental wellbeing as we grow older and face the challenges of life.
Time, the wonderful natural environment, good health, the other important aspect I was reminded of is people, especially loved ones to share all of this with. Life in the UK is busy, it often feels like it is a competition to be the busiest, to spend the longest at work, to earn the most, to have the biggest house, smartest car. None of this is important if you don’t have anyone to share life with. Special people, loved ones, again, don’t cost us money. Our family and friends are there for us, it is up to us to make the time to value them, to make sure we appreciate them and tell them so. When we are charging around in our crazy world, working too hard, never having time, it is often those closest to us, those that we love and hold dear, that we take for granted or offload our own challenges to. My trip made me remember to always make time for those closest to me. To value my family, just like I value my health and the wonderful natural world around me. And possibly most important of all: to make sure I always make time for the things and people I value.
What I learnt on the trip got me thinking, and reminded me of an old You Tube video I had watched by Earl Nightingale https://youtu.be/-TwfdY5Dxpw
The world we live in today seems to value everything that costs money, there seems to be a pressure from everyone to get more ‘stuff’. In the UK we are facing an unprecedented mental health challenge, in particular, young people. Yet we have everything and are ‘richer’ than we have ever been as a nation – we have so many more ‘things’ than ever before. We have everything we could possibly need – but so many people seem to feel they have nothing. We seem to have forgotten about the truly valuable things in life – the things that we were given or the things that are free.
It is so important to take time out to reflect and remember what is important to us. If you would like support to reflect and get back on track, contact Donna at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.baobabgrowth.com