In 2015 I set out to live in the African wild for the biggest part of the year, training as a Safari Guide out in the bush. Not only has this decision changed all the career plans I had for the future, but also did it change the way I look at life and the world.
Here are some very simple, yet essential observations I made while spending quality time with Nature.
Nature Lesson 1: Trust in yourself.
When you spend time in the wild, you have to take control and make your own decisions. Nobody is responsible for where you make your next step. There are things in life that you cannot explain and rationality won’t get you anywhere. Some matters can only be solved by following your gut. And for some reason, it knows already where you need to go. So, trust in yourself. Even if you don’t know what’s going to happen around the next corner.
Nature Lesson 2: Remember your instincts.
South Africa is the cradle of humankind. This is where everything started; where our instincts developed; where we had to fight our way as a species to make it through the night. Spending time in the African Wilderness has taught me to remember my instincts and use my senses. I have eyes to watch and ears to listen. I have hands to touch and a nose to smell. And most importantly, I have a heart to feel.
Nature Lesson 3: Live in the moment.
There is something utterly stimulating to living out in a place where you have absolutely no cellphone reception; not even electricity. The days follow the rising and setting of the sun and your life evolves around a very simple schedule. You live from moment to moment and embrace the here and now. Of course it’s not all fun and games and there are days out there you definitely don’t want to live again. But in the end it is my firm believe that even a bad day in the bush is still a whole lot better than a good day anywhere else.
Nature Lesson 4: Everything has a purpose.
The beauty about Nature is that everything fulfills a purpose. Everything is there for a reason. The trees feed the elephants, the elephants push over the trees and provide shelter for smaller animals, their dung gets composted by beetles, who work the nutrients back into the ground for more trees to grow. Not to sound like a total hippie, but everything really does follow a beautiful cycle. And it’s only us, the human species, that does a lot of things that don’t make sense. For me personally, spending time in Wilderness has shown me all the things in my life that don’t fulfill a purpose.
Nature Lesson 5: Appreciate small things.
A cold breeze. A butterfly. Morning dew. An elephants rumble. A smile. Good conversations. And bacon.
Nature Lesson 6: Be alone.
When was the last time you’ve been all alone? No, not in your room in your flat in the city, where you close your door but you can still hear the flatmates and the crying baby next door. No, I mean really alone. Just you and yourself. Somewhere in the forest, at the beach. Even if you live in the big city, make the effort and get out there. You will see what amazing things you will find…
Nature Lesson 7: Find your own truth.
When I first started training as a safari guide, a lot of people would tell me a lot of different things. I’m not saying that anyone of them didn’t know what they were talking about or that one was more knowledgeable than the other. But you will find that in life, there is more than one truth and more than one world. The world looks different to every set of eyes that belongs to a human spirit, so instead of following somebody elses’ opinion, make the effort and find your own truth. A quote comes to mind that my mentor Alan McSmith once taught me: “Good teachers don’t show you what to see but where to look.”
Nature Lesson 8: Be grateful.
This is an easy one: How can you not be grateful when you spend time out in the wild, where everything is bigger than yourself? How can you not fall in love with this creation? Your own existence deserve a parade every day that you are alive. It is a miracle that you made it here!
Nature Lesson 9: Be responsible.
And having said that; if you’re grateful to be a living part of this world – how can you not want to become active; to make a difference; to leave this place with the feeling that you’ve done something, however small it may be, to make it better?
Nature Lesson 10: Listen.
One of the most important senses out there apart from your eyesight is your sense of hearing. An oxpecker flying off could very well indicate a herd of buffalo behind the next bushes; a distant rumble might warn you that there’s an elephant at the waterhole; a Kudu alarm-calling might mean there’s a predator lying in ambush. But also, there is a lot to learn from your fellow specimen when you pay more attention to what they are saying; how they are saying it and why. I find, in our hectic times, nobody actually takes time time to listen anymore. A lot of people are just waiting for the next gap in a conversation so that they can share what they themselves know and feel and have. But if everybody’s talking – who is left to listen?
Nature Lesson 11: Breathe.
As part of my trails guide course I had to learn how to shoot a .375 rifle. Now, I am not saying I am a fan of firearms – on the contrary – and I hope I will never have to shoot anything in my entire life. In fact, I’d consider that as a big failing on my part. But there is something about rifle practice and aiming that I found very helpful: You have to become one with your body. You have to focus on your breathing and feel your body in order to hit the target. Whenever I am stressed out or nervous now, I always remember to breathe deeply into my belly. It is a very simple truth, but we forget this often enough. And it actually does make a big difference.
Nature Lesson 12: Love.
It is an amazing thing, finding what you love. Once you’ve come across something that makes you feel excited to get out of bed every morning, everything will seem more colorful; more meaningful. I’m not saying that this one thing has to be your life’s everything. But it can be one thing that influences all the others. It can be another person; it can be a job; it can be a belief or a way of life. But once you have found that thing it will influence everything else within you. It will make your life seem fuller and help you push through the cloudy days.
For me that one thing is Nature, Wilderness and its wonders. I’ve been looking for it for over ten years, not realizing that it was always there for me. And now I’m hooked. And I won’t let go for a very long time.
You didn’t come into this world. You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean. You are not a stranger here. Alan Watts