I am so excited about having my Journey with Purpose published in the Getaway Magazine 🐘🦏🦒🦁🐆🦓🐃💚
What is the significance of finding your tribe? You are in your element, time stands still leaving your open heart to soak up all you are experiencing, really seeing the people in front of you and really hearing their stories. There might be no other purpose to this than for those people to be seen, to be heard. But it could be that in this flow you are being given access to knowledge and understanding which moves you forward on your path. For me those 14 days on our Journey with Purpose was the latter. I feel compelled by all I have seen and heard to champion these stories, to spread the word about the incredible work of these passionate individuals working for wildlife and community.
Now I love nothing better than seeing the “bigger picture” and some of you reading will know how I love a good map! And I didn’t see this straight away as we progressed through our itinerary, but I think I see it now…. What connects all our conservation and community stories from this expedition together is the increasing collaboration and building towards recognising the increasing value of Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs).
Here is where I mention the Peace Parks Foundation. Their single purpose is “to restore a tomorrow for life on Earth”. Their dream – “to reconnect Africa’s wild spaces to create a future for man in harmony with nature.” What does that look like in action? Helping, guiding, supporting, facilitating TFCAs. Creating a hub for a conservation collective in a particular region. This hub transcends national borders and helps take these seemingly small, individual actions and bringing them together – the dragonfly effect.
Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith are a husband and wife team who have applied what they term the dragonfly effect to using social media to affect social change. Their book – The Dragonfly Effect: quick, effective and powerful ways to use social media to drive social change – is an interesting read. They talk about the dragonfly being the only insect to move deftly in any direction when all four wings work in unison. This effect is similar to the ripple effect and is used in sociology, psychology and economic circles to show how small actions can create significant change. While their focus is the use of social media, I think the effect applies to the situation I am describing here.
Our JWP01 South expedition took us into two significant TFCA areas – the Greater Limpopo TFCA and the Lubombo TFCA. The people we got to meet and spend time with, the projects we got a little glimpse of on our journey were some of these small pieces working to their strengths and their passions. Placed in the bigger picture of the TFCA landscape there is more than a little hope of significant, lasting change both for wildlife and wild spaces as well as the human communities coexisting here.
For me this sort of hope is especially inspiring as I am on my own journey where I am currently planted to demonstrate how this dragonfly effect can work for conservation and community upliftment anywhere in the world.
It’s been a month since one of the most profound travel experiences of my life so far began. For my last blog post on May 4th I couldn’t even find the words I was so excited about the upcoming adventure and so just posted a pic of a recent painting. But here I am at the other end of it and still processing. And while I have been posting photo highlights in Instagram @dragonfly.travelling, it is taking time to reflect in writing.
In the days since I got home and back into my “life as usual” routine, I have also spent a lot of time writing about this journey. This writing has been with the hope of being published on a few different travel platforms that help champion Blue Sky Society’s Journeys with Purpose. Now that task is mostly complete, I have time to shift focus to reflecting in my Pure Spaces way.
To be honest I did not have any real expectations about this trip. Rare for me but I decided to just be in the flow of the moment, so utterly grateful for an opportunity to set foot on African soil again.
Now as I continue to reflect on these past weeks, I am starting to put pieces of a much bigger picture together. I have decided the universe works in some mysterious ways. It will take a couple of posts over the coming weeks to show what I mean by this.
Let’s start with introducing Carla Geyser, the founder of the Blue Sky Society Trust. The organiser and leader of our expedition and the brains behind Journeys with Purpose. In 2016 I’d read about the Elephant Ignite Expedition, the first of Carla Geyser’s epic African journeys – an all-female crew travelling 10 000 km through 10 African countries raising money for conservation NGOs, raising awareness for the plight of African wildlife and raising the profile of women working with wildlife. At the time I wrote in the margin of my journal “blue sky society trust”. Then life happened. Fast forward to November 2018 and Carla opens applications for JWP01 May 2019 – fundraising for Elephants Alive and the expedition being to collar elephants in Gilé National Reserve, Mozambique. Without hesitation I applied.
On 15 March 2019 Cyclone Idai hit the Mozambique coast making landfall at Beira and causing devastation up and the down the coast as well as inland. JWP01 going ahead in May seemed doomed. But Carla got straight onto Plan B and JWP01 South eventuated.
I now have the honour of calling Carla a friend and kindred spirit. Sharing the road with her, Dora and the rest of our small crew was infinitely rewarding and so so much fun. And that is saying something for this introverted wanderer who travels alone most often.
Dora is Carla’s 22 year old TDi Defender short wheelbase landy well kitted out and beautifully branded with her pink accessories. She has oodles of character just like proud “mom”, Carla.
So we couldn’t get to Gilé to help with the elephant collaring project. But it turns out a new purpose was playing itself out…
And so on a cool, clear May day five adventurous ladies set out on an overland expedition to visit some out of the way places in north eastern South Africa, northern eSwatini and southern Mozambique over 14 days. Our Journey with Purpose was to immerse ourselves in the African bush to soak up some Mama Africa time…. Oh so good for the soul!
The next 14 days held so many delightful wildlife moments and new landscapes to explore. The mixed bushwillow plains around the Hoedspruit area with its stunning escarpment backdrop providing dramatic vistas at every turn. The autumn colours of the Mopane bush around the Letaba area in Kruger National Park. The top of the world rocky outcrops of the Lebombo Mountains in eSwatini. The coastal plains, undulating grassy dunes and tangled forest of the Maputo Special Reserve in Mozambique. The clear, blue waters of Maputo Bay edged in mangrove. We saw so many species – insects, reptiles, birds and of course all the iconic mammals. Special moments with elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard, spotted hyena, giraffe, zebra, impala, nyala, kudu, hippo, a pod of endangered humpback dolphins and so much more. I think our leopard count was 5! The one lion sighting was this lioness up a tree! For me the rhino sightings were extra special as they are my spirit animal. I think Cat was okay with our cat count as they are her favourites. Remke loved the ellies and the monkeys. And I think Carla and Bella got a kick out of everything wild we saw. All of us aware of the privilege to encounter this wildlife at all.
I felt so at home travelling with these amazing women from the very beginning. If I had any trepidation in the lead up to a trip like this it would be how five strangers would get along in such close quarters. I don’t think that was a problem for us at all. In fact it was the evening of day 3 and we were sitting round the fire at the end of an incredible day in the bush tracking elephant when I voiced to the group that I felt I was among my tribe. That evening proved quite profound for me. A feeling of absolute peace like I haven’t felt since I was a child. Feeling truly at home and among my tribe. And all this to the soundtrack of the Fiery-necked Nightjars and the calls of the Black-backed Jackal. Bliss…
I have always loved this word – Ubuntu – the philosophy and the worldview behind it.
Here is a little reflection one month out from my upcoming African adventure.
I am not sure of a lot of things but one thing I am definitely sure of is that we are all connected. We impact each other every day for good or ill.
What I find particularly profound about Ubuntu is there is still room for individuality within this human story. To me this means that my actions count. Who I am and what I do makes a difference and is significant in the greater scheme of things. How empowering! This gives me hope in the face of all the tragedy and heart ache I see every day.
Taking this idea one step further I like to think of “we” as all the other living beings we share the planet with. I believe we are connected also. And while some groups of humans have not figured this out yet, I can be a voice for the voiceless. That tends to be what gets me out of bed in the morning, heading to work to teach conservation education to the next generation. A very urbanised, disconnected next generation.
And so I have been led to connect with people like Carla Geyser, founder of the Blue Sky Society Trust and organiser of the Journey with Purpose expedition I am embarking on in a month’s time. Here is woman who by her actions and what she has chosen to do believes in the power of Ubuntu. Definitely a kindred spirit!
Due to the ongoing effects of Cyclone Idai in Mozambique, our itinerary has had to change. We will head further south. The original collaring project in Gile National Reserve will hopefully go ahead later in the year.
I also follow Dr Michelle Henley on social media through the work she does with Elephants Alive. Here is another individual dedicated to wildlife conservation but not leaving humanity out of the picture.
Obviously much of the focus in my news feed will be about my beloved corner of Mama Africa and the amazing individuals dedicating their lives to helping wildlife as well as communities of humans in this part of the world.
But I also work with passionate conservationists everyday. Check out this link to an amazing wildlife experience in Sumatra. The incredible woman who put this together is also a wife, mom, team leader, field conservationist and all round inspirational human being!
And I could go on and on with examples of humans who work everyday on the assumption of Ubuntu… our individual actions bringing us together, uniting us in our efforts to make the world a better place.
What I love about this is that conservation of wildlife and wild places can no longer be seen to separate humanity from the picture. We have to take this journey together, learn to live in harmony not just with each other but with all the species we share the planet with. It is a huge responsibility and we cannot see the kindness and compassion it takes as a weakness.
I will finish off with a mention that the fundraising efforts continue, even though the itinerary has changed. And again, I do know that we are all saturated with requests for money for a million different good causes… but maybe this one speaks to you? A bit of Ubuntu
I remember my first period really clearly. I was 11 years old and it was awful. Even though I knew what was coming, understood its reason biologically – my mother is very pragmatic and we had already had “the talk” – it was still awful. I had fairly scientific leanings even then and while my rational mind could make sense of the biological function of it all, this pretty early blooming, relatively speaking, made me feel quite defective. As an introvert I was already struggling with how to be more invisible but somehow this experience made me feel like I had a big, scarlet “P” on my forehead – “she’s a woman now!” – which completely freaked me out. Quite bizarre thinking back on it.
Unfortunately getting my period also signaled the beginning of a 30 year struggle with my body and its hormone functions – a legacy of “woman’s issues” in my family. Every doctor, naturopath, acupuncturist, chiropractor, endocrinologist visit under the sun. Countless hours reading everything about women’s’ health and I won’t even hazard a guess at the amount of money spent on these visits, procedures, tests and medication. Who would want to be a woman?
But I am not sharing any of this really personal stuff to solicit sympathy. No, I am about to utter words of absolute gratitude. Never once have I had to wonder how I would afford my next pad or tampon or even pairs of underwear ruined by flooding. Never once have I had to say I will just live with all this pain and agony around that time of the month – there was always a new doctor to try, a new treatment within reach. Never once did I have to sit in shame, alone thinking I was dirty or unclean. Never once did I have to face any of the medical stuff alone or keep all this to myself for fear of shaming my family. Never once did I have to face as a child making the decision not to go to school because of my period or later in life postpone happy travelling adventures because of my period.
I have just watched “Period. End of Sentence” – a 26 minute Netflix doco that brought me to tears. One thing I know for sure from talking to all sorts of women over the years is there is nothing straight forward about periods. The documentary highlights what is going on for women in rural India with regard to their periods. They can’t even talk about it, don’t understand why its happening, have no access to even basic sanitary products never mind trying to navigate pain, complications, disease, hormone imbalance and all the other complexities that often arise around our monthly bleed. My heart is broken. And then all I could think was these are disposable pads they’re making! What about the waste, what about the planet! These women have only just found some empowerment, access to a basic need. Just in time for others to probably tell they are clogging up landfills with their waste! My heart is broken again.
In my little bubble of a world the new conversation is all about waste-free managing-your-period alternatives like moon cups, period underwear or reusable cloth pads. Most of these options come with a hefty price tag. You would have to approach this with an investment in the future mentality. While trying to find an option to suit me I came across a New Zealand start up – I am Eva. Brilliant! I invested and I am sold – great product!
But no sooner had I started congratulating myself for another little waste free win than I read something that shocked me. Period poverty is thing. Right here. Right in my backyard. Young girls in New Zealand are missing chunks of school every month because they cannot afford sanitary products! Even older women working minimum wage jobs are sometimes missing work for the same reason. This is insane to me in a country like New Zealand. Thankfully there are amazing things happening out there to try and solve this. I am Eva is one example – you can buy period underwear on behalf of women and girls who cannot afford this basic need. Australia has just taken sales tax off sanitary products… perhaps we should be doing the same?
In May I am adventure bound once more – an elephant conservation project in Mozambique. Part of our plan is to visit village schools along the way with environmental education materials but also reusable cloth pads for girls. The importance of girls staying in school cannot be overstated, not to mention a little dignity with a side of empowerment. I am humbled to be a part of this Journey with Purpose and to help in a small way support the work of armswideopen.org.
If after reading this you feel inspired to give, I am asking for donations in support of my expedition in May – for more info click on the link – https://www.givengain.com/ap/a-bit-of-ubuntu/
In my early 40s now I have finally learned to stop fighting my body. I have learned to find stillness and listen to the sacred rhythms of womanhood. This may sound weird or airy fairy but it is truth. Seriously. And I wouldn’t even consider myself a feminist. All I can speak to is what I have learned about life from tapping into the wisdom of what makes me feminine – our periods are so much more than biology. My wish is for us to find a way to lift taboo and allow all girls to tap into their sacred feminine too. And we can’t even consider that if most girls don’t have access to basic sanitary products.