Looking back into my childhood, I can definitely say I was not one for getting dirty or being out in the bush (A typical South African word for the outdoors) where it is filled with creepy crawlies (spiders, scorpions and who knows what else), dirt and mud. On the contrary, I was a little girl who preferred being squeaky clean (I was horrified at the kids who walked around barefoot), in town and close to civilization. I mean who would want to be out in the bush, in the middle of nowhere where there is nothing to do, when one could rather be watching television, shopping at the mall or grabbing your favourite pizza at the local restaurant?
I would however accompany my dad when he went to his farm on which he kept a small herd of cattle, but I would never truly get involved if you know what I mean. Short walks on the farm comprised of dodging cow dung (Yes, I wore my town shoes), spider webs and general tasks that involved getting dirty. When I did step in some doo-doo (cow dung) I hurried along to try wipe it off on the grass as best as I could.
On some weekends and during school holidays we would visit family friends on a dairy farm and there too I avoided getting dirty as far as possible. It was rather difficult as they (the owners) had a son and all he wanted to do was go fishing, hunting and get dirty - a typical little boy. I do faintly recall a time where I was brave enough to join a fishing trip, so off I went kitted out in my pink gear. To my surprise, I actually caught a fish, but being to0 scared to touch it, I called upon one of the boys to do so., in order to release it.
Further along in life, I found myself attending a couple of school excursions to places located outdoors. One place in particular, Forest Way - which as its name states, is located in the forest. To my dismay, it had rained and therefore every activity was extremely muddy. After returning from a rather dirty day out, the first thing I did was have a long hot shower (It really felt like I had returned from 39 days on Survivor).
Yet another couple of years passed by with many camping trips and outdoor excursions being passed up. I was now at university studying my Bcom degree in Tourism ( for which at that stage I believed I would use for traveling and for seeing the world... but little did I know how my life would change.
I must also add that this particular year was extremely difficult for me. I was struggling with one of my course subjects and to top it off my relationship had just come to an abrupt end with no logical reasoning. This upset me very much because this was my first serious relationship, which I thought had long time potential. Here I was, 250 kilometers from home, alone and in a dark place.
I found myself in an even darker place when my close friend and I parted ways directly after my break up (I shall perhaps venture into this story some other time) but in all essence my loneliness got even lonelier. Our friendship flame dwindled and there I was.... a completely lost soul with a broken heart, mind and spirit.
I became very depressed, despondent and I started losing direction in my life. I struggled with university and being away from home to the point that I even considered dropping out. I pushed on and soon it was time to choose a place I could do my practical work experience subject at.
After a great deal of searching, I decided on a game reserve outside Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. I knew going there going to be outside my comfort zone and when I discovered that I would be staying in a tent (a luxury one), with an outdoor bathroom (for the experience I guess?), all my outdoor fears surfaced.
After my first day at work, I wanted to settle down for the evening and so I began searching for my pajamas and instead of grabbing them, I grabbed a big, fat, slimy frog - much to my horror! I rushed out of my tent to go find someone to help me because I was definitely not going to touch it. My hero for the night was the evening waiter who was still busy cleaning the lodge after the evenings dinner service.
After waking up quite a few times during the night, due to the many unfamiliar sounds I heard, it was time to start the day. I was determined to find out what was making such a loud noise - which to me sounded like a bellow and so I put it down to being a buffalo. It took a couple of attempts at trying to replicate the noise to the game rangers (much to my embarrassment), only to discover that it was in fact the male lion calling not too far from the tents (I will put that down as a rookie error).
As the days passed by, I slowly began to fall into a routine and as time passed, I started feeling different. It was as if my broken pieces were starting to fit back together again. My confused mind started finding its pathway again and it felt like my inner being started to heal. Nature started speaking to me and the endless silence started to clear my foggy mind. Crisp mornings accompanied by one of my favorite bird calls - the Cape Turtle Dove brought a sense of peace over me. The time alone out there, which I thought would only make me lonelier had the complete opposite effect on me, as one is never truly alone. There was always a friendly little bird chirping away to keep me company or in fact an elephant or two that would walk past the deck as I sat and stared into the sunset. All the time alone awoke a passion within me that was clearly buried deep down. I started to appreciate the smaller things in my life. The fact that I could see a beautiful day start and end with my own two eyes or listen to the sounds of the birds, lion and elephant made me extremely grateful.
It made me stop and realize how ignorant I had been in my life and how consumed I was by the world around me that I had actually stopped living. I was there in a dark time but no one judged me. No one knew my story, it was just my thoughts and I. What I thought would be a dreadful experience turned out to be a healing experience and eye opener for me.
Little did I know that in going there I would find my lost self. Little did I know that letting go of people in my life at the time actually was not a bad thing. I had been so consumed by them that I was not living for myself but for other people and in doing so I lost myself. I had been so involved with my struggles that I lost my sense of direction.
As I sit here with this exact view writing my story I can only jump for joy that somehow I was meant to go to the bush to find myself. I am so thankful for the time I had out there and the way in which I could heal. Little did I know that this place would also connect me to my soulmate (we met a few years later as he was working on the same reserve). I also found my passion here and so after completing my degree I started my career in Game Lodge Management and look at me today - a Lodge Manager. In this industry there is no time for being worried about getting dirty and touching creepy crawlies. You are forced to dive right into everything and right now I love every minute of being out here that I cannot get enough of it.
A word of advice. If you are feeling lost or broken, or if you feel like you have lost your way, take some time away from the hustle and bustle and do yourself a favor. Go out into nature. Put away all your technology. Live out there. Try new things. Get dirty and enjoy it. Listen to the sounds around you - not only is it peaceful, but you may also learn something new. Start appreciating the things around you and soon you will literally start counting your blessings. Let go of your worries and nature will start to heal you. Most importantly, fall inlove - I know I did.