We all aspire to do better for ourselves, for each other, and for the planet. Along the way, we encounter lessons and inspiration from people, places and experiences that act as powerful teachers and influence our lives in profound ways.
This year marks the 30th year anniversary of the first time I visited Africa. Since then I’ve traveled to eleven African countries, living in one (South Africa) for 3 1/2 years, leading numerous safaris for clients (such as Jane Goodall), and implementing projects for SavingWild.com.
Little did I know how much Africa would get into my soul, tug at my heart, inform life choices not common in my American culture, and teach me to notice things in ways I wouldn’t have without my African experiences.
Who, where or what have been influential in shaping your choices and direction? Here are mine…
13 life lessons learned from 30 years of traveling to eleven African Countries
1. We need much less than we have.
Many of my close friends in Africa are the most joyful people I know although they have access to a fraction of what most of us in America take for granted.
2. Water is a limited resource.
We need to use it wisely and sparingly.
3. Complete silence, like one finds in the African bush, feeds the soul.
4. Homelessness is unnecessary.
People in Africa take care of each other. They adopt and take care of orphans – no questions asked.
5. Wild life and wild places enrich our spirit in irreplaceable ways.
6. Almost anything can be recycled and or reused… and
7. Creativity is innate and shows up in the least expected situations.
8. Wild animals learn to respond to humans with fear or curiosity.
Wildlife’s response to us depends on our behavior and treatment of them.
9. People can co-exist with predators.
We don’t need to kill off every mountain lion, wolf and bear in regions of the US for our own safety. African villagers have co-existed with wild animals for eons.
10. Anything can, and should be, celebrated.
African culture encourages dance and song to celebrate life anytime, anywhere, at anytime. Africans dance and sing when they plant rice, when they harvest rice, and then again when they eat the rice. They dance and sing for weddings, births, engagements, deaths, someone leaving and someone coming. It’s an admirable and wonderful custom.
11. There is always time.
No one should be in a rush. “I have to go,” are four words that are overused in the American language. Getting to the next ‘thing’ we have to do becomes habitual. Are all the things we think we must fit into our lives absolutely necessary?
12. The word ‘alone’ doesn’t exist in most African tribal languages.
Americans are an isolated, and isolating, culture. We live far from our families, hardly know our neighbors, and keep so busy we don’t have quality time for friends and family. This brings me back to point number eleven.
13. Gratefulness is a powerful state of mind.
In her latest book, Christine Carter writes “the happiest people are also the most grateful”. Africans are the most grateful people I have ever met.
Some of my life lessons came from spending time in the African bush. Others, from the people I met, worked with, and helped along the way – the Kahlahari Bushmen, the Masai and Samburu and Venda people, the village children, the wildlife guides, school teachers and students – and for all of it, I am supremely grateful.
Join our tribe of like-hearted souls
*Creativity photos taken from ‘Africa, this is why I live here’ FaceBook’s Page.