Investing in Memories and Experience.
Well, in many ways our journey began around the time of my dad’s passing. I just hadn’t realised the unconscious choices I was making. It had been nearly two years since Philip and I had had a holiday that was just the two of us. And longer since we had a holiday with a real sense of adventure to it.
So, I put the wheels in motion and begun looking for our next potential adventure. I found it very quickly, with a simple search on best places to go in August. . . I had never considered a safari before, which, considering my love of animals, was kind of weird. I saved a few websites to my favourites and didn’t come back to it until a couple of months before we wanted to go. We planned a trip that was 80% adventure and 20% R+R. Then the strangest thing began to happen…
I started to feel quite anxious about the holiday every time I did anything connected to it.
I started to feel quite anxious about the holiday every time I did anything connected to it. Of course, my human mind wanted a reason for this feeling and I came up with a couple of ideas… was I just feeling weird because neither of my parents were going to be coming with us? Was it a fear of potential close encounters with the big cats… after all, I had nightmares about them as a kid, thanks to my Dad’s favourite stories from when he worked at the zoo.
Anxiety and panic is something I work with a lot, something I’ve experienced myself before. I knew it was just something my unconscious was feeling uncomfortable or unsure of and really there was nothing to be worried about.
Then, two days before we were flying out, thoughts of my dad became more frequent. All the memories and stories he’d share of his time at the zoo. The opportunity he had to go with a now famous person to Africa and explore the wildlife there. An opportunity he never took because his mum said he couldn’t go and back then there was no disputing your parent’s decision.
Suddenly, this trip felt so important to me and perhaps this was behind my anxiety.
My dad did many jobs in his lifetime and was often proud of his work and achievements, but his passion was clearly with the animals he cared for at the zoo. Amongst his favourites were the giraffe, elephants and big cats. So, my heart started to break a little, that somehow, we’d missed the opportunity to take my dad on this sort of holiday, when he was well enough to enjoy it.
Suddenly, this trip felt so important to me and perhaps this was behind my anxiety. It was important because it was the opportunity to embrace an experience that I could share with my Dad, in my heart if not in the flesh. But not only that… this was the beginning of what we hoped would be a once in a life time experience and it very much was.
We had no real idea of what to expect, how much we might see and it turned out that we got incredibly lucky. Well, luck played a part in it but our incredible and vastly experienced guide helped us have the once in a lifetime experience we were looking for.
Experiencing the wild creatures of Africa in their own raw environment, untamed, unmanned is not an experience you can gift to another with photos, stories or words. It is unique and in its own way, life changing.
Life on the Serengeti or Endless Lands as they are locally known, is wild and harsh for most of its inhabitants. Survival is deeply embedded within all the animals but especially for the prey of course.
You’ll probably hear a lot of therapists talking about the fight, flight and freeze response, an aspect of our survival mechanism. They often reference the days of when we might have had to flee from a Sabre-toothed Tiger. Here in the Serengeti you didn’t have to take your mind back to the days of living in caves to get a sense of how strong this instinct is embedded within all of nature, and that includes us.
We need to remind ourselves regularly that we are no longer the antelope, we are the lion.
This is such an important aspect of life, that it’s not surprising that we’ve not let it go yet. That we need to remind ourselves regularly that we are no longer the antelope, we are the lion. If you were to look through the 4000 photos I took you’ll see that the largest of cats were the ones that slept easily, out in the open and in the daylight. Hakuna Matata – No Worries for them. I couldn’t help but admire the prey animals, with the constant air of threat, they carried on with their lives, they rolled in the dust and played in the water. But, there was never a time that they weren’t aware, alert to the danger.
The first night in a large and rather posh tent I barely slept. I barely slept because I suddenly realised that all that stood between me and these almighty and truly dangerous creatures was a piece of canvas. Not only that but the wind howled so much that between the sniffing and scratching you could hear outside, lose canvas was flapping aggressively. The sounds of Elephants trumpeting nearby and all I could imagine was my last words before being mauled to death by a large Leopard.
How did the animals of the Serengeti ever sleep?
I really wondered how any of the creatures out here ever got any sleep, let alone the chance to relax, let their guard down. I never appreciated how safe and how nurtured my life really is, that these worries and anxieties we have in our cosy western worlds, no matter how big or how real or how relevant they seem, rarely are what they seem. They really are just natures instincts distorted by our modern, less natural way of living.
It’s easy to see how social anxiety has arisen in our modern world.
In the Serengeti being outcast is life threatening. Safe in the herd meant someone is always looking out for the rest of you. Someone has your back. Here in our modern world we are becoming more and more isolated by our own cultural changes despite how seemingly connected we are by modern technology. Not only that but the criteria for feeling accepted is moving towards the impossible. Social Media creating inferiority complexes, the media suggesting we are only lovable if we meet unrealistic standards of beauty and success.
At night we were escorted by guards
Our unconscious minds near to panic because of the threat of being separated from the herd, not accepted is constantly presented to us. In many of the camps and lodges we had to be escorted by a guard if we wanted to move around at night. Going for dinner meant calling a guard and they walked you to the dining area. I remember one evening the guard was walking ahead with his torch, my husband Philip behind him and then I was at the end of the line. The sound of an elephant trumpeted and suddenly I realised I was the smallest in the group, I was at the back and something could come along and pick me off, highly unlikely, but a natural assumption for my unconscious mind to make. I ran to catch up with Philip and held his hand. The security of the group, easing my unconscious mind.
To experience this way of living, to be up close to the raw and untamed land of the Serengeti changed my perspective on life.
It’s easy to forget how connected we are to nature, how much a part of who we are it is. Our busy lives disguising this important fact. My experience was a great reminder of that. Now whenever I think of it, it brings me to a place of presence and acceptance. I never want to forget that. These more extreme moments of impact on your very core are rare. So, I’m going to make sure I anchor this moment. You can anchor any moment that brings you something special.
Anchoring is a system where, when you reach a peak emotional state that you like, you then use an external trigger to anchor that state in your mind and body. I love to use smell, although I’m not sure I can recreate the smell of the Serengeti. But any unique external stimulus can be used and strengthened each time you recall the state. It’s a simple but beautiful technique to access the power of your mind and your senses to experience more of the inner world that brings out the best version of you.
Collect memories not things.
You can spend your life collecting things, working hard, and making money. Or you can spend your life creating memories, memories that enhance your connection to nature, to those you love, and life itself. When my Dad came to the end of his life, it wasn’t how much money he had earned, or the size of his house he talked about. It was all the stories of friends, family, and nature that brought a smile to his face. That and ice cream.