I once did an overlanding camping trip in the 5 Southern African countries. Then two years later, I did it again across Tanzania and Kenya. Then I swore I'd never, ever camp again.
Eleven years later, I broke my own vow and signed up for a 6-week camping expedition through Cameroon, Gabon, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, down to Angola.
This was our daily routine of tent up, tent down, tent up, tent down:
- By 5:30pm, 30min before sunset, tent goes up in a gravel pit, mud pit, sand pit, stone pit, construction site, bush, prickly vine field, or on top of another tent
- By 6:00am, when the tent is taken down, it gets stuffed wet and full of gravel, mud, sand, stone, bush, and vine bin its bag :S
- As soon as 7am hits, the temperature skyrockets to 30C / 86F
- And by 9am, it's 37C / 99F for the rest of the day, with 94% humidity
- At the end of the day, there's no shower
- There are also no toilets, so pee and poo in nature it is!
- And then we sit on a truck from 7am to 5:30pm, with no wind because the roads are so bad that the truck can only move at 9km/hr / 5mi/hr
- Then dusk arrives and the mosquitos suit up and attaaaaaack with malaria and yellow fever spears
- And everywhere, the flora and fauna are trying to kill you. Even a tiny paper cut could turn into a full limb infection.
Power of Preparation
Imagine this daily ritual for 56 days straight. You want to sign up for it, don't you? ;)
Five months prior to this trip, I did a ton of research on best equipment, smallest mass to volume ratio, longest battery life, most luxuriously inflatable mat, and most inexpensive but highest quality gear.
For example, I bought a tarp that's meant for covering long-haul truck merchandise, as my ground sheet. I didn’t settle for the thin handkerchief that comes with the tent.
So despite the above daily endurance test, not only physical but mental (ie to not lose your shit and take it out on others, as so many of my fellow travelers succumbed to), and despite torrential Congolese jungle downpours, where heavy clay mud ends up sticking to all your gear, I popped out of my tent every morning fresh as a daisy.
Many travel mates on the other hand woke up soaked, with rain dripping through their tent from above and rain pooling through their tent from below. Some had small $500 tents, compared to my palatial no-name $140, that my friends dubbed "Château Ella." But they ended up with a bad case of the "hot and itches" and took out their frustration on others.
They were unable to source inner peace and joy in every moment. Understandably. And... seeing this in them gave such meaning to all my past traumas and suffering, which were the driving force behind who I've become today, always at peace, able to source joy in any moment, no matter how challenging and painful. And above all, I never take my shit out on others.
Watching them also helped me know the power of preparation. I came so prepared, not just gear wise, but knowing the depth and beauty of my soul, knowing what I need to be my best self, knowing what my triggers are and how to dissolve them, knowing human nature and why people do what they do. I came geared with expanded compassion for all humans.
In our society, the power of preparation is not “sexy.” It doesn't get the acclaim that loud rah-rah-rah YouTube stars, naked Instagram blondes, or "yo, yo, yo!” 7-figure “guru's” get. But I don't care. Being prepared is a life giving skill, a portal to inner and universal peace and therefore joy.
And even though I had a near breaking point when I had to poop in a plastic bag inside my tent because there was no other alternative, I felt invincible. No one can offload their shit onto me. I was impermeable to their dramas. No one can steal my joy. No one. And that is the kind of invincibility I wish for you.
I didn't go seeking my invincibility. Rather, it was always there and I finally saw my invincibility.
Retrospecting the Unfolding
I couldn't have guessed this is how it'd all unfold and this is how invincibility would return to me. But if I examine in retrospect the breadcrumbs that lead me here, I'd see:
- I learned about this overlanding expedition from soul sister M, whom I found by googling "woman travel every country in the world". Only two names came up, among a flood of white boys. I reached out to her and we became e-friends
- I actually signed up for this overlanding expedition because soul sister L and I were going to share a tent and do this trip together. She too had traveled 120+ countries and we became e-friends, then real life friends after we met in London. Though in the end she couldn't make the trip due to visa issues, if it weren't for her, I may still be searching for my invincibility...
- Soul sister L and I would never have met if soul brother R hadn't connected us. He had interviewed both of us through his Digital Nomad Mastery podcast. I met him at an antigravity yoga demo that I hosted at my biz partner H's wellness center. One of the first words I ever said to him was, "Hi! Now lift your bum over your hips, over your shoulders," to which he laughed and said, "Umm, I don't think so." Lol!
- I met biz partner H through a workshop that my naturopathic doctor D hosted at that same wellness center.
- I met Dr. D when I was searching for a female family doctor after learning the importance of having one through a client, a medical organization.
- How I came to work with this medical organization is a story for another time.
Can you put away your seeking, to create space for some seeing? Can you hold faith that everyone you meet and every thing you do is a breadcrumb toward who you truly are? All these seemingly unconnected people and events, they were all parts of me. Some I sought. Some I saw.
I mean, Dr. D didn't end up being my doctor. My biz partner and I didn't end up succeeding at our biz. Soul sister L and I didn't end up sharing a tent. So many things didn't happen, and yet it all unfolded as it was supposed to... to return my invincibility to me. Can you see the awe / magic of how Life unfolds?
With infinite grace,
(First Published sep 18, 2019)
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