In the midst of being stranded in the middle of nowhere in Tanzania I might just have discovered the secret to a happy life.
Recently I read a book by Shanda Sumpter. She is a business woman with a fascinating model for success. A key element is endurance. Most of us give up too easily she says. To counter this she encourages her clients to get involved in some endurance sport… running a marathon for example. It’s in pushing ourselves past our limits that creates within us the ability to succeed.
Then a few days ago I listened to a talk on failing and finishing by Cassy Budd, a successful college professor. Again, she spoke of pushing physically past our comfort zones. She elaborated on how her personal trainer pushed her to the point where her muscles failed to subsequently build strength. This is of course not new to the body building and fitness world. However, to translate this into mental muscle and emotional strength just might be. At least for me.
This made me reflect on my life. Several years ago, during a very unusual moment with my mother, she asked, “What drives you?” Now coming from my mother this was odd. This is a woman who has never showed much interest in my life. Rarely if ever asks anything about what’s going on with me or my family. So this question, coming from her really meant something. It’s a question I return to often. Somehow the answer never changes.
What drives me? I like to see if I simply can do things that seem difficult. I like challenges. Now, I’m not that much into physical challenges, more emotional and cognitive challenges. More pitting myself against myself.
As a child I learned to swim before I was two. I rode a bike by the age of four. As a ten year old I galloped my bony old horse bareback and ended up with a broken arm. I captained our field hockey team at 15. I left South Africa at 18 to live in Switzerland the land of my parents and ancestors. Okay, I’ve lived too long I better stop here.
The point is, as I look back on my live it’s the challenges that have grown me. As I write this I’m sitting in our rooftop tent. It’s raining, really raining. We’re stranded! Stuck! We’re in the middle of nowhere in a little village in Tanzania. (You can read about it here.)
Sitting here with tons of time to think I realize that’s why we’re on this crazy Overlanding adventure year after year. It’s the challenge, the stepping out of my comfort zone that drives me. Two years ago we had wanted to make this journey from South Africa north to Kenya and back. We didn’t for numerous reasons, one being I was chicken. The unknown. The malaria threat. The lack of access to the food I like. The lack of hot showers, flush toilets and such. The rough roads. The few services should things go wrong (like now.) All these held me back.
Now that I’m in the midst of it all. That is, been through tons of amazing adventures and exhilarating experiences. Now that I’m sitting here not sure how we’re going to get out of this mess I’m strangely at peace. My comfort level. My expectations have changed or adjusted and adapted.
For many our level of comfort would be very subpar. What we tolerate now as far as toilets and showers go. Right here our very helpful mechanic allows us to use his toilet. It’s of the squat variety with a dipper flush. To bathe you use a washcloth and dipper. (Dipper being a small bucket with a handle to scoop up water and dump it.)
As a retired person I could be home sitting on a porch somewhere. I could be living life vicariously by watching other people do exciting and adventurous things. However, its through the personal doing, experiencing that I grow. My outlook on life is constantly evolving. My compassion for others constantly growing. My understanding constantly expanding. My appreciation for God’s creation constantly magnifying. My gratitude for health and the simple things constantly building.
In a nutshell, I think I may have discovered the secret of a happy life, at least for me. Life’s biggest opportunity is life itself.