There I am. I’m sitting on the balcony of a beautiful wood cabin, staring out into the wilderness, listening to the sound of elephants roaring somewhere at the foot of the nearby hill. Flashes of lions and giraffes and cheetahs and black rhinos and warthogs appear in my head. Flashes of massive green mountains and never-ending savannas dotted with wildebeest, zebras and those unique and surreal acacia trees appear as well.
This is not a dream. It all really happened.
For 10 hours we were out there on safari in the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, encountering a crazy variety of wildlife in every direction, bouncing across the beautiful landscape in our 4WD vehicle and walking along the banks of the Mara River. It was a most epic travel experience, even under the strictest of definitions, the kind of day that could easily be classified as once-in-a-lifetime.
And as I sat there on that cabin balcony, after the safari had ended and as the night rolled in, all I could do was…complain. Oh did I complain!
I was complaining that I was far behind with my work and had emails I needed to respond to. I was complaining that the internet wasn’t working properly at our remote safari lodge and that I had yet to start a new project that I had hoped to start by now. I was grumbling about my nostrils being clogged with dust and about not sleeping so well the night before…I don’t know…I was complaining so much that I think I even mumbled nonsense about my flip-flops being dirty and even about the staff at the lodge being too attentive. Yes, TOO attentive.
I was on a roll, locked in and shooting off complaints rapid fire.
What a fool.
A once-in-a-lifetime experience just ended, the kind of experience that, while growing up, I never would have imagined possible for an ordinary person like myself. Now here I was, in a most gorgeous corner of the planet, in Kenya for crying out loud, only minutes removed from a most perfect day in the wild, and all I could do was complain.
It happens, I know that. Nobody is perfect. But still, it was not one of my best moments.
Lucky for me, I had someone there to listen to my complaints and to then reply with a few choice words and a few very clear facial expressions that immediately snapped me out of my negative trance. Sometimes we have someone there to help us, sometimes we need to wait until we figure it out on our own.
Either way, it’s indeed helpful to be reminded every now and then that sometimes we do need to forget ourselves and just ‘be’. Just sit there, open our eyes, look around and appreciate everything we have, everything we have been fortunate enough to experience and every person that is important to us.
When we can return to being present and forget about life’s little frustrations, when we can remember that those little frustrations should not control us and that they have far less value than we tend to give them, we can then discover a pretty powerful and genuine happiness that really is impossible to match.
If we’re living in the past or the future instead, there’s a high chance of being engulfed by a general unhappiness built upon regrets or fear.
We know this already of course, but yet we still lose our way, probably more often than we’d care to admit.
And when it comes to appreciation, I’m not talking fluffy stuff here. You don’t need to appreciate for the sake of appreciation or force yourself to appreciate a leaf blowing in the wind or your daily cappuccino.
But seriously, isn’t there something real and meaningful that takes place almost every day, something we witness or participate in or some interaction we have or some set of moments we thoroughly enjoy that we can and should be really thankful for?
I’m thankful right now for the bottle of my favorite moisturizer I decided to lug around East Africa and which is keeping my badly burnt nose quite cool and slightly less red. (Wait, is that a hidden complaint? Damn.)
Anyway, let’s be present and appreciate.
We don’t need lions and zebras and hippos and an epic travel experience to do that. Goats and cows and everyday moments can do the trick too if we’re paying attention.
As for me, I actually had the lions and zebras and hippos right in front of me and I still messed it up and got off track.
Complaining about wifi and nostril dust was simply absurd.
Well, lesson re-learned. Back on track I am and hopefully for a long time to come.
The quality of travelling is that winding up from what makes you stressful and complaining will ruin all the reasons – beautiful ones. Being in the positive side will lead to perfect moments but also never forget to be practical.