5 lessons from trekking with camels

A blast of pungent, loamy, putrid smell wafted by my nose.  Next came an odd, indescribable sounds of protest – a whine, guttural groan & deep, back of the throat rumbling wrapped into one.

Turning around I saw our beasts of burden for the first time – 3 camels that would accompany us on a trekking safari in Tanzania with 3 Maasai guides.  Another 2 camels & 5 more guides would meet us at our camp each night, with camping gear & food.

I had a lot of time to think as we ambled along the foothills of misty Mt. Meru, alternating between acacia studded, dry, scrubby brush & verdant, green, grassland shared by goats & cows, whose bells sounded the way long before we saw them.

Here are 5 lessons I learned from trekking with camels.


1. Pole Pole Pacing

Camel breath

Temperatures soared during the 42 km we trekked, as we alternated riding the camels & walking alongside them.  This trip was a big stretch for our family, for while we’re adventurous in other ways, extreme physical feats not so much.  When I started to lag, our guide Philipo would murmur ‘pole pole,’ which means slowly, slowly in Swahili (& rhymes not with toll, but mole, as in the Mexican sauce).

Easy does it is great advice.  As we ease into 2017 I wish you a good pace – fast enough to get stuff done & feel accomplished, balanced with slow enough to get you to this time next year in good health & with no burnout.

2. Find your fit

Camel train

Our lead camel was always the lead camel.  She doesn’t like to follow other camels.  And the other two were happy to let her lead.

Sounds like good self-awareness to me.

Aka know thyself. Find your best fit, for example, with:

  • your work environment: noisy, hustle & bustle with lots going on, quiet & serene or somewhere in between?
  • your work related technology: I so adore apps that help me be productive, like workflowy, fiverr & wunderlist
  • your creative space: I’m headed to a weekly art class this year & am searching for a zumba class that will fit me & let me get my groove

3. Reflection

Wait a moment tree

This is a ‘wait a moment’ tree. It’s softly rounded, innocuous looking leaves are deceptive, for if you get too close it continuously catches on your clothing & hangs you up.

I loved our guide Isiah’s wise perspective as he patiently & slowly untangled things.  There was no rush, no fuss.

Time flowed more slowly.

It was a delicious break & I was constantly delighted at the places my mind took me when I let it wander.

I encourage you to find your own ‘wait a moment’ tree – places that let you slow down & reflect.

4. Take a second look

Can you see the animal in this video we shot while on safari?  My oldest kid is an outdoor enthusiast & since the time he could walk, he’s been pointing out things to me that I’d never have seen otherwise.  This trip was no exception.

Many times he saw things I’d have walked right past.  Like the critter below.

As you head into 2017 find people & experiences that literally & figuratively open your eyes.

5. Collaboration & symbiosis

Whistling thorn bush

This wicked looking spiky plant is a whistling thorn bush, aptly named as when the wind blows through them an eery, haunting, whistling sound results. Giraffes love to eat them as they’re able to bypass the thorns.  The sneaky plants have a hidden ally to protect them though.  Inside the large bulbous pods live ants, which eat the inner, sweet tasting fruit.  When the plant is being attacked / eaten, the ants rush out & bite the attacker.

Quid pro quo.  You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.

For 2017 seek out interesting opportunities to collaborate – where each of you can benefit.

So there you have it, 5 lessons from the back of a camel: pole pole pacing, find your fit, the importance of reflection, taking a second look & seeking out collaboration.

Now that I’m back home in Nairobi, I’m looking forward to putting them into practice.

I’d love to hear about how these lessons resonate (or don’t) with you.  Pick one lesson & leave a comment about it below.


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4 Responses to “5 lessons from trekking with camels”

  1. bjtdad Says:
    January 6th, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    #4. Take a second look – I love this one, and I think it encompasses almost all of this delicious post. We too often pace ourselves based on others wants and needs. We go too fast, and don’t collaborate well. In doing so, we miss so much. Thank you! I just wish the Western world could slow down more, because then I think we would see all the things we have been missing.

  2. Lee-Anne Ragan Says:
    January 6th, 2017 at 8:16 pm

    What a wonderful comment- well put. Any input on how to slow down in order to collaborate better? I’d love to hear.

  3. Buzzy Says:
    March 27th, 2017 at 8:41 pm

    Hi Lee-Anne, this is a wonderful article. When we first met many years ago, I was young and energetic – the only pace I was comfortable in was stock car racing. Now, I let many people pass me by, if only to take time to reflect on the path I’m on and to not miss the important things. How did I get here? Step by step. Glad you’re still doing what you do so well. I will follow you. Thanks!

  4. Lee-Anne Ragan Says:
    March 29th, 2017 at 7:02 pm

    I love your analogy of only being comfortably initially with the pace of stock car racing. Makes me chuckle. Here’s to the reflection that age brings. Also I’d love to know more about you as I don’t recognize your email & would love to say a more personalized hello. Cheers.

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