1.      I realised that I am a lot stronger than I ever thought I could be

Emotionally, mentally and PHYSICALLY. For me the decision to volunteer for a month was a massive leap into the unknown. It was overwhelming, surreal, transformative and incredible. I learnt that I am capable of far greater independence, resilience, courage and hard work than I previously thought possible. Long days, oppressive heat, physical labour, sleepless nights and culture shock were hard hitting for my first couple of days, but your body and mind quickly adjust to the demands.

2.       I realised that I can do something on my own

People always make a ‘big thing’ out of the person who eats alone, or goes to see a film alone.  Although you quickly make friends and bond with the people sharing the same experience as you, one of the most important things I gained from my experience was realising I could fully trust myself to do something that I really wanted to do – ALONE.

 3.       I realised I have to give myself time…

Sometimes when you leave your comfort zone, you have an instinctive urge to run straight back to it. You put one foot out the door, nod satisfactorily and shut it closed again. On my first day of volunteering, I didn’t like it. Not. One. Bit. The phrase that was floating around in my head was ‘quit or commit’. I didn’t make a rash decision to leave. I stuck with it, and after the adjustment of the first few days, I fell in love with the experience. Looking back, I realise that if I had left when I felt awkward and uncomfortable, I wouldn’t have all the pictures, memories and experiences that I came away with.

4.       You don’t need as much as you think you do

Inexperienced at launching myself into the big wide world for long durations, I packed a suitcase that could have served as a life dingy for survivors of the Titanic. I tended to wear the same clothes on repeat, barely used a hairbrush, didn’t use a hairdryer once and probably wore the same socks more times than is recommended. Outside of my torch, sun tan lotion, my mosquito spray and a toothbrush, I didn’t really ‘need’ any of my things, and after full immersion in the dirt and grime, I didn’t really miss much of it either. Cold showers refresh you quickly and certainly prevent you from languishing on ‘vanity time’.

 5.       The beauty in people is not physical

I was surrounded by people who for the most part wore not a slick of make-up, wore dirty, unfashionable clothes, were covered in cuts, grazes and mosquito bites and had the odd tick jumping to and fro, yet the people I lived and worked with here were honesty beautiful to me in their courage, commitment and compassion to the project we worked on. Stripped of anything superficial, materialistic or glamorous you see people only for who they are and what they have to offer.

6.       Nature is an amazing alarm clock

It is better waking up to the calls of gibbons, the trumpeting of elephants and the howling of territorial dogs than it is to hit ‘snooze’ on a bleating alarm clock.

7.       Very different people can unite under the umbrella of a singular cause

The people I worked with were from various countries, cultures and some spoke different languages. What we were connected by was a desire to help. Everything else falls into place.

8.       Even in a ‘good’ place, there will be ‘bad’ people

You could be staying in a nunnery and still come across someone you can’t stand. People are people wherever you go.

9.       When you live with the sun all day every day, you learn to be smart with it

Vacation sun and everyday sun are very different. You learn to cover up, keep up with the sunscreen and no, no, NO sunbathing.

10.   White is…not your colour

White clothes will end up anything but white if you insist on wearing them to clean bear enclosures, go swimming and machete banana trees.

11.   Belly button piercings will not stay in

Carrying a basket of food around all day will eventually dislodge it…and the next one…and the other one…AND that one.

12.   The only things impressed by your shiny jewellery are the gibbons, and they will try to grab it!

You don’t really need to ‘dress to impress’ anyone.

13.   Prepare for the unexpected

Sometimes good people are the targets of the very bad. Sometimes places that serve as a sanctuary are invaded by those with hostile intentions. During my stay, we were raided by the DNP (Department of National Parks) who removed 100 animals from the centre using violence, cruelty and a complete lack of professionalism or compassion. I felt it was important for me to witness this to understand firsthand the threats facing wild animals and those that try to protect them.

 14.   God/fate/guardian angels…something guides you to where you are meant to be

My desire to volunteer came from out of the blue. I typed in ‘volunteer’ and ‘elephants’ not really knowing why and having no expectations. What came out of that Google search was one of the most enriching experiences of my life.

15.   Caring for animals is a 24-7 job

Volunteers and staff care tirelessly for the animals they work with. The vets in particular dedicated uncountable hours to the treatment, rescue and care of numerous animals. Little life’s need constant maintenance and lots of consistency and routine.

16.   Your heart will get broken

You will fall in love with the animals. You will learn their stories, grow mad at what happened, and then have to leave them.  You will communicate without words, you will admire the love and patience of such animals, who after so much abuse, torture, neglect and suffering can still play and are still happy to see a human.

17.   You will learn about local life

The good, the bad, the hidden, a few odd words here and there, throw in some misunderstandings and miscommunications, maybe a romance or two, hospitality, rudeness, ‘sniff kisses’ and swear words.

18.   You will realise that home is where you are now, not where you were raised

It’s amazing how strangers can become your tribe, animals your guardians, and strange, basic bedrooms can become your sanctuary.

19.   You will start to hate their food

I was so un-infatuated with the food that I lost a stone. That should speak for itself

20.   Your feet will hate you

The only other ‘vacation’ to batter my feet so much was a shopping marathon in New York.

21.   You won’t need language to be understood

People will take an interest in you, or they won’t and if they do, you will both find your own language.

22.   Time will fly

So enjoy every moment and be open to everything that this new and strange culture can show and teach you.

23. Life goes on if you keep moving

So keep moving!



I’m relatively new to meditation but it’s something that everyone seems to recommend consistently for every ailment in the same way that the benefits of apples, water and a good night’s sleep will never go out of fashion.

Meditation is a relatively simple process in theory. You sit or lie in a quiet position and simply let thoughts pass in and out of your mind without analysing or obsessing. In this way, you practice mindfulness. You attempt to quiet and steady the mind.

I’ve been practising a variation of a meditation/self-hypnosis supposedly used to banish fear, but I think it could equally be used to obtain focus, ease you to sleep or create a feel or mood of power, or even just a deeper connection with the elements and the soul. Fire can produce a powerful atmosphere that can totally transform and transcend regular surroundings. If you’ve ever entered a temple or place of worship, the use of candles really can elevate a basic setting to a spiritual and instinctual place. It can invoke passion, anger, lust or leadership, but when it flickers with a steady flame, it can be a source of great comfort and strength.

The original meditation is very simple.

You sit or lie somewhere quiet and light a candle (scented or unscented is a matter of preference).

Focus on the candle for anywhere between 20-30 minutes.

During this time, simply concentrate on the candle and allow your thoughts to come and go. The idea of concentrating sharpens focus and serves as a distraction. If you recall the feeling of sitting around a camp fire or by your fire place on a cold day, you’ll know there’s something soothing and calming about the pulse of a steady fire flaring nearby. This distraction enables fear to melt (or squirm) away, even if temporarily. It’s a great way to alleviate stress and anxiety and to put your trust back into all things elemental.

The exercise also encourages you, once you’ve practiced focusing for 20-30 minutes, to use this time to focus on the issue or problem causing you fear and think of ways to resolve/ease the feeling that arises. An answer, solution, relief or acceptance may come to you during these moments.

I find it difficult to sit in complete silence so I’ve created a playlist which is essentially a mixture of Native American and Middle Eastern music (with a few curve balls thrown in).

None of the songs include singing, and those that do are chanted/sung in a foreign language, meaning that I don’t focus on the words. Instead I focus on the beat and swell of the music, music that represents and solidifies what I want to feel.

I let the playlist run and stare at the flame.

I feel a strong sense of comfort, calm and the greatest paradox of all, peaceful and powerful.

During this time, I simply sit and stare at the flame, I let myself think thoughts I want to purge myself of and mentally place them into the flame. I then admire the flame. In focusing on it, I see all of its details. I start to refine and focus my thoughts repeating affirmations, ideas, desires that I want to manifest in my life and in myself. Finally, I lose all thoughts altogether and instead I just feel….alive, real, okay…

As I said, this meditation/hypnosis combined with the right music really calms the soul.

It can ease fears…

Sooth you to sleep…

Placate anxiety…

Inspire creativity…

Wake you up…

Get you in touch with fire and all traits associated with it…

Help you feel powerful…

Help you focus…

Inspire ambition/inspiration/action…

Purge you of toxic thoughts/feelings

I urge you to try it out and see what feelings arise and melt away….

Happy meditating!

Original meditation/hypnosis taken from ‘The Answer’ by Glenn Harrold

I’m not usually one for passing on the dreaded ‘chain email’, but I promise you this email won’t threaten you with the sinister implication of death if you don’t forward it to at least seven of your friends, nor will your crush kiss you at midnight should you decide to pass it on.

This is tried and tested advice from a been-there-done-that 90-year-old, and I think it’s worth blogging for you all to read 🙂 They say youth is wasted on the young, so sometimes it takes someone who’s lived a good few years to remind us of what matters and what doesn’t.


This is something we should all read at least once a week!!!!! Make sure you read to the end!!!!!!

Written by Regina Brett, 90 years old, of Cleveland, Ohio .

“To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most requested column I’ve ever written.My odometer rolled over to 90 in August, so here is the column once more:

1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.

8. It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.

12. It’s OK to let your children see you cry..

13. Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don’t worry; God never blinks.

16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

17. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.

18. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.

19. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words ‘In five years, will this matter?’

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive everyone everything.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do.

35. Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

36. Growing old beats the alternative — dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood.

38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.

41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

42. The best is yet to come…

43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

44. Yield.

45. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.”