Mongolia reconnected me to my purpose
I’m known for my busyness. People often remark: “I don’t know how you fit everything in”. Always somewhere to go, someone to meet, somehow on a deadline.
Yet when Lisa Pagotto asked me to join her on one of her Crooked Compass experience trips – to north western Mongolia – I said to myself ‘of course I can find 10 days for this… in fact, I need to make it at least two weeks to justify the long flights’.
But as the departure date loomed over me, so too did the impending end of financial year. Many things were going and at the Big Red Group as well as Shark Tank and I found myself resenting the time away. I felt like I was letting my team and business partner down, by not physically being there at such a crucial time. Yet I had given my word to Lisa and my husband (as well as myself) that I would go on this trip.
I asked myself the question: how often do I dream, or plan to tick something off my bucket list, but daily life gets in the way?
So, I pushed ahead knowing that I would be off air for at least 7 days of the trip, and that for the first time in two decades I put an out of office on my email.
This was an emotional journey for me just to disconnect as I am always ‘on’, always busy, always present. But I also know how fragile life can be.
Last year two of my friends passed away suddenly, they were both younger than me and left behind children and a lifelong spouse. (My only Aunt passed away too). All of them had such a sense of joy, laughter and family. I wondered if they had done all the things they had wanted to do. If they were complete… I don’t know.
In February this year I made a dash to the U.S. to be with my lifelong friend, the godmother to my son, for a few days in the week before she lost her battle with cancer. As I sat by her bed she reflected on the things that she did not quite get to – it made her sad thinking about things she would never experience. Her young children are raised in the U.S. and most of the trips back to Australia were about visiting friends and family. She had booked a trip for last June, for her kids and husband to get to experience Australia: jungle surfing in the Daintree, deep sea fishing, snorkelling in the reef, camping in the outback, learning dot painting with the elders at Uluru. I had helped her put together this incredible trip. She was to arrive in June last year but two weeks prior to her departure date the cancer had appeared in her brain and the trip was cancelled.
As I sat by her bedside holding her hand she made me promise that I would ensure her children get to experience what Australia is all about. It was experiences, family and friends which she spoke about most…
So when it comes to the should I or shouldn’t I question, there is never a good time – we lead busy lives.
Experiencing life to the fullest
My husband and I made a commitment to each other when we came together that each year we would travel somewhere, and experience something that neither of us have ever done, to learn something new together. Our recent two weeks away in Mongolia was an amazing experience of discovery.
One of the things that has consistently been in the way of us travelling more is not just the time, but also the time to plan. When you know nothing about the destination or location it is even more challenging. Preparation makes a trip but also takes time.
This trip is the first time I have not been the ‘cruise director’. I literally left everything to the team at Crooked Compass. Lisa has positioned her business for small groups who love adventure and experience, but also some comfort and style. For those people who want something that’s beyond roughing it but are not yet ready to join the cruise or group tour set.
Travel to Mongolia is difficult at the best of times, but with the right team on the ground it was so exhilarating to be out on the ‘frontier’. Meeting local people, sleeping in an ancient teepee with a dirt floor and logs for a bed. This sort of experience only happens when local people organise it (it’s all about the network).
All I needed to bring (apart from making sure I read and followed the packing list) was trust and a sense of adventure. Making experience travel easy means that ticking something else off the bucket list is easier too. My husband and I are already planning (with our new best friends that we travelled with for those 10 days) our next experience destination.
Somehow we ended up with a 17 hour transit at Beijing airport on the way home. So we again said let’s experience something different — a Chinese massage was what we chose to help fill in the hours. After that, we could put it off no longer… it was time to switch the phone back on.
As I reconnected to my life, the first message I received was from a dear friend whose husband had been struck down suddenly and passed away the night before. So so sad, so tragic. They have three adult children and a family and I know they lived life to the fullest. But it was so sudden and such a shock.
We talk about a ‘bucket list’ as if it is a one day, someday, maybe thing. But today is the day to reflect on the list and book it in with the people who are most important to you. My husband and I do this on New Year’s Day every year as a ritual, but let’s not wait.
Reconnected to my purpose
— It showed me that my world can exist without me for a week or two and it showed me that I don’t have to be the expert in everything. There are the right people with the right experience that I trust to make it easy for me.
I’m reinvigorated and committed to ‘why’. I want people to have shared experiences and I want to make it easy for people to do this. I will continue to make the most of every day, playing full out for others.
This has been an incredibly emotional year and every day I continue to learn. Being driven by purpose makes the daily grind not seem like work. I’m always happy to share my journey along the way.
This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.
Also published on Medium.