I can tell you the exact moment I knew I fell in love with Africa. It was while I was living out my dreams. I’d shirked the 9-to-5 routine in exchange for an extraordinary life. I was sitting high atop Namibia’s most photographed sand dune, Dune 45. I had just experienced the most grueling, lung-aching 20 minutes of my life, climbing 170m up through Namibia’s legendary rust-colored sand. Exhausted and completely out of breath, I joined my travel companions and promptly collapsed on the ridge. We sat there in near silence – only the sound of panting could be heard as we all tried desperately to catch our breath. Then it happened. The moment we were waiting for – the sun came up over the horizon in the distance. This was no ordinary sunrise, it was one I’d seen before only in the movies – and as the sun crept slowly over the horizon, and the warm rays touched my face – I knew it. This was the beginning of a lifelong love affair with Africa and it had solidified the notion that I could live my life on my own terms and do anything I set my mind to – even if it went against societal norms.My seven-week trip to Africa in 2012 was my first time stepping foot on the continent. I had been given the opportunity to partake in an overlanding tour that had me camping from Cape Town, South Africa to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe with Nomad Adventure Tours after they had found my blog through the power of Twitter and reached out to me. I couldn’t turn down the opportunity, so made the decision to interrupt my working holiday in New Zealand to explore Africa – a continent that had always fascinated me. Following my incredible three week overlanding tour, I made the conscious decision to give back my time to a cause that I felt was more than worthy of it – I volunteered with a lion conservation project and environmental research trust called ALERT. Even still, not a day goes by that my heart doesn’t ache to get back to Antelope Park, the private game reserve where the project was based and back to working hands-on in hopes of saving the king of the jungle from extinction.
It’s been almost an entire year since I returned from my trip to Africa, and I am gearing up to go back. After blogging about my 2012 experience with Nomad Adventure Tours, they decided to bring me back and enjoy some more of their amazing tours. On July 17th I set off on my second Nomad Adventure Tour where I will get to meet with the famous Maasai Mara, I’ll get to knock off a very big bucket list item – gorilla trekking in the mountains of Uganda, I’ll spend 3 days camping in the Serengeti, I’ll scuba dive off the shores of Zanzibar, and I get to finish it all up in front of one of the seven wonders of the world- the almighty Victoria Falls. This incredible 38-day tour will then be followed up by three amazing weeks of volunteering with the lions, once again, at Antelope Park in Gweru, Zimbabwe. I will finally get to return to my heart’s happy place and be one with the king of the jungle.
If the last couple years of travel have taught me anything – it’s to walk confidently in the direction of your heart’s desires. I’ve always wanted to see the world, to work towards a cause that was much greater than myself, and to share all of my experiences with anyone who was willing to listen. And now –thanks to my blog- I get to do all of that, and I get to reach a much wider audience than I ever imagined possible.
Funnily enough, a lot of the opportunities that I have been given have come about because I said NO. I said NO to working the typical 9-to-5, I said NO to my parents when they suggested me going back to school, and simply put I said NO to living an ordinary life. I am not a sheep – why should I live my life following the same cookie-cutter method that everyone else has?
My heart said, “Go out and see the world. Go out and experience all the amazingness that life and the world have to offer. Live your life on your own terms. When you die make sure you’ve left your legacy- your positive impact on the world- and that you didn’t just live an ordinary life – you lived an extraordinary one.”
And living an extraordinary life on my own terms is EXACTLY what I intend on doing. Don’t be afraid to jump, step, or stumble off the ledge – have faith that the universe will be there to catch you. And when it does- you’ll be sure to have an amazing story to tell – a remarkable legacy to leave.
Melissa Shearer is a full-time travel blogger, dream-chaser, and adventure seeker. She has given up the 9-to-5 in pursuit of living her life on her own terms and has been traveling, working and living abroad since 2010. Originally from Toronto, Canada she has called the likes of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand’s Far North ‘home’ and prefers living her life out of her 80L backpack. When she’s not too busy throwing herself out of airplanes, scuba diving with sharks or volunteering hands-on with lions, she’s sharing her experiences with the world on her blog The Mellyboo Project. Be sure to follow her on Facebook and Twitter and don’t be afraid to say “hi.”