Recently, I addressed the team at NTT DATA UK from my hillside home in the Atlas Mountains. Behind me were the clear blue skies and distant peaks of North Africa. This is the way that I’ve chosen to spend my life over the last eleven years: living in, and travelling over, the most challenging, yet beautiful, landscapes known to humanity.
My most recent excursion, sponsored by NTT DATA UK Diversity and Inclusion, was on the notorious Jordan Trail – a 600km route from the very north of the country to the very southern point at the Red Sea. Taking 35 to 40 days on average, it’s a gruelling test of endurance through some of the most difficult terrain on the continent.
I set off on this journey in late 2021. Following a 6-month period of enforced inactivity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was eager to get back out into the world and test my limits. Beginning in Morocco, just as the borders were closing with me inside, I fought against unpreparedness, flash floods, and even wild dogs to reach my goal.
In doing so, I learned 3 key lessons in resilience. Each one of them is universal, applicable just as much in the office or at home, as in the mountains of Jordan.
‘Don’t be complacent’: prepare for the challenges ahead of you.
Just because we’ve done something before, we shouldn’t assume that we can do it again without proper training and preparation.
Less than a week into my trip, disaster struck. Upon cresting a hill, my guide and I encountered a pack of 5 dogs on the road. 3 were tethered. 2 were not.
I was exhausted. I’d been complacent and assumed that my previous experiences mountaineering would stand me in good stead for Jordan. But this lack of preparation was catching up with me, and now that I was in a dangerous situation, I felt unready.
I recalled my training, what they’d told us to do: throw rocks to either side of the pack to scare the dogs. My guide did so, and when the shepherd came up the hill, the pack seemed to quiet down. The danger was gone.
Then I felt an excruciating pain in my leg. I screamed and fell to the floor. It turned out that, as we’d been focused on the pack in front of them, one silent black dog had crept around behind me and torn a chunk out of my calf.
Listen to your gut instinct: it’ll guide the way.
What’s your first thought in a crisis? What does that reveal about your motives?
I had two thoughts the moment I got bitten. The first was a practical, problem-solving voice: telling me that I would need to get rabies shots. The second, however, was more innate. It began to work out when I could get back on the road and keep walking.
So, I focused on the second thought. Even in the middle of this incredible pain, I was able to keep focused on my goals. It was holding onto this thought that helped give me the presence of mind to stay calm and go into problem-solving mode.
Not wanting to let my sponsors down, I was determined to do what I said I would – even though 95% of people would have gone home after such a severe injury.
Being accountable to other people is vital in keeping you going. I combined this external pressure with that internal drive: to keep going, to push myself, to prove that it could be done.
Shame is a useless, diminishing emotion. Push through and celebrate yourself, and your achievements.
Despite the intense feelings of shame that accompanied my injury, recovering in a local man’s home, worrying that they might see me as the naïve foreigner, I knew even then that it was holding me back.
I will admit, there were times when it was all I could do to get through the day and lay my head down on my sleeping bag at night, telling myself that there were ‘only 33’, ‘only 32’, days left.
But by the time we reached Petra, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, I’d reached a turning point. I’d gained fitness on the journey and, by pushing through the shame and learning to celebrate my own achievements, I’d proven that I was the adventurer I made myself out to be.
Why do you do what you do?
Aside from the lessons in resilience that this trek taught me, it also reminded me why I travel the world; to connect with a different culture and way of living, with the past and the present. Already an accomplished Arabic speaker, I chose Jordan because I wanted to learn a new dialect – there is always more to learn about others and yourself.
I push myself, try to learn about everything and everyone because – with all the negative news that seems to dominate discussion of the countries I visit – I want to balance out the bad news with the good.
My mission is to show the many, rather than the few. What brings us together can be stronger than what drives us apart.
Knowing what drives you to succeed at your job, or in your personal endeavours, is vital. It’s what keeps you going past the point when others might give up. If everybody could take these lessons back to our own lives, staying prepared, listening to our instincts, and celebrating our achievements, then together we can make real change.
Finally, I would like to take the opportunity to thank NTT DATA UK one more time for its continued sponsorship. It is fantastic to work with a values-led organisation, committed to helping make the world a better place. Thanks to their support, I can keep on doing what I do best and target my next walking expedition: Palestine.