Last weekend I gave a presentation at a Singles Summit about online dating. This is something that, three years ago, would have seemed silly. But I was 39 then. I turned 40 in South Africa and that’s when life changed … or, more precisely, that’s when I took a hard look at how I was spending – or wasting – my time.
In October of 2011, I was deep in the African bush celebrating my birthday among the lions and elephants and cheetahs of the KwaZulu-Natal region. Besides seeing these amazing wild animals in their natural habitat, I learned how important the safari industry is for many countries in Africa. Unfortunately, poaching has reached crisis proportion for African elephants and rhinos. How sad to think of future generations only being able to see these wonderful creatures in zoos and sanctuaries. The safari industry is combating poaching in a number of ways, but the simplest way is by merely existing. Think about it. Travelers to the African bush want to see rhinos and elephants. If these animals go extinct, there’s no safari industry and locals lose their livelihoods. Many of these same locals were once poachers. Now, they’re part of the safari industry and the conservation movement as they realize the devastating economical impact poaching could have on their towns and villages.
During my stay, I went on drives twice a day with the safari rangers. While on these drives, I got to know the rangers and learned about their individual roles in the conservation movement. They were spending 11+ hours a day with visitors and then using their free time to protect the creatures living on the reserve. It would seem that their lives were devoted to conservation efforts and teaching others about those efforts.
Then I thought about my own life and how small it seemed in comparison to those on the front lines of the wildlife preservation work in South Africa.
While I was doing important work with small cats at a local non-profit, the reality was that I was burned out. Things were no better at home because not only did I lack a meaningful relationship, I was living with my ex husband and too many cats. I was also juggling extra jobs to keep the house afloat. Given these circumstances, how could I even think about having a richer, more purposeful life?
A month after returning from South Africa, I was alone on a housesitting job over Thanksgiving weekend and I started thinking long and hard about my existence and how I was spending my time. Being caught up in unhappiness at home and at work wasn’t moving me forward and it certainly wasn’t helping me contribute to the greater good.
Life in the African bush is about survival – there’s no guarantee that tomorrow will come as predators are always lurking. While the African bush seems vast and endless, its creatures are not. That’s what I took home with me … a sense of urgency. What if, like the elephants and rhinos, I was about to be extinct?
I wondered what action step could I take, right then and there, to change just one thing about my life? I pulled up my online dating profile, and began revising it – this time speaking from the heart especially about the impact the time in Africa had on me.
Later that evening I received a message from another traveler. He, exactly a year later, became my husband.
Since my trip to Africa, not only have I changed my relationship, I’ve changed my address and my career, too. Part of my new life is working with people to connect them to authenticity with their relationships, with their travels and with themselves.
A conversation I had at the Singles Summit helped me finally verbalize the way my African adventure touched me. When we are our true selves, we attract authenticity in love and life. Our time can then be spent in more meaningful ways and the world – maybe even the elephants and rhinos – benefit from it.
About the Author: Amy Angelilli married the love of her life on the anniversary of their first communication on a dating website. Now that she’s no longer busy online dating, she has more time for adventures such as meaningful travel, live concerts featuring ’80s bands and improvisational theater.
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