Category Archives: Gratitude

Extraordinary Voices: Shan Living Life

My recent posts speak a lot to adventure, dreams come true and living my dream life. During the pandemic I wrote quite a bit about grief, loss, resilience and hope. Life’s ebbs and flows for the able, healthy, incredibly blessed human that is me.

But what if you get dealt the kind of blow that turns your world upside down and inside out? The kind of tragic situation that is completely out of your control. That makes no sense. The kind of blow that breaks your body and has the potential to break your mind and spirit too. How do you come back from that kind of tragedy? What’s more, how do you come back from that kind of tragedy with graceful strength, determined courage and peace of spirit?

I have had the incredible privilege of meeting someone who can answer these questions. This is Shan 💜

Instagram @shan.livinglife

Facebook @shanlivingherlife

I first heard Shan’s story from her brother.

Graham came into my life unexpectedly, shortly after I arrived back in South Africa adventure-bound. He and I are a couple of old souls now getting a chance to spend some of this life together. We share a similar connection to Nature and the same passion for wildlife conservation here in magical Mzansi. We also share the same love of adventure and have already had opportunity to travel together. A road trip with a kindred spirit can be the perfect way to genuinely connect and share story openly.

To take in Shan’s story shared through her loving brother’s voice was deeply moving. To then hear Shan’s story via her online presence was extraordinary. Shan and Gray have both graciously allowed me to share this story here.

My life’s journey has become entangled with the journeys of these two beautiful humans with extraordinary voices. One of these extraordinary voices speaks the same soul language as mine. The other extraordinary voice floors and inspires me with her beauty, grace and courage.

So, there are the big picture, philosophical aspects of Shan’s story. The aspects that speak to the tenacity of the human spirit in the face of such challenge. It’s these aspects that make up the focus of that famous quote from Viktor Frankl:

At the start of this post I pondered how do you come back from a circumstance like this? How do you survive becoming a quadruple amputee after sepsis sets in from a mongoose bite? I wonder if the answer is that you don’t. You don’t come back. I think Shan will tell you she didn’t come back. In her suffering and pain she was burned, purified, honed into a different version of herself. There is another great quote from Viktor Frankl that comes to mind here:

Shan does give light. In the short time I have known her, she has illuminated my life. I have been offered a different perspective on life from Shan’s light. I can also see the light she gives into her brother’s life. I see it in his eyes and hear it in the tone of his voice when he talks about her. And I am sure the inspiring content she posts online gives light to many.

But philosophical thinking aside, the day to day challenges of life need to be faced. There are the realities of living as a quad amputee and enduring the ongoing symptoms of post sepsis syndrome. Medical costs continue. Family and household costs continue.

As I write, Shan is undergoing yet another procedure. The next part of the lengthy process that will ultimately allow her to walk again. This procedure is happening across the country from where she lives. Her support system, in the form of her husband Ant, goes with her. There is time away from work necessary. There is time needed for recovery.

Put yourself in this position for a moment. How would you deal? Yet with all Shan faces over the next couple of weeks, she returns my messages with requests for detail to pen this story with dignity, kindness and grace.

For those of you reading who do not live in South Africa, I need to try and convey that there is very limited government support in a situation like this. Social services are pretty much non-existent here. Shan’s wellbeing and quality of life is largely determined by financial support she can gain through the generosity of others.

How to help? Honestly, the most practical support we can offer is monetary. So this is my request for donations. Please help ease the financial burden if you can. Every little bit counts and your support is very much appreciated.

Another way to help is to pass this story forward. Let’s continue to share this awesome story of Shan Living Life. This story of one incredibly determined woman who still has a lot of light to give in her beautiful and courageous way. I am honoured to share her story with you….

Details of how to donate…..

https://www.backabuddy.co.za/champion/project/support-for-shan-living-life

The Shaninlea Visser Special Disability Trust 💜
FNB Broadacres
Acc Type : Trust
Acc: 62712541863
Branch : 250655
Swift Code; FIRNZAJJ
Please note this Trust is audited annually. If you require a donation certificate, one can be arranged.

Support Shan so she can keep Living Life and Giving Light 💜

Dreams Do Come True

Going to start by saying dreams really do come true.

It has been a while since I posted here. In this post from January – Adventure Awaits – I set an intention for 2022, this year of my dreams. Here is what I wrote:

A little post to share some big plans for 2022. It is time to focus on my passion project – Pure Spaces Education. Launched a year ago, my goal this year is to begin the journey from passion project to purposeful career. For more on this please see my latest blog post on the Pure Spaces website – Anticipation. I hope to keep the Pure Spaces blog updated during the year as adventures planned and unplanned unfold. So there won’t be many posts here at this stage. However, I will still keep posting images that inspire me along the way on Instagram @dragonfly.travelling. So please do follow me there for a peek into my 2022 adventures. Adventure awaits and hope floats 💚

I am floored reading all this through again in the context of the last nine months! Let me bring you up to speed…..

The first few months of 2022 turned out incredibly stressful with all my best laid plans for adventuring back to my homeland faced some substantial obstacles. And unlike my usual behaviour I had no plan B. My resilience and sense of hope were certainly tested during this time. But I was following my Dreaming Practice. These dreams for the year and beyond were carefully written and safely stored in my Dream Tin…. And so I tried to keep the faith that I was on the right path.

I arrived back in South Africa at the start of May to an unexpectedly warm welcome from the immigration official that left me sobbing with gratitude and relief. I was welcome home.

Then I went to Durban to meet up with one of the most incredible humans I am honoured to call my friend – Carla Geyser. I am utterly grateful to the Universe for our paths crossing. So much of what has eventuated these past months as dreams come true is due to being part of Carla’s tribe.

We spent all of May on the Rise of the Matriarch expedition, what I am now calling my Magical Month of May. Lots of reflections on this magic on the Pure Spaces blog:

ROTM 2022 – Genuine Connection

ROTM 2022 – Nyalazi Magic

ROTM 2022 – Phinda & Pangolins

ROTM 2022 – Kosi Culture

ROTM 2022 – Tembe Time

ROTM 2022 – Bittersweet Pongola

ROTM 2022 – Bees, Trees & Ellies

ROTM 2022 – Lycaon pictus

ROTM 2022 – Grace of Education

ROTM 2022 – Tracks Less Travelled

ROTM 2022 – Magic Mapungubwe

ROTM 2022 – Limpopo Love

This phenomenal Journey with Purpose was followed by three months completing a wildlife conservation research internship based on Karongwe Private Game Reserve near my Hoedspruit Happy Place.

Much of my reflection about those months at the GVI Limpopo base goes around Coexistence. But there was more to it in the end. This is what I wrote in those last days of the internship in my family and friends update:

What a rollercoaster these past months have been. I was so ready going into this to keep my armour in place. To matter-of-factly get what I needed from this internship and experience. I knew I would struggle with the communal living. I knew I would struggle with constant noise and other people’s energy interfering with my equilibrium. This last bit landed up being even harder than I anticipated. But what I realise now sitting here and reflecting back on the past months is that this place broke me open in a way I have not been exposed, probably since childhood. The most real version of me made a very rare appearance in all its too-muchness, in all its weirdness. I have danced again, I have sung again. I have belly laughed and ugly cried. And, you know what? I am okay. Nobody rejected me, nobody hurt me in my vulnerability. In fact, quite the opposite. I have made soul connections here I certainly did not see coming. Because it seems this particular environment means true colours shine through and true humanity is based on kindness and compassion when we are most raw and most vulnerable. I have learned so much about myself, again. About further developing resilience at your most vulnerable. About genuine connection. A reminder that no matter how much along the path of personal growth and awareness you think you are, the journey is never done.

Not to mention all the absolutely mind-blowing wildlife encounters and pure wild space sojourns I was privileged to experience during this time in lovely Limpopo.

As if this year could not hold more adventure, I then got to spend September on two separate road trips with Anam Cara (soul friends).

The first with an unexpected kindred spirit…. One of those letting it happen moments. We both took a chance on sharing the road from north Kruger to KZN and it turned out to be exactly what each of us needed. Two old souls (and extreme birding nerds 😊) who have finally met in this life…. to be continued…

The second adventure was a long-expected reunion tour to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park fifteen years later….one of those making it happen moments. We had talked and planned this adventure so many times only to have some reason it could not work, even to the very last minute this time round. But we got there and it was magical and breath-taking in every way. We laughed and cried as we wandered down our memories. We laughed and cried as new memories were made. Our firm friendship established fifteen years ago, confirmed and strengthened by a return to where it all magically started.

Lots of highlights shared on Instagram for both these glorious September Wanderings.

My heart is full. My cup runneth over. All I have related in this post so far speak to Dream 2 – Wellness and Dream 3 – Belonging in my Dream Tin coming true.

I am writing this story in a reflection moment forced on me by those challenges that life throws your way from time to time. But I am grateful to have this time in a peaceful spot in my hometown surrounded by precious family. Remember that whole thing about the balance between making things happen and letting them happen?

And so to Dream 1 – Home. So much of the detail of this dream goes around what I wrote about in my Pure Spaces blog post – Anticipation.

“2022 is about starting the journey of progressing Pure Spaces from passion project to purposeful career. So no more day job for me. Throwing this Big Dream out to the universe.”

That purposeful career I was dreaming of is taking shape right here in Mzansi. From October I will be working for an organisation at the forefront of wildlife conservation in Africa. An organisation I have long admired and fan-girled over. I am beyond thrilled at this opportunity. It means I am directly contributing to the Conservation Collective I have been on the periphery of for so long. It means I get to resettle here in my homeland at the coalface of the boots-on-the-ground wildlife conservation work I have been so passionate about since childhood. It means I get to be close to my tribe of free spirits and Anam Cara so further adventuring can occur. It means my soul soars and my heart sings.

Dreams do come true.

But is it all rosy and easy, this dreaming lark? Most definitely not. There are some things you have to understand going into this practice. I wrote a bit about it in the first blog on Pure Spaces

“In the Okavango I learned about paradox. I learned about unconditional love. I learned that the sweet always comes with the bitter and vice versa. I learned that we cannot have it any other way or we would never grow. It is the Nature of existence.”

I wrote about it again in a recent Instagram post for Heritage Day –

Happy Heritage Day, Mzansi 🖤 Looking through recent pics to choose one for this post I catch my breath and tears well…. I have always felt a deep connection to this land where I was born. My incredibly privileged life’s journey has taken me many places around the world, but to have returned and reconnected with the pure wild spaces of my natural heritage these past months is a gift beyond expression…. the open roads that go ever on, the big skies, the light and colour that shift mood and magic each moment of the day, the unfathomable night sky, the hum of life everywhere you go, abundant birds, bugs and beasties – wild energy prickles all around, beautiful people with open hearts and generous spirits…. the bitterness of the struggle that is living here awakes your soul to the sweetness of what it means to be living in the spirit of Ubuntu…. my free spirit soars here like nowhere else 🖤

I think the Big Dreams we have come with a price. The price is letting go of all you think you can control. The price is vulnerability. The price is being willing to be broken open and your raw humanity exposed. The price is trust in a benevolent universe. All of these only Ego will see as a price. Your heart and soul will see it differently….. growth and connection and freedom…. So if you’re willing to risk it…. Dream 🖤

2021 Wrapped Up

Closing out this year with Hope. My gratitude app tells me I have been grateful daily for just over two years. The number one thing I have been grateful for over this time has been Hope. That I can still feel Hope-Full.

I am also grateful that I finally created a family recipe book. Something I have been meaning to do for years now. Compiling all the family favourites from over the years, along with family photos to create a little piece of treasured family history, was soothing to the soul.

So thankful, as ever, for my precious family both near and far for all they are and all they do. I am truly in awe of being related to such incredible humans.

Another grateful moment from this year is my Pelo Tales Heart Art Fundraiser having raised a little money already. This one is ongoing so if you want to know more and find out how you could contribute, then head to Pure Spaces Education.

I am thankful for this weird ‘gap year’ in my career working with a wonderful team of teachers and friends. Bittersweet moving on, again.

Also thankful for not losing touch with the dream team forced to go our separate ways in 2020…. still keeping it real!

And finally… grateful, hopeful and excited about new adventures, new collaborations and new friends in 2022! Can’t wait to see where Pure Spaces Education takes me…

But before all that…. grateful for time to rest this holiday season 🖤

Pelo Tales: Lilac Sky Ellie

This is Solomon, a charming elderly elephant who frequented our little island in the heart of the Okavango Delta. He especially liked when the Marula fruit were ripe. I had three Marula trees on three sides of my house so Solomon would often spend the night carefully collecting as many fallen Marula as possible. Then he would shake the trees for more and finally have a short nap leaning against a termite mound until the first lilac streaks of dawn stole across the sky 🖤

Pelo Tales: Sunrise Lion

A deep belly roar echoes for kilometres across the bushveld. Another answering roar as they come together after a night on the hunt. Its daybreak and the lion pride is announcing their presence in the cool of dawn before they settle in a shady spot to rest away the day light hours. Another magical day begins in the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Reserve in the north west region of Mzansi 🖤