How do you measure success?
Do you measure your own success and that of others by fame and fortune? After spending my formative years in a place where money mattered most, I certainly did. That is until I took my first trip abroad. I visited a country that most Americans had not even heard of at the time. I explored its islands, visited its mystical ruins, marveled at its amazing plants and animals, visited with its magical people and peaked behind the resort vail to catch a glimpse of the poverty and pollution that even occur in paradise. Beginning with that first trip, I discovered a deep passion for exploring other countries and cultures, a passion for finding out about their history and traditions, tasting their foods, listening to their music, getting to know their people, learning about their problems and figuring out how I could help.
Through reflection on that first trip and the trips that followed, I came to believe in a new measure of success. A measure built with each act of kindness or the ways in which you have positively affected the lives of others. To this end, I share stories of my travels and the ways I have helped others both abroad and at home in hopes that they will inspire and assist others in a similar path.
My latest adventure took me to Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. I found myself six feet from lions, looking directly into the old soul eyes of an elephant and watching majestic Fish Eagles hunt. Visiting Africa was everything I imagined and so much more. One of the things I miss most is the sounds of the African bush at night. I loved just listening. The first night in the bush I heard lions roaring and I was hooked. Through the course of the trip, we heard elephants trumpeting, the low grunting of hippos and the “wooooouuuppp” of hennas. If you would like to listen for yourself, check out a soundtrack I found on YouTube:
Honestly, Africa is the most amazing place this world traveler has ever experienced.I not only did not want to leave, but also can not wait to go back. In addition to countless memories, I came away from my trip with a deep understanding of how endangered the Africa I experienced is and a deep compulsion to help protect the continent’s animals, landscapes and people so that future generations can have the experience I had.
This gentle giant walked straight toward my spot in our jeep. Although they aren’t supposed to be able to distinguish between the passengers and the jeep, it appeared to my fellow travelers and I that he was looking straight at me and would perhaps extend his trunk to see if I was worth eating. He was so close that I could have reached out and touched him.
My first day on the ground in Africa I was shocked to read on the front page of a South African paper that 1 elephant is killed every 15 minutes in Africa. Now that I am home, I stopped to consider that figure means that 96 elephants a day and over 34,000 a year are killed. If this was not disturbing enough, I learned with a little research that in a mere 10 years at this rate, there will not be any elephants roaming freely in Africa.
I hope that this disturbs you all enough to help correct this situation. Here’s a few ways you can make a difference. First, urge your State and Federal representatives to ban ivory sales. New Jersey and New York have introduced in-state bans on ivory and rhino horn products. Now, we need the rest of our great states to follow. Second, I hope you will get involved with a nonprofit that is working to protect elephant habitats, stop poaching and educate local people on how to live together with these remarkable animals. The African Wildlife Foundation has projects currently making a difference for elephants in Africa and spends over 87% of their funds on programs like these. Read for yourself at http://www.awf.org/projects
Did you know that at the turn of the century, there were approximately one million rhinos? The number dwindled to 70,000 by the 1970’s. With only approximately 28,000 rhinos remaining today, you are lucky to see a rhino in the wild. Three of the five species of rhino are “Critically Endangered” as defined by the World Conservation Union. Here’s a few ways you can help save these creators who have been around for 40 million years. https://www.savetherhino.org/our_work/conservation_activities.org
Hannah Rayna Brooks
Daughter | Sister | Aunt | Friend | Marketing & Business Development Executive | Environmental, Social & Economic Change Agent