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‘I was living someone else’s dream, and not my own.’

Here, Esc member Sheelah Turner shares her story. Her and her husband are 1 month away from departure, and so very much still in preparation phase!

I don’t actually remember where the dream itself first came into being – the idea of driving through Africa. But, I remember the moment very clearly when I made the decision that the dream would become a reality.

I had been in a Good Job with a Blue Chip Company. I was married to a wonderful man, and we had bought a lovely house. But, I was working literally all hours, had no life outside work and was miserable. I won’t bore you with the details, but after being a Dedicated Employee for too long, I almost burned out. I was booked off work. For months.

Suddenly, from having no time for myself, I had been given the time to start exploring what was important to me – both in life and in work. The cold hard truth was – I was living someone else’s dream, and not my own.

An even tougher realization was that the only thing stopping me from living my dream was … well, was me.

So, I made some decisions. I decided I didn’t want to wait until retirement to realize my dreams. I decided I didn’t want a corporate career, or all the material trappings of a “successful” life. And in August 2010, my wonderful husband and I made the life changing decision that we would actually do it. We would drive through Africa.

As it happens, Life often nudges you in the direction of your dreams. Almost exactly a year later, the rumours started that my husband’s company would likely be bought out. Our response? We put a date in the diary for our departure – 2nd September 2012. Regardless of what happened (buy out or not) we were going.

And so began the preparations for our dream. Kapp2Cape – our 18 month drive from Nordkapp in Norway to Cape Agulhas in South Africa – started taking on a life of its own. Through the year-long rollercoaster ride, our departure date has changed only once – delayed by a month so that we can attend the Adventure Overland Show to give talks about realizing our dream.  We leave these shores on 7th October 2012.

During the preparations, we have learned and rekindled so many skills, and discovered so much about ourselves. I want to share our 5 top preparation tips with you, to inspire you to follow your own dream – however big or small it may be.

1. Not everyone will be as excited as you

Be prepared that you may encounter resistance as you share your dream. Not everyone will think that making a life change is such a great idea. Our friends and families have reacted from one extreme to the other: super supportive on the one hand all the way to it not being a topic of discussion because it is such a ridiculous idea. Be sensitive, too, to people around you: when they watch you realize your dream, it strips away some of the reasons they can’t follow their own. It is hard for them to face their own realities.

2. Be keen to get your hands dirty

No doubt, you’ll need to learn new skills to follow your dream. Have fun doing it! We didn’t even realize it was happening. Between us, we learned how to create a website, set up a blog, create videos and generally catch-up with the internet age. We have also rekindled sewing and woodwork skills, and resurrected long forgotten writing skills. We could have very easily paid “a professional” to do it all, but it was infinitely more rewarding for us to get stuck in.

3. Use your “team”

We have been fortunate to have each other during our preparations. We continually bounce ideas off each other – I gather input on my sewing projects to improve design, and likewise feed into storage construction deliberations. The amount of coffee consumed during discussions over the last 8 months would have supplied a small army! But our “team” has extended beyond even friends and family to forum contributors, previous travelers, people from courses we have done. We certainly couldn’t have got this far without everyone else.

4. Include regular breaks in your planning

This will seem counter-intuitive. We built in a week break every few months, and took time away from the all-consuming adventure preparation. While it was hard to put the action list down and step away, a week off was essential to mind, body and soul. While we were away, we lived in the present, enjoyed our surroundings and savoured the change of pace. Each time we returned refreshed, energized, and reinvigorated to continue our preparations.

5. Remain true to your dream

We had an opportunity to link up with another organization for our adventure. The more we became entwined, the more it felt like a chore, and the less I was looking forward to our trip. Eventually, we made the difficult decision to separate paths – and it was hugely liberating for us. Our excitement grew as we refocused our efforts, and other opportunities have come up, more in line with our dream. Remember: this is your dream. Be true to it.

We are coming closer to our own vision of happiness. We aren’t there yet, but I am no longer afraid that it is different from that of our friends and family. I am also no longer afraid of what waits for us after the adventure. What I do know, though, is that it isn’t another 9-5 desk job.

Please follow our adventure at www.kapp2cape.net

  • Adele

    Thanks for sharing Sheelah. Love this point – “Be sensitive, too, to people around you: when they watch you realize your dream, it strips away some of the reasons they can’t follow their own. It is hard for them to face their own realities.”

  • Tara

    Just awesome. It’s true that the reactions of your “friends” and family can be so broad and sometimes downright unsupportive. It’s amazing how many people, like yourself, realize that the corporate world is “living someone else’s dream”. Kudos for you for having the courage and motivation to live life to its fullest and not become a prisoner to the materialistic world that has become the “norm”, yet makes most of us incredibly miserable.

  • http://www.gold-boat.com Ellen Girardeau Kempler

    Great post, Sheelah. By “booked off work” do you mean you were laid off (as we say in the States) or made redundant (as they say in the UK) or did your doctor say you needed time off because of job stress? Your journey far more daring than anything I undertook, but I also had an epiphany after unemployment and a few other “rogue waves” washed out my desire to work 9-5. Here’s a link to my story and website. Happy Sails! http://www.gold-boat.com/crew-2/

  • http://www.kapp2cape.net Sheelah

    Thanks to everyone for their comments! I am glad you enjoyed it. I hoped to share some of what it feels like at the start – before you know where it all heads.
    @Adele: It was interesting to us that other people almost didn’t acknowledge what we are doing. It is definitely easier to have dreams with reasons you can’t do it, than take a chance and give your dream a try.
    @Tara: I think the ‘unsupportive’ come from fear, rather than genuinely being non-supportive. But each to his own too. Our dream would definitely not be something everyone would want to do.
    @Ellen: the third option – I was booked off sick. Your website is interesting, and I admire your courage too – rather than wallow in self pity, you got out there! Fabulous! I haven’t yet figured out how to NOT work 9-5 when I return, but I have a bit of time yet to figure that out. Happy sailing to you too!