What comfort tells us about change

Being comfortable is not a measure of certainty or that something good is going to happen – it is an indication that you are operating within the bounds you always have.

Similarly, if the thought of some action or a certain situation is making you feel uncomfortable, it is not that something bad or unpredictable is going to happen (and therefore needs to be avoided) – it is an indicator that you are dong something you haven’t done before.

If you want something in life you’ve never had before, you need to do something you’ve never done before.

Last of the Headhunters

[First published in the Tweed Valley Weekly on 3rd May 2018]

“It’s such a surreal feeling walking into a room knowing everyone in there has cut someone’s head off.”

It was one of the possibilities on my recent Northeast India Unplanned ‘wing-it’ trip. Running a trip like that with nothing planned – you never know what is going to happen. Of all the things we did though – the rhino safaris, exploring the world’s second largest river island and visiting one of the beautiful tea estates of Assam – the time we spent with the headhunters was the highlight.

Once notorious for their headhunting and famous for their facial tattoos, the Konyak tribe live in a remote corner of northeast India. The largest of the 17 tribes in the state of Nagaland, they once fought for control over the land, instilling fear into their enemies by taking their heads and proudly displaying them on the walls and doorways of their homes as a reminder of their strength and power. Today though, as a group of men in their 80s and 90s and with only about 30 remaining, they’re part of a disappearing world.

Ducking under the doorway, we stepped into the dark, smoke filled morung, a village hall of sorts and we were instantly transported back in time. On the wall were the various tribal weapons used long ago. In the middle of the room was a small fire around which 4 figures sat, each with traditional headdress, over-sized ear lobes and the famous tattooed face.

They greeted us warmly, offered small stools and invited us to join them by the fire. After the small talk was out of the way, with our guide translating, they asked us if we had any questions. I asked them about their faces.

One of the men then described how he had to lay on his back for an entire day with the queen of the tribe using a thorn from a local tree and a blue pigment to adorn his face. He spoke of the excruciating pain he suffered during the tattooing process – a ritual reserved for those warriors after they returned with their first head.

All too soon, we were on our way again with a long drive in front of us to reach Majuli – the river island. It’s an experience I’ll never forget. Next time we’ll stay for the tea and biscuits!

For those who are interested, I’m off there again in January. Please contact me on journeys@somespacetobreathe.com for details.

Life Is Not A Menu

What if I don’t know what I want from life?
What if all the options around me are totally unappealing? What if I know I don’t want to be a manager, I don’t want a new job and I don’t want to change career?
What if I’m over what I’m doing and I’m just telling myself I’ll only do it till I decide what I really want?

Life is not a menu. You don’t have to pick from the options – you just have to ask the right question.

How to have a mid life crisis

I knew I didn’t want a sports car or to have an affair with a younger woman. I wanted to travel.

At the age of 36, I felt dejected and disengaged and constantly ask myself, ‘Is this all there is?’ I could never quite put my finger on it, I mean, life was great – I had a great career, I was in a loving relationship and earned a decent income. To the outsider, I had nothing to whinge about. It was something that I could never put my finger on – there was just something missing.

I’d always wanted to travel. We did trips every year but I wanted to go away for longer. I’m not sure why, it was just a longing I had. I wanted to simply book a one way flight and go, roll the dice, take a chance and see where the wind took me. To travel the world for a year was what I really wanted to do.

So we did. We spent 6 months in South America, 3 months in Europe and 3 months in Asia. We walked on glaciers in Patagonia, hitch hiked in Argentina and explored a nuclear silo from the Soviet era in Lithuania. It wasn’t all roses though – we narrowly avoid being express kidnaped in Bolivia and almost came face to face with a rat the size of a dog in India.

My point is I followed my call to adventure and that’s how I believe I overcame my midlife crisis. A call to adventure is also something I believe everyone has. It can be a feeling you have, an intuition or a curiosity big or small. Filling that unfillable, intangible void means learning to listen to the call and follow it. I did and it changed my life.

What’s your call to adventure? Are you answering the call?