Lessons from a Venturesome Weekend in Eastern Uganda

Sipi Falls, Kapchwora: where the abseiling happened. Photo credit: Andrew Pacutho

Sipi Falls, Kapchwora: where the abseiling happened. Photo credit: Andrew Pacutho

Two weeks ago, I contacted a friend of mine who I’ve come to know as the go-to person when you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, telling him I needed to get away from my busy life – I needed to unplug and “do something wild.” He quickly sent me a schedule for an adventurous weekend of hiking, abseiling, and exploring eastern Uganda with an incredibly fun group of people called Kafunda Kreative. Here are a few thoughts that have stayed with me since that delightful weekend at Sipi Falls:

The fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be.

When I decided that I wanted to be more adventurous, I could’ve gone online to read articles or watch inspiring videos about how to achieve this goal, or I could’ve bought yet another self-help book. However, by getting connected to this group of experienced and aspiring adventurers, I was able to experience a fun weekend of mummy-won’t-approve activities that fast tracked my journey to change. So before you buy that next book, read that next article, or watch that next video, ask yourself if there are people around you who can expedite your process of becoming the person you want to be.

Growth and success begin at the end of your comfort zone.

Strangers, heights, long bus rides, cold weather. These are all things that make me uncomfortable but were a necessary part of the trip. It would’ve been easy and rather unfortunate, to fixate on all the negatives. However, by focusing on the positives – new friends and potential colleagues, new experiences, new memories, a nice break from work – I managed to have a weekend that I’ll look back on with satisfaction for the rest of my life. What action do you need to take to get out of your comfort zone today? Don’t waste another minute. Get on it! One of my mentors has always said, “if it doesn’t make you uncomfortable, it probably won’t change you.” Oh and those strangers…they’ve become friends that I look forward to traveling with over and over again during my time in Uganda.

Stop, breathe, and cherish the moment. Everything will be fine.

About 30ft into my abseiling descent, I felt the rock disappear from under my feet and I began to spin. In a state of panic, I looked up at the safe level ground from which I had descended, and then down at the 300ft distance below me. I could neither go back up nor hasten the drop. So I decided to look straight ahead. Boy, was the view amazing! I was within 10ft of the waterfall and as I continued to spin, I took in a panoramic view of the lush greenery that surrounded me. The beauty around me brought on a sense of peace and reverence for God that I would’ve missed if I had stayed focused on where I had come from or where I was going. It’s important to be familiar with your history as you keep an eye on your goals but it’s equally important to keep the future and past from obstructing your view of the present. Make it a point to enjoy every step of your life journey.

What matters most is not how many times you fall, but rather how many times you get back up and keep moving.

Honestly, I didn’t even know what “abseiling” meant until I was at the edge of a cliff 328ft (100m) above sea level harnessed to a rope that was essentially my lifeline during my descent into what seemed like an abyss. Believe it or not, going down wasn’t the hardest part for me. I had watched at least 10 other people do it before me so I figured I’d survive. What challenged me was the hike back up the mountain after my regulated free fall to the bottom. Talk about a slippery slope! Led by a 5th grader who literally had to hold my hand to save me countless times during the hike, I trudged my way up the mountain. With frequent rain and a waterfall nearby, every inch of the mountain was a slippery, muddy mess. It was very obvious, though nobody dared mention it, that one slip in the wrong direction would have led to catastrophe. After falling and rising several times, I stopped and looked up to the top of the mountain. Then I freaked out and yelled at my guide “how the hell are we supposed to get up there!” Sorry Martin. He calmly encouraged me to keep moving, assuring me that we’d be there in no time. Turned out he was right. The point here is that the number of times I fell during the hike doesn’t matter. What matters is that I got back up enough times to make it back to safety. The same applies to all of life. Fall if you must – it’s necessary sometimes – but never fail to get back up and keep moving in the direction of your dreams.  

Don’t overthink everything. Sometimes you have to do things simply because you want to.

Abseiling is to the rational mind, a very dangerous and irresponsible behavior. Will I ever do it again? Probably not. Do I regret doing it? Absolutely not! Do I recommend it? Certainly! Rationalizing everything to the last detail is a sure way to miss out on many great opportunities and live a somewhat limited life! Sometimes, you’ve just got to follow your heart. As the saying goes, "the heart knows."