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Guanacos and Our True Nature

 
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Monday, January 29, 2018 marked the historic date in time when the largest donation of land from a private entity to a country was signed. Kristine McDivitt Tompkins of Conservacion Patagonica donated one million acres of restored land to Chile President Michelle Bachelet. The area donated makes up Pumalín National Park and Patagonia National Park. I will forever remember that our volunteer group played a small part in this exchange. The experience was and still is the defining moment of my career.

Volunteering with Conservacion Patagonica in 2014 allowed me the opportunity to spend approximately three weeks in the backcountry of Patagonia removing barbed wire fencing and invasive flora. Though our group was small, we were still able to remove a final section of fencing where wild life often got entangled. The land had been previously used for sheep; overgrazing and fencing devastated the ecosystem and wrecked its natural beauty.  At the end of our workday we looked out and saw a small herd of guanacos roaming freely through an area that had been previously fenced off. It was by far the best workday of my life. The freedom and joy that I experienced in that moment made me realize three important things that I carry with me today.

We aspire to be part of something much bigger than ourselves.

While personal goals and desires are important, there is nothing more satisfying than being part of a group aligned to make a lasting impact. My best experiences of teamwork have been with volunteer groups such as this where the goal was clear and members had the ability to self organize to maximize efficiency. The camaraderie and resulting sense of pride allows the group to excel beyond their own perceived limitations especially (and this is important) when the goal is serving others.

We thrive most when we know our purpose.

At the time I was amidst a significant career change. One could say that I found my purpose trekking through the Himalayas the year before, but I wasn’t sure what this would look like in terms of making a living. I was certain that I was going to help societies maintain resources through the preservations of our oceans and environment.  Knowing this about myself was like having a torch to shed light on the dark corridors of finding the right jobs and opportunities. It’s this torch that led me to volunteer with Conservacion Patagonica and subsequently make lasting connections that supported and inspired me. This torch continues to navigate me in my new venture, Follow the Sun. It is the guiding light for how I run and grow my business.

We can’t do this alone.

I used to think independence was the key to long-term happiness.  Going at it alone with a set of wheels and some cash was all I would ever need.  While I still enjoy road trips, travel, and freedom, what has changed is the belief that I’m in my transitions alone.  When I first discovered my purpose, I hid it.  It made for a really nice way of experiencing isolation.  But as I grew more comfortable with my new direction, I enjoyed connecting and exploring opportunities. I even became an intern again in my mid-thirties. The truth is that going at it alone is exhausting, and it simply isn’t fun - for you or anyone else around you. Interdependence is equally necessary when stepping into your purpose. Life’s requirement is to step into your truth with an expressed vulnerability whether it’s accepting help from strangers, learning something new, or doing what feels like starting over.  Vulnerability acts as a catalyst in our understanding that independence and interdependence aren’t mutually exclusive – they are both equally important to grow into the best version of you.

 
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Our true nature is to step into our purpose, serve others, and make meaningful connections.  Defining moments teach us to discover our true nature, but they aren’t made in our comfort zone.  Defining moments are made when we take a risk to declare what we stand for and with whom we stand­ - when we know deep down that small steps in the right direction will eventually lead to great things.

Read the full article on the Conservacion Patagonica donation to Chile here.