Today I’m talking to Emma Ferris who went on the Life Safari, an immersive trip in Kenya which is run by Olivia Munoru, a trained coach. She will be speaking about her experience in the trip, and the impact it has had on her life since.
Claudia: Hi, Emma, and thank you for talking to me about your experience on the Life Safari. Last week I spoke to Olivia Munoru who runs it and I thought that it would be really nice to hear from somebody that had been on the trip about their experience of it. So, I wonder whether you could just start by telling me from your perspective what the Life Safari is, not necessarily your experience of it, but how you describe it as a trip.
Emma: For me, the Life Safari is definitely an experience. It’s not a holiday. It’s massively enjoyable, but it’s not a kind of a vacation or anything. For me, it’s really kind of rich, deep experience that you have in a culture that’s really different to my own, with people that I don’t know, and kind of learning about a really different way of life to mine, and spending time living that way of life. So, it was an eight-day trip that we did.
We had a couple of days, right at the start, very much acclimatising to being in a new country, and in a new culture, and getting to know the people who were on the trip with us. We had a few experiences that helped us to bond as a group together. So we did an actual safari trip going out and seeing the animals in Nairobi National Park, which is a really wonderful way to bond as a group because we had this really unique shared experience where we just enjoying and delighting in these new discoveries; this new spotting animals – things that we’d never seen before and it was wonderful to have the shared delight in experiencing something new that helped us to bond as a group and get to know each other as a group, and get to know each other, get to know a bit about how each other ticks.
So, a couple of days of that and just local experiences in Nairobi, and then getting ready to head off into the village that then we had four days in the village spending time in local families homes, meeting a team of facilitators who work in the local community and spending time with them really, sharing experiences, sharing views and opinions and all kind of experience of life really, learning so much from them about how they live their lives there, kind of views an attitudes on life and how to live a really rich and rewarding life, but in a different way to what we would consider in the West a very rich and rewarding life.
So, four days doing that which was so incredible; really, really powerful, rich, deep experience, and then a couple of days back in Nairobi kind of reflecting on the experience, reflecting on what it’s going to mean for us when we get back go home, and then getting ready to go home which is really, really sad actually by the end. I don’t think anybody wanted to go home by the end. The all felt like I was just starting to…
Claudia: Really be?
Emma: Well, I’ll always really be present. I really enjoy being surrounded by all these wonderful people. So it was quite difficult to be heading back home after that and thinking, “What is this actually going to mean for me? How am I going to apply all these this when I go back home?”
Claudia: Yeah, I bet. What did it all mean to you when you were back home?
Emma: Oh, gosh! That’s a difficult question. There was so much that I learned, and that I saw, and that I experienced throughout the whole trip. When I was there it really shown a spotlight on my life back home on what was good, what wasn’t so good, the ways in which I often feel when you are disconnected from people, or don’t have the level of connection I would really like to have. I suppose, all these things that we do that really probably don’t make us that happy, and on the Life Safari I had seen people getting so much from that connection with people; from that sense of community; from that joy in just being with people and spending time with people who are really valuing and appreciating what every single person brings to a relationship, or brings to a community. I felt that that’s something that I don’t have a massive amount of in my life, and, I think, a lot of people in the West don’t have that really strong kind of sense of community and connection and valuing people.
So, certainly when I was there and I was looking at my life, I spent a lot of time thinking about my relationships with other people; about how much I give to other people. I know I have so much more that I could give that I don’t, and, I suppose, there is lots of reasons maybe that I sometimes hold back and I don’t give everything I have.
So when I got back, there were some relationships that I spent a lot of time thinking about and could see much more clearly that there was a lot more that I could give and the things I might do for other people. I understood how they might be feeling in response; how they would be appreciating the things that I was doing for them because even just the little things, when I was on the Life Safari, one of the girls who was in the home that I was staying in, she helped me wash my hair, just washing out of a bucket. I got wondering, I said, “Oh, God! How else am I’m I going to wash my head? Like, I have got long hair,” and she just stood beside me and just had this bucket of water and was helping to wash my hair and I felt really nervous about asking her to do that.
It’s not something we really do, and she was so generous and so open-spirited, and just kind, and it was lovely to have somebody just helping me to wash my hair, there was a real female connection there. So, just things like that have really made me think about what is it about relationships that make them so supportive and kind and make you feel so good? So it’s all about relationships.
There is a lot that has changed for me around living a much simpler life because in the village that we were in, the people, they have so much less materially. There is much less material wealth and financial wealth than we have over here and I have in my life. The life is so much simpler, but it’s so much more enjoyable in many ways. It’s so much easier. There is so much less stress in some ways – in other ways, I know there is probably a lot more stress and anxiety, but it got me thinking a lot about how I am as a consumer, the types of food I eat, my diet and how we can overcomplicate things so easily and cause a lot of additional stress for us.
I had always had quite a healthy diet and had quite a simple way of life anyway because that was one of the ways that I was brought up, but, it has really made me notice those choices that I can start to make that might just add complexity and difficulty, and I have noticed myself being able to kind of stop and think, “No. I don’t need that. What’s the kind of simpler way? What’s the easier way here?”
Claudia: How long ago was it that you went on the Life Safari?
Emma: It was six months ago on Friday. I checked in my diary. So I can’t believe it’s six months ago.
Claudia: And these impacts, you still feel them?
Emma: I think it’s something quite naturally that I think less about, kind of, on a day-to-day basis, kind of immediately after the experiences. So it’s so kind of front of mind and it’s so part of who you are, there is no thinking about all the time. I think, there is this kind if reference point, it was really something that you can draw on in times of need, I think, or when you are facing a big decision, or some kind of big life changes. It’s something that I reflect on, I think, ‘What does that experience mean for who I am now, and how can it influence this decision that I have to make right now?”
So, for instance, another one was moving house. So, I’ve recently moved out of London and that was something I was always going to do anyway. I had planned to do that for a long time, but when I came to start looking at towns I wanted to move to, I came to a bigger time close to here, and I looked around and I just thought, “I don’t think this is for me. I actually think I want something smaller. I think, I want something that has got a much stronger sense of community,” and that was really influenced by the Life Safari because one of the things I really loved on the Life Safari in the village that we visited was, it was quite a small village, there was a real kind of clear central hub.
As we were walking around, I got this real sense that everybody really valued and appreciate the members of the community. Everybody would say “Hi” too everybody when you walked around. There is a real friendliness and openness, and having lived in London for so many years where you really don’t have that kind of walking down the street people saying, “Hi” to you, “How are you?” If you did do that then you’d probably be seen as somebody a bit strange.
So it made me realise I really wanted to live somewhere where you did have that sense of community; where you were just part of a smaller town and you could feel more present, I suppose, and more people might know you, and you could say “Hi” to people that you would pass down the street, and, actually, I have had that quite a few times that I have been walking around and people just smiling and saying, “Hi,” and that isn’t anything that I have experienced. It makes me feel really good. It makes me feel really valued as a person who lives there.
Claudia: And this is something that you got to know as you were walking around this different place.
Emma: Yeah. Yeah. I really realised that that’s what I wanted, and I think having been on the Life Safari, I felt confident in actually saying, “No. This is what I want,” and I knew that I could make that decision to do that. I think, previously, I probably wouldn’t have that confidence. I probably would have still felt a little bit of fear about moving somewhere so much smaller to where I had lived before. So, yeah, that was really lovely.
Claudia: Great. It sounds like you got a huge amount to have a sense that you wanted to be part of a community, and living a simpler life in general, and also the deepening of relationships, r the acknowledgement that you were holding back relationships.
Claudia: I wonder whether you had a sense that you wanted to work on those areas, or whether you went on the Life Safari with any expectation of what you might come back with.
Emma: Well, in terms of the actual experience, I had absolutely no idea what it was going to be like, and it was kind of going on a trip where I had no expectations, but, I think, that was quite unusual. For us, normally, when I plan a trip, I plan it out really clearly, I have a really clear agenda because I like to know what I’m going to be doing – not every single second, but I like to have some kind of structure – and this, I really didn’t know what it was going to be like other than a little bit of structure in that I let up in place, but I absolutely trusted, 100%, I trusted in what Olivia was planning for us in her vision and in her dream that she had shared with us, and that I knew she had for the trip.
So, kind of aside from leaping into the unknown, which it really felt like the unknown at the time, I knew I wanted to have and that was about people. I had been travelling a couple of years before, and had planned that trip to be about people and being outdoors and being really connected to the natural environment, and the people, they didn’t really work out so much. It was really about being always in the natural environment.
So, when I got back from that, at the time, I felt I really want to have an experience that’s about people; that’s about connecting with people and I’m not that confident when I first meet new people. So I really wanted to have an experience that would build my confidence and help me to be more comfortable with doing that.
So, when this opportunity came up, I thought, “Perfect!” I knew it was going to involve that. I knew it was going to be in a really different environment, meeting people that live very different lives to me, but that we have something in common. We have something really strong in common, and that’s what was so lovely when we were there. Like, it was obvious that we all lived very different lives from each other, but we have so much in common at the same time.
So we were really different, but we were really similar at the same time and to find people who share your belief in human potential and share your belief in kind of being kind and compassionate, but also quite challenging and saying that, “Actually, we can all be better than we are now. There is always room for improvement.”
It’s so lovely to find a community in Kenya where you have got people who share that vision and talk that same language as you. So, I think that spending time with people where you can connect on that level really built my confidence and really helped me to see a bit more clearly who I am and what I stand for, and just feel comfortable and confident just saying that I’m being that person. That was really lovely for me – that building confidence and that people element. I really enjoy that.
Claudia: That’s great. Yeah. So, Olivia, when I spoke to her, it sounded that she had founded the Life Safari on a lot of coaching principles, but, obviously, it’s not our traditional one-on-one coaching relationship, and it’s interesting to hear that the particular setting, and the fact that you were in a group allowed for certain things to come up for you that might not have come up in a one-on-one coaching arrangement.
Emma: Yeah. I think, the group element of the group was really, really important. It’s fundamental. That kind of shared experience. So there is opportunities Olivia would have at the end of every kind of big experience. So at the end of every day, we would have what she called an AER – an After Experience Reflection, and Olivia led for us. That was a time for us to all share what was coming up for us, what our reflections were, what we were thinking about what that might mean for us when we went back home, any kind of difficulties or challenges, emotional, whatever we might be experiencing and to kind of share that as a group.
What I really loved was that we were obviously all on our own individual journey; we were having our own individual challenges, or moments of joy and happiness, and we were each spending time in our host families’ home. So we all had this kind of time that was just us as individuals, but then there was times when we would come back together, say, in the morning after we had slept with in our hosts’ families homes and would come together and just have that coming together and sense of togetherness, and just catching up on how things had been, how we were feeling.
There was always this, “How are you doing? What’s going up for you? How are you?” And that shared joy and delight, or shared challenge and kind of discomfort, or whatever it might be. I think being able to do that as a group and knowing that everybody was going through the same thing as you and it gave you permission to be able to talk really openly and honestly about what was going on was really lovely. So there is a real nice balance between kind of that individual challenge and individual joy, and the group thing as well.
Claudia: I was going to ask you, how in your mind as a coach, coaching principles or coaching exercises might have shown up in the week, and then you were describing that there was this atmosphere of people sharing and people going, “How are you doing, and how is this experience for you?” Yeah, I’m wondering whether there were exercises that you did together, or whether there were just principles that were built into the trip that you saw were from coaching.
Emma: I suppose, in a structured way, we had group coaching sessions every evening at the end of every day, and there were specific questions that Olivia gave us that we would kind of each work through together – they would provide that basis for a discussion about what was happening, and it was always around: what have we seen, what have we learned, how do we feel, what does this mean for us when we are going to going back home?
What was really valuable for me which I’m aware of that the job that I do is so important to reflect on: “What is this going to mean for me when I get back? What’s that transfer going to be? How am I starting to think now about what changes I’d like to make, or what effect is this going to have when I get back home?” So you can start to prepare for mentally some goals.
So that was happening in a kind of a structured way each day. Throughout the day, Olivia would use with us this concept of “What’s the weather like inside?” So getting us to think about how we are feeling, what’s going on for us emotionally and outside, and, actually, it wasn’t just us as a Life Safari group who did that, but all of the team facilitators did that as well. So, it was a lovely sharing around what’s everybody actually feeling right now?
It gave permission to talk about highs, and to talk about lows, to talk about somewhere in the middle, to talk about how actually there is quite a lot of complexity in that. You can be feeling really happy and really sad at the same time, and be struggling with that kind of conflict in those emotions. So it was nice for that to be constantly there and to have permission to talk about that.
Something that I noticed throughput the whole experience was that kind of reaching out and asking, “How are things going for you right now?” People would struggle with different elements of the trip, and it was nice to just be aware of what was going on for everybody and either giving them space to just process, and there was a lot of that space to process things, or if you felt like chatting and talking about things, then there was space to do that as well.
I think, Olivia created this environment where everybody could do what they needed to do and wanted to do at the right time, and that just seemed to unfold and happen in a really lovely way. We had a few bus journeys between things at certain points of the trip, and you might have been trying to process a thing, also just be present, and just enjoy the ride through the countryside looking out the window, and if want to just do that and just be by yourself that was fine, but, actually, if you wanted to have a time to connect with somebody and have a conversation, then you could do that as well.
The bus journeys interestingly created this long hour, two hours, three hours where you could have a really extended deep conversation we didn’t expect, and Olivia didn’t expect that to be a really important part of the trip, but I know I had a couple of really lovely conversations with Marcus, where you just felt like you had that time to talk about stuff and talk about stuff that you wouldn’t normally talk about when you are meeting up for drinks, or whether you are kind of just brushing past each other when you do certain things.
So it was lovely to just have that space. You could just be present in the way that you needed to be present at that moment in time. That acceptance for people and what they were going through was really lovely. That was a thing that went through the trip, I think, based on acceptance around who you are and what you are doing and what’s going on for you right now, and it is all okay.
Claudia: That’s really lovely, and it’s interesting to think about the fact that whether people want to develop a coaching business which is working with individuals. Although it’s something that’s really quite different – take groups to Kenya – there is still something around maintaining these coaching principles of providing a non-judgemental safe space for that person to explore whatever is coming for them, and actually that can happen in groups as well.
Claudia: So that’s really lovely to hear.
Emma: Yeah. I think that worked really well, and there was something that you get from group coaching that you don’t get from that individual one-on-one. I think, all of it comes down to that, when somebody starts sharing something quite deep and personal to them, it gives other people permission to do that, or permission to just recognise that maybe that’s also happening for them. They might not have the confidence to share that, but it gives that permission to go into that space for themselves and I think it just makes it a really, really deep experience for everybody in the group.
Claudia: You have described the Life Safari so beautifully and your experience of it, and I just wonder whether there is anything else that you felt that you wanted to share about it?
Emma: Something that I learned that’s really powerful for me is we have no idea how here we are and what we do in our relationships with others, how they affect people in a positive or a negative way, and we can be giving something really, really amazing to somebody without even realising it just by being there and being present and being who you are.
The reason I say that is, my host family, the mother, Sarah, was just this wonderful, generous, kind, just beautiful, beautiful person, and she just looked after me so well, gave me everything that I needed, and we had this really lovely conversation at the end when I was thanking her for having hosted me and having looked after me, preparing my water for bathing and for breakfast, and everything like that.
So I was so grateful to her for having been so kind and welcoming. It made me feel so comfortable in her home, and she said to me, just, “Thank you for just being you, Emma, for just being so down to earth, and just accepting everything that we have. You just got on with it and we have so much little compared to what she would have imagined I have over here,” and she said, “Just thank you for doing that because by being the way you have been – just by being you, you have lifted us up and you have shown us that we have more than enough, we have everything that we need to do this again. So you have just shown us that we are enough,” and it was such an emotional moment because I had no idea that I was having that effect, and it really made me see that there were always two sides to an experience.
People would always draw different things from a different experience, and, I think, we had only thought about us going into their homes and thinking, “Well, they are going be hosting us. We had never really thought that they would be getting anything from the experience.” So, I had realised how one-sided I had felt it was, and it really wasn’t one-sided at all, and back to the village and everybody is just still talking about our trip and remembering what it was like to have us in their homes, and the bedroom, Emma’s room, Diana’s room and it really made me think differently about the impact that you can have on other people, and let’s try and make that impact positive every single time you have an interaction with somebody.
Claudia: I think that I’m going to remember also you saying about the lady who helped you wash your hair and it is interesting how something that could be so small, in a sense, that’s so mundane, so every-day, can really stay with you. Six months on you remember that particular hair wash.
Emma: Yeah. I do. I do.
Claudia: That’s wonderful.
Emma: We can touch each other in ways that we just could never imagine, and, I think, it’s really important to remember how might the other person be feeling now? What can I give to them now that might make things a little bit easier if you are going through a difficult time or if you are not?
Claudia: Yeah. I’m really pleased to have asked you about your experience on the Life Safari because Olivia said that she had lovely feedback from people that had come on it, but, I think, so often, as coaches, we don’t realise the impact that we have. So much happens, as you know, in a one-to-one coaching session, and I have had many experiences where I have thanked a coach, I have said, “Wow! I really got this or this.”
Sometimes you say that right after the session, or perhaps even a little while after the session, but, I think, I have never been able to communicate the value that coaches have given me back to them because, well, it might show up in a year’s time. It shows up in so many different ways and so many subtle ways, and probably ways that we don’t even realise ourselves. So it’s really, really lovely when you can reflect on it and articulate some of those things, and I think that it’s also the case that we don’t realise as coaches what a positive impact we are having sometimes.
I have certainly had sessions with people where I have thought, “Oh, well, I know that we had a big impact last week, but I wonder what they got from this week’s session.” Not to think they got nothing, but, “I wonder if that was as good.” We can start thinking, “Was that as good a session?” Then I had a message from the guy, “Wow! So much has shifted,” and it’s incredible. You think, “Wow! I walk around life not knowing what impact that interaction had, or that interaction had, whether it’s coaching or just a smile at somebody on the street or anything else.”
Emma: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. All those things can make a huge difference. I think, I was always somebody who was able to put myself in somebody else’s shoes. I think that we as coaches always have that – it’s the bedrock of what we do, is the empathy (isn’t it?) and being able to understand what’s going for somebody, but, I think, it has made me think more often, not in any kind of coaching relationship, but in my day-to-day relationships, it has made me think a bit more often about what might be going on for the other person and to just see things from a different perspective and to not just see what’s going on through your own eyes, but to kind of shift your perspective a bit more often because it helps you to see the picture a bit more fully, I suppose.
Claudia: Great. Well, thank you so much for sharing so much about your experience of the Life Safari and the impact that it has had on you.
Emma: You’re welcome.
Claudia: It sounds really significant.
Emma: I felt like I relived quite a lot of it as I have been talking with you. So it feels like it has become front of mind for me again, and I’m sure I’ll be reflecting on it a lot more as I go through my day today. So, thank you.
Claudia: No problem.
I found it interesting to hear how coaching principles and experiences were woven into the trip, and how the group dynamic allowed for Emma to explore different areas of challenge in her life. Whether we decide to coach individuals or groups, creating a space where people feel free to be self-expressed and explore what is going on for them is key to creating impact.