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My Story

Joanne Hedger holding a mug

My personal story begins growing up on a dairy farm in Sussex – scrumping apples or picking hops for Dad to brew beer with. Learning which blackberry bushes were best to pick from and that they tasted better if picked in the morning with the Autumn dew still on them. Putting dock leaves on stinging nettle rashes and dropping crushed rosehips down my brothers back to make him itch.  My happiest childhood memories are always when out and about in nature.

Life changed for me when, like so many kids, my parents divorced, and I found myself separated from key family members whilst being introduced to potential new ones. Then, at the difficult age of 13, I was told we would be moving 200 miles away to another county. Not only had I lost a sibling and a father, but now I was losing my friends as well. This was traumatic enough, but the thing that sticks in my mind the most, wasn’t so much losing my friends but losing my connection to nature. I felt I had been plucked from the ground, my roots exposed, and although I successfully replanted myself in Somerset, it wasn’t long before I was once again plucked like an unwanted weed from there too.It was too much. I threw myself into my school work and latterly, my career, taking on evermore stressful roles and striving for perfection. Unbeknownst to me at the time, a silent fear of failure had begun to take hold. Crippling me mentally and causing all kinds of physical health issues, until one particular day, when I was giving a big industry presentation in front of hundreds of people, I found I could no longer manage it, I got almost half way through my slides before the fear set in. I felt like I didn’t deserve to be there, panic was rising in me and I felt like I was losing control of my body. I wanted to rush from the stage or have the floor swallow me up, but my feet were rooted to the spot in sheer dread. I felt suffocated by self-doubt. My palms began to get sweaty, my heart began to race and my voice began to tremble. I ploughed on as usual of course, stumbling through my slides as best I could, but right there on that stage realisation had hit me in a big way – my breaking point was so close and I knew that the deep dark hole threatening to consume me would be tough to escape from. As I sat on the plane that evening, still tapping away on my computer on my way home, something snapped. I slammed the laptop shut and made a promise to myself that I would find another way to live my life. One that gave me purpose and peace. No job, no salary, no expense account was worth this.

What followed was an incredible adventure that started in 2017, and found me living and working in some of the most stunning and remote wilderness of Africa. I enrolled on a one-year safari guide training course living in a tent, in the bush, with no technology, no phones, and extremely limited access to the outside world. I immersed myself in nature and as soon as the course was over, I headed out to Zambia to work as a seasonal safari guide in Kafue National Park. My simpler life had begun.

I couldn’t quite believe the transformation it had on my health. I had energy, I felt alive. I let go of so many issues and left so much baggage behind that my life felt lighter, more joyful and I smiled nearly every minute of every day.

I appreciate not everyone can disappear into the wilderness for 12 months to solve their physical and mental health problems, but I do believe there are simple changes anyone can make to improve their health and well-being.  I wholeheartedly believe in the phrase “The purpose of life is to live a life of purpose”. My purpose is to stop others from falling into a similar trap and heading the same way I was. The natural world has always helped me in such a profound way, that I have become passionate about giving back, not only to nature, but to others by sharing my knowledge, methods and tools.

I strongly believe we can all become better, happier versions of ourselves with a little bit of time spent reconnecting with nature and ourselves.  Whether that’s switching to herbal remedies, sustainable gardening, forest bathing, or listening to your inner voice. Believe me, Mother Nature knows best and she’s willing to teach us, we just need to show up to class now and again.

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