One Wild Life: A Journey to Discover people who change our World’
is an account of a journey I made, travelling the globe for 11 months documenting inspiring stories of social change throughout the world.
It was published by The Collins Press in April 2009.
Travelling across 17 countries, I sought out individuals who have stepped off the beaten path to make a greater difference. My journey led me to meet a former rocket scientist turned inventor, an economist turned philanthropist and a myriad of inspirational people from all walks of life using their ideas and innovation to make the world a better place.
They are stories we do not hear frequently enough in the media. They are stories that I believe need to be written, documented and spread. They point a new direction for business and social change across the globe. And deep in my heart, I knew that writing and photographing the stories in ‘One Wild Life’ was the right thing to do. The more I travelled and the more I met these people, the more inspired I became. And that further inspired me to push on with publishing the work.
With a laptop, camera and open mind, I set out on the journey alone. Taking me along were buses, boats, taxis, trains and dug-out canoes. There were beds in hostels, on stranger’s sofas and in bus stations. There were long dusty roads, through slums and squallor. There were heavy bag and weighty issues.
The map of my journey was drawn from stories along the road of projects and people who had inspiring stories to tell. From the slums of India to the remotest islands of Tonga, I experienced the hardships and joys on our planet and met those who face the most incredible obstacles and still push through to make a positive change. Travelling as a single woman carries both challenge and risk, but it was counter balanced by encountering amazing people along the journey.
By recounting the life stories of others who are already engaged in social change work, it hopes to show the paths and choices people have taken to enable them to do the work that they do. When money seems to be the ultimate sign of prosperity, One Wild Life sought to provide a refreshing, hopeful account, through words and images, highlighting the importance of social profit and not just financial gain.
The book was designed to be read in chuncks of bite-sized pieces of inspiration, with engaging, positive and thought provoking imagery.
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This journey started life as a fridge magnet. On it was written the following:
Whatever you Do
Or Dream YOU CAN
AND MAGIC IN IT. [GOETHE]
The quote, living on my fridge door, was a reminder of a dream I had. It was a dream that would not go away, no matter how hard I tried to ignore it. Every time I looked at the fridge door out the dream would pop. ‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can do . . .’ For months and months it lingered and intensified. ‘Begin it . . .’
It was the type of dream that told me there is something better than this; that the world doesn’t have to be the way it is. It told me that there were parts of myself yet to discover. It told me that there are ideas that could shape me, places I could learn from, people who could teach me. It seemed to know that life could be richer, better, fuller, not just for me, but for everyone.
But it was an annoying dream. Because I was too busy. Because I didn’t have the money. Because I was frightened of pushing myself. Because I didn’t want to do it alone. Because I was scared of how it would change me. But the dream insisted.
Every time I opened the fridge door, there it was: three-inches square and staring me in the face.
It was telling me to wake up to possibilities. I wanted to ignore it but it was calling me to venture, to explore, to learn, to ask questions, to tell stories . . .
‘But I am nervous . . .’
‘But I don’t have all the skills . . .’
‘But I don’t think I can do it . . .’
‘But why me . . .’
So I began.
Two and a half years on, that was the best advice I ever got from a fridge magnet. Never before did I realise that a three-inch square could be so powerful. Never did I realise that the people I would encounter along the way would change the way I think and feel so dramatically.
In the end my journey took me across five continents in eleven months. I started off with interviews in Ireland and then headed down to East Africa, landing firstly in Nairobi. Then it was on to Cape Town via Uganda, Tanzania and Mozambique. From there it was to Asia, spending three months in India, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Then to Australia, New Zealand, Tonga and Samoa. The last leg of the journey took me to the United States – West Coast first, with San Francisco – then to the East Coast trio of Washington, New York and Boston.
The travel was as intense as it was rewarding, but it was not always easy with an oversized rucksack and with laptop and camera at the ready.
There were lots of trains, buses, planes, boats, bikes, pick-ups, rickshaws, taxis and even canoes. I walked a lot, sometimes much more than I ever intended to. I got lost – a lot – constantly testing my already dubious sense of direction. But no matter how many times I got lost, I would – usually with the help of a stranger – always find my way again.
I travelled over rough terrain and smooth terrain, sometimes over roads that bore the label of road but really did not deserve it. There were times when I was lonely, times when I was not.
I was confronted with poverty and a scale of problems that I never thought existed.
I was in slums and five-star hotels, sometimes on the same day.
There was heat that made me want to drop, humidity that made me think I was evaporating and tiredness that made me want never to get up. Sometimes I liked the food. Sometimes the food didn’t like me. I laughed. I cried. I cheered. I danced. I swam. I sang. I listened. I shared. I smiled. A lot.
I stayed in hotels and hostels, in people’s homes, in bus stations, train stations, tents and airports.
There were moments of intense happiness and moments intense pain.
But along the way, as I travelled over those bumpy roads, meeting changemaker after changemaker, visiting project after project, in the fivestar hotel and in the slums, in Ireland or in India, my understanding of myself and the world was altered. I did things I never knew I could. I went to places I never knew existed. I met people who I never realised would change me.
Travel does this to you. It enriches as it shakes. Perceptions start to shift and alter. You start to shift and alter. You take a step and the world unfolds with colour and learning. You take a step and the world takes the next ten.
The world? Well, it’s the people you meet along the way who point you in the right direction. Or a book you read which clarifies a point. Or a film you see which sparks a train of new thought. Or that kid you play football with. Or that mother you make eye contact with. Or that beggar you pass on the street. Or the visionary who believes, and continues to believe, that the world can and should be a better place.
Along the way I was certainly inspired, and life may just never be the same again.