by Janica Hierath
I’m a 26-year-old student from Germany who arrived at Campfire Academy with no expectations. I fell in love with South Africa, and Hoedspruit, seven years ago and I’ve been coming back again and again. When I started planning this study/intern trip, I really wasn’t too concerned about where I ended up as long as it was in Hoedspruit. I had already found a home-away-from-home here and I had many local friends to whom I could escape if my intern placement turned out to be less interesting than I was hoping.
I arrived at the beginning of November when all the other student programmes had already concluded for the year. My task was to design a simple research plan to determine the amount of plastic waste generated on the property and to make recommendations for reducing, re-using and recycling this plastic waste. I was going to be the only student in camp for two months and I was a bit scared of spending such a long time with only my thoughts (and a troop of cheeky Vervet Monkeys who wanted to ‘share’ my breakfast every morning).
I came to Campfire Academy to learn more about environmental management, nature and science. My research was very interesting; I learnt a lot and I’m looking forward to seeing how the research develops. But, I also had the chance to explore something deeper: myself. The most exciting part of my adventure and the greatest lesson of my life was this alone – but not lonely – time I was gifted with Mother Nature. How many people can say they have had a wildlife camp all to themselves for that long? I almost set up house on the top level of the camp viewing tower. I was there every morning to greet the sunrise and worked on my project overlooking the Lowveld savannah. I am a very social person and I love to be surrounded by people but I had the wonderful privilege of experiencing and enjoying nature with my senses 100%, zero distractions.
Everyone who visits Campfire becomes part of the Campfire Tribe but I feel that I got a special chance to become part of the family because of the timing of my visit. We had a lovely Christmas in camp and I joined for the family holiday in Mozambique. New Year’s Eve on the beach! The Campfire Family gave me love and space for my growth and whenever I needed something I had wonderful support from the whole team. I am so thankful for that.
The golden message Mother Nature shared with me, that I want to share with you, is love for the little things! I’ve loved wildlife since childhood, always drawing elephants, my favorite animal. An elephant is fantastic, and nothing out there is more fascinating to me. BUT I started noticing little things around me during my time at Campfire. If you open your eyes, and your heart, to more than the Big 5, you’ll see unbelievable beauty and magic in insects, flowers, grasses, spiders and a myriad of other marvelous things.
So I started to take pictures of each new, tiny creature or plant I hadn’t seen before. And it was absolutely stunning! Every day there was a new, tiny thing that blew my mind. My message from nature to you is to stop waiting for the big things to feel happiness. You will miss so much beauty in life. Begin reading between the lines and open your eyes to the tiny things in life – because they could give you so much peace and joy. Don’t miss out on this!
For everyone who is interested in doing more than collecting data or writing reports on their student travels, for everyone who also wants to have an epic encounter with themselves and share that experience with an awesome tribe of people: Campfire Academy is the place to be.
Towards the end of my stay, the FGASA students arrived for the first Apprentice Field Guide course of the year. We were all from different countries and different ages but ultimately our hearts beat together. They were also my people, kindred spirits with whom I could share and grow. This is what Campfire Academy is about. Come back to nature and flourish with people whose hearts beat the same melody.
Thank you, Campfire Family! See you nana! And to the #CampfireTribe2020: keep the beat! Love you lots!