Meet two women about to go on the most incredible journey - and find out how you can follow in their footsteps.
It’s very easy to feel a little bit ‘meh’ about life sometimes, isn’t it? Either on a personal note when it can all feel a little monotonous from time to time, or on a wider scale when it can seem all doom and gloom in the world. Sound familiar? Good, we’re on the same page, then.
If you’re feeling like the year is rattling on by and you’ve not yet had the opportunity to stand still and take stock, answer these questions, like you once would have done in your weekly copy of Cosmo: are you feeling the need to travel? Are you itching to go off the beaten track instead of the run-of-the-mill all inclusive? do you fancy joining a group of like-minded women for 9 days and being a part of something incredible? If the ticks have gone crazy, then we’re feeling quite pleased with ourselves, because we’ve only gone and found a pretty damn brilliant solution *smug faces*.
This is Kate and her husband Dominic. Together they run Orbis Expeditions between Africa and err, Devon. It’s a company that specialises in experiential travel, supports eco-tourism and arranges bespoke trips to Africa that strike the balance of being memorable both for you and for the young local women of the schools and villages that you get to visit.
This year, Kate is putting together two awesome 9-day trips to one of the purest parts of the country, Malawi and she’s looking for women who are keen to travel and to have the chance to share their skills, empowering young entrepreneurs. How good does that sound?
As well as going behind the scenes in Malawi, staying on a fair trade tea estate and spending time in the villages, you’ll hike up a mountain, take a night-time wildlife safari and round it off nicely at the end with sundowners on the idyllic Mumbo island. Sounding even better, right?!
The first trip is full and the team depart for Malawi this weekend (not jealous at.all.nope) , but we’ve been given a sneaky insight into what’s motivated two Devon ladies, Caroline Sweby and Laura McDonagh, to get involved. Prepare to be envious, awe-inspired and then have a think about whether this is something you might like to do – there are still spaces for the next trip, happening in the Autumn.
So what makes two career-driven women want to pause everything and go on a journey like this?
Caroline: Both my husband and I grew up in Plymouth and we moved back here after a few years away with university and first jobs. I trained to be an accountant with a local firm and have worked at various practices over 19 years. We have two girls, Ella 12 and Abby 9 and I went back to work part time after both of them. We are a very normal family, going to school and work, having the usually holidays to France on the ferry, all completely lovely but nothing out of the ordinary. When I listened to Kate at the Plymouth Women In Business networking event back in April 2017 I just knew instantly that I had to go on this trip. It was something completely different, away from an office and something just for me.
Laura: My need to help people worse off than me is why I chose to join the expedition. I’ve gone through some really tough times in my life and hit rock bottom and what got me out of it was what people around me did. I find this extremely important and now that I’m in a position where I can give back, I want to. Transferring my skills to the people we’ll be meeting on top of what the other women on the expedition are skilled at is something I find very heartwarming.
It’s a super-tempting opportunity, obvs, but what really appealed to you?
C: The variety of things that we’ll doing; we’ll see such a diverse range things. I also love the fact that we get to use our skills to help some Malawian business women so that they can create or grow their own business.
L: The fact the group is made up entirely of women is what really inspired me to join this expedition. I’m all about girl power and women building one another up and this expedition is exactly that.
Have you ever done anything like this before?
C: I went to The Gambia back in 1993 when I was in the sixth form. On my trip we made a lot of bricks to build a classroom and got to meet the local children. It was a real eye opener and I loved it. I’ve always wanted to go back to Africa and this trip has given me that opportunity.
L: This is the first time I will be joining a trip like this, I’ve always wanted to do something before but it’s so easy to stay in your comfort zone and never say yes to a new adventure.
I love that you get to help young entrepreneurial women in Malawi, but what are you expecting to get from this expedition, on a personal level?
C: I want to experience something completely different. We tend to get caught up in the routines of life that we need to just stop every now and then and see what else is happening on this big planet of ours.
L: On a personal level I’m hoping to discover who I am and where I want my life personally and professionally to progress to. I graduated three years ago and am still searching for where my passion lies for a career.
So how do you feel you’re going to be able to contribute to the women you’ll meet?
C: I really hope that my financial skills can be used to help the business women progress with their businesses. If I can make a difference to them that ultimately allows them to succeed then that would be great.
L: The hope for when I am there is to give all of my time to anyone who needs it, doing whatever that may be. I’m particularly interested in visiting the school and village. I am also hoping to see some elephants in the wild as they’re my favourite animal! I’m also going to be filming and taking photos of the entire expedition in order to create some material for The Responsible Safari company to use after to raise as much awareness as possible.
What would you say to anyone contemplating joining the next trip later this year?
C: Just do it! It’s a once in a life time opportunity, so grab it.
L: Just go for it. I’m still nervous now with only a few weeks to go but I’m also beyond excited.
What have you been doing to plan for the trip?
C: I’m currently liaising with Kate’s Malawian accountant to try to learn about their tax system so that I can write a workshop to teach the basics of keeping an income and expenditure account, to the business women.
L: I’ve been reading up a lot on Malawi, as the only place outside of Europe that I’ve been to is the US and this is only my second long-haul trip. I used to be afraid of nearly everything but the past six months I’ve really pushed my boundaries and challenged myself so preparation has been the key.
How has the experience been so far? Have you been bonding as a team?
C: It’s been great. Sometimes the amount of information and things to sort has been a little daunting but the whole group is in contact with each other so a quick message to them and someone is either feeling the same or knows the answer so I don’t feel on my own at all. All the Plymouth based team got together at the weekend for a walk on Dartmoor and a run through the trip, which was invaluable.
L: As a team we have bonded really well, we have constant contact via social media and emails in order to prepare for what we want to do when we arrive. A few of us met up on Sunday to get our plans together and Kate and Dom have also been awesome since we became a part of the expedition and have helped with everything we needed.
What’s the one thing you’ll be slipping into your case that you can’t do without?!
C: I’m pretty good at coping without things but I am trying to work out if I can fit my own pillow in my case. Its really old and flat but I never get a good nights sleep on anything else!
L: Insect-repellent will be the first item in my luggage as I’m like a magnet to all and any insects that bite, so won’t be taking any chances (I’m also like Phoebe off of Friends when she gets chicken pox…I can’t stop scratching them!!)
How can people show you their support?
We have a donation page for anyone that would like to help either with seed money for the business ladies or providing an exam goodie bag for the form 4 students at Rainbow Hope Secondary School so that they have all the equipment they need to sit their final exams.
If you crave the idea of being parachuted out of the incessant demands of your life and well and truly out of your comfort zone, I have two words for you: DO IT! For all the details on the next 9-day expedition, get in touch with Kate at orbis-expeditions.com.