The depths of Africa is a great place to get back to nature and back to the natural rhythm of life especially if you choose to rough it in the wilds and not take the soft option of guided tours and safari’s.
I am fortunate to be friends with a couple from South Africa who have for many years invited my family to visit their holiday home at Ingwelala (private game reserve) on the edge of the Kruger National Park. What I was not aware of was Johan and Welna’s absolute passion for the great outdoors and living a very simplistic lifestyle in a bush camp with no water or electricity and becoming one with nature.
They have taught me so much about the wild life of Africa – especially within the many Bush Reserves in Botswana that it brings me to understand how far humans have moved away from their natural habitat. Day after day I have watched – elephants, giraffes, lions, honey badgers, leopards, impala, ground squirrels, springbok, meerkats, leopards and so much more living in their natural habitat. It is the first time I’ve seen these animals apart from in captivity at a zoo or on a documentary. The animals move differently and behave differently to ones that I’ve seen in zoos. The people of Botswana also live in harmony, their modest round dirt huts made from termite mounds, cows dung and water along with their simple way of living gives me a sense how simple life can be.
I realise that living how we live we are humans in captivity in a type of zoo, and even though we may believe we have the fine life perhaps it is not. By living in captivity we have created, ill health, depression and unhappiness for many. Yes we have everything but perhaps the everything we have is nothing at all.
The fact that I had just read Lights Out by TS Wiley as well as listened to all the interviews on the Paleo Summit and Taubes book Good Calories, Bad Calories, may also have some bearing on how I’m feeling now. The books and the interviews point out that since the advent of electricity and lights, computer screens and television our lives have changed significantly from the night fires and candle light evenings.
The animals live by the season and by the availability of food. Many animals will not be fertile unless there is enough food and water. The seasons are determined not so much by the heat and cold but rather by the night and day. Short days and long nights means winter, long days and short night heralds summer. The animals migrate and breed accordingly. Their biochemistry determines the laying down of fat, fertility and hormone changes in order to work with the elements.
If humans were not captives in their own zoo they too would function with the seasons and the changes in night time and day time. Life would be punctuated by night fall and sunrise. But we live in a perpetual summer, where lights are often on till after midnight, we spend our evening in front of computer screens, smart phones and televisions. Our houses are lit up like day light and our biochemistry does what it needs to do in order to find homeostasis.
Summer was a time to lay down fat to prepare for the winter, to breed and for the female become pregnant and then give birth in the spring. We now live in a perpetual summer where the days are always long with the help of lights and the nights are short.
Our food supply as it was with animals was once seasonal but now most of us don’t know what a summer and a winter fruit or vegetable might be. Normally in summer carbohydrates were abundantly available and we would store fat on our bodies with the carbohydrates for the winter, but now we have an all round supply of carbs which continually helps us lay down fat in readiness for a winter that never comes.
In Botswana they do live a simple life, I’ve not seen one television set or arial, although I’m sure they exist but obviously not in every home. Their food is simple, meat, maize (they have only eaten this food since western influence) and some limited greens with a few fruits. I’ve been to many a supermarket and more often there is limited supply of fruit and vegetables but abundance of meat and maize. One isolated petrol station and shop I went to had only white sugar, white rice, white flour and soda drinks available. Everything else was stripped from the shelves, I’m hoping they haven’t been wooed by western food.
They sleep when it is dark and wake when it is light, I have seen very few overweight people definitely not an obese person in sight. In general their teeth are white and straight and it reminds me of the work of the dentist Weston Price in his land mark book ‘Nutrition and Physical Degeneration: A Comparison of Primitive and Modern Diets and Their Effects’. He noticed that civilisations that ate a mostly hunter gatherer diet had consistently no teeth decay with wider upper and lower palates and little or no teeth crowding.
Coming to a country like Botswana highlights that western living may just be like humans living in captivity. We have everything including a high carbohydrate, low fat diet, no sleep, little natural movement and increasing stress coupled with lifestyle diseases including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, dementia and so on.
Travel is a great time to put life into perspective especially traveling to countries with basic needs. Can we live in western society but also live in harmony with our natural surroundings so that our evolutionary biochemistry and biology can cope, I believe we can and here are some things I’ll be working on when I get home.
- Consume a diet based on natural foods and foods that biologically we have adapted to eat.
- Put dimmers on lights and begin to turn the lights down low after sunset.
- Get at least 8-9 hours sleep a night, at least 3 before midnight.
- Spend time in nature as much as possible.
- Move naturally taking time to walk daily, create a routine where all joints are mobolised.
- Take time out to learn about the sunsets and moon rises as these are important for our cycles, circadian rhythms and geo-thermals.
- Follow the seasons, in the summer live up the long days, but in the winter spend some time in hibernation and sleeping.
- Declutter your life – look for the needs in life not the wants.
- Nurture family relationships.
If we do this we may become people with not only health but also a contentedness and harmony in life.
Happy Changing Habits