Eventually I reach the point where I have this overwhelming urge for adventure. It starts small, sometimes with an inability to stay focused, to stay seated, but the yearning is like a rising tide, and I know I’ll only feel better if I go.
I had just quit my job in a big consultancy company after working for some years in corporate social responsibility and seeing that at the time very few companies had a real commitment to the communities where they were operating.
In the summer of 2014 I travelled to Nicaragua to spend three months living with a local family in the hills of the northern region of Somoto, volunteering on a water and sanitation project in an extremely rural area. I've always been drawn to adventure and sought out ways to push myself, which is why I decided to sign up to three months without a phone, running water or flushing toilets.
My name is Naghmeh Manshadi and I am the Chief Adventuring Officer of NAMO Journey. Needless to say, I’m passionate about journeys, but particularly the kind of journey where you travel both into the world and into yourself simultaneously.
It seems like yesterday that I was a happy-go-lucky anthropology student at Cornell riding around the Finger Lakes and teaching bicycle instruction to wide-eyed freshman. After graduation, it seemed natural that I would expand my pedaling horizons to Europe, seek out my Italian roots in Le Marche.
Sometimes there are moments that are just meant to happen for an unknown reason. I was once again surrounded by everything we talk about as what’s beautiful in the great outdoors – the sky, the rocks, interesting plants, unique wildlife and the sounds of the Australian bush.
I walked up the hill to this small white and blue Greek chapels. One of those standing by itself on a cliff overlooking the vast ocean. The sun was shining, and the earth smelled like oregano. I turned the doorknob on the dark wooden door and to my surprise it was unlocked. Inside it was dark, cool, and light shone in through the small windows high up on the wall.
On the 15th of March 2015, I set off with a small group of intrepid adventurers and paddlers from Cape Town in high spirits and armed with a mixture of nervousness and excitement. Our destination: a little known former hunting concession area deep inside Botswana's Okavango Delta. Our mission: to be the first people to explore the far regions of the famous Delta by Stand Up Paddleboard.
Our Camp was built on a dream. When we first arrived at the site and scrambled up a tree to get a better look at the lay of the land, we were captivated by the incredible views, our immediate intimacy with nature, the unspoiled and raw beauty of what our senses were experiencing. It was intoxicating and overwhelming in its uniqueness: a Galapagos experience that defied description.
November 13, 2015 (coincidentally my twin daughter’s shared 33rd birthday) I saw opening credits for a film called The 33. It was a film about 33 Chilean miners who were trapped underground for weeks and weeks before being rescued. I remember the nightly drama unfolding on the evening news as rescuers…
I was on a bit of a break myself. Six months before, I was in Ecuador for a conference and there I realized I could fulfill a longtime personal dream of mine to take a monthlong Spanish immersion class.
Below me the Rio Piedras followed its gentle course, carrying its crystalline water down to meet the sea. Behind me the verdant peaks of the world’s tallest coastal mountain, Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, stretched up to infinity. A wave of joy coursed through me, bringing the promise of an incredible day.
And then I was in my mid-30s and suddenly wanted a child. And I was scared that my life would be over then. My life as I liked it: Entrepreneur, traveling, being spontaneous, flexible schedule. And so much more.
It has been 16 years since my mom passed away from cancer and I can still feel her absence so acutely in various moments of each day that it is as though time has not moved at all. As I navigate this journey without her I have clung to the threads of her memories real and imagined which I allow myself to sparingly indulge in.
I got more and more lightheaded with each second the tram inched its way up the 2625ft mountain.Was I really doing this? I really couldn’t back down now?? I had just been told that the 7 zip-lines were how we got down the mountain.
On Changing Career: I travelled the world for work as a professional polo player in my 20’s and it sparked a love for different cultures and travel. I saw first hand how polo was played in different areas of the world and how a shared experience could unite across language barriers.
I looked down and didn’t recognize the number, so I ignored it. A few minutes later my phone was vibrating again, once again I ignored it. The third time the number popped on my phone, I excused myself from the meeting and swiped to answer the call. My life would never be the same.
What might be learned is limitless when we value others, are mindful, present, and when we listen. This experience left me wanting to try harder, to be a better person on a daily basis, and to be a much better traveler.