Uncle Lee warned me.
“Don’t say that, unless you want to go for a long ride,” he said. He’d just helped me, age 12, climb aboard Rex, the horse on my dad’s family ranch in rural New Mexico. Like the tenderfoot I was, I’d immediately uttered, “heeyah!”
I did it again, moments later.
Rex bolted into a Secretariat-like pace. I held on and prayed to Jesus. And whoever the patron saint of horse-riders was. Rex – as wide as he was tall and survivor of rattlesnake and porcupine attacks – finally stopped at the next ranch.
Today’s guest poster has a more decorated horse-riding pedigree.
Darley Newman is a travel expert, published author and TV host and producer. Her PBS show, Equitrekking, has won Emmy awards. Women in Philanthropy and Leadership recognized Darley as an Inspiring Woman Award winner.
That she is.
And she’s also kind. I wrote to her blog to ask about affordable horse-riding experiences in the southeast recently. It shocked me to get a note back from the host herself. She’s even participated in one 6 Words, with another on the way.
Darley’s on the CD to tell about her mom’s influence on her life, and of some incredible experiences that all trump my wild ride on Rex many years ago. Please give her a warm welcome, and be sure to check out her incredible travel blog.
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I grew up with a “Coach Mama,” who was not only my soccer coach but also my mentor and coach in life. A single mother of three children and an entrepreneur, my mom faced many challenges, but she always rose to the occasion and kept a positive attitude along the way. She never accepted “no” for an answer and served as a great example to me.
Always challenging me to get out of my comfort zone, whether it was allowing me to careen through the neighborhood on my bicycle well before most kids were let out of their yards, or sending me to Spain one summer in high school to live with a family and learn Spanish, my mother fostered in me a sense of independence and confidence that has served well throughout my life.
An entrepreneur myself, I launched an unlikely business and made it a success through creativity, an entrepreneurial spirit and determination. My job for the last few years has been to travel the world horseback riding with local people while filming for the Emmy-winning series I created, Equitrekking. An unlikely career–– yes!
Beginning as just a dream, Equitrekking is now broadcast nationally on PBS and international networks in over 82 countries. The series has spun off an award-winning travel book, successful websites and new online travel series including Travels with Darley on AOL and Travel Like the Locals on Scripps Networks ulive. It’s also won three Daytime Emmy Awards and inspired many people to have their own active travel adventures.
During my travels, I’ve ridden into the crater of a volcano on Maui, hiked with the San Bushmen in Africa and climbed mountains with cowboys in Alberta and been fortunate to share these once in a lifetime experiences with viewers, including many families who watch the series.
In the true spirit of travel and adventure, I thought I’d share three of the traits Coach Mama instilled in me that has helped me reach my dreams and survive and appreciate the challenges.
1. Courage—My Elephant charge in Botswana
That’s me with the brown helmet on looking back at this elephant, which was really close! No one was hurt, as the elephant was “mock charging” us, meaning he actually trumpeted loudly and ran right up to us, but stopped before he ran us over. We had a stare down of about ten seconds before he backed off. Had we run, the elephant would have run us down.
Did I know what to do in this situation? Not at all! My guide had told me to do whatever he said and follow him closely, which I did. It was a scary experience, as a near elephant-trampling should be. I thought about getting off my horse afterward and not riding for the rest of the trip, not knowing if my shaky legs would hold me or what would be around that next bend. Like many times in life, I instead shored up the courage to keep on riding and was rewarded by the most amazing wildlife viewing I’ve ever seen and a true appreciation for animals in the wild. I also got to know the kind people of Botswana who make a life in its wild environments. What a treasure! Moreover, I listened to my guides – experts in safari customs and survival. Had I not, or had I allowed fear to overtake me, I would not be here to write this article.
2. Confidence–– Riding with the Bedouin in Jordan
I was definitely nervous to ride with the Bedouin through the desert in Jordan. I would be riding Arabian horses, which are known to be spirited, and I wasn’t sure if my riding skills would be sufficient. I worried about getting hurt and if I would fit in with the all-male group with whom I was riding.
It turned out that I had nothing to worry about. The riding, while a challenge, was nothing I couldn’t handle. I was matched with a wonderful Arabian horse named Chams, who, though strong and fast, listened to me. As we galloped into the desert, he pulled back when I asked. I kept up with the group, leading with my guide Atallah Swalhen. The whole journey is an example of how embracing another culture’s way of life and sportsmanship can transcend cultural and gender barriers. I kept up with my Bedouin friends and relaxed as the trip progressed, opening up myself and allowing them to open up to me.
Atallah grew up in the desert, but like many modern Bedouin, now is working to make a life outside of the desert, breeding Arabian horses, competing in desert endurance races and leading travelers like me on horse treks. I didn’t know what to expect in meeting a modern-day Bedouin, but what I loved about Atallah was his genuine sincerity in sharing his life with me and the world and his positivity for the future. He is working to make a better life for his children and for the next generation of Jordanians while still attempting to keep his culture and traditions alive.
Atallah and I still email once a month. Not much is said in each email, as I don’t speak Arabic and his written English is limited, but what Atallah and so many people from different walks of life have shown me in my travels is that no matter how different we may seem, we are at the core very much alike.
3. Creativity–– A new plan on the Big Island
You never know what’s going to happen when you travel somewhere new to film. There are always surprises. While filming on Hawaii’s Big Island, we encountered more than a few surprises that disrupted our filming. We were staying in this cool house in Hilo whose walls were all made of screens, so the air could flow through. While it was amazing, it wasn’t the best place to be for a major storm. A hurricane was coming ashore and with it came an earthquake. I experienced my first earthquake in that house and it really shook.
We knew that we had to evacuate to another part of the island. The question was where to go and what to film to complete our episode. I quickly switched gears and changed around our schedule, getting creative with what we’d film in the coming days. It turned out great and no one was hurt, but the entire situation required a cool head under pressure and some creativity to fill our filming slate.
That wasn’t the end of our weather woes, though. Later in the shoot, we were riding in Waipio Valley, a valley that was destroyed by a tsunami in 1946, and there was a tsunami warning. Then, while filming at a ranch in Waimea, there was a nearby wildfire! Fortunately, we still were able to film a great episode, despite our bad luck on the Big Island.
In 2005, my mom passed away suddenly. I had just spoken with her the day before. Though I didn’t get to say good-bye, I do believe that by living my life to the fullest, I am honoring her. This huge loss of my biggest cheerleader, mentor and friend made me want to live every day to it’s fullest and made me realize how short life can be.
For all you out there who have a dream or passion, my advice is to take the reins and go after it, whether it’s for business or pleasure. If someone tells you that you’re not good enough or you get a “no” on the road to your dreams, don’t let it dissuade you. One thing I’ve learned from my experiences is that you don’t necessarily have to be the best at what you do, but you do have to bring your uniqueness to whatever it is you decide to take on and you definitely can’t give up.