Sometimes, in a world made up of business calculations and profits, we find a true gem - an enterprising company that sincerely works to give back to the community. BookYogaRetreats had the pleasure of interviewing Alina de Vilder, the SEO of Mindful Adventure, a travel agency specializing in taking you on beautiful safaris in East Africa. The interview with Alina is raw, sincere and incredibly inspiring.
Tell us how Mindful Adventure came about. What inspired you and motivated you?
Because of my dramatic background I became a therapist and along the way specialized in meditation techniques, breath and bodywork. As a caretaker I found myself being abused and captured in the drama triangle many times. This triangle shows the unhealthy dynamic between three types; rescuer, victim and prosecutor. When it comes to Africa this triangle becomes grotesque. I started sponsoring the Masaï people to go to school. There was nothing in it for me. These charity projects grew, but after two years I found out that the central person in all my activities was cheating and lying to me. When I confronted him, he turned it around and tried to make me look like an abuser. In the middle of the mentioned triangle I knew I had it with charity. But I still wanted to support the Masaï to find ways to have an income. Together with a young, unemployed, and friendly tourguide, we decided to start Mindful Adventure. The goal is to bring sustainable tourism to Ngorongoro, create income for the Masai that live there, continue the sponsoring of their little school and contribute to a better future for the young tourguide and his family. In doing so I am in the middle of a great adventure myself, not knowing where it is going and developing skills in myself that so far has not been used much. It is totally thrilling to live like this.
Tell us more about the Masaï people and how important have their experiences been in your own life.
The Masaï is a tribe that live mostly in Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Serengeti. Ngorongoro Crater Highland is one of the ten most beautiful places on earth. The area and the Masaï are very marketable but they do not profit much. The government decided long ago that they were allowed to stay on the land of their ancestors but they were not allowed to cultivate it. So they can’t build better houses, trade or venture into agriculture. They have goats and cows but not many because the government believes that the cows are drinking the water of the wild animals that live there and graze too much grass. Therefore the Masaï are very poor. They have nothing, no jobs and hardly any food. They live on milk and ugali (provided by the government). I was the first white woman to visit them and sleep in their village. Their harsh life is harrowing and since that first time I connected with them and do what I can to make a little difference.
What has been your greatest challenge and sweetest experience throughout your journey with Mindful Adventure?
My greatest challenge is dealing with the lies and cheatings of the African culture. Sometimes it has been very painful to me when I trusted a person but was fooled and betrayed. The challenge is to keep an open heart and not harden yourself. Instead it asked leadership from me. I need to tell them exactly what I want and what I do not want. I learned not to explain everything. They just want a yes or no. Otherwise abuse starts right away. I learned to connect and love people but never ever to trust them completely. It is sad but it is reality.
My sweetest experience was on my first stay in the Masaï village Endonyowas. I slept there three nights and I was overwhelmed by all the new impressions. And then this little girl knocks on my door in the middle of the night. She spoke no English and she was just standing there at the entree. After some nice words and hand gestures I tried to send her home but she did not leave. I went back to bed but she stayed. Then I opened my sleeping bag and invited her in and there I was in the middle of Afrika with a lovely Masaï girl in my arms. She stole my heart and one year later I sent her to a vocational school with the help of 13 friends. She is sitting her exam in June this year.
What role does meditation play on the journeys that visitors will take?
Meditation is important on this trip. It provides moments that people can be alone with themselves. To me, meditation is about being present where you are. And when everybody is really present, wonderful things can happen inside them but also with each other. I have no fixed program. We are travelling every day and unforeseen things can happen all the time. Meditation is about allowing the unknown to happen and follow impulses that come up. Throughout the day I will offer meditation and exercise. I will make suggestions during rides in the jeep. Sometimes I will spontaneously explain something about our essence and how to connect with that. Our mind is basically interested in our survival. In Africa they can see how it works. Survival is there out on the streets. Our essence is free of that, watching and relaxing in whatever comes up. I am married to a musician and music plays a big role in my safaris. Music helps us to be touched and to open more to nature, life and other people. But every group is different and my suggestions will depend on what the group can handle and wants.
Image Courtesy of Mindful Adventure
Where do you see yourself and Mindful Adventure 5 years down the road?
I see myself having a great time. I see myself flourish and giving everything I have to the people that join us on our safaris. I see myself play and laugh and relax, knowing that Mindful Adventure offers offers a different quality in this world. A quality of true connection and relaxation. Money is no drive in our business. That is unique in itself.
I see the Masaï of Endonyowas flourish because they have regular visitors and they welcome them in their boma. They will have enough food because we created a sleeping boma for our guests and they make an income with that.
I see that in 5 years more people will hear about us and come with us because most people like to travel with friends and most people like the idea that profits are going to the local people and not to the rich elite. And also most people like to walk and feel the wind in their hair and the sun on their skin instead of driving in a closed jeep all day.