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Embracing change at 45! My journey as a Bushwise Field Guide

This blog was written by Natalie Steiner, a Bushwise Professional Field Guide student. Each student takes a turn as camp manager, and writing a blog is part of the experience.


4 min read 


I’m currently on day 91 of my 50-week Bushwise NQF2 field guide training course, and let’s just say it’s been a whirlwind since day 1. Sitting down to write this blog is the first opportunity I’ve had to reflect on how and why I’ve ended up here, and there’s no doubt it has been a unique and valuable adventure. Thankfully, it is far from over yet…


There are 30 students on my course and we all have our own reasons and motivation for signing up and committing to the program, with one thing in common – our desire to spend time outdoors and to learn about the natural world that surrounds us. I knew coming into the course that I would likely be the oldest student in my cohort – at the ripe old age of 45, I know that I’m not ancient but I’m definitely on the more ‘mature’ end of the age scale. 



Some of my friends back home asked how I thought I might get on, given that everyone would likely be younger than me. Without meaning to, often people project their own fears and anxieties onto you when you’re making a decision that they know would make them feel uncomfortable if they were in your shoes. 


I tried to avoid those thoughts, but it was hard not to mull it over a lot before I arrived on campus. I was worried about whether I’d feel too old and boring, be too inflexible to deal with living life in a tent and if I still had the ability to study and remember everything for the exams, not to mention if I’d have the skills to complete all the practical aspects of the course. I tried to counter all the worries by reminding myself that I’ve been driving a car for over 20 years, which would surely help with the handling of the game viewer vehicle. I’ve also worked as a corporate executive assistant for many years so I’ve had my fair share of working for difficult bosses, handling conflicts with colleagues and being exposed to high pressure and stressful environments, so surely that would help me navigate campus life and the pressure of the assessments.


In some ways, the course has been much harder than I imagined. The workload, the deadlines and the volume of information to learn has seemed overwhelming at times. For weeks at a time, I’ve just lived and breathed studying, assessments and pushing myself to attain the best possible results with little thought for anything outside of the Bushwise bubble. But at no time during that have I ever felt that my age was holding me back, if anything, it was providing me with the resilience I needed to take everything one day at a time and to deal with the rollercoaster of emotions that come with field guide training. And let’s not even talk about the mind games that track and sign assessments cause! 



The truth is, you never really know how you’re going to handle a situation until you’re in it. The older you get, the more you realise that all the experiences you’ve had up to that point, help you to build an inner confidence in your own abilities and teach you to trust your own judgement. Even if those around you may have doubts about your decision, the reality is, it isn’t their life, it’s yours. It is for you to determine what is best for you, for you to trust in your instincts and follow your own path and for you to chase the dreams and adventures you’ve held in your heart and maybe never thought could become a possibility. 


And as for age, as the saying goes, it is just a number. The positive mindset, energy and good vibes you bring to any situation are far more important than the year you were born. Of course, I’ve learnt an incredible amount about the bush so far and, at the same time, I’ve also proved to myself that it is never too late. I’m one assessment drive away from qualifying as a field guide, so just in case you’re reading this and wondering whether you should take the leap into something new, the answer is, absolutely YES! I can promise you, you won’t regret it 😊.


Learn more about Bushwise courses, and apply now to start your own adventure as a safari guide. 


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