3 Things I Learned From Trekking 156km Across The Sahara Desert in my early 40s

January 3, 2024

Dimple Sthankiya

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Life Lessons I Learned Along the way

The Adventure Of A Lifetime

We did it! A motley crew of 18 souls, including our wise Berber guides, unflappable Nomads, and a bunch of wide-eyed trekkers (myself included), embarked on a 5.5-day odyssey across the Sahara Desert. The mission? To traverse 156 km through a landscape so vast and unforgiving, it makes your everyday problems seem like a piece of cake (a cake you start hallucinating about by day three).

The Sahara Desert: Beauty And Brutality

The desert is nature’s paradox – breathtakingly beautiful yet brutally harsh. Each day, as the sun scorched our backs and the sand filled our boots (and every other conceivable place), we were treated to a visual feast of endless dunes, their shapes ever-changing, like Earth’s own kaleidoscope. Nights brought relief with a sky so star-studded it felt like we were wrapped in a cosmic blanket – a stunning contrast to the daytime’s barrenness.

Pushing Beyond Limits

I’ve always fancied myself a bit of an adventurer – silent yoga retreats, marathons, you name it. But trekking across the Sahara? That’s a whole different kettle of fish (and boy, did I miss fish – and kettles, and basically any food that wasn’t dehydrated). This wasn’t just a physical challenge; it was a mental and spiritual boot camp.

Sahara Lesson 1: Discovering My ‘WHY’

Hiking for a cause – Trekstock, a charity aiding young adults with cancer – gave every grueling step purpose. In the face of such a monumental challenge, remembering the ‘why’ was crucial. It transformed my perspective, turning what could have been a purely physical ordeal into a journey with deeper meaning.

Sahara Lesson 2: Embrace The Power Of Now

At one point, walking under the scorching 48-degree sun, I thought my end might be embarrassingly marked by a giant sweat puddle in the desert. My mind fixated on the finish line, creating unnecessary stress. The moment I shifted my focus to the present – left foot, right foot, repeat – the journey became more manageable. It was like finding the mute button for my mind’s panic mode.

Sahara Lesson 3: The Art Of Accepting Help

I’m the kind of person who would rather carry ten grocery bags in one go than make two trips. Asking for help? Not my forte. But the Sahara has a way of humbling you. When my knee decided to mimic the collapse of a poorly made sandcastle, Marie, a fellow trekker with a talent for storytelling and an enviable collection of bandanas, taught me the value of accepting help. Her support turned a potential meltdown into moments of laughter and deep connection.

A Masterclass In Self-Discovery

This trek was a masterclass in self-discovery. I learned about resilience, the power of a supportive community, and how to turn a simple bandana into a fashion statement (thanks, Marie). The Sahara, with its unending dunes and starry nights, was the perfect backdrop for this journey of growth.


A Day In The Life Of A Desert Trekker

Each day was a mix of awe, pain, laughter, and introspection. Breakfast was usually a hurried affair, gulped down in the cool of the early morning. Then, with backpacks shouldered, we’d set off, our guides leading the way with an ease that made us city folks marvel. The rhythm of the day was dictated by the sun – its rising, its relentless climb to the zenith, and its merciful descent.

Lunch breaks were an exercise in finding shade – a scarce commodity in the desert. We’d huddle under the meager shadow of a solitary tree or a makeshift tent, sharing stories and snacks (I never knew I could get so excited about a pack of nuts).

As the journey progressed, the physical toll was evident. Blisters became badges of honor, and the endless horizon played tricks on our minds. There were moments when I swore I saw a lush oasis, only to blink and find more sand.

The Power Of Human Connection

The bond formed amongst us trekkers was something special. Stripped of our daily distractions, we connected on a primal level. Conversations ranged from deep philosophical debates to delirious giggles over the silliest jokes. One night, we even attempted a desert version of ‘Talent Night,’ which mostly involved trying to sing without getting a mouthful of sand.

Unexpected Challenges in the Sahara

You’d think the biggest challenge would be the heat or the distance. But no, it was the sand – it got everywhere. I mean everywhere. And let’s not even talk about the bathrooms, or rather, the lack of them. Let’s just say even as a yoga teacher I have a newfound respect for anyone who can squat with grace in the desert with jumping spiders and various other animals playing tag with you.

The Sahara – Final Stretch

The last day was a mix of anticipation and bittersweet emotions. We were eager to finish, yet reluctant to leave this unique experience behind. Crossing the finish line was surreal – a cocktail of relief, pride, and a profound sense of accomplishment.

Sahara – Reflections And Gratitude

Looking back, I see the Sahara not just as a physical space, but as a metaphor for life’s journey – vast, unpredictable, and full of beauty and challenge. This trek taught me more about myself than I could have imagined, lessons I’ll carry with me long after the desert’s sand has been shaken from my shoes.

Thank you to everyone who made this journey possible. It was more than a trek, it was a journey of the soul.


Life After The Sahara: Carrying The Desert’s Lessons Forward

Returning To The ‘Real World’

Coming back from the Sahara was a surreal transition. After days of endless sand and sky, the hustle and bustle of everyday life felt jarringly complex. There were moments in those first few days when I’d close my eyes and instantly be back under the vast desert sky, feeling the sand beneath my feet. The desert had left an indelible mark on my soul.

Newfound Appreciation For Life’s Simple Comforts

Simple things I once took for granted suddenly held new significance. The joy of a warm shower, the comfort of a soft bed, and the luxury of a home-cooked meal. These everyday comforts felt like lavish indulgences. I found myself savoring these small pleasures, mindful of how precious they were.

Applying Desert Lessons Into Daily Life

The lessons learned in the Sahara didn’t stay buried in the sand. They followed me home, weaving their way into my daily existence. The importance of living in the moment, a skill honed on the trek, helped me tackle stress and anxiety in a new, more grounded way. I found myself less preoccupied with the ‘finish lines’ of life and more focused on the journey itself.

Changes In Relationships And Community

The trek also reshaped my relationships. Having experienced the power of community and support in the desert, I became more open and collaborative in my interactions. I learned the value of asking for help and the strength found in vulnerability. This fostered deeper connections with those around me, from family and friends to colleagues.

Forever Changed

Life after the Sahara was different. I was different. The trek was more than a physical challenge. It was a transformational experience that redefined my outlook on life, resilience, and the beauty of human connection. The desert’s vastness taught me about my own inner depths, and I’ve been carrying those lessons forward, as best as I can in every step I take. 

Midlife, Redefined: Sahara Style

Hey, guess what? That Sahara trek did more than just test my ability to survive on minimal water and a questionable sense of direction. It turned my whole ‘midlife’ thing on its head. You know how everyone bangs on about midlife crises? Well, I’m calling it a midlife awakening now. Seriously, if I can handle the Sahara’s heat, I can handle a few wrinkles and the odd life curveball.

You see, the desert was like this intense, no-nonsense friend who tells you to stop sweating the small stuff (ironic, given the temperature there). It slapped some sense into me about what midlife really is – it’s not about fading into the background; it’s about turning up the volume on life. It’s the perfect time to chase those wild dreams, or at least swap out some old ones for new adventures.

And the best part? I’ve realized we don’t have to have it all figured out. Midlife’s not the end of the book, it’s more like that plot twist you didn’t see coming but totally makes the story. So here I am, embracing the unexpected and ready to make this chapter a real page-turner. Who knew that a desert could be such a great life coach?

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