Most people won’t have realised this, or even experienced it, but it is incredibly difficult to live in the bush conserving shit while simultaneously having a healthy relationship. This is mostly because we work in remote areas with limited communications or because we simply cannot find someone willing to live with us in those remote areas, enjoying the same things we do.
Of course, you may have heard of ‘khaki fever’ which keeps some of us going. This is, essentially, the newcomers (usually tourists) loving the rugged, toughness of our exterior and us taking advantage of that attention (because, let’s be honest, it’s been a long while since we’ve seen some decent tail besides the bushbuck running away from the car earlier). But khaki fever doesn’t hold you when you have nightmares and it doesn’t help you with your day-to-day struggles in the office; it doesn’t love you. It loves who you appear to be. For a night, maybe two if you’re lucky, more if you’re a leprechaun.
So, when you find someone who is willing to either put up with the lack of communication our life affords or someone who fits into that life, you generally hold on to them with an iron fist and try your to never let go or let feel like they should let go. Some, of course, refuse to change and this doesn’t end too well (google anything about people not listening to understand or how relationships interfere with independence and you will understand what I mean, roughly).
This means that, for the majority of us, we continue with our work, our crucial, vital work, while sacrificing the one essential element to the human life: to love and be loved in return (yes, that was a Moulin Rouge reference and what a beautiful film/song it is indeed (some of us are a tad educated in that department, others live under a larger rock than Fred Flintstone)).
Some of us are lucky enough to find someone who fits into our life scheme, plan, or lack thereof. We are very few and this comes with its own challenges because, more often than not, we work together or for each other or some other scenario involving work colleagues, office hierarchy, etc. Working with/for the one you love is incredibly difficult (take it from me, I deal with it on a daily basis). It is even worse when you are expected to change to fit their model and they expect not to be expected to compromise to be parallel to your model or even to make you feel comfortable in just your professional role never mind the after-hours business (again, take it from me).
So, in essence, what I’m trying to say is: people working in conservation sacrifice a hell of a lot more than you might actually think we do. We sacrifice hot water most of the time. And running water a lot of the time. And ‘normal’ social lives. And a lot more. We sacrifice love. Being loved. We sacrifice a fuck tonne because, somehow, we love what we do (bordering on masochism in some cases. No, not 50 Shades of Grey stuff, more like no children ever but you really want them kind of stuff). I suppose I’m trying to say please give us a bit more credit than we currently get? We give up a lot, willingly and mostly without argument (because we believe wholeheartedly in our fight) while most ‘conservationists’ sit behind computers as ‘keyboard warriors’ (see the article I wrote on these folks here) and rarely give up more than $10 a year for conservation.
We’re trying our very best.
Almost everyone that chose to work/live/both in the bush in Africa.
P.S. We don’t regret it, but we’d appreciate some sort of recognition for it.