How training camels showed me why I’m still single at 36

When I first met the camels at Rocky Creek I had a small bag of tricks learned from time with camels and cameleers around Australia. I walked into it optimistically and excited about all the things I was about to teach these camels and how amazing my life would be when I had them “up to speed”.

In the first few days my bag of tricks was solid – I had 8 of them sitting on command. The farm owner, Ian, was impressed. He’d been working with camels for the past 6 years and he enjoyed seeing some of them taking to the training so well. The good natured animals are a testament to Ian and his farm.

It didn’t take long to exhaust my camel-bag of tricks as the start of the trek loomed large. One day differed to the next. It felt like the camels woke up with a completely different attitude, leaving me annoyed and confused about what I had done wrong with my training techniques or a particular camel.

Thankfully, I realised I’d forgotten one crucial factor. In my focus on the journey, timelines and expectations I’d forgotten to think about these camels having their world turned upside down. They were in this whirlwind new relationship still trying to figure out how they feel about everything.

How training camels

I kept pushing the boundaries according to my expectations and trying to help them, but only ever in the direction I was focused on. It’s a trait I’m guilty of in my personal and commercial relationships.

My intentions for the camels after this expedition are noble. They’re destined for lifelong retirement on a property in WA, saving them from potential culling (camels from the wild) or becoming pet food (camels from a farm). But, until now, I’d forgotten that they are another living creature with their own set of instincts, hopes and dreams – lives of their own.

I physically cannot drag four camels 6000km across Australia. I could try, but eventually, they would break free, perhaps run to another group of camels that understand their way of life better than I do.

Previously this would have left me confused. But I’m slowly starting to get it. I am now taking the time to understand each camel as an individual, to understand what makes them tick, not just what I want from them but what they want from me. Is it more 1 on 1 time? A chat before I launch into our training? They’ve changed in the last seven weeks and so have I.

But what else do I need to do to take this from a solo expedition to one with four living creatures that were not just born for my beck and call, regardless of how well I “look after them?”

Too often in life I have tried to take someone on my journey, oblivious to their own needs.
I’ve been blessed with so many jumping on board the John Elliott train, but at some stage or another many alight after a few stations, some of whom I’d invested a lot of time and energy into, leaving me on the train confused.

I now understand that my train was headed to my destination, without deviation, the life according to my plan, not theirs. What a frustration for those closest to me. It was inevitable that I would arrive at my destination, most likely alone.

Well, I was the last passenger on that train and I decided to step off, pulling the emergency break and jumping off, no idea where I was. I am now on foot with no fixed path or destination. No expectations or commitments. Complete freedom.

When we’re on the “track to success” we can find ourselves staring out the window of that speeding train wishing we could get off to spend some time with the people at the places we pass by. For the next 12 months I get to meet these people, exploring these places.

It feels good to step off the train.

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  • Paul Butcher
    Posted on October 4, 2018 at 3:15 am

    Good point John,
    My boys have given me the WTF look at times and letting them come along somewhat on their own turn definitely gets better results.
    My 2 adult Camels definitely respond to routine, kindness and letting them ease into the changes.
    It’s a shared journey, man and Camel and should be enjoyed by both.

  • Julian Noel
    Posted on October 4, 2018 at 8:08 am

    Beautifully written John. As a speaking coach, I train people to share an INCIDENT, then to say why it is BENEFICIAL to the listener, and the POINT of the story. You do all of that naturally. Born storyteller.

  • Wes
    Posted on October 4, 2018 at 2:37 pm

    Great blog today JE. Nice personal insight too. Keep on truckin

  • Samir
    Posted on October 8, 2018 at 5:35 am

    I am sat here in Kenya on my balcony, sipping tea, making sense of whats next having ended a 13 year relationship (10 of which married) just last week. I think this blog just made sense of a large prt of my bewilderment. Thank you!

    • John Elliott
      Posted on January 19, 2019 at 5:43 am

      Samir, it’s messages like that which touch me and make me continue to share as I go through this journey of self discovery and evolution.


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