HOW LIFE GOT IN THE WAY OF MY PLANS
Today is the day I moved to El Gouna, a whole 8 years ago! It’s crazy how time flies and how life gets in the way of what you think is your plan. Originally, my plan was to stick around Egypt for 6 months, then head home to New Zealand to start a marketing career in some high rise building wearing a killer suit and heels. Well, for those who know me, I couldn’t be further from that now. My suit is now shorts and a t-shirt, my killer heels flip-flops and my office is outside on the beach. How the hell did I get here? How did I go from my dream of a marketing career to starting a small kitesurfing business in Egypt?
Being half Egyptian and having left the country as a child, I always had a strong connection to Egypt. I had this desirable urge to go back. As soon as I finished my degree in Auckland, New Zealand, I embarked on a year-long “overseas experience” (which we from down under call an “OE”). What an amazing journey I had, a year of traveling throughout South-East Asia and Europe. Adventures around the world that would be the first of many I would make without realising I would have an opportunity to create more adventures in the future. It wasn’t long before my visa expired and the year was over, I knew I wasn’t ready to go back home to NZ just yet. The decision to go to Egypt for 6 months came naturally. However little did I know that I’d never actually leave.
A real estate job in the Red Sea town of El Gouna was offered to me which I quickly accepted, even though it was not my dream job and I knew I was likely to have commitment issues in the long term. I packed what I had into a small bag and a laundry basket and jumped on the 5 hour long bus journey from Cairo to El Gouna. I had no idea what to expect or how to sell real estate!
Fast-forward a couple of months and I find myself seriously sucking at my job but thoroughly enjoying the community and loving the lifestyle possibilities I could have here. It wasn’t long before I had made up my mind that I needed to stay in this town longer, -my dream to head back to Auckland to start my career could wait; sticking to my real estate job for a year would look great on my resume, after all! I was having too much fun, meeting and befriending people from all walks of life with different ideas and experiences, enjoying the beautiful weather and the small, friendly community atmosphere.
It was around this time that I started to realise how big kitesurfing was in El Gouna. It was the first I’d ever seen of the sport, and I was meeting more new kitesurfers every week. But I was not into sports, I was super lazy throughout school and university, always slightly overweight and had NEVER tried board sports in my life! The truth is that I met a guy, a kitesurfing instructor and the first time we met I told him that hell will freeze over before anyone sees me kiting. I don’t do sports. What skills did I have to be good let alone successful at the sport? Aside from some sailing as a kid, I’d never tried surfing, wakeboarding, snowboarding. I wasn’t into speed nor was I an adrenaline junky. Kitesurfing is an extreme sport and attracts many people from all walks of life, but there was no way I believed I was cut out for it.
But there was an unexplained urge along with a determination to try kitesurfing. Also maybe I could impress this guy at the same time! Naturally I asked him to teach me. To my surprise I quickly found out that I was reasonably skilful with a kite; my previous sailing experience supported my understanding of how a kite works in the wind, and therefore how to control it. Unfortunately, my skills on a board left A LOT to be desired and it was the most challenging part of the sport for me. This was also around the time my instructor had more students to commit to and left me in the deep end to fend for myself.
With full gear available to me, but only one day off a week, I am not ashamed to admit that it took me about six months to be comfortable with both board and kite. It took hundreds of face-plants, twisted lines, bruises and endless kilometers of walking through water to achieve what a lot of people would learn in a few days. I had guidance and advice from the instructors at the kite centre - always yelling tips at me when they’d see me practicing on the water. Eventually, I got into better shape and my skills grew, all thanks to these patient souls!
My perseverance paid off, and I eventually became the photographer for the kite spot. It was more of a side hustle and not for the money, but because I loved it so much. When I wasn’t taking photos I could go out kitesurfing for myself. Part of the gig was taking photos for an advanced women’s workshop once a week, which a girl from the school was running for free. These sessions spent watching and photographing other women kitesurfing taught me a lot. I found that women are more willing to openly discuss the difficulties in kitesurfing, sharing experiences and tips without the pressure of being right or wrong or feeling stupid or weak. As women, we tend to be more nurturing and compassionate towards one another. In an extreme sport that can involve a fair amount of competitiveness within the community, this can be the difference between a woman hating or absolutely falling in love with kitesurfing.
As time went by, I became a better kitesurfer and I left my real estate job to work in the office at the kite spot. The sad day came when the women’s workshops were coming to an end, as the girl running them was pursuing a change in career. “Why don’t you take over?” she said. I had watched and participated in these workshops for over a year - I knew how she ran them and most of the basic tricks.
But I was not a teacher. Never in my life did I imagine I would take on a teaching role. I was impatient and bossy! And besides, I didn’t know some of the more advanced tricks, what if I ran the workshops and the girls found out I wasn’t actually that good? I was terrified of being found to be a fraud.
They say to grow, you need to push yourself out of your comfort zone. When you feel uncomfortable, nervous or fearful, is when you become most productive and learn new skills. I will never forget the first time I ran the women’s kitesurfing workshop; from the utter stress and nervousness leading up to it, to the excitement for having tried something new and having succeeded at the end of the day. This day changed my life and opened so many doors for me since then. Not only did I push myself out of my comfort zone to do something different, I came to realise that I had a set of skills I never thought I possessed. It turns out that I’m a great teacher, who is patient and compassionate!
From these workshops stemmed my idea of week-long events, for girls traveling in groups or solo. This was when my company Kite Tribe was born! I realised that my time in El Gouna can help other women have the most amazing experiences here too, on and off the water. Our mission is to get more women into the wonderful sport of kitesurfing, through a supportive and uplifting environment. Along with my sister, we’ve been running events for over 2 years and have witnessed so many incredible women master kitesurfing and becoming part of our community.
I went from being a university graduate with a dream to work in a city high-rise, to a small business owner who spends most of her time in the sea and on the beach. I took opportunities as they appeared in front of me and made decisions based on what was going to make me happy. Looking back, I realise I wasn’t thinking too far ahead, and would never have believed this would all lead me to starting my own kitesurfing business on the Red Sea. There have been many mistakes I’ve made and plenty of pitfalls along the way. The path I took wasn’t easy, sometimes the fun wasn’t there and it is hard work; but getting out of my comfort zone and into the unknown pushed me along this direction and I learn from this every day. Taking the leap is the challenging part and for me it has proven to be the most rewarding thing I could ever do for myself.
Absolutely no regrets.