Nancy O'Hare assured herself everything would be fine after the first tree branch cracked outside her tent in Liwonde National Park in Malawi, a country in southeast Africa.
When the Canmore author arrived at the campground that day, piles of dung and broken sticks had been scattered in the area.
Now, under the cover of dark, the massive tusked culprits responsible for the mess had returned.
“Our guide said a lot of elephants come here at night,” O'Hare said. “But the biggest thing is you don't want to scare them because they might run and trample … you just want to stay quiet.”
The logical side of her brain remained calm as the elephants used their long grey trunks to snap more branches, then chewed on them above the vulnerable canvas tent.
This remarkable encounter and other wildlife run-ins, is documented in O'Hare's debut, self-published travel book Dust in my Pack.
The raw tales of overseas exploration for nearly 20 years on six continents fills 215 pages of a “new kind of travel book,” O'Hare explains.
Though O'Hare didn't realize she'd write a book about her travels until 2016, she had kept a thorough journal and travel log each flight out.
“I was trying to recreate what the experience was like, without ruining it, and trying to pick up different instances that made it stand out as a special place as opposed to just the generic ‘this is what you can see there,' ” she said.
O'Hare and her travel companion and husband Chad, the Dust in my Pack photographer, have been around the world several times for work assignments and leisure.
In each chapter of Dust in my Pack, O'Hare articulates a detailed version of experiences such as on boat trips, hikes (one-day and multi-day), visiting ancient cities and unforgettable accommodations from the icy shores of Antarctica to the wild jungles of southeast Asia and the stark red deserts of Australia.
O'Hare includes ‘The Basics' of each trip, starting with a brief synopsis, as well as her most valued item on each trip, which sometimes is simply a bar of soap or sarong wrap, and further information before getting into the nitty-gritty.
She quit an office finance job in order to write full time and is currently working on a second book from the Baltic to Bhutan – and commonly hears how brave she is for pursuing something without any guarantees.
“It's the most common thing I hear,” she said, “which surprised me … I don't see it as brave, I just really wanted a change and I'm enjoying the flexibility of being able to do this completely on my own terms.”
Dust in my Pack is available in ebook version for $6.35.