This month’s Frequent Flier Sound Off features Sonjia “Lioness” Mackey, a beast!
Name: Sonjia “Lioness” Mackey
Location: “Home-Free” (I’m traveling domestically & internationally as I determine my next temporary home)!
Occupation: Entrepreneur/Owner/CEO of (Im)Possible Living, LLC, a travel and life inspiration company of which Bucket List Beasts is a segment
Number of Countries Visited: 66
Last Country Visited: Bolivia
What is your favorite country you have visited and why?
I don’t have a single favorite country, but I do have a favorite continent. That would be Africa because it allows me to do my favorite travel activity–going out on safari!
What is your least favorite country you have visited and why?
Again, I can’t select a single, least favorite country, but my least favorite continent is Europe. The reason why is because I need more than the “pretty buildings” people always seem to discuss first when speaking about things to see and do in Europe. I need adventure, I need the outdoors, I need active fun. And yes, while those things are certainly available in Europe, as a whole, I find it to be a continent least likely to offer those things.
What countries are on the itinerary for this year and into next year?
Later this year, I will be traveling back to Africa. I’m going to Botswana & Namibia for more safari adventures, but in different geographical climates and regions (e.g. Okavango Delta, Kalahari Desert). I’m also going to Rwanda to do some gorilla-trekking. I’m spending New Year’s Eve with friends in one of my favorite cities – Sydney, Australia. After Sydney, I’m headed to New Zealand to complete some “adrenaline junkie” adventures that I missed the last time I was there due to cold wintry weather!
When did you start traveling? Did it start at an early age for you?
I didn’t travel much as a child growing up; however, I watched plenty of Discovery Channel and National Geographic. Those television shows gave me glimpses into the world around me. It was then that I decided I wanted to travel, and that my #1 bucket list destinations would be a safari adventure in the Maasai Mara of Kenya, and the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater of Tanzania.
Why do you travel? What is your personal reason for traveling?
I travel because it helps me to grow and develop by learning about people and the world around me. I travel because it makes me more appreciative and tolerant of diversity. I travel because it’s fun and it makes life more interesting and fulfilling. I travel because it makes me a more well-rounded, multi-dimensional person. I travel because I can’t imagine a life in which I didn’t travel!
Why do you believe it’s important for others to travel and see the world?
For many of the reasons I listed above, but also because I think people become more appreciative of their current existence when they have a chance to see how the rest of the world lives. They realize how truly blessed we are as Americans.
You are an adventure traveler. What made you start traveling and checking off “bucket list” items?
Trying to determine my life’s purpose, but while waiting on that revelation, making a conscious effort to live life to the fullest. I realized life was too short to not be out there living it so I started approaching life and travel with more intention and thought. I was determined to not have any regrets upon reaching the end of my life’s journey.
In fact, what does the term “bucket list” mean to you?
Most people are shortsighted in that they only think of a bucket list in terms of travel or extreme adventure. A bucket list can be so much more than that. It’s a list of what you want to see, do, become, and accomplish. It’s a “dream” list, if you will – a list of all the places and things you’ve always dreamed about. Because of that, I coined and use the phrase “bucket list living,” which means you should approach each and every day with a conscious and intentional effort to enjoy it and live it to the fullest! Live each and every day as if it were your last!
In addition to being an adventure traveler yourself, you have created an online community called “Bucket List Beasts.” What is the purpose of the group?
The purpose of the “Beasts” is to provide a social community of encouragement and inspiration. There is strength in numbers, in the sharing of knowledge and ideas, in the assurance and encouragement provided by others who have been/are in similar scenarios. The group is not just about travel, but about “bucket list living.” My goal is for the group to provide the motivation and knowledge people need to live their best lives – from their careers to their recreation to their relationships.
Through the group you offer an annual Mystery Trip. Tell us about that and past trips.
If time and money were no object, most people would love to live a dream life that includes more travel. By hosting trips, I aim to show them that travel is possible now. You don’t have to wait until you have more time or money. Our signature trip is the “Mystery Trip.” This is a trip I plan where the travelers who buy into it have no idea where they’re going, where they’ll be staying, or what they’ll be doing until they arrive at the airport to begin the trip. While it excites the participants to no end, it also stokes their fears a bit because they have absolutely no say or control regarding the trip planning. The mystery trip is a chance for people to step out of their comfort zones, try something different, and in doing so, have the adventure of a lifetime!
What is the craziest or most dangerous (or both) travel adventure you have ever done?
Without a doubt, it would probably be wrestling alligators! I was in a big pond of water – up to my waist and barefoot – with some 65+ alligators between 6 and 15 feet long! The goal was to catch one, put a lasso around its neck, and wrestle it onto land! My prize was a 10-foot alligator! How any of us walked away with no cuts, bruises, bites or missing limbs is beyond me! LOL
What is the one thing that you will never do again?
I don’t think there is any one thing I would never do again. But I will say that while I’m pretty open regarding trying exotic and adventurous foods (e.g. bugs, dog, live octopus, goat testicles, sheep’s penis), once I’ve tried something one time, if I don’t care for it, I’m probably never going to try it again!
Has there ever been some activity that you have done that you regret?
Nothing that I recall. I believe you learn something from everything you experience, even if it’s only the knowledge that you never want to do it again. At least you have concrete reasons supporting your position.
What is your advice for people who are worried that something will go wrong or they will hurt themselves or something to that effect?
Everyone is afraid of something, whether they’re willing to admit it or not. My biggest fear is mediocrity—that I will live a life so much less than the one I’m capable of—or the one God has planned for me. So I mitigate that fear each and every day (or more realistically, most days) by trying, and doing, and learning new things and by doing the things I enjoy. I trump that fear by stretching my capabilities, and living each day to the fullest.
This applies to my travels as well. Just because I do wild and crazy things on a regular basis doesn’t mean that, at times, I don’t feel a bit of trepidation about it. You don’t do dangerous things, like wrestling with alligators, without experiencing second thoughts sometimes: “What the hell did I get myself into?!” And when things go wrong, like when I cracked my tailbone hitting the water after cliff jumping, it has the potential to turn you off of something…forever.
But you have to remember that while dangers can be real, and you should always consider them carefully, fear is typically an irrational emotion based on all kinds of imaginary scenarios we’ve conjured up in our heads, most of which will never come true. And even when something happens, like with the cliff jumping, it’s still usually a small and rare statistic compared to the number of people overall who have done that particular thing. You have to replace imagined, irrational scenarios with concrete facts, statistics and recommendations that mitigate that fear. Because for me, it comes down to this: “Am I willing to miss out on things because of my fear? Because I’m afraid to do what I need to do to alleviate my fear so I can go out and do the damn thing?”
And the answer to those questions is, “No. I’m not willing to miss a single thing this great, big, beautiful world of ours has to offer simply because I’m afraid. That’s not a good enough reason!” Perhaps one of my favorite quotes sums it up best: “I don’t want to look back in five years time and think, ‘We could have been magnificent, but I was afraid.’ In 5 years, I want to tell of how fear tried to cheat me out of the best thing in life, and I didn’t let it.”
What inspires you about the travel experience?
I can answer that best by stating this quote: “We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” ~Jawaharial Nehru
What do you like least about travel?
The packing and unpacking! I’m the world’s worst packer. All the cities, and states, and countries, and continents I’ve been to – and I STILL don’t know how to pack light and travel #TeamCarryOn! LOL
How do you balance your career with travel? What recommendations do you have for others?
Fortunately, I’ve created a career built on my passions, my talents, and my life’s purpose. I love to travel so I’ve created a business which allows me to live out that passion while making a profit from it to sustain myself. However, most people won’t be so lucky. Most people will go their entire lives and not know why they’re here or what they bring to the world. I challenge each and every person to ask those questions. Find your purpose; understand your gifts; know the value you bring to the world – and find a way to monetize the culmination of all those things so you can live out your passions while making a living from it!
What recommendations do you have for someone who is looking to be more adventurous and travel?
Most people think more money is the key to more travel and grand adventures. And while more money certainly helps, the key is really prioritization. How badly do you want to travel? Enough to eliminate wasteful spending? Enough to increase your savings? Enough to go without so you can channel those funds towards what you say you really want, which is to travel more? If that is indeed true, then clear priorities will help pave the way towards concrete actions that will help you to do just that.