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Former Cd’A resident ‘follows her calling’ to help women

Jan Boal: Maasai warrior

Jan Boal, center, became an honorary Maasai Warrior after rescuing her work partner during a lion attack in Kenya.

Posted: Friday, June 17, 2016 12:00 am

On her path to becoming an inspirational speaker, Jan Boal said her message is about “following your calling.”

Boal discovered her two main callings in life: working with the mentally ill and traveling the world.

“When we are true to our beliefs and our desires, we will find our calling,” Boal said, adding that is one of her favorite “buzz” lines.

Young men of the Maasai tribe only become Maasai warriors after spearing a lion and undergoing a circumcision without showing pain — no sounds or facial expressions. Boal said they are the “fiercest” warriors in Africa. She said women are considered second-class among the Maasai and therefore do not become Maasai warriors, so for an American woman to receive the honor is highly unusual.

For Boal — a psychiatric nurse, author, Earthwatch ambassador and world traveler — it was a true honor to become an honorary Maasai warrior while traveling in Kenya.

“When we are faced with those challenges, you’ve got to dig deep and find that warrior,” Boal said.

While Boal did receive the honor, it was not given to her — she earned it.

Boal and her group were on a foot expedition in Kenya when they came across a lioness sleeping with her cubs. “Run” was all she heard from the group’s guide. She had not seen the lioness until after the guide’s words struck her. As she attempted to get to the bushes for shelter, her work partner was beside her — and then she wasn’t.

The lioness had jumped on the woman, knocking her to the ground, and Boal turned around as the lioness disappeared. As she made her way back, Boal could see the woman had wounds, but all her limbs were attached and there was no major bleeding. Then she heard growling. The lioness had circled and come back. She made eye contact with the lioness as it pulled back its ears, roared and readied to pounce. Boal grabbed the woman and ran, risking her life but getting them both to safety.

“I really did think at that time I was going to be killed,” Boal said. “The whole thing was a miracle.”

Earth Day marked five years since the former Coeur d’Alene resident began her six-month quest. She has seen her favorite cat, the jaguar, while traveling in Greece; dolphins in Brazil, silverback gorillas in Uganda, and even saw a cheetah, which she called “art in motion” as it became her second-favorite cat.

Through her travels — both her own and with Earthwatch, an organization that focuses on conservation and research — she said she has learned much about plants and animals, including some of the devastation. Where there used to be thousands of dolphins swimming in certain areas of the ocean, there are now maybe 20. The acacia tree is the main diet of the rhinoceros, and elephants also eat from the acacia tree but destroy it in the process, leaving little to eat for the rhinos, Boal said.

While Boal has a hard time deciding what her favorite part of her travels was, she said Uganda was the “most shocking” in seeing that kind of poverty, and found it overwhelming how many people live in it. And then she trekked through the “windy, impenetrable forest,” which she said was like going back in time, cutting through brush with a machete for nearly half a day before seeing the “incredible” sight of the silverback gorillas. She said they were important for her to see because there are only about 800 left in the world.

“It will be devastating to this planet not to have that beautiful creature on it,” Boal said.

Boal has been a psychiatric nurse for about 16 years and worked at Kootenai Health for a time. While she works with both men and women, much of her focus is to help empower and inspire women. Boal said she focuses on women because she is one and understands so much of what they are going through. She said many women she has worked with are filled with fear and self-doubt, having gone through “horrific” events.

Boal believes people in her life are there for a reason, events happen for a reason, and she listens to signs from the universe, encouraging others to do so as well.

“It’s my passion that I want to help other people; I want to help women and I want to help this planet,” she said. “When we follow our calling and take care of ourselves, the universe is going to back us on that. Then we are going to help our communities and we are going to help the planet.”

Boal now lives in Oregon and although she no longer resides in Coeur d’Alene, she enjoys the trips to North Idaho to visit her family, including her mother and brother. She said she also holds Coeur d’Alene dear to her heart because it is where she wrote her book, “Safari for the Soul.” Before living in Coeur d’Alene, Boal was a Spokane resident for 27 years.

For information or to contact Boal, visit



“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” — John Muir I recently had the absolute pleasure of meeting the staff of Earthwatch Institute at their Boston Headquarters. Not only was I warmed by their sincerity, but I was grateful for their vision and dedication in pursuit of caring for our planet. In 2011, I volunteered on three expeditions, Blazing the Biodiversity Trail in Brazil, Dolphins of Greece, and Saving Kenya’s Black Rhinos. I was 52 at the time, single and following my calling. I knew it would be like when I went off to college: Anticipation of what was to come, knowing I would be different when I returned, and anxious for all those same reasons along with traveling alone to these far away countries. This was one of the best decisions I have ever made for myself. Like college and getting an education, it is the same when venturing off with Earthwatch — an education, an experience that will always be a part of you, a broadening of yourself, like a breath of fresh air, a new you. Be prepared that volunteering on an expedition is quite holistic and all-encompassing. You will learn about the animal/environment you signed up for as well as the culture of this environment and its impact and struggles dealing with whatever threatened issue is involved. Black rhinos as seen by Jan Boal on the expedition Saving Kenya's Black Rhinos. You will experience being around a type of passion we seldom experience, usually only witnessing it in the movies. I am talking about the directors of the sites — these scientists who eat, sleep, and breathe in pursuit of their cause — who do it with such dedication and enthusiasm that once you experience this it will unlock something within yourself. Admiration and unlimited gratitude is what I felt when I went to sleep each night after returning from my expeditions. I knew these scientists were continuing their calling, their mission in gathering data and saving a part of our world — day, after day, after day, after day. The hands-on experience, learning something new and foreign, being challenged by this — by the travel, unfamiliar ways, and culture — working on a volunteer team consisting of such a variety of people unknown to you, realization of situation, the direness and frustration of this environmental issue, and the pride and joy you will experience is profound and life changing. I encourage you to trust in this process and have an experience, a journey of a lifetime. You won’t regret it!

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