The culmination of much planning, and the birth of an idea conceived years ago - bearing testimony to the power of vision, passion and action - we are about to depart on a 12 month adventure through southern Africa. A family of 5, all somehow fitting everything we need for a year into our recently acquired second hand Pajero. Now that is testimony to downsizing! Going from a 5 bedroom home to a single car - from endless cupboards to a single small bag...the potential spectre of underpants worn 4 times (inside out, then back to front) looms in the future. Our plan is to leave all that we know behind, and explore Africa.
Currently our home is rented out and we are located at base camp - a small room at my brother's home where we have claimed squatting rights - in true African style. Tomorrow we set out on the first part of our travels. We will go north for a few days to take in the big 5 wildlife in Phinda's amazing game reserve before heading south as we wend our way through the former Transkei past wild, relatively untraveled places like Mboyoti (where we will stay in a Pondo-style hut), Hole in the Wall, hiking the Shipwreck Trail, finally reaching the Western Cape and the idyllic town of Franschhoek. And that's just the warm up! Our accommodation will vary from plush to plain, from timeshare to tent, from bungalow to bush...from everything that beeps and squeaks (although this is the exception) to no toilets, no electricity, no water, no fuel. On so many levels this is going to be an adventure.
For us this is not just about an amazing experience, but also much more. In addition to planning for the trip we have also spent a lot of time thinking about what we want out of our travels. We have broken it down into the GET objectives, to:
- Grow in knowledge and love
- Experience old and new places
- Touch and be touched by people's lives
This means our trip will involve time set aside for studying. The girls (Sarah and Hannah) have just finished school and so need to do online courses to not only extend their learning but give them future direction. Joshua, who is still at school will get to enjoy some "home schooling" or more like "car schooling", "hut schooling", "beach schooling" etc. Nicky and I have much we intend to learn, including a new programming language, continued research on learning, etc. The brain cannot become bored.
Yet it is not only growing in knowledge that is important, but in love too! OK, so here's the disclaimer. We are a totally normal family where we all want our own things, space, way, ideas...which, while we love each other, leads to our fair share of conflict, debate, discussion, and on occasion, shouting. The kids are normal teenagers, and while I am 99% perfect, humble and eschew sarcasm, I too may have the odd relapse in behaviour. So, how will things pan out as we get up close and personal in a car for days on end, in a tent, on a hot hike, lost in the bush, waiting our turn for the toilet spade? Only time will tell, but one of our objectives is to use these opportunities to grow in our love, respect, and understanding of each other. This in itself is a lofty ideal...but so too was our entire trip!
The "experience" objective is what most might expect out of a trip such as this - the wonder of experiencing amazing new places. Yet here again we want to do more than simply tick lists of "did that - one more off the bucket list". We want to truly experience the places we visit. Part of this is the guiding tenets of "going nowhere slowly" and "taking the detour". We want to make this about the journey, about the people we meet along the way, about the interesting windmill we notice, or the interesting looking shop the sign hints at on a side road. Too often trips are simply about the destination - we want our trip to be about exploring and experiencing places we have been to before, but many more we have never seen before.
And then there is "touch". We don't want this trip to be just about us...there will no doubt be truckloads of US...but it must also be about touching other people's lives. So our intention is to do volunteer outreach work in places where we can, to do random acts of kindness to strangers, to look for any way, from a simple greeting to digging a hole, to touch the lives of those we meet. Yet it is not just touching others lives that is important. All too often people come to Africa and seek to touch lives and leave having missed out on the greatest opportunities - to have their lives touched by Africa. As such we seek to touch and be touched by Africa and her beautiful people.
These are all lofty ideals, but like our trip which is the culmination of vision, passion and lots of energy we look forward to striving to GET these too! Of course we will fail, of course we will get lost, of course things will go wrong, of course we will forget our ideals at times...but then this is an adventure after all, and that's what makes it worth living!
Let the journey begin!