Africa is a place we been to a couple of times now, but one of the most memorable trips we have ever experienced was our three months overlanding from Nairobi to Cape Town. Traveling through seven countries and covering thousands of miles, we got to experience an Africa that few ever do. Yes, we still get excited at seeing wildlife, and always will. The mere glimpse of something even as mundane as a herd of Impala, still brings a smile to my face and a faster beat to my heart.
But Africa is not just about the wildlife. The people, the culture, the beadwork and vibrant music and dance are as important to the joy of traveling through Africa as the animals. We are fascinated by the diversity of the tribes, the variances in landscape, the cultural differences between the countries.
I can’t quite pinpoint why I haven’t written in depth about our overlanding experience before this. Yes,I’ve written several pieces on various portions of the trip from that three months, but I have not approached the subject from the all encompassing, life-changing experience that it was. Perhaps I was afraid in writing about it, it would then begin to fade from memory. Perhaps it was so overwhelming the idea of sharing it would somehow lesson it.
I looked through our thousands of pictures of this episode in our life several days ago, reliving the moments in time, now forever saved in photos. I laughed over the memories of some of the crazy times, marveling at how, in every photo, I seemed absolutely radiant. Not because of some crazy African beauty potion, or even because I actually looked good. In fact, 8+ months into our round-the-world, I looked a bit of a hot mess, with a variety of clothes purchased from various points of the continent and with hair in full-on mid grow out stage. Wearing no makeup and generally smelling of that intoxicating perfume mixture of DEET and sunscreen.
No, the reason I am glowing in the photos is because I was out in the world, living my dream. But recently, I read a quote that brought my thinking around full circle:
You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now, at this time and place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.
The people you meet along the way are the memories that remain. When I think back on that time, I think of how care-free we were, how open to any new experience. Life on the road long-term changes a person in ways that are often impercepitable at the time. A flat tire in the rain in the middle of nowhere Africa? No problem, these things have a way of working themselves out.
While traveling Africa is always a good idea, when we talk of that time period, we speak most fondly of the people who shared that journey. While being on the road creates immediate bonding, traveling with the same group over several months can create long-term friendships. While we came from around the globe, we remain in contact with many, now following their lives on social media and email, watching as they marry, have children, and grow up from the young 20ish crowd we knew.
More stories of overlanding Africa, including a “how to” blog will come. Somehow I will attempt to put into words what an extraordinary experience it is to wander in a land as old as time, featuring such incredible diversity. But I am still occasionally at a loss on how to explain the life of overland travel, the thrill of seeing random wildlife, the enthusiasm of greeting from the local tribes, and that divine smell of waking up in camp in the savanna. I do know I am forever changed and miss the people we met, and the person I was, during that moment in time.