An African Experience

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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12 thoughts on “An African Experience

  1. I agree, it can be really hard to capture the details that make even a description of single pivotal moment. There is always this intangible link that draws upon all the sights, sounds and memories you have even loosely associated with that event. I always get myself confused trying to capture it all with words. I usually end up falling back to a photograph, hoping that people will fill in the blanks with their own memories and ideas and those little half-thoughts that you have but can’t quite articulate.

    On another note—thoroughly looking forward to hearing more about your travels around Africa, I’ve never been to Africa, but would love to one day after our PanAm road trip.

    • You made me laugh, Emma, as I am sure everyone else knows exactly how to properly convene what they’re trying to say! If you search the site, there are probably a half-dozen posts on segments of our overlanding through Africa, but would love to chat with you about it at Expo as well. Now I’m on a roll, more stories to come 🙂 Actually, our dream would be to ship to Cape Town after South America and continue exploring there with our own car/camper. That, of course, is far down the road but it certainly sounds appealing.

      • I think you do a pretty good job of conveying the atmosphere and impact of the places you visit. Your posts give me itchy feet (or wheels, or whatever it is you get when you’re keen to go on a road trip) I’ll still stick with photos when words fail me though! (Since I’m more than occasionally at a loss for words!)

        I’d love to ship to Africa and continue our trip, but we haven’t budgeted for it and Ben isn’t sold on the idea yet…

        • Thanks for your kind words! Although, I resort to photos often myself 🙂 I get the budget bit, for sure but never fear. We’ll set Jim loose on Ben and by the end of expo he’ll be planning a trip to Africa!

  2. What a fantastic post…this makes me think i should really soak up the great times I am currently having because soon we will be moving on and meeting a new and different crowd. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks Emily, it was written as I was feeling quite melancholy and having a hard time focusing on the work needed to get BACK on the road, and finding it easier to reminisce about our RTW. I would just say enjoy every single moment because in retrospect you see how precious it all is.

  3. Yes, yes yes! Love that quote and I LOVE reading about Africa, a place I long to go. I want more please! In my experience, writing about a place or an experience solidifies it and is like reliving it again, rather than letting it fade away. You look beautiful in those photos and are absolutely glowing!!!

    • Your wish is my command, Sarah 🙂 And, I think you’re completely correct. Since I posted this blog I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about that amazing continent. Thanks for the compliment too. XOXO

  4. Africa is not on my radar – at least not at this time – so I found this to be a fun post to read. When I don’t have plans to visit somewhere, it’s always interesting to read about someone’s perspective. It looks to be a fascinating visit, the culture, the wildlife, the adventure, etc. You are absolutely beaming in your photos! Looking forward to reading more.

    • Hi Patti. First of all, thanks for the lovely compliment, and I did, indeed feel like I had a mile wide grin the entire 3 months. It’s intoxicating to never know what might be around the next bend. I would suggest South Africa as the first timers trip. It has the wildlife, but also fantastic food, coastlines, and wine and Cape Town is surely one of the most beautiful cities on earth.

  5. I would looooooove to visit Africa and do a safari one day, but until then, I’m so glad I got a taste of it through your own adventures and photos. I suspect we’d have a similar experience to you as for us, we definitely believe that “the people are the places” and always find that the places where we connect with other folk (whether they’re travelers or locals) are the ones we wind up liking the most.

    • I’m thrilled you were able to experience just a taste of Africa through my post (there are several earlier posts on Botswana, Zanzibar, etc). I think you guys would love the people and culture of Africa, although, to be fair, the food is nothing to write home about:) But, never fear, the rest of the experience makes up for it!

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