I have been feeling overdue for a return to Africa- my last trip there was in 2012. Last fall, the company I've traveled with in the past hinted at a 2017 trip to Namibia featuring a wildlife sanctuary where one could get close to animals. I was very excited because it seemed perfectly suited to me. But then the trip details were published and I had 2 major concerns. First, the trip would involve being away for Mother's Day weekend, which is a time I'd prefer to spend at home with my mom. Secondly, half of the itinerary would be spent in Johannesburg and Pilanesburg, South Africa. I can only take 2 weeks off at a time and I don't want to spend 4 precious days anywhere I'm not passionate about visiting.... and I knew I could never talk myself into being enthusiastic about those spots, especially since I've already visited Jo'burg.
Once I started considering Namibia, I couldn't let go of the idea. I was intrigued by unique landscape of sand dunes that extend to the ocean, which would be an amazing site to visit in addition to typical safari destinations. My friends who have traveled to Namibia have all raved about their visits. However, I couldn't find any tours that were a good match for the dates and destinations I had in mind. Eventually, I said what the hell and priced out a private guided tour. It was obviously more expensive than a group trip, but it would allow me to be in control, to visit the places I am most drawn to... to stay at lodges of my choosing... without having to drive. (self drive tours are often advocated on Tripadvisor's Namibia forums) I was curious to be able to compare the experience to being on a group tour. So I crunched some numbers, threw caution to the wind and booked a private safari!
Part of my plan for Namibia (and yet another reason why the group tour's inclusion of South Africa wouldn't have been ideal) was to fly via Qatar Airways which would allow me to depart from my hometown with only one stop en route. More importantly, it would give me a brief chance to visit another country. I was able to book a transit package through the airline which includes hotel, transfers, and meal vouchers. It seems worth it if only to make everything super easy. I have a 20 hour layover scheduled, and that should be enough time to get at least a taste of Doha beyond the airport and hotel. It will be super hot (over 100 degrees)... so I'm not really sure how much I will want to be out exploring the city.
After my most recent (amazing) trip which featured so much Disney and Hello Kitty, I found myself craving a contrast- a destination that would be more authentic and down to earth. I am looking forward to being transported far from the neon glitz of modern cities... exploring varied dramatic panoramas... and marveling at a myriad of animals in their natural habitats. I will get dirty and dusty, some days I will be in a vehicle more than I might like, and I will surely struggle trying to climb the huge sand dunes... but that's part of the adventure; that's what makes it real. I hope to be able to try some different foods (but no thanks to the worms that I saw friends eating- eww!), and maybe have a glass of wine occasionally. After busy days of discovery, I imagine myself relaxing in charming lodges gazing up at clear African skies dotted brightly with stars... simply embracing the world around me. I am still working at being entirely present when I travel, and the fact that I won't need to worry about getting from X to Y should most assuredly help with that.
As usual, I will undoubtedly always have at least one camera within reach but I try not to live my travels exclusively through a viewfinder... which explains why many of my photographs are not as ideal as I know I could make them if I took my time trying to perfect each shot. I take photos so that I can look through them later and remind myself of the fabulous places I've been... the travels that make everything else worthwhile. Even if a photo isn't technically perfect... even if the lighting is horrible or it isn't sharp as it could be... I may nonetheless treasure it for the memories it evokes. Some of the lyrics from the song "Stop the World" from a recent favorite musical. "Come From Away" capture my feelings when I'm fully in "travel mode"; I hope to feel this way many times during my upcoming adventure.
Stop the world
Take a picture
Try to capture,
To ensure this moment lasts
I can't wait to add uniquely Namibian images to the eclectic collage of travel memories that live in my heart.