“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you have altered.” That Nelson Mandela quote that I once heard several years ago while in South Africa reverberated in my head as Jeremy and I set off to Africa for our honeymoon – this time, for two weeks in East Africa, across Kenya and Tanzania. And, while such a different experience from South Africa, the way in which Africa bursts forth in front of the eyes and burrows itself within the heart is an unfailing, unchanging phenomenon.
How, then, is it that I have altered?
Let me count the ways.
We delayed our honeymoon by three months post-wedding because, well, we already had the honeymoon planned before Jeremy even proposed. We didn’t know it was the honeymoon at the time (at least I didn’t) as we planned our three bucket list trips for the year ahead but, as soon as we began wedding planning, the one stipulation was to get married before November so our East Africa adventure would count as the honeymoon.
On the day we left (well, long before then for Jeremy, but I finally agreed to it the day of), we decided to totally unplug. No emails, no social media, nothing but focusing on our marriage and our future – oh, and Africa. A total, hearts-and-minds-and-eyes-and-
An entire chapter of an Anne Lamott book that I read while in Nairobi was boiled down to one simple sentence: “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”
That’s a radical thought. Will we? Will we work again if we’re unplugged?
Not only will we work again, but the art of unplugging led to the art of discovery, outside and in.
And possibly, this is one of the ways I’ve altered most since my last trip to Africa. This was the first time I’ve visited the continent and not fallen asleep in the safari vehicle. While some of that is because I think I’m just a touch narcoleptic, I think the other reason is just how overrun I’d been on past trips.
This job offers the most incredible opportunities to traipse across the globe – and I certainly wouldn’t trade that for the world. But, in turn, it also requires the demand of being constantly on, plugged in, a 365/24/7 kind of gig. The sun does not set in the travel business.
And even though I’ve prided myself in finding ways to break the mold of the overworked American businesswoman, to the point where I’ve even given presentations on the topic, I truly had just been finding productivity hacks. I’d manage to find ways to free up time and, then like a neurotic, greedy little squirrel preparing for a Game of Thrones style winter, I’d find ways to shove even more business into the empty spaces.
Between the last time in Africa and this one, I’ve changed in ways I never thought possible, but this is one that I definitely didn’t see coming. That I could be the kind of individual who would relish in the art of actually turning off, unplugging, from everything.
The only exception we made was at the start of the trip, when we posted our one photo from the Insta-worthy Giraffe Manor, made famous by social media and, more recently, Ellen Degeneres. This boutique manor home style hotel sits on a giraffe sanctuary where tea and breakfast with the giraffes bring about some larger-than-life encounters.
I’ve been raised in a family that firmly believes a good laugh is the way to navigate all life events. So, when learning to unplug and reconnect, I’d recommend starting with the kind of laughs that come from taking selfies with – or, even better, being kissed by – a giraffe.
Is the hotel worth the splurge or is it just for the Insta likes? Travelers, this one will exceed your expectations. Do it, do it, do it.
And then swiftly delete Facebook and Instagram off your phones and be present. Two things surprised us most about this act: how often our own thumbs naturally went to the apps, which no longer existed (much like how my family has joked that my own car naturally drives to Target, whether I meant to go there or not) and how quickly we were able to break the social media habit once we quit cold turkey.
We did this just in time to make our way to Singita Sabora, the first stop on our safari experience in the Serengeti – more on that in the next post!