I travel a lot, it’s not only my passion but it’s now my job. And while I honestly love every new place I visit, most of the times they are trips and not necessarily major life experiences. Any journey, I believe, has the power to benefit us in some way but there are just a handful of experiences so unique and so special, that they immediately become a benchmark in our lives. There is no list per se of these important journeys, no, that is a very personal evaluation and will be different for all of us. But for me, I recently enjoyed one of those hallmark travel moments when I had the great opportunity to spend more than a week in Tanzania on a safari experience of a lifetime with luxury travel provider Abercrombie & Kent.
What makes a trip important
Trips turn into major life experiences when we least expect them to. They can be something momentous, like an African safari, or someone much more basic. There are, however, some elements that they all have in common and when they coalesce, these journeys transform into something much more than your normal vacation. I think that these experiences happen when we as people are changed at a very base and profound level. There are simply some parts of the world that will affect us more than others. Whether it’s seeing how less fortunate live on a daily basis, an incredible natural phenomenon or something more subtle that affects us. I’ve had a few of these life changing travel moments, but for me they share several commonalities. The trips tend to be a little unusual. The Galapagos is a good example of a life-changing trip in my life. I went not sure what to expect, but the combination of amazing wildlife and incredible experiences that could occur nowhere else on the planet humbled me – deeply. They made me sit back and reexamine my life, I felt as if I was wasting time in my life and I needed to find a way to change that. Ultimately that week spent cruising around the Galapagos led to the creation of this web site and a cascading effect of major life changes that have enabled me to be a happier and healthier person. That would never have happened had I not traveled to the Galapagos, swum with sea lions in the chilly waters of the Humboldt Current and stood next to the prehistoric looking giant tortoises. That’s a major trip though and an unusual one. These important journeys don’t have to be complicated or expensive to occur, they really can happen anywhere or at any time. When I was ten my family did something unusual, for once our annual family vacation wasn’t spent at my grandparents’ house but instead at Walt Disney World in Florida. There I spent most of my time in Epcot, exploring the many countries represented there and falling in love. I have always had a fierce love of all things foreign and I couldn’t learn enough about other countries and cultures. I was born to be a traveler, and was sincerely frustrated that I wasn’t able to travel as a kid. But Epcot helped satiate those feelings, at least for a while, and walking around the country pavilions it was energizing to hear people speaking German or Japanese, and to buy things that actually came from other countries, a novelty that excited me beyond belief. It was a good first foray into international travel, even though I never left my own country.
Safari and why it was so important to me
Now that I have put this into context, I want to share why my recent Tanzania safari with Abercrombie & Kent was one of these life-changing moments. Oddly enough, it wasn’t just seeing the wildlife that ultimately transformed this journey into something special. I had been on safari before and lucky enough to observe many of these beautiful animals in the wild. No, instead of just seeing an elephant or a zebra, it was their context that helped make this adventure so very important. Sitting in the middle of the UNESCO World Heritage protected Ngorongoro Crater with our Abercrombie & Kent expert guide navigating the way, I felt as if I was lost in the middle of a Jules Verne novel. How could a place as perfect as this possibly exist in real life? The Crater is a 12-mile long bowl, lush and fertile, and because of those unique conditions the wildlife that call the Crater home almost never leave. It’s a permanent Garden of Eden complete with lakes, grasslands, lush vine-embraced trees and impossibly majestic animals. One moment in particular, standing up in the safari truck and watching a small group of zebra and wildebeest was a singularly beautiful moment in time. Behind these peaceful creatures the valley sloped up in delicate ribbons of green, creating a natural backdrop unlike any other. The privilege of being there at that time and place fully hit me and it was humbling. It put me in my place, it showed me the impossibly long history of this magical place and how my presence there is but a blip in time. We all need moments like those, to be reminded of how fragile life is, how impermanent. Buddhists create elaborate mandalas for this same reason, but for me I found that deeper understanding amongst the animals of Ngorongoro.
That moment would have been enough to have made this trip something more than just another travel experience, but again I was thunderstruck by the incredible beauty of Africa when I took to the skies on a hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti. Even by the captain’s standards, the ride was an epic one as we watched a lion devour a very recently killed wildebeest, hippos fighting each other over some turf battle and most importantly, as we hovered over the animals of the Great Migration. Every year millions of wildebeest and zebra roam through the Serengeti, and we were there in the final days of their time in that area of Tanzania. Floating noiselessly over these massive herds as they scampered in every direction was important to me. Sure, last year I listed seeing the Great Migration on my 40 Before 40 List, but this was about much more than just ticking an item off a list. It was about feeling as if I was a part of an important natural experience. Instead of just watching the animals from afar, floating there I could sense their movements in a way impossible through any other way. Like a school of fish, they zigged and zagged in a beautifully choreographed ballet, one that has been ongoing since time immemorial. Just as it was a privilege to be in the middle of the Ngorongoro, it was a privilege to be allowed access to this special, secret world if only for a few brief moments.
Seek out your own important moments
As I mentioned, everyone’s special travel moments are an intensely personal thing – they will be different for all of us. That being said, I do firmly believe that there are some travel experiences so unique and so special that they will be transformational for almost everyone who embarks on them. I believe that a Tanzania safari is just such one experience, although how you are affected will be different from how I was changed. Talking with other travelers in Tanzania, many had also been changed by the adventure but for some it was due to meeting with local Maasai villagers, some were moved profoundly by following a cheetah on a hunt and still others felt changed by the totality of their time in Tanzania. But it affected them all. Watching my partner throughout the trip as he enjoyed his first safari experience, I saw a change in his eyes as well. He went from being a little spoiled when it comes to the travel experience to embracing the unpredictability of the safari experience. He enjoyed the communal aspect of the camps and lodges, dissecting our travel days with new friends and laughing at shared jokes. For him, I believe, his life changing moments came from accepting the fact that in order to best experience the natural world, you have to live close to it. Instead of being holed away in accommodations without personality and led by guides who lacked passion and knowledge, our Abercrombie & Kent adventure gave him a personal look into Tanzania that would be difficult if not impossible to replicate in any other way. I also believe he’s still being changed by this trip, and will continue to be for months and years to come.
That’s the real beauty of the travel experience. Not only do we grow and become better people as a result, but it’s a very long-lasting affect. Months from now I may remember a moment from my Tanzania safari and smile as I suddenly realize something I hadn’t before considered. It’s unpredictable, but that means that these special life-changing travel moments are important because they’re not singular, static events. No, they are dynamic, always changing and always alive and in my own opinion, there’s nothing else like it in any aspect of our lives.
What are some of your important life-changing travel experiences?