On the first day of this year, I came out of my house where I have been recovering from bouts of flu, melancholy and procrastination to have a coffee chat with my coach. “What do you want now in your life that you are totally free of obligations?” my coach asked me after we both sit down at the corner of our neighborhood Starbucks. “I want to travel!” I replied without having to think too much. Magically, that sentence proclaimed in the air seemed to send a clear message to the universe. All of sudden my spirit lifted as I gave myself the permission to choose for myself instead of for others. After the coffee, I called my friend/hiking buddy back and inquired what was she calling me about earlier. “Hey I’ve found a great itinerary of Safari trip and I wander if you would be interested to go with me?” I smiled as the universe just answered my prayer.
So after the call, for the first time in my adult life, I joined an organized camping trip of 18-day to Safari touring the southern parts of Africa continent. As much as I love to travel, 18 countries and counting, I have never camped on any of the trips. My only camping experience was in my early 20’s camping for two nights in Yosemite National Park. Growing up as a city girl, I am conditioned to have a nice bed to sleep in and nice facility to take care of business. Considering the serendipitous way the Safari travel invitation came about, I decided to say yes to an opportunity to lean into the unknown and the uncomfortable and see what happens.
Born at the cusp of Sagittarius and Capricorn, I have dual tendencies of adventure and planning. The past 30 years working in the corporate world had me flex my planning side of the Capricorn nature while my adventure muscle has mostly become dormant. Say yes to the trip is to nurture my adventurous nature. Before going on the trip, I even set my stake to be “stretching and leaning into the minimal living”. With the inertia of planning mindset, I packed everything on the given packing list in two set so there is a backup in case the first set runs out. My duffle bag was so heavy that our tour guide KB was teasing me about the contents of the bag while helping me load it onto the bus.
After I was able to sleep through the first two nights in my “lavender scented” sleeping bag (yes I repurposed a 30-year old but only used twice sleeping bag with a lavender sachet from Trader Joe's) in 7 hours straight, I knew I am going to really enjoy this camping tour. I started to relax my body, I felt lighter weight from my shoulder, I slowed down to enjoy the scenery of countless trees and grass, I took nap on the long bus ride, I forgot politics and drama in the corporate world, I immersed myself in the joy of animal sighting right outside of the bus window. The nature is therapeutic to human mind, body and soul. It allows you to shift the attention to your senses from living just in our head.
On the Safari itinerary, there is at least one planned game drive (small group riding in the open vehicle), boat trip or nature walk every day of the trip. After three days, I noticed a pattern where the guides leading each outing conveyed some version of this message before we head out “Trees and grass on this drive are 100% guaranteed. However, animal sighting will be a gift of nature.” Sounded like a disclaimer to me at the time, now I think they merely invite us to embrace each sighting of the wild animal such as giraffe, elephant, hippo, crocodile, impala, kudu etc. etc. as serendipitous gifts from the nature.
Even as often as we tourists were reminded of the perspective of serendipity on this trip, we as an individual and as a group still held on to certain pre-set expectations…..expectation to see the Safari big 5, to see hippos yawning with their giant mouth, to see rhinos fighting with their horns, to see leopards running wild on the field, and….. to see the lions making a kill. The Safari experience needs to live up to our expectation.
It was on the 8th day of the Safari trip that we were on a game drive in Chobe National Park. It was an early morning drive started at 6am before dawn. The wind in the open truck was freezing cold. When we arrived at the reserve, there were another 15 vehicles just like ours. It was a “zoo” scene at the park entrance. The driver of each vehicle seemed to all have a walkie-talkie to inform each other if one sees the lion. It was chaos of multiple vehicles “chasing” the lions in sandy narrow paths, vying for the best photo shoot spots. The crowd chase went on for at least an hour or so…. I was thinking, there is now way we are going to see any lion as they can easily hear us or even smell us from miles away. I was so relieved when our driver eventually gave up the pointless chase and drove us towards the open field close to the river. As we traveled to open field, all of sudden, our driver made a sharp turn to the left and parked on a roadside facing towards the river. He turned off the engine and I soon realized we were the only vehicle parked there. I wondered why we parked there with no animal in sight.
We were in such an awe on the ride back that we seemed to be deep in thoughts perhaps reminiscing what we just saw and experienced out there. When we arrived back at the camp, our tour guide KB, sensing some incredible energy with the group, curiously asked “what did you guys see?” I can’t wait to show him the pictures and videos of an amazing and serendipitous buffalo encounter!