It's hard to be back from this particular trip. Possibly because I wrote a number of the blog posts when we were already home, I had the luxury of "staying" in Kenya for an extra week. I'm feeling sad and a little empty that it's over. But I've also had time to think about the particular blessings of this recent journey. That often happens to me after a trip. People will ask me about it, and I'll find certain stories coming up over and over, being retold. That's how I come to realize what the high points were.
1. I remember when we first decided on this personalized safari to Kenya. The price was a good deal higher than any of our previous trips. In fact, according to our annual budget, we're now out of travel money until next spring. I console myself with the fact that we'll be living more frugally and will replenish the money we borrowed from our savings to do this. I hope that will happen.
What I've learned from this financial splurge is that if we go the cheap route every time we travel, we may miss out. I'm not saying we should fly first class instead of coach, or we should buy entire new wardrobes, or we should be luxurious in what we do. I'd be uncomfortable with choices like that. But for this once-in-a-lifetime trip, we needed to spend what we spent to have the experience we had. Sometimes you get what you pay for. We were well cared for. Every bed was comfortable; every meal was good. In addition to those comforts, we had magnificent game drives and met interesting people. If we were doing this trip for the first time again, there's not a thing I would change - except I would bring my walking shoes home with me instead of leaving them in our last tent! So my Bag Lady is taking another look at her tendency to dig in her heels at the idea of spending money, just for the sake of digging in her heels. That may be based on fear, and I'm ready to give up the fear.
On the other hand, we're still budget travelers most of the time. We belong to two travel clubs. We do home exchanges. We drive a Prius on our road trips.
2. I've shifted a bit in my perspective on getting older. We spent two months in Tucson last winter in a 55-plus resort. We loved the activities and the people. But we missed seeing families with young children as well as different ethnicities. I get newsletters and magazines geared to the 55-plus demographic and I read them; there's lots of advertising about retirement centers. I feel like I was being encouraged to be older and do "older" things. I felt older.
In our 15 nights in Kenya, we stayed from one to four nights in seven different places. We got around mostly by Land Rover, with two short internal flights. We went on fourteen game drives. They were either from 6:30 to 9 a.m. or from 4 to 6:30 p.m. To go on those drives we had to climb into a Land Rover, pulling ourselves up by handles and sliding to the ground afterwards. We did that. As a matter of fact, there wasn't a single time that Peter offered to help us. That was because he could see he didn't need to. And on those game drives, we were mostly standing up, with our heads out the roof, balancing and adjusting and shifting our weight in response to the roads. Now, we weren't going on hikes, or river rafting, or climbing mountains, or mountain biking. But we were active.
Just because I will be 65 in three months doesn't mean I'm on my way out. So, since we got home, I've been thinking about now get involved in my community in ways that are more diverse. And, for now, I am no longer reading the 55-plus newsletters and magazines.
3. On our game drives, I was completely focused on what was around me - the sights and sounds, the animals in groups or alone, the degree of alertness displayed. I watched herds of zebras and troops of baboons and families of elephants and prides of lions. I listened. I was not worrying about my back, or money, or the state of the world. I wasn't thinking about what I'd have for dinner or whether we had brought along enough cash for tips. I was in the moment out there. My mind was completely absorbed in what was going on around me - and I was part of it. If you had told me I'd enjoy every minute of 35 hours of game drives, I wouldn't have believed you. I know better now. I will be looking for absorbing ways to occupy my mind now that I'm home. I decided to leave my hypochondria on the African savannah, so I'll need other things to think about!
4. We had multiple opportunities to donate money to worthy causes: an elephant orphanage, a giraffe sanctuary, a chimp rescue agency, an orphanage, an education fund. We'd decided to wait until we got home to decide whether - and where - to contribute. Having experienced two weeks of Kenya, when we got home we set up monthly donations to two organizations. One is the Samburu Youth Education Fund, which provides funding for education for outstanding students from tribal areas. The other is FINCA, a microbanking organization benefitting women.
There are many needs in the world. Art and I are fortunate to have more than we need. I like the phrase, "Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime." We want to teach fishing. And I now think we have a responsibility to help. I just finished a book called The Soul of Money. The author's contention is that our culture is all about acquisition and money, and that each of us will benefit more by considering how we can use our money toward ends that align with our highest values. Or, I'll add, our time. I want to do more of that.
We bought a few souvenirs. We have a walking stick, a medicine man, and a Maasai family, all made from wood. And a small knitted elephant. And a few necklaces. But the main gifts are intangible. They're the blessings, the Gifts of Kenya.
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