Monday, June 24, 2013

Retrospective: The Gifts of Kenya

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.


Linda Reeder said...

I am inspired by you.
Will I go to Kenya? No. It is not on my "bucket list", and Tom and I have only so many big trips left in us. I'm almost 69 and Tom is 71. But I am inspired by how deeply you experience your travels, and how much you want to give back when you return.
We've had some wonderful trips and have learned from them too. Learning is the blessing, the gift, of traveling for me too.
And while we are getting old, we do not surround ourselves with oldness. I won't join AARP because it's too narrowly focused on the over 55 wants and needs. We connect with young people through our family, soccer, and our gardening groups, as well as Facebook.
I'm rambling now, but your post really touched me. Thank you. You are amazing.

Barb said...

It certainly sounds like you have had time to do some thinking. I'm going to agree with you that interspersing more frugal trips with one like you just took is a good idea-there are times when nothing else will suffice. I think the rewards from this particular trip will take you to the spring-and you will find other ways to be enriched.

I do agree with you re the 55 plus communities and appreciate your perspective-Ill be traveling south for three or four months of the year, but not to a snowbird retirement community.

The Soul of Money is on my list, after I finish Generous Justice.

Teresa Evangeline said...

The Gifts of Kenya sounds like a book I would love to read... I'm in tears at the joy I feel over this post and the lessons learned, gifts received from what feels like my homeland in the strangest of ways...

#1Nana said...

Great reflection! I admire that you take the time to reflect. I sometimes find myself rushing from one activity to another and not taking the time to ponder the lessons learned or why I'm even doing the activities. I'm so glad you found the trip so meaningful.

Rosaria Williams said...

A true voyage of the mind and soul!

Bob Lowry said...

Obviously, this trip was both money and time well spent. Sometimes a vacation is just a break in routine and is meant to simply refresh. Other times, a vacation is a true life-altering experience. Kenya was the latter for you and Art.

Thought for Linda Reeder: I belong to AARP because they offer some tremendous bargains and discounts for me. But, just because I get their material it doesn't mean I only want to interact with older folks. It all part of the fascinating journey we call retirement.

Linda, your posts and pictures have been a joy.

Meryl Baer said...

Great insight into your trip that helps you as well as your readers.
Interesting comments about 55+ communities. I have heard many pluses and minuses about their benefits and shortcomings. We happily remain in our home with no plans to move, but wonder about the future.

DJan said...

I agree with Linda Reeder: you are inspiring in your ability to communicate what this trip meant to you and Art, and I will make an effort to let my own travels go deeper into my psyche. I think I have reached the place where I no longer resist travel, but looking forward to it is still to come. I belong to AARP but I also interact with plenty of young people, from 4 on up! :-)

Out on the prairie said...

You recieved some valuable spiritual enrichment while there,how wonderful

wheels4me said...

Thanks for the thoughtful insightful posts about your trip. It was some of my favorite travel writing--ever!

I microlend to women around the world at

I am glad you had such a wonderful trip. Kudos to the baglady stretching her comfort zone to make this trip the best it could be.

Friko said...

You have brought back many gifts, gifts and memories to last a lifetime.

It’s the only way to travel, eyes and ears and hearts wide open.l

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Once again, I love the lessons you are sharing with us. Being in the moment is an absolutely wonderful gift, and it keeps on giving. Being willing to pay more for a unique and very valuable experience is also a great lesson for one who usually spends cautiously. And I love your choice of supporting the microfund that helps women, because studies have shown that when women in dire circumstances earn money they use it to benefit their entire families and their communities. Once again, thanks for these posts.

Dee said...

Dear Linda, your postings about Kenya have been exceptional. You have the great gift of being able to reflect on your the events of your life and to learn from them. You also have the gift of being able to embrace change and take risks. That makes you such an interesting and intriguing individual. And I'm so glad that you share all this with us because I learn from reading your posts. I learn about aging and enjoying and making a new life.

Your #3 item is something I've been working on for years--living in the moment. Being present to life each moment. It's the work of a lifetime I think. Peace.

Grandmother Mary said...

I like the lessons you learned and appreciate you sharing them. My husband has wanted to do a similar trip so this gave me lots to think about. I especially like your belief that we need to share our wealth with causes that align with our highest values.