Extended travel requires planning. There’s a delicate balance between planning enough to have stability and leaving an itinerary open enough for spontaneity. Between Internet research and personal recommendations, this has been an easy balance to strike during our travels in Asia and Europe. Things may not be quite as easy in Africa. We’ve just started planning for a June arrival in southern Africa and preliminary research makes us feel like novice travelers. Things such as car jacking and being eaten by lions (toddlers make good lion bait is one thing we have repetitively read) are risks we just haven’t had to consider elsewhere.
Here is last night’s conversation between The King of Paranoia and The Queen of Rationalization.
Sandeep: We should have planned for Africa months ago. I’m looking at these game reserves and the good ones book out a year in advance. And then a lot of them don’t allow kids.
Diya: Oh yeah? Well, can’t we just camp? Isn’t that what the One Year Off family did?
S: I’m not camping in the bush.
D: Why? We can take a guide with us.
S: There are wild animals in the bush. And a lion can definitely bite through a tent. Plus, how are you going to control the kids in a tent? What if Kayan just runs out? There is a reason that these places don’t allow kids.
D: I think there are better things for a lion to eat than our tent. But I get what you’re saying about Kayan. I’ll look into what our options are with kids.
S: And we should research all the other risks in Africa.
S: Scorpions, snakes, crime.
D: We know Africa has all those things, we just have to be careful. If I see a scorpion I’m not going to and make friends with it.
S: This is not funny. There are specific risks and if we don’t research we won’t know how to prepare. Like what if we need to buy the kids closed shoes to protect them from scorpions?
D: I am sure all the kids in Africa don’t have closed shoes.
S: That’s not the point. Look, we have two kids to worry about and we need to know our risks. You wouldn’t go to war unprepared, would you?
At this point I can see that Sandeep is really annoyed so I search “risks to visitors in Africa” on Google. This is a really stupid thing to do. There are over 50 countries in Africa and the risks include pirates, guerrilla warfare, and of course scorpions and snakes.
D: I don’t know how to do this. It’s telling me things like don’t have s*x with strangers because a third of Botswana’s population has AIDS. What do I do with that?
S: Look D, I need to know that you’re taking this seriously otherwise we just shouldn’t go.
Of course we are going to go. The kids are so excited about seeing Africa’s animals, although even they don’t know what they are in for. Kayan’s closest encounter with a wild cat is his affectionate relationship with Tiger.
I joke with Sandeep that he’s African and our trip should be like a happy homecoming. He was born in Nigeria, which is a very different country now than it was almost four decades ago. Moreover, Africa is a diverse continent and one that neither of us knows much about. The King of Paranoia has a point when he says we need to research the risks. Our Sikkim experience taught us that we are city slickers and not intrepid wilderness types. I can deal with a horse being outside our tent in Sikkim, but knowing that canvas is all that separates the kids from a lion will elicit fear even in The Queen of Rationalization.
Come June, while Sandeep, Kayan, Ava, Tiger and I watch a lion kill a zebra, I hope we all can rest assured knowing that we are prepared for the experience. Our next several days will be spent figuring our our Africa plans. Who knows, we may even go shopping for some closed shoes.
When planning for travel, which camp do you fall in? Paranoia or Rationalization? We’d love to hear your stories of when either worked for or against you.