Happy Friday, Dear Readers.
A gorgeous summer day deserves a fun writing prompt, so here’s one that I hope you’ll be inspired to participate in:
What’s the most exciting thing that has ever happened to you?
This was a tough question for me. I had to think about it a bit…I’ve had an unusual, colorful life thus far. But, all in all, I have to say that the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me was going to Africa.
I’d wanted to go to Africa ever since I could remember. My friend Darbi and I once planned to go on a safari together, and when she died, I made it my mission to go on that trip for both of us. There was only one problem: a trip to Africa is prohibitively expensive, and it was well beyond my budget.
I was working the night shift in the newsroom at my local paper when one of the photojournalists suggested I get someone else to pay for it. Brilliant! Why didn’t I think of that?
There wasn’t much going on that night, so I searched the web for travel companies that specialized in African safaris. The first one on the list was African Portfolio, so I wrote owner Diane Ebzery and asked if she’d be willing to allow me to go on one of her safaris free of charge. In return, I would write about the experience, and sell the story to as many magazines and newspapers as I could. I really didn’t expect anything to come from this late-night email, but to my great surprise, she agreed. (I even had to suggest she read some of my work first, as it never occurred to her.)
A few short months later, my best friend (the photographer for the trip) and I were off on the adventure of a lifetime! During our four weeks in Zambia and Zimbabwe, I:
- Held a baby crocodile
- Traveled in a microlight (basically a motorized bike with wings) over Victoria Falls
- Saw too many rhinos, elephants, zebras, antelope, hippos, crocs, giraffes and baboons to count (Along with some elusive wild cats.)
- Met amazing people, especially our African guides and the people of Zambia and Zimbabwe
- Visited an actual village in Zimbabwe
- Maneuvered a canoe through the Zambezi River while a bull elephant charged at us from above
- Witnessed phenomenal sunsets from a boat, and saw an even more awesome sunrise
- Photographed a baby elephant with its mother
- Visited and walked inside ruins that are older than the pyramids
- Learned how precious all life is
- Traded GAP clothing for batiks
- Ate the best spaghetti and the best potato chips of my life (spare rib flavor–who knew?)
- Stayed in the most incredible places I will probably ever see
- Was awed by an entirely different set of constellations
And much more! I was moved to tears by so much of the experience, from the time I first saw the vivid blues, greens, and golds of Africa from the air, to the time I saw my first elephant in the wild. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and because Diane generously sponsored us, we went first-class all the way. The other people staying at the same resorts were captains of industry, and clearly puzzled over how a lowly writer and photographer managed to afford the same trip. After so many years, it seems the whole thing was a dream. And in many ways, it was.
Unfortunately, to my unending guilt and shame, I never got to pay Diane back for her extreme generosity and kindness (the woman thought of everything, even booking a luxury hotel for a few hours so we wouldn’t have to wait in the airport for our flight home). No one wanted to buy stories about traveling to Africa during the summer months, and that fall, September 11th happened. No one wanted to travel anymore. I sold few stories, and those I did sell were disappointing. (One magazine used my story as a vehicle to promote other travel companies.)
I still hope some day to pay her back for the most amazing experience of my life. And if you should go to Africa, please give Diane your business. I promise you won’t regret it. She makes the trip of your dreams a reality.
One of our guides told me that if you drink the water of the Zambezi River, you are guaranteed to return to Africa. I sure hope he’s right.
Your turn, Dear Readers! What’s the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to you?