My penchant traveling for real didn’t start til my 20s. Age 24 specifically, when I went on what was supposed to be a 3 month Europe/Israel trip and came back 13 months later, my travel passions fully kindled and my appetite whet for more.
The Beginnings of Crazy Traveling
My father would probably say it started closer to age 11 or 12, when he took me on a business trip to New Orleans. He had a meeting and gave me $20 to order lunch at one of the restaurants at the hotel. I took that money, walked to the port of New Orleans, and took myself on a boat trip tour to the local zoo, and even had enough money to by candy at Woolworths on the walk home. My father still (un-fondly) reminisces about the heart palpitations he experienced after asking me “how was your day, honey?”
My mother would say that it started at age 13, when she took me with her on a business trip to Rome. Again, these were “different days” of parenting. Think 1980s oversight (or lack thereof). Basically, my mom would be in meetings all day and I’d shove the business card of the hotel in my pocket, wander and get myself totally and satisfying lost among the piazzas and fountains of Rome, then hop in a taxi, show the driver the hotel card, and make my way back in time to fall asleep at the dinner table while eating pasta with my mom and her colleagues each night.
Coining the “CrazyTraveler” Moniker
But it was through that backpacking trip in my 20s that I came to love spontaneous travel, showing up in a range of destinations high on curiosity and low on plans (or reservations). And it was only after meeting Adam, and going on our first three month trip together (to Southeast Asia) that the CrazyTraveler moniker was born, thanks to a Yahoo email account – the first one started in 1999, and the second one, CrazyTravelers2002 – started after we forgot the password for the first one. Adam and I would huddle next to a computer at painfully slow (but pleasantly cheap) internet cafes, documenting our tales from the road. Both of those email accounts got left in the ethernet dust (though thankfully my mom has printed hard copies of many of those diatribes!!)
But “CRAZY”? While I think certainly plenty of other less adventurously-inclined may regard some of our travels as crazy, I never thought that. Until now.
Embracing “the Crazy” comes with anxiety, even for me…
Now, I’m writing from a Johannesburg, South Africa-bound plane, from where I’ll connect to Livingstone, Zambia. I’m not with Adam. And I’m not alone. I’m with my two daughters, ages 10 and 12.
I’m both worried about the malarial destination, and about being there without my husband – who admittedly “deals” with most of the travel logistics on the trips we take together. He prevents my close-to-crazy ideas from going off the rails. He makes sure that we stay at places with ensuite rather than shared bathrooms (not worth the extra cost, in my opinion) and with air conditioning (worth every penny). He negotiates with taxi drivers. He also has a knack for dealing with the kids rationally and calmly, even while jet lagged.
But reason be damned. Embrace the crazy. Somehow, for some reasons that made sense over the past few months, I am single-handedly dragging my girls to experience Africa. Not “safari Africa.” There will not be fancy tented bush camps and Range Rover safari drives and sundowner cocktail hours. (Though those sort of Africa vacations sure do seem nice.) Instead, we will have a fully immersive experience – volunteering at an orphanage in the small remote village of Mwandi in southwestern Zambia. Zara made the mistake of mentioning many months ago that she was interested in traveling to Africa. (Her good friend had just gone on a “safari Africa” trip, and that must have kindled her interest.) I decided to combine her flickering interest in traveling to that part of the world with a service trip for her bat mitzvah project. And hence, our upcoming mother-and-daughters weeks at Home For AIDs Orphans….
No, I didn’t organize this through a provider. No, it’s not an organized “mission” trip. Rather, thanks to Google search, I found the orphanage volunteer opportunity myself. Vetted it via a few emails back and forth, and via a few calls with past volunteers. Organized our typhoid vaccinations. Got prescriptions for anti-malarials. Packed a medical kit ranging from bandaids to ace bandages to anti-diarrheals and more. Did a collection drive for school supplies, toys and clothes to bring to the kids. That and a prayer, and we are off.
I write now feeling like this is, in fact – for the first time I’m willing to admit – totally crazy. But I think I think that because we haven’t landed yet. I write as we are enroute. We’ve completed two of the three flights to get to Zambia and the anticipation is killing me. The girls are sleeping next to me and I’m plagued with worry about what I may be dragging them into:
- Will we be healthy?
- Will we be of use at the Home For Aids Orphans?
- What exactly will we do there? Will we be safe? Will we be bored?
- Will our stuff get stolen?
Even I am not immune from travel anxiety.
And parental anxiety.
And traveling while parenting anxiety.
But, I hope and believe it will all be worth it. Once we touch ground and get started, the experience will be like no other. We’ll have new adventures. We’ll give back. Things might in fact get a bit crazy. But… me and the girls will have even more credibility behind the “CrazyTraveler” name then ever before.
So stay tuned!