Why I Keep Coming Back to Africa

An interview with Erin West
 
Q.  How many times have you been to Africa?
A.  Eight times. Three times this past year alone!

 

Q.  You have traveled all over the world. Why does Africa keep you coming back?
A.  My first reaction to Africa was a feeling that I had come home. So for me, it’s like I keep going back home. I love the beauty and warmth of its people, and their spirit amidst terribly difficult circumstances. Of course the wildlife is spectacular, and the incredible sunrises and sunsets are unlike any other I’ve seen in the world. Africa is so diverse, there’s always something new to experience.

 

Q.  Africa is a big investment. Why not just go to the Caribbean or Central America?
A.  What I experience in Africa far outweighs the cost. Plus GS really works on making the trip as cost-effective as possible within my budget. Africa is a once in a lifetime (and sometimes life-changing) experience that nobody should miss.

 

Q.  Are you concerned about health issues when traveling?
A.  No not at all. There are precautions that one takes … you take your malaria meds, you’re careful what you eat and bring your antibiotics and bug spray with you and that’s it. The Ebola cases are so far away it doesn’t concern me at all.

 

Q.  Which countries in Africa have you been to? Favorites? Why?
A.  I’ve been to Tanzania, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the  Congo (DRC), Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, and Madagascar. I started coming to Africa 25 years ago. I saved my money and went on an overland trip and I just LOVED it. Later on through mutual friends, I met Priscilla and got to go on a trip in place of my mother. The rest is history.  Madagascar is for sure a favorite because of the lemurs, the different landscapes, the beautiful coastline. The flora and fauna are unbelievable, unlike anything I’ve seen anywhere else in the world. I love Tanzania for the chimps, DRC for the gorillas, Namibia for the amazing sand dunes as well as the Skeleton Coast, Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. In Botswana, the Ichobezi cruise along the Chobe River is wonderful. Jacks Camp in Botswana and the experience of the Kalahari was one of my most favorite in the world … especially the night sky and all terrain vehicle trips. Cape Town is one of my favorite cities. In Zambia the land safaris combined with the river trips. Just being on the river. I could go on and on!
Erin West & Immaculate (2) copy

 

Q.  Do you feel it makes the trip more meaningful to combine safari with visits to our GSGC supported projects?
A.  Yes, because you experience the real human aspect of Africa. Everyone goes to Africa to go on safari. Sometimes you get to go into a village and it feels planned, like you’re intruding. With the giving circle you visit the projects supported by the GSGC, you meet the people and the communities benefiting from the support. Its more personal and intimate. you hear their stories. As somebody who donates to the Giving Circle, I get to see directly how my money is being used to benefit the people down there.

 

Tips for traveling as a multi-generational family

Lucas family 004-2-1 copy

The Lucas Family

“Thank you, thank you, thank you. The experience was all we had hoped for. Awesome, as our grand kids kept telling s. The camps and lodges you recommended were just the right fit and the right mix. 

Both sets of camp managers were accommodating and flexible. They arranged for soccer games with the staff and set up a visit to a nearby village. Everyone was warm and friendly. The wildlife and landscapes were spectacular.

All in all, it was just the kind of experience and exposure that Midge and I were hoping for. Thanks again for making it all happen.”  Larry and Midge Lucas (Tanzania, June 2014)

This past June, Pete and Midge Lucas took their entire family on a safari vacation to Tanzania. Stops included Tarangire National Park, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater, and the Serengeti, where the family witnessed an actual crossing (You can’t plan that!).

Pete and Midge shared their thoughts on what made traveling as a multi-generational family a success:

  • Everyone had a sense of adventure & was healthy
  • Waiting until the grandkids were old enough to appreciate going on safari
  • Picking a time of year that didn’t conflict with school
  • Giving adults enough lead time to make vacation arrangements with work
  • Planning early (at least a year in advance)
  • Choosing camps that fit the entire family; in some places, they were the only guests
  • Remembering that this was also a vacation for each family unit. They appreciated that we chose camps where they had total flexibility to divide up and do different activities individually, i.e. bush walking, game drives, sleeping in, playing soccer, local visits
  • Rooming all the kids together

 

Interested in a multi-generational trip? Contact us!

Travel Tips from the “Road Warrior”

No one is on the go more than Priscilla’s husband, Peter. Peter is a water engineer and he tirelessly travels all over Africa in an effort to make clean water accessible for all those who don’t have it. Spending more time traveling than even in his own home, Peter has put together a, invaluable list of those travel tips which he feels are the most helpful. Check them out below…some may come as a surprise!

  • Significant travel fatigue comes from noise, including airport noise. Plug your ears with silicone plugs, zone out and maximize a Zen-like state when traveling, including in the airport terminal
  • Keep a journal of what you wear, don’t wear, and wish you had to wear on 5 trips in a row. This will help you better pack for future trips. You can also do this for electronic gadgets and toiletries
  • Purchase a small, hand held scale to always make sure you’re under the airline weight restrictions for your bags
  • In your carry on bag or large suitcase/bag, store common things in separate small bags, of varying shapes such as a bag for:
    • electronics
    • plane food/snacks
    • toiletries
    • hotel energy food/powdered drinks
    • emergency kit (e.g, Imodium, ORS, Malarone)
    • dirty laundry (so not to smell up clean clothes)
    • dirty shoes (2 plastics/pair)
    • electronics just for airport (e.g., adapters, ear plugs)
    • travel documents (passport, WHO card, boarding pass
    • liquids (especially hand-sanitizer)
    • camera equipment
    • local currency and SIM card (if applicable).
  • You can use hotel room laundry bag or trash can plastic insert (if clean) as a spare bag for such things as dirty laundry
  •  If you really want to help the environment place and keep your do not disturb sign on the outside of your hotel door. You won’t receive unnecessary towels, etc.
  •  Use the hotel hair dryer to dry any underwear that you wash if you don’t have time for hand drying
  • Earmark the pages in your passport for
    • where your Visa is for you next arrival
    • the last exit stamp for the country you are entering (if applicable)
    • a used page with enough room for another stamp (so you don’t run out of fresh pages too fast)
    • these marked pages should be shown to the immigration officer to speed up that process.
  •  If you can obtain the immigration forms online and fill them out ahead of time, try this. It could save you time for this process
  •  If you can pack everything in carry on luggage this will save you more time; and it completely removes the risk of lost luggage
  •  Carry with you about ten $1 bills for tipping – before you have time to obtain local currency
  •  Consider bringing your own food/snacks on your flights so that you can eat what you know/trust/like, and so you can eat on YOUR schedule
  •  Research the type plane in which you will fly and select your preferred seat at the earliest possible time – it makes a difference! For example I stay away from bathroom areas, I avoid window seats on long flights, I grab exit rows if not a confined bulkhead.
  •  If you are going straight into a meeting upon arrival, then dress nice, this can make a difference; otherwise, only dress for comfort.
  • Dress for warm conditions on the flight but bring at least one lightweight item that will provide warmth if the cabin is uncomfortably cold
  •  If you are paying on your own for the taxi from the airport to your hotel research the distance and costs. You might pay exorbitant rates if you don’t!
  •  Research the weather conditions for when you land (not from where you depart) and make sure you will have the right clothing available
  •  Bring at least one combination lock to lock your valuables in your bag when you are not in your hotel room. I no longer can trust the safe in the hotel rooms
  •  Always keep your hands clean and NEVER put your hands to your mouth when traveling
  •  Don’t ever, ever get mad with officials; instead be firm but highly respectful. Humor is also a powerful tool to achieve what you want
  •  Drink A LOT of bottled water every day!
  • Bring energy bars and powdered drinks for when you are not eating the local food so to keep your body healthy
  •  Exercise within at least 2 hours of your arrival (or at least before you go to bed) to help you adjust to the new time zone. Running/walking the hotels stairs, even if just 5 floors, is great aerobic exercise.
  •  Pleasant travel can be significantly impacted by something YOU control – your state of mind. If you can remain in a Zen-like state, avoid feeling rushed, having patience with the people around you, being okay with delays and changes, savoring the time to read some pages of your book, zoning out the world around you, then you will better enjoy the hours of you travel

 

Thanks Peter!

3 Tips To Make Your Long Haul Flights More Comfortable

Thanks to years of traveling back and forth from the states to Africa and other special places around the world, Priscilla has three simple yet extremely useful tips to make your long haul flights more comfortable. They are:

1. Get a great seat:

  • If there is an option for Economy Plus on the long haul, we feel it is worth it for the extra cost. You won’t have significantly more space, however, you won’t feel so lost in the masses as you are further forward in the plane with a bit more attention paid to you.
  • As soon as you make your reservation, try to get your seat assignment. SeatGuru can be a big help with this. We find a few rows behind bulkhead to be best. If you are traveling alone, try for the aisle seat in the middle section of the plane. Oftentimes, this increases the chances that the seat next to you will be empty and thus you can essentially stretch out in two seats.

2. Have an inflatable neck pillow:

  • These are easy to buy online or in the airport. The advantage to the inflatable neck pillow is that, once deflated, you can easily store it in your luggage taking up virtually no space. It makes a big difference in providing neck support when you relax or sleep on the flight.

3. Wax Ear Plugs and Noise Reduction headphones:

  • We recommend the wax earplugs for when you want to sleep and not watch any entertainment.
  • Noise reduction headphones are for entertainment (listening to music, watching the inflight movies, etc). We always have both. It has been found that one of the biggest impacts on jet lag is the noise from the plane. Trying to reduce that can make a big difference in how you feel upon arrival.

 

Great Guides – Key To An Outstanding Trip!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our clients reaffirm to us time and time again that the guide is key. Here at Global Sojourns we are experts at matching up our clients with great guides. The right guide can turn a good trip into the experience of a lifetime.

  • When your time is limited, a private specialist guide can orientate you to the area, provide you with background information on the history and culture, and introduce you to special places.
  • The training, experience, level of expertise, and personality of a guide can have a tremendous impact on the visitor’s experience.
  • We match up specialist guides with our clients’ particular interests such as cooking, wine, photography, etc.
  • Speak up! Express your interests before your trip as the better operators keep a list of favorite guides and their specializations and will try to make arrangements ahead of time.

 

What you can do:

  • Book your trip with a tour operator who also believes in the importance of good guides
  • Treat your guides well and with respect, and tip them fairly for their services
  • When you first meet your guide, let them know your expectations, likes and dislikes. For example, if you have arranged a full day Winelands tour in Cape Town and are an ardent fan of chardonnay, let your guide know ahead of time and he/she can arrange your day accordingly.

 

Having a great guide is worth the investment!

Meet Valentina, the newest member of the Global Sojourns team

Meet Valentina, the newest member of the Global Sojourns team. Valentina has more than 17 years of experience in the travel industry where her focus has been on eco, adventure and philanthropic tourism. Valentina currently lives on Long Island with her husband and three amazing children, and travels every chance she gets!

Almost as important as loving your job is working with people you can connect with. Working with Priscilla and Global Sojourns gives me the unique opportunity to immerse myself in Africa…learning new destinations, meeting new people, seeing how our clients’ lives are changed by the experiences and adventures we create for them. This is why I wanted to work in this profession, and this is why I feel like I’ve come home.

We’re thrilled to have her as part of the team!

  • She has a commitment to responsible and philanthropic tourism and loves to help clients have outstanding travel experiences
  • She holds a Master’s degree in International Tourism Administration from the George Washington University
  • She worked alongside Conservation International in Guatemala developing ecotourism & conservation initiatives
  • She ran the volunteer program at the Eco Escuela de Espanol in Guatemala
  • She knows Latin America in depth- having run the L.A. department for an established tour operator for years and launching the L.A. region for a company committed to helping clients create meaningful life experiences through Travel Philanthropy
  • She feels a sense happiness and peace when she is traveling, being surrounded by different lands, peoples and cultures…knowing that her very presence may positively impact the lives of those around her
  • She loves Africa!!!

 

Favorite travel experiences:

  • Spending a year of my life living and working within a somewhat remote community in the Mayan Biosphere Reserve…putting what’s really important in life in perspective. And learning to use a machete!
  • Swimming to a sacred waterfall in southern Venezuela and being overwhelmed by spiritual energy of an ancient civilization around us
  • First time safari in Botswana when a family of elephants silently emerge from the bush and surround our vehicle, close enough to touch.

Welcome!

V?rtigo en la duna., originally uploaded by Pepix2007.

I love that GS has such terrific clients. Besides being interested in the world, down to earth, concerned about traveling responsibly, adventurous and down right fun, interesting, nice people, GS clients tend to be very well traveled. With that in mind, we hope you?ll take an active role in contributing to this blog. As we all search and yearn for those outstanding travel experiences, it?s extremely valuable to hear from others who share a similar approach to and style of travel. On most travel forums, you have no idea who?s on the other end contributing reviews and suggestions.

We look forward to hearing from you– let?s take advantage of this unique situation and share!