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Interview with a Reluctant Safari Goer

I wanted my wife to experience a safari. I had to convince her to go, so I decided to conduct an interview so others could see her thoughts and the process of getting her on board, and how she now thinks about the trip.

Jason: So, tell me Nicole. When I first came to you and said, I want to go on safari. What were your thoughts?

Nicole: I was thinking that I'm not much of an animal person. And it seemed like the conditions we would be staying in while on safari would be very uncomfortable. You know, roughing it. Extreme kind of stuff. 

Jason: Did I have to do anything to convince you to go on safari?

Nicole: Uh, yes.

Jason: What?

Nicole: Well, the fact that our kids wanted to go helped your case because I didn't want to miss out on a fun family experience that y'all were going to be having, but also showing me photos of the bathroom facilities—in particular—in the places we would be staying, what the camps looked like, where we'd be sleeping. That sort of thing helped a lot.

Jason: So, what were your expectations versus reality while you were on safari?

Nicole: I expected it to be oppressively hot. It was not. I expected the conditions in the lodges— like where we would sleep, what the rooms would look like—to be worse. They exceeded my expectation by far. The food was much better than I expected. Even though I'm not an animal person, the observation of the animals was a lot more fun and interesting than I expected it to be. I expected it to be a lot more like harsh roughing it and it wasn't that at all; it was very comfortable and very, you know, relaxed the whole time.

Jason: So you're not an animal person, wildlife enthusiast. But what would you say the experience of being on safari was like in terms of vacations? Since you're not a wildlife person, this wouldn't have been your top choice. But looking back…

Nicole: I think of it as something you should experience in your lifetime. It was, it was awe-inspiring in a lot of cases. It was one of those, “Wow, I can't believe I'm getting to experience this thing, this natural beauty, these natural phenomena.” That surprised me most that I think back to often just sort of how beautiful the nature was and the cycle of life in the wild. Even the minutiae that we learned about the animals and their behavior from our guide, I still think about often when thinking about less-wild versions of those species. It's stuck with me a lot longer than I thought it would.

Jason: And, aside from wildlife, the scenery the nature—just the landscape that you were in. Did that surprise you?

Nicole: I expected there to be natural beauty, right? Like I've watched enough documentaries and seen enough photographs and magazines that I had no doubt that there would be natural beauty. I don't think I anticipated the scope or the scale of it, like, how large the vistas were. How big the sunsets were. Just looking out on huge expanses of land that were completely untouched by man, in terms of development or buildings right? In our modern world, we never have the opportunity to see something like that. And that was surprising to me. Just experiencing it in person.

Jason: What is one of the top memories you still have? This, however, many years later from going on safari?

Nicole: Our family experienced a lot of things together, as far as just like watching things happen in nature—together—that were real bonding moments and real “conveying of values, confirming of values” kind of moments. Our kids were pre-teen at the time, (11 and 13) so, it was just a real crucible moment in their development. I think to spend time with us experiencing those things, together. I just have wonderful family memories of, you know, funny things that occurred because we were fish out of water there and amongst the animals, amongst the wildlife in nature. It just wasn't the environment that we were used to. And you learn a whole lot about yourself and each other in those environments.

Jason: Did you have concerns about safety before you went? And after having gone, do you remember any times of feeling unsafe?

Nicole: I had concerns about safety that were perhaps irrational. Like I wasn't concerned that a lion was going to eat me. I was concerned that we would get stuck out in the bush with no ability to contact anyone for help and you know, all four tires would be flat or something like that. And that never happened. There were myriad backup systems that kept us safe when we were out on game drives. As an American citizen, who had never been to the African continent before, there are lots of irrational images in your head. Or for media reports that I was worried about, and none of those were true. The people were full of grace and warmth and happy that we were there. And we had no trouble communicating: everyone spoke english. They were super friendly to our kids and enjoyed seeing our kids there. It was a really warm, life-affirming kind of experience.

Jason: If you were to run across someone whose friend, spouse, or life partner was trying to convince them to go on an African safari, what would you say to them?

Nicole: Don't question it. Just go. I was exactly that reluctant spouse and because I was going through my own stuff with a career change and some health issues, I luckily didn't have the energy to fight you on this, and so I went along and just trusted that it was going to be under control. And it exceeded my expectations. It was also healing in a way that I never would have predicted. And so for that, I'm grateful.

I took my wife and two daughters to Tanzania on safari. We visited Mtu wa Mbu village, hiked to the elephant “caves” and then headed out into the bush, visiting Tarangire National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and Serengeti National Park before flying to Zanzibar to relax along the shores of the Indian Ocean. We made some lifelong family memories.

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