Since I started telling people that I’ll be in Africa for two months this Spring, I’ve been floating some concerns in my head. This list grows as people contribute their opinions and I sign waivers to email overseas. Since social media is disproportionately “my life is awesome” anecdotes, the messy parts of our lives get overlooked or spun to be “overcoming obstacles.” We definitely don’t need to talk about how grateful I am or about how amazing this trip will be. Way more interesting is what scares me about going.
• Losing dogwalking clients and yoga students. (I find great substitutes. So perhaps my clients will just keeping using them or find someone else entirely.)
• Feeling physically ill from eating white breads and no yogurt. The NGOs I’ll work for have limited finances so I expect to eat basic and cheap food. I’m thrilled that funds don’t get wasted on humans, but California has spoiled me with fresh organic whole foods.
• Losing flexibility and strength because I won’t be practicing yoga with the same intensity. I’ve worked hard to get to my current level of comfort and stability in advanced poses. I don’t want to regress but living fully must take priority.
• Having my four-legged clients die while I’m away. Sure, staying home doesn’t mean I can save them and where I am on the planet makes no difference. Someone I love dies about every month so it’s likely to happen while I’m away.
• Liking Africa so much that I become unhappy with my current life. #firstworldproblems. Geez. Each time I return from Africa, people are surprised to see me. “We thought you would stay,” they say. While I flirt with that idea, I’m not willing to leave my cats and husband, and they are not schlepping with me across the world.
• Getting HIV. Ok, now we’re into my really nutso bulletpoints. I’m in a committed, monogamous relationship so getting HIV would also include getting raped. Lovely. I think this bulletpoint came from a podcast about the state of HIV in Africa. Malaria and any number of other diseases could be included here, too.
• Getting kidnapped. Whoa! I’m really thinking outside the box! I’ve seen too many episodes of 24. Somebody is always being held in a small hut made of mud, tin or cinder blocks. It’s always hot and they’re thirsty for days.
• Death by Predator Interaction. I was attacked last year by a caracal and I’m fine- just a few scars and an absurd story. But I never again want my skin to make contact with the teeth or claws of a wild animal. I’ll be in the bush with Black Mambo snakes, lions, leopards, elephants. (Most of us who love elephants have never lived in a small village that has been decimated by their giant feet and strong trunks.) We’ll be so far in the bush that doctors can’t help. So a problem is really a problem.
Why am I going? The first half of my trip will be working at a baboon rehab center in the bush outside of Phalaborwa, South Africa. The second half will be living in a tent outside of Ruaha National Park, Tanzania, and helping an NGO with elephant conservation and outreach. I’ll be posting beautiful photos on Instagram (@RLeshaw) and monkey videos on Facebook. But photos like this one of my munched up leg won’t be making their appearance on those feel-good social media platforms.
What scares you about traveling?