What can I say about a dream come true? Shall I say that I spent most of my life believing my dreams wouldn’t be fulfilled? I lived much of my early years longing for the things that others had. The thing about my longings is that it kept me out of the loop. There’s an unspoken presumption that it was beyond my reach. Growing up I heard about the trips to Florida my classmates took. I longed to audition for a traveling high school production of Godspell, but had to work, and couldn’t afford to take time off, let alone pay for a ticket to California. I felt left out. Moving to New York in the early 80’s, there were apartments for sale at accessible prices. But for me, getting my hands on $200 was as elusive as paying for a $20,000 apartment. It took years to learn that there were ways to have what I once thought as impossible. I learned that by working hard in psychotherapy. And, throughout the years I’ve realized a few of my dreams, my own private practice, running the NYC Marathon at 56, and most recently, going on Safari in Africa.
It was a month ago Larry and I were in East Africa. It truly was a dream come true. I first had the idea when my mother mentioned wanting to go to Africa when I was a child. In my mind, we would go together. But through the years it became apparent she was not one who could travel easily. I, on the other hand, started traveling in college. First studying art history in Paris, and visiting a few other European cities. Then doing what I could to go on local road trips, and visit other countries. But one of my bucket list trips had yet to be realized.
A little over ten years ago I created the Africa fund. This was separate from a vacation fund, or any other savings account I had. I had thought I’d go for my 50th birthday, but I hadn’t saved enough to do anything but backpack, and I’m really no camper. So, I aimed for my 60thbirthday. When my mother died this year, I thought, “Why wait? We only live once. ” And, so, I started planning the trip. We chose Micato Safaris, which turned out to provide an amazing adventure. They designed special experiences throughout. Elephants are my favorite animal, and they made sure my time with Elephants surpassed any and all expectations.
We started out in Kenya. We went to the Nairobi National Park. It was our first safari experience. There is a unique energy trying to visually locate animals in their natural habitat. Giraffes can be easier to spot based on their height, but most of the animals blend in so beautifully that it was not as easy to spot them as I would have imagined. Later we went to a Giraffe sanctuary. They save endangered giraffes, and raise them until they can go back into the wild. We got to feed these beautiful creatures with their purple, foot long tongues, and expressive eyes. Later we visited the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which is an orphanage for baby elephants. They ran past us in the sweet line as they made their way into their nightly beds. They are rescued elephants, who are raised for their first few years, then introduced back into the wild, with their dedicated foster parents.
The next day we flew to Tanzania for the Tanzania Spectacular tour. It is aptly named. We visited Tarangire, where we stayed in luxurious treetop cabins. From there we went to the Ngorongoro Crater. It is like nothing else in that it attracts all the wildlife since there is a good supply of water. From there we drove to the Serengeti. The Serengeti is vast and varied. There we were able to see so much. And, though I was enamored by all the animals we saw, I have to say, I loved meeting and speaking to everyone we encountered. When our tour ended in Tanzania Larry and I went to Zambia to enjoy the beauty and splendor of Victoria Falls. While there, we went on a motor boat on the Zambezi to The Elephant Cafe, a restaurant that serves local cuisine after feeding and petting the rescued elephants they care for. It was an outstanding experience, from the crocodiles and hippos by the river, to a five star meal after communing with the gentle giants.
Each moment of each day was full and satisfying. I felt transformed. Not only was I able to go somewhere I had only dreamed of, but I was able to enjoy all the trip had to offer. I don’t know how it’s changed me. Only time will tell.