Intrepid Traveler Destination: South Africa!

Intrepid Traveler Destination: South Africa!

Two years ago last month, when I arrived at the Airbnb I’d booked in Florida for the month of February, I unloaded the car then sat down on the bed and dissolved into tears.

The house was more “rustic” than I’d anticipated, the neighborhood a shade on the sketchy side, and the thought of being there for five weeks—when that month was supposed to be my warmth-and-sun relaxing getaway—overwhelmed me with disappointment.

I didn’t let myself cry for more than a few minutes. And by the end of the month, my rustic little house was charmingly vintage, I’d grown to love St. Augustine, and my plan for a year of Intrepid Introvert challenges had formed.

Two Februarys in Florida taught me how important it is for my spirit that I get away during the dreariest of months. I planned to continue my streak for a third year in 2018, but when I got an invitation to join friends in New Zealand for two weeks instead, I chose to say “yes.”

It was the bolder move. The more intrepid one.

And it raised the bar on my understanding and perspective about what I was capable of doing with my time.

I passively considered options for a 2019 destination all last year, taking in ideas as they came to me, but nothing lit the spark of excitement. I considered Florida but quickly dismissed it. I looked at national parks in warm-and-sunny locations, but none hit the right note.

At the gorgeous Bourkes’ Luck Potholes in Moremela, South Africa.

At the gorgeous Bourkes’ Luck Potholes in Moremela, South Africa.

My main challenge was the lack of a travel partner. I’d lucked out with my friends going to New Zealand in 2018, but I couldn’t plan on tagging along with them again. I’d love to do a trip with my brother, but convincing him to take time off work for something other than hunting season was nearly impossible. An international trip intrigued me, but the idea of going completely alone wasn’t appealing.*

In November, I remembered a friend had mentioned a great experience he’d had traveling with a group tour company, so I started researching that route. The more I learned about the company he’d raved about—a young company, founded and led by a woman, and catering to my generation—the more intrigued I became.

After two phone calls in which I peppered For The Love Of Travel’s group coordinator with questions, I was in: two weeks venturing to South Africa with a group of young professionals ticked all the right boxes. And best of all, it not only lit my spark of excitement but nurtured it into a warm flame.

Three months later, I’d completed all my recommended vaccinations, had a pack of 14 antimalarial pills, and tucked my new binoculars into my luggage.

The Amanda of 2017 would never have believed that the Amanda of 2019 would board a 14.5-hour flight from JFK to Johannesburg, join a group of complete strangers, and trek into the South African bush to go on safari, sleep in a tented camp under a mosquito net, and find her biggest point of anxiety would be having a poor reaction to her antimalarial drugs.

But the Amanda of 2019 is the Intrepid Introvert whose struggle to keep from dissolving into tears on the way home came not from anxiety but from the sadness of having to leave her seven new equally intrepid friends.

It was one of the best trips and greatest adventures of my life. I’m culling 600 photos and editing two weeks of stories for you, my friends. Time to get to work.

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*At the rate my travel plans are evolving, this feeling may change in the next two days. :)

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