Dogs stinking by the fire, the cat on my lap, reminiscing about a rather tumultuous term in London over a cup of tea, last Christmas was a bonanza of home comforts and it was hard to imagine myself somewhere between Zimbabwe or Botswana in 10 months time…
No I haven’t won a holiday in the Okavango, and no I haven’t (yet) decided to go and try my luck as a venture entrepreneur in the so called last frontiers of Africa.
But yes, a few of us will have driven over 17.000km to get there, having started three months earlier in Scotland.
“What?! But you’re mad! You’ll get killed! It’s dangerous! And what about lions? And jobs? Graduate schemes?!” I’m still not sure which of those I’m most afraid of, but those are the typical reactions I get when I first mention this project.
Actually I lie, I also get simple but effective disapproving shakes of the head that remind me so much of the classic “we’re not angry, we’re just disappointed” that your parents give you when you’ve been naughty at school.
“Why would you drive? Why don’t you just take a plane?” For reasons unknown, I struggle to explain the purpose of the trip to those people.
“You’ll never make it, it’s impossible” Those however, I have a lot of time for. It becomes a debate, and who doesn’t love a good debate.
It’s all worth it when every now and then, you tell someone whose face immediately lights up with excitement. A hint of envy comes through when they go off on a soliloquy about their own dreams, to finally come back down to earth and provide constructive criticism on the logistics behind such a trip. Those are the people I spend most of my days talking to at the moment, especially when I need motivation to overcome yet another problem that’s just appeared – problems I most definitely don’t mention to the previous categories of people…
It’s too easy to hide behind a charity fundraiser to justify driving down Africa, as it sounds like such a great excuse to make you feel better about taking a four months holiday, but once you’ve chosen a charity and committed to it, it’s hard to not try your best for it.
Let’s not be hypocritical here, when someone comes up with a plan for an insane adventure, your first thought isn’t for the schools you could be funding along the way but for how much fun you’re going to have and you get carried away. You get SO carried away, how many iPods are we going to bring? What game reserve should we go to? I have a friend in Kenya, it would be great to go see him!
No, the feeling of guilt kicks in later, when you realise the luck you have to even be able to consider driving down Africa, when you realise that you shouldn’t be so selfish and bloody well share with people along the way.
Rapidly, it takes over though and you forget about the safaris and the beers around a campfire, but still you’re not being selfless. At this point, you doubt you’ll manage. Oh you’ll get to Cape Town alright, but what if you make a fool of yourself by having half-heartedly tried to be charitable? What if you don’t help everyone who could be helped? What if you just suck at fundraising?
Once you’ve gone through all those stages, you’re ready to get serious about organising what I heard best described as “something only young people are mad enough to attempt AND get away with”.