What to know before you go on safari
30th May 2023
What makes a trip special? I ask myself this question every day – and it’s my job to find the answer.
A long time ago I used to think it was hotels – on a typical trip you spend a lot of time in them, and the best ones…well, you do write home about them. But then I realised that my favourites weren’t the most luxurious, or the ones with the best view or the best food. They were the ones where I felt at home – and that’s an unpredictable feeling.
Next I thought it was a sense of discovery. Even after visiting many countries I still get this buzz, especially in the first few days after arriving somewhere new. In 20 years of travel (thus far) I felt it most acutely in Burma, China, Iran and Uganda, and I have my eye on Colombia, Nicaragua, Senegal and Botswana as future candidates. But that feeling – whilst marvellous – is also rather fleeting. Your senses become accustomed to your new surroundings, and you search for something deeper and more lasting.
In the last few years I’ve honed in on the thing I think has the biggest impact, and it won’t surprise any of you to know that it’s connecting with locals. It seems like such a modest thing – no huge cost involved, no contrivance or artifice. Just serendipity, an open mind and a willingness to share a conversation with a stranger. I’m never surprised to hear from returning customers that they have struck up a friendship or kept in touch with someone they met on their travels – and I know when I read that that they will remember that trip for a long time.
Jacky, a TravelLocal customer recently returned from Myanmar (Burma), got in touch on the subject of rubbish (or trash). Many of us, I’m quite sure, have seen parts of the world where disposal of rubbish is non-existent or unpredictable. It is terrible for the environment and seriously affects living conditions, especially in major cities. In my experience local people know this only too well. Jacky grasped the initiative and contacted both the Myanmar Embassy in London and the government in Yangon to suggest sorting the problem out – we (and Expeditions Myanmar – our local partner there) very much support that. We are suggesting an initiative of all local travel companies in Myanmar acting in concert. More news on that as we have it.
Predictably my favourite bit of the day is reading the great reviews we receive from many returning travellers. It’s literally the highlight of my day. Indulge me while I share three recent examples:
“The trip was pretty incredible! Jamal and Ali were completely wonderful and professional, they superseded our expectations . I’ve traveled a little and it was a place that I can barely describe to others because it won’t do it justice, it’s a truly remarkable place to visit. We loved every minute of it.” (Lynnea from the USA who travelled to Morocco)
“A fabulous reintroduction to the wonders of India. Everything worked like clockwork.” (Philip from the UK who travelled to India)
“We confess we did very little research for ourselves. We just gave you the dates and destinations and left it to you folks. And looking back on it the choices for destinations and cruises were spot on for us – we couldn’t have done any better. And everything worked out just like the itinerary said it would – 10/10 for organisation.” (Mary from the UK, who travelled to the Galapagos Islands)
From time to time a generous returning customer shares their photography with us (Bobby, Sally & Tony, Monica & Lindsay, Jean & Jeremy – hat tips to all of you). If any of you want to do that we can credit you on some parts of the website (though not all). Often travel photos sit on laptops and memory cards for years without being looked at (I am guilty of this). If that sounds like your collection and you want to liberate it….well, get in touch.
As usual I have to finish by restating our standard invite – if you’re passing through Bristol (recently voted as Britain’s best place to live!) then lunch is on us. Teresa and Dennis did just that recently, and put me in touch with a rather interesting interviewee for a later blog – but I won’t spoil the surprise!
Thank you all and happy travels!