I’ve struggled with mental health since I was a young teenager and I did not ever go anywhere on my own. When I was 17 years old, I was working in a full time job at a reputable company. The future looked bright. I was asked to go into London one day on the train. It was less than an hour from where I live, but it sent me into a small downward spiral. Traveling alone was the scariest thing to me. I went home from work in floods of tears and started googling how to get over your fears. One thing stuck with me. ‘Throw yourself in the deep end’. So that night I booked a single return flight to South Africa. I was going on my own to Africa.
The next few weeks flew by, and the big day came quicker than I imagined. It was petrifying, but as soon as the plane took off I realized that I’d done it. It was too late to turn back. The majority of my time I spent volunteering on a game reserve. I did my research and found a game reserve that don’t supply any animals for canned hunts and offered no hands on wildlife encounters. Counting species, fixing fences, maintaining the tracks, and learning about the different species was my job.
I had several amazing wildlife encounters whilst I was there, but these are a few that I remember clearest.
– A young African elephant bull charged me. He was hidden in a bush, and as we drove round the corner we surprised him.
– I saw an African baby hippo sit on their mum as they waded in the water and got an unforgettable photo.
– On a night game drive I watched a lioness take her cubs out hunting and catch a wildebeest.
– I watched zebras giving birth and saw babies take their first steps.
– Two rhinos, who I joke were a married couple, never left each other’s sides. I saw them daily throughout my time there.
I spent the rest of my time traveling down the Garden route. There’s so much to do and so much to see. The beaches are beautiful, white sands and royal blue seas.
I had the most amazing time in South Africa. I’ve done several solo trips since and gone even further around the world. The reason I’m sharing this story is that we spend so much time thinking of the what ifs. We think about the hows and all the things that could go wrong. And then we just let time slip by. I’m hoping by sharing this I’ll inspire even one person to believe in themselves and take the plunge. I visited 11 countries in 2018. I’m hoping to beat that this year.
Tips to leave you with
– Something can happen to you in your house, just by crossing the street, going to work. Life is full of risks, take calculated ones and enjoy life. We really do only have one life.
– Believe in yourself, push your comfort zone, push your boundaries. You can do it.
– Planning can help settle your nerves, my first few trips I had every minute counted for. Now I go with the flow a bit more, I know what I want to do and see but the rest I just see where it takes me.
– And finally just have fun, make memories, take that 1000th photo on your camera.