It’s not easy to put into words the impact that certain people have upon you. It could be anyone reading those words and, in all likelihood, they don’t know you, much less the people you are talking about. Moreover, there’s no reason for them to care. You’re talking about you, after all, and one small circle around you. ‘You’ is not ‘them’ and ‘they’ are not in the circle. But I can guarantee that they, too, have a circle just like yours and also that they have felt the same way that you do. And chances are that if they tried to put into words the feeling that comes from having such a circle, they’d wouldn’t find it easy either.
During my time in South Africa I met some of the best people that I’m proud to now know. If you know anything about me, you’ll recognise how strange those words are coming from me. I don’t like people. When I was little, the last thing I wanted to be was human. Being a dog, or even a cat, would be so much more tolerable because they were that much easier to get along with than the people I knew. My passion for conservation and zoology is built on a dislike of people just as much as it is built on a love for animals. When I decided to go to South Africa as an intern with Africa Media, I figured that I’d be doing it more for the game drives and the opportunity to record those experiences than anything. I girded myself for what I assumed would be an unpleasant series of evenings in a house packed with people-loving extroverts. I expected not to fit in, and I told myself that I knew that I wouldn’t make any friends.
My problem turned out to be that I hadn’t yet realised one of the most fortunate aspects of travel: there’s always a reason for it. Your choice of destination isn’t an arbitrary one and the same applies to every other person who travels there, no matter where they might be coming from. More often than not, you’ll meet people who have had the same ideas as you and that’s exactly what happened to me. Over the course of our week off-grid in the wild emptiness of the Karoo, my circle came into its own. We bonded because we all preferred animals topeople and, ironically, we all came to enjoy each other’s company because of that.
Travel offers a rare gateway into the lives of everyone involved. It’s an experience that is incredibly shareable and one that almost always has a significant impact. If you share that kind of impact with another person (or people) you create a connection that’s strong because of its rarity. Not many other people have probably gotten the opportunity you have and no one can claim the same experience that you—and your friends—had.