• The Secret to Packing & Unpacking

    “I get ideas about what’s essential when packing my suitcase.” – Diane von Furstenberg

    Just as soon as we unpacked our bags in Cape Town, in our new home beneath the mountains, it was time to pack our travel bags for an adventure, the last adventure before my bush boys re-enter the world of classrooms and sports fields. A world their little hearts are very excited for… because they’re adventurers and this is but another adventure, where new friends and experiences await.

    The beauty of time and experience is that we have managed to whittle down our packing time to mere minutes, rather than hours interspersed with guerrilla search missions. The minimalist approach really is the happiest. Having packed the bare necessities, we hopped on the plane for a few nights at our second home in Zambia, before the big adventure: Botswana!

    A place that won our hearts many moons ago, that took over every conversation for at least the entire month thereafter, every social media share, every day dream, every night dream. This time, it is a camp called Duma Tau, meaning ‘roar of the lion’, that we’re heading to. Set in the private Linyanti Wildlife Reserve beside the western part of Chobe National Park, the camp runs on solar energy and has a low carbon footprint. It’s the kind of place that aligns with our philosophy when it comes to travel and when it comes to packing. It’s the “leave only footprints, take only photographs” credo. Take many photographs we will indeed do!

    So, in case you need a little help packing your bags (and the little ones’ bags) for a safari in Africa, in a more minimalist, conscious-travel kind of way, here are our lists below. Simple and all we need.

    I can’t wait for the day when Renzi and Carlos won’t need a list, and even better, will pack for themselves. So this is for you too, bush boys, should you ever need a reminder, should your packing rules ever progress from, “Keep it simple. Get Mum to do it.”

    Our Packing List for Little Ones

    • Mosquito spray
    • T-shirt, shorts, jersey, jacket
    • Sandals, boots
    • A warm onesie
    • Hat
    • Journal
    • Binoculars

    Our Packing List for Mums

    • Mosquito spray, suntan lotion, and hand, face and body cream and other (essential) cosmetics
    • T-shirt, jeans, jersey, jacket
    • Sandals, boots, flat trainers
    • Scarf, hat, fold-up sunglasses
    • Journal and books, birding guide
    • Binoculars, camera and lenses
    • Passports

    “I travel light. I think the most important thing is to be in a good mood and enjoy life, wherever you are.” – Diane von Furstenberg

  • It is Time For Change, it is Time to Move House

    There is a painting waiting for me in Cape Town. And there is a home waiting for us to move into. Because the shrews are in need of taming and mama is in need of society. For now. The Zambezi river bank will always be home to us. But it is time for change. It is time to move house.

    The painting came to me at just the right time. It was painted by my dearest friend, Natalie Munro. The two of us have been friends since we were four years old. The artwork itself – a lighthouse standing in crashing waves with birds still managing to fly around it – perfectly sums up the past few years. We’ve held strong through the storm and are, in spite of it all, still able to flap our wings and fly above.

    In Cape Town, the painting will hang on the wall of our new home and remind us of our strength. As individuals. And as a family.

    The home we need to say our goodbyes to now has seen it all. The storms and crashing waves and yet, through it all, but mostly, after it all, the birds fly still. Because that is what a home is… the harbour in the storms, the safe haven, the respite from the madding crowd. A place as much as a feeling – a place where you are simply loved for being, not for doing; a place to rest and recharge; and a feeling of total acceptance, of being enveloped in warmth, care, kindness and love, love, love – whomever you find that with.

    “Home” means different things to different people. But perhaps at the heart of it there is only one thing. Love.

    Ed Sheeran’s lyrics – because I always turn to songs and books for inspiration, for comfort, for answers – grab at my heart and hold it in a tight little fist… “I can’t wait to go home; I’m on my way; driving at ninety down those country lanes; singing to Tiny Dancer; and I miss the way you make me feel; and, it’s real.” I crave that too when I am away from home, or when my sense of home is rattled. I crave that place as much as that feeling.

    To Maya Angelou, “the ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” Alexander and the Magnetic Zeros sing that…

    Home is wherever I’m with you.

    To the great Oriah Mountain Dreamer, “Home was in the taste of being with myself, walking next to what was familiar, toward what was cherished… When we learn to live with both the desire for separation and the longing for union, we find that they are simply two ways of knowing the same ache: we all just want to go home.”

    It is this that I look forward to in our new chapter. Our new home, starting over together, as a family, in a place with no memories, a blank journal in which to write the rest of our story. A place to let our love, unconditionally and unashamedly, grow. Unafraid.

    There will be other obstacles. But love will shine through it all. Because we will be home. Because we will be together.

    As we uproot and move base camp to try and tame our feral spirits that have perhaps been on the move for long enough, away from the other things that make a home a home – grandma and granddad, cousins and aunts and uncles… As we reign in the wild and free-range lives that we have been enjoying, fully and wholly living, and leave our beloved river that will no longer be our permanent home but our holiday home, this little poem by Abraham Lincoln, has made a home in me…

    As we leave some grand waterfall
    We, lingering, list its roar
    So memory will hallow all
    We’ve known, but know no more.

     

  • Why We Journal & Why We’ll Always Journal

    Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter. And lead pencil markings endure longer than memory. – Jack London

    We discover ourselves through stories, through the stories we tell and through those that we find ourselves gravitating toward. The answers to all of life’s questions flutter about before us, disguised but present in a myriad of tales – in a film, in a book, in a play, in a song.

    Gosh, how many songs we have belted out to, feeling that familiar knock knock on the heart that signals the meeting of a like mind. How many times we have played the tunes over and over again, the lyrics telling our own tale, putting words to feelings we hadn’t been able to put words to, feelings that had simply been lying in wait for a storyteller to coax out.

    And we find ourselves in our journals, in the pages we create to depict the films in our heads. We find ourselves when we read them over and see the patterns jump out, when we notice the subtleties and the common threads.

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    I have always journalled, just like I have always written letters. To myself, to others. Letters that just like my journal have remained (mostly) secret. Very very secret. Letters that have served as a space for me to let the animal inside out, all the better to get to know it, to care for it and to release it, move on.

    The journal has also been a way for me to remember. To hold onto the incredible experiences I have been lucky to have, to remember the places and the people from my travels. The way they made me feel at different times. Journalling is one big “note to self” – a listing of things that worked and did not work. At all. A record of things to do again and things never, ever, to repeat. We forget, us humans. Our minds can only hold so much. We need to forgive them this and not simply accept that memories need to fade. We can hold onto them forever, pass them on to our kids, if not only because it should surely make for excellent storytelling. Sure, some chapters should be hidden from view, especially from our children, but the rest must only serve to inspire them, to show them the many wonders out there. And, I guess, show them that even Mum can mess up, even mums have ups and downs. And that that is normal. In fact, desired.

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    On most of our travels together, I take along a travel journal for the boys, one for each of them. During down time, we sit together in bed, or outside on a verandah, while the odd antelope or elephant ambles past or birds try to call our attention away, and we journal. The three of us. It’s not about showing off. It’s not about who can be the most creative. It’s about remembering. We write and draw – mostly draw, they are still young, and pictures do speak a thousand words, after all. We capture what we think is most worth remembering, what we can’t wait to go home and tell our friends and family about. The sightings, the firsts, the food, the faces.

    It has obviously made an impression because when I returned home from my solo work trip to the Americas last week, I picked up a simple Fujifilm Instax Camera for the boys. At home we played with it all night, capturing that moment when Mama returns to the tribe and all is well with the world once again.

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    The next day, I caught Renzi sneaking off with it, camera, journal and crayons in hand. And a big smile on his face.

    A sneak peak a while later revealed the sweetest beginnings of an independent journaller. I no longer need to encourage it. It is in his blood, the desire to capture, create and hold onto. And just what he captured was the sweetest of all… Like a Rorschach Test, it shows so much about what my little one holds dear – his brother (he can’t live without Carlos; he is so deeply attached as he has never known life without him), his animals (his cat’s alter ego – a dinosaur), travel (a smiley face with a rainbow overhead next to a globe), nature as much as his toys…

    And then there’s the systematic nature to it all – a photo placed beside a drawing, on the same side on every page.

    Of course, we’ll pretend I never looked. Maybe I’ll even try not to sneak a glance again. Not until we’re old and grey and sitting together around a campfire, recalling the wonderful ride that it has been.

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    Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. – William Wordsworth

  • There Are Plenty of Fish in the Sea (& Other Lessons From Nature)

    “The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable. A perpetual series of occasions for hope.”

    I love these words by Scottish novelist, John Buchan. I have always felt exactly this about the sport… the art… of fishing, for as long as we have been visiting and living beside one of the greatest places in the world to experience it. To practice and perfect it. The Zambezi, a river that adds even more charm to it all, yes, but it’s the hope inherent in the act of fishing, specifically catch and release fishing, that lures you.

    I’m sure many people think that boys Carlos and Renzi’s age, eight and six respectively, should be in a classroom from sunrise to set, reading about the adventures of other people who fish, while never seeing one in the wild themselves, never understanding what drives a person to stay rod-in-hand, waiting and wishing for a bite for hours.

    I’m sure we have read books just like this… one of those sweet nights when my bush boys have climbed into my bed, climbed onto me, and listened attentively as we made our way through a Mark Twain here and a Hemingway there. But by spending hours in the classroom of life, with the teacher that is nature, adventure, I think they learn more than they ever will at a desk. At least, lessons that matter. Truly matter.

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    I watch Renzi patiently casting the line into the dark river water and waiting for a tug, retrieving it and casting it back out… ever hopeful. I see the same look in him that I saw as he sat waiting for the meerkats of the Kalahari to scuttle up to him. I see the same look in Carlos as we amble through the bush on game drives in search of wildlife. Perhaps fishing is much like travel itself… imbued with a hope that never dies. There are plenty of fish in the sea (or river) just as there are always more wild adventures to be had, more wild animals to spot.

    Is hope not the best thing we can teach our boys and girls? Is the school of the wild not the best way to feel it for one’s self? Catch and release fishing is only one subject in nature’s classroom but its lessons are vast and vital. Beyond hope, there’s patience, there’s understanding, compromise, abundance…

    As Ben Fogle wrote in an article recently that is inspiring me as much as those who commented on our Facebook post…”Instead of pumping time and money into exams, we should focus on well-being and encouraging children to connect with the natural world… The wilderness rescued me. I have been shaped by my experiences in the great outdoors. Feeling comfortable in the wild gave me the confidence to be who I am, not who others want me to be. There is a natural simplicity to nature; it is far more tactile and tangible than the classroom. It’s a leveller; it strengthened my character and set me back on track.”

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