Travel means something different to each and every person. To some, it’s their once-a-year shot at totally disconnecting from and escaping reality. It’s a desperately needed timeout from the constant stress (and monotony) of traffic, deadlines, meetings and to-do lists. For others, it’s about experiencing and learning about cultures, history, wildlife, landscapes, food, architecture, you name it. Some travellers seek adrenaline and truly unique, off-the-beaten path adventures, while others simply want to be surrounded in unapologetic luxury and given the chance to really switch off.
For me, travel is all of the above. It’s not just one element, it’s the whole journey. And each adventure could have an entirely different purpose depending on how you’re feeling at the time. So, here are my 10 reasons to love travel.
When I travel, I try and experience as much as humanly possible. It’s my job to write about every aspect of the journey, so while my Instagram photos may suggest otherwise, the reality is that the days are chock-a-block full of learning, interviewing, photographing and constantly writing in notebooks. There is no chill-time, but getting the story, meeting the people and learning about the destination feeds my soul and then some.
Paying it forward
What lies at the core of &Beyond’s proven impact model is a vision that puts our guests, as well as the land, wildlife and people of Africa, Asia and South America, together at the heart of our business. Guests can rest assured that simply by travelling with us, they are helping us to look after the iconic destinations they visit, as well as the people and wildlife that inhabit them.
I always encourage guests to get out into the community. To leave the luxurious confines of the lodge for a few hours to interact with the local people, learn about their cultures, understand their hardships and witness the inspiring work that &Beyond and Africa Foundation (our non-profit social development partner) have been doing for nearly three decades in more than 50 rural communities in South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia.
Although it really does put things into perspective when you can see first-hand exactly how your hard-earned travel spend is being used, the point here is that there’s no travel guilt. If your holiday is purely to fly under the radar and disconnect completely from the world, that’s ok. If your journey is time-sensitive and you aren’t always able to venture out to the community, that’s ok too. And if you do happen to spend some quality time in the community, great, your heart and soul will be enriched. Either way, simply by choosing to travel with &Beyond, you are helping to leave our world a better place. And for this, we are eternally grateful.
Building brighter futures in Botswana
I recently spent some time in the world-famous Okavango Delta, the undeniable jewel of Botswana. This magnificent oasis of meandering channels, glassy lagoons and remote islands teeming with wildlife was declared UNESCO’s 1,000th World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa. And whether you visit during the wet season, when the floodwaters are in full swing, or you opt for the dry season, when the channels have dried up and there is more flexibility to explore the plethora of islands, this magnificent natural wonder is a must-see.
I chose to visit Botswana for its vast, unspoiled and unfenced landscapes; the dramatic sunrises and sunsets; the variety of wildlife; the remoteness of our lodges; and the sheer wide open spaces with no other vehicles in sight. It is the perfect place to disconnect and, although this particular visit didn’t include any community involvement, that’s not to say that great developments and positive community upliftment aren’t happening. In fact, guests visiting all of our lodges in beautiful Botswana can rest assured that their travel spend is in fact changing lives for the better and building brighter futures for some of Botswana’s rural communities.
Somewhere between the remote reaches of the pristine Okavango Delta and the populated town of Maun, sits a long stretch of fenceline known as the ‘buffalo fence’. Strictly a protective measure intended for positive benefit, there are two very isolated communities along an extremely remote section of this fence that feel otherwise.
Africa Foundation, whose collaborative approach is always to work with the communities and not for them, initiated community engagement with the isolated and frustrated residents of Tsutsubega and Gogomoga in August 2018. A series of collective and consultative meeting with these communities revealed their most pressing issues, which ranged from health care and education needs, to human-wildlife conflict and water supply.
In response to their dire needs, Africa Foundation has now implemented a support programme with well-defined short, medium and long-term initiatives to assist both of these communities with their obvious hardships. Two much-needed boreholes have been provided, as well as controlled access to &Beyond’s private concession where they can harvest grass and reed materials as an added income resource. Skills development and education programmes are also being developed and the first of many conservation lessons for the communities’ young learners and their parents was held to educate them on the importance of conservation and wildlife.
Closer to home
Another remote community in need was Sexaxa, situated 19 km northeast of Maun Airport. With 900 inhabitants and no real infrastructure to speak of, the Sexaxa community leaders entered into a consultative process with Africa Foundation in 2012 to discuss the difficulties faced. Their most urgent hurdle was the fact that the nearest school was 5 km away, meaning children were walking 10 km a day just to get an education.
To date, two classrooms, a kitchen and ablutions have been constructed in Sexaxa and further funds are currently being raised for an additional two classrooms.
For those guests departing from Maun that would like to visit the school to see the progress being made in person, a quick excursion en route to the airport can be arranged (dependent on flight times).
And so, travel for whatever reason inspires you most. Just know that when you travel with &Beyond, you travel with purpose and you travel to leave our world a better place.