Not everyone can see the world by giving up their lattes

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Image by SplitShire from Pixabay

Every few weeks, a new article pops up on Medium detailing how the writer gave up everything to spend a year traveling overseas and how you should do so, too. They recount with bright-eyed enthusiasm how, with a bit of hard work and courage, they were able to undertake such a life-changing endeavor. They’ll share what they learned about themselves, how it provided them with a better education than college, and how they’ve since leveraged those lessons into a new career or a happier life.

I know, I am one of them. I quit my day job, put my condo up for rent, sold most of my possessions, booked a flight, and spent six years traveling. I saw 42 countries on five continents by working as a tour leader and scuba professional. It was lonely, hard, and scary, and it was wonderful. I wouldn’t take it back for anything, and I will share with anyone who will listen the endless list of ways traveling has enriched my life. Still, I stop short of selling it as a never-ending stream of motivational quotes because it’s important to acknowledge the truth: I was only able to do this because of the privileges I enjoy. Yup, I worked hard and gave up a lot of things, but all the hard work and inner strength in the world isn’t going to be enough for a large percent of the world to be able to live this dream. It’s time we stop pretending it is so. …


The world’s most adorable, wild furballs, and where to find them

Meerkat sitting on its haunches
Meerkat sitting on its haunches
Meerkat in Makgadikgadi, Botswana — Photo by author

Africa’s Big Five, tigers, and polar bears may top most wildlife enthusiast’s most wanted list. Still, there are plenty of pint-sized mammals that reward animal lovers with playful antics and squee-worthy fluffiness that are hard to top. Here are my picks of the most charismatic small mammals, and where to find them in the wild:


Inject a Little Glamour Into Your Next Holiday Without Breaking the Bank

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Photo by Asad Photo Maldives from Pexels

Your dream vacation begins with breakfast coffee in a hammock, swinging over the otherworldly blue water of the Maldives. That evening you’ll dine in a Michelin Star rated restaurant, then head out for a night of dancing at an exclusive club. A private guide will escort you past the lines at the best museums, and book you a treatment at a luxurious spa. A dream holiday few of us could ever afford. Luckily, I’ve discovered a few cheats that will allow you a taste of this kind of glamour without the enormous bill. …


How a campground in East Africa is saving lives, one cold beer at a time

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Black Mamba — by TimVickers / Public domain

Meserani, Tanzania may only be a half-hour drive from the city of Arusha, but it may as well be another world. As you leave the frenetic regional capital, buzzing with motorcycles and dala dala minibus taxis, the traffic dissolves into coffee plantations, then open plains. Maasai warriors in shuka blankets lean on walking sticks on the side of the road. Their cattle kick up dust, the snowy peak of Kilimanjaro towering behind them.

When the Bale family and Deon Naude bought ten acres of land in Meserani in 1993, the ground was barren and dry. Today towering trees and blooming flowers attract over 60 species of birds to the campground they’ve built. Bejeweled sunbirds flit between flowers. Lovebirds squawk from thorny acacia trees and helmeted guineafowl skitter between backpacking tents. Tourists come here for the birds, the astonishing collection of rescued and educational reptiles in the park’s small zoo, and the lively bar. They hope they don’t have to return for the park’s other offering: the only clinic in northern Tanzania with a ready supply of snake antivenom. …


The True Story of Porkchop-Loving Hyenas and Prancing Elephants in Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools

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Wild Dogs in Mana Pools — Photo by author

I had spent 18 months straight in eastern and southern Africa as a tour leader. I’d seen the mountain gorillas of Rwanda three times, grimaced through a half dozen ear-shattering renditions of Toto’s “Africa” in the Serengeti, and piloted a sand-board down the oldest dunes in the world with a group of giggling ten-year-olds. I needed a new passport, a sleeping bag with a working zipper, and a haircut. Most of all, I needed a bit of quiet to reset before starting the journey all over again.

That goal in mind, my husband and I set about planning a mini vacation. We share a passion for wildlife, and though we’d been lucky enough to visit dozens of parks with our tours, we relished the idea of doing so at our own pace. We envisioned afternoons of watching elephants at waterholes, uninterrupted by the demands of leading group travel, and evenings with a bottle of pinotage and a nice steak. I had one more goal. During our months in Africa, I’d seen incredible wildlife. We’d watched lions mating, chimpanzees building nests, and cheetahs making a kill. Alas, I still hadn’t seen my most favorite animal of all: wild dogs. I’d become fascinated with them since I had seen a litter of puppies at the Brookfield Zoo outside of Chicago. Their calico coats and Mikey Mouse ears were undeniably adorable, and the more I learned about their behaviors and social structure, the more I became obsessed with seeing them in the wild. …


Life in isolation has been particularly unkind to the publishers of travel guides, many who are currently on life support.

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Photo by Element5 Digital from Pexels

Ask most any avid traveler, and they’ll tell you the anticipation of a big trip is almost as fun as the journey itself. It’s all about planning every detail, booking the best restaurants and hotels, researching the perfect itinerary. And it almost always starts with buying a guide book.

In the era of the internet, where user-submitted reviews of activities, dining, and hotels are just a few clicks away, the guide book has continued to adapt, thrive, and grow. Once the domain of a handful of publishers, today the call has been taken up by a diverse group of players, from the heavy-hitting National Geographic to the edgy Wallpaper*. …


The argument for living off-grid lite

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by 947051 — on Pixabay

Reality TV leads us to believe that living off-grid means tanning hides, using outhouses, and lots of chainsawing. I’m here to tell you a little secret: off-grid doesn’t have to mean suffering. For us, it was a big decision that has led to a life with less debt, a smaller eco-footprint, and fewer sacrifices than we expected. Ok, there is still some chainsawing.

After six years of working together as tour leaders, living out of duffel-bags, and sharing many nights in tents, my husband and I were ready to settle down. The tours we led were overland camping expeditions, which meant we’d become accustomed to living in very close quarters and having limited access to electricity and running water. We knew we didn’t need or desire a large house, and we wanted to do our best not to acquire too much stuff as we settled into our new life. We also wanted to do our best to stay out of debt and try to minimize our eco footprint. We rented a horrible basement apartment for far too much money in the little mountain town we decided to call home and realized it was unsustainable. While the local housing market looked affordable to transplants from larger cities, the rent to income ratio in our new town was appalling. We were working hard and only barely getting by. Living in such a building also reaffirmed out desire to own enough land we wouldn’t have to deal with noisy and inconsiderate neighbors. …


Think of microgreens as your gardening gateway drug

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Photo by Nonnatthapat from pixabay.com

Everyone is suddenly interested in gardening. Many of us are finding ourselves with a lot more time at home, whether that is due to homeschooling, working remotely, or unemployment. Our governments and health organizations are urging us to limit traveling and trips to the grocery store. We’re worried about supply chains and the possible effects of hoarding. We want to feel a bit more in control. We want to reconnect. We want to get outside and feel sunshine on our faces and dirt under our nails. We want a few moments of quiet, away from kids asking for snacks and the constant ping of email notifications. …


Unethical and predatory wildlife centers aren’t just an American problem

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Captive lion cub in Zimbabwe. Photos: Ellen Wayte

There is a lot to unpack in the Netflix docuseries Tiger King: abusive relationships, drug addiction, murder, mullets. I found there was also something uncomfortably familiar in seeing so many well-intended animal lovers becoming sucked into an industry that was so obviously taking advantage of both people and wildlife. I’d seen it played out over and over again all across southern Africa. I’d fallen for it, too. A decade ago, I was working as a tour leader, taking groups on camping expeditions across the continent. Several towns on our itinerary offered an array of optional activities for my clients. They could go on scenic flights, canoe safaris, and horse rides. …


It’s not that crazy and it’s not that cold, but what was most important ran deeper

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The author at work — photo by author

Every seat on the bus was full as I took my place behind the driver. All eyes were on me. Looking around, I saw retirees and children, Americans and foreigners, cruise ship passengers, and independent travelers. They all shared the same look in their eyes — a mix of excitement with a touch of nerves. Everyone had signed up for something their friends had told them was crazy — a snorkeling tour in Alaska. As their guide, it was my job to ease their nerves, keep them safe, and hopefully send them home with a newfound love of this unique environment. …

About

Ellen Wayte

Ellen has spent over a decade working in tourism and hospitality as a tour leader, scuba instructor, and concierge. https://www.briarandmaintravelboutique.com

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