So a couple of weeks ago I went to Zambia on safari with luxury safari company Bench International. I was excited about the wildlife I’d see, the luxe glamps I’d stay in, the people I’d meet.
But most of all, I was excited about packing my bags.
Animal print and khaki are two of my favourite things in life you see, so I was pumped. None of those zip-off-leg safari pants or breathable fabrics for me, nuh-uh. Into my bag went leopard print scarves, faux-croc slides, arrowhead earrings and Akubra feathered hats. I was gonna do this safari thing in style.
And then I lost my bag. Well, not so much lost as didn’t have time to pick it up at Lusaka airport, due to a flight delay.
And so, clad head to toe in black (which you can’t wear on safari, thanks tsetse flies and 40-degree temps), I hopped onto the plane to Mfuwe, the strains of Boyz II Men’s It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye ringing in my ears.
But, as disasters on the road have wont to do, this one taught me some pretty valuable lessons.
Here are five of them.
THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS IS A REAL THING
On the way to Kapamba Bush Camp, where I spent my first night on safari, we made a detour to Mfuwe Lodge. I regaled my tale of luggage woe to the manager, and before I knew it she’d thrown a bag stuffed full of clothes over my shoulder. She knew she’d never see me again but trusted I’d somehow get them back to her (which I did, c’mon!).
The following night, the two women I’d spent the day exploring with whisked me off to their digs and furnished me with another bag full of clothes and toiletries.
Yes, there were breathable fabrics in there. Yes, one of the pairs of pants had the zippered bottom section. But I wore every piece with love and extreme gratitude for the kindness of these amazing women.
YOU HAVE MORE FUN WITHOUT STUFF
Without the weighty burden of having to think about which animal print scarf went with which animal print shirt went with which animal print slide, I was able to focus on what really mattered.
Which, shock horror, wasn’t my wardrobe.
It was those vast, ochre plains that make you feel deliciously insignificant. It was the wildlife – the lions, leopards, warthogs, hippos and crocs – out in full force since we were there during October, or Suicide Month, the hottest, driest month of the year when the animals are all out searching desperately for food and water. It was the connections I made with my fellow safari-goers.
And, lemme tell you, fascinating people go on safari. I met a novelist, a psychologist, a journalist, an artist and a zoologist all in the first three days.
LOCKING YOUR BAG MIGHT BE A GOOD IDEA
I always thought it was. How is a piddling little lock that looks like it belongs on a seven-year-old girls diary going to protect my Mania Mania jewels, I always wondered.
The truth is, it probably won’t.
But what it might do, I realized after picturing my bag sitting in the middle of Lusaka airport unattended for a few days, is make any would-be thief leave it in favour of an unlocked bag, purely for ease of thievery.
This is my new theory anyway. Excuse me while I visit the Korjo shop.
DON’T PACK VALUABLES IN YOUR CHECK-IN
Yeah duh, I know. I should really have known this one already.
But for those of you out there who, like me, are yet to have the fear of the luggage god knocked into them yet, a reminder: Don’t pack three kilos of jewelry into your check-in luggage. (I’m not even going to go into why I need that much, I just do, ok?)
Don’t pack your medication.
And don’t even think about packing all that foreign currency you bought at the Travelex store the day before you left.
Not that you were going to, right? RIGHT.
ALWAYS PACK A SPARE PAIR OF KNICKERS
I won’t go into the gory details of this one.
You don’t need to know about how I had to wash my undies by hand three times a day, then put them back on while they were still soggy.
You don’t even need to know that I got desperate and borrowed a stranger’s lacy leopard print knickers.
So, let me just say that from now on, I solemnly swear to stow three pairs of knickers into the zipper part of the backpack just in case. Always and forever. Amen.
My bag was returned to me on day four of the safari. Miraculously, since I was in the middle of the bush, at Puku Ridge Camp. Even more miraculously, there wasn’t a thing missing from it. Not even a single earring.
I’d done my best to stay positive about it, despite having a harbinger of doom in camp who kept telling me, “it’s already gone, they’ll have picked the eyes outta it, there’ll be nothin’ left.” I blocked her out and good things happened. Which leads me to a sneaky sixth and final lesson.
ALWAYS EXPECT THE BEST. IT JUST MIGHT HAPPEN.
SEE MY ZAMBIA PHOTO DIARY HERE