2019 is a bit of a milestone year for my relationship. January marked 10 years of when I met Derrick, and in October we are celebrating five years of marriage. To mark this milestone, Derrick gifted us with a surprise trip. And by surprise, I mean I knew what days to book off, and that was it. He took care of everything, right from the planning to the packing. He blindfolded me so I could try on new clothes. He even managed to work it out with the travel clinic to give me an unmarked pinkish pill without me knowing what it was (I did consent for him to do so, but a tiny piece of me wondered if this would be the making of some Hollywood murder series). All I needed to do was be ready to go at 4pm on Friday April 12. I’ve felt a wild mix of anxious, excitement, curiosity, and calm. And surprisingly, a sense of relief to not have to worry about any details.
A few days before we head out, Derrick let slip a few possible hints: A groggy morning after being quite ill, he woke up mumbling that “he doesn’t want me sick in Asia”. As I’m subtly micromanaging his packing, I double check: “I packed sunglasses. Do I need my eyeglasses?” Derrick: “Yes and grab the ski goggles”. I know from the blindfolding experience that I tried on shorts, pants, a button long sleeve, and a light sweater. I try not to think about the above missteps, but that’s just how my elephant ears work. And Derrick doesn’t fib well, but he has accidentally let surprises out early. I land on Thailand, an Asia Disney tour, or somewhere in Japan with a mountain involved.
The moment we walk in the airport doors, Derrick wears a huge smile knowing that he finally gets to share what he’s been planning. He hands me a wrapped package: This is it. Prep self for anything. No matter what, it’ll be an adventure. But please don’t be Idaho to go potato picking…
I open it. It’s paper. An elephant is on the cover.
I flip the package open.
Despite my theatre degree, Derrick is the Oscar winner in the family. All of those above mentioned ‘mistakes’ were all to turn me around in circles.
Our mystery trip is…
A long layover in England, followed by…
a 15 Day Southern Africa Safari!
Our two night flight to Africa was just enough time without wifi to come up with this indulgent and silly idea to write a blog post answering the question of where in the world did Derrick take me, and share a few pictures, as well as showcase the joys of a well planned surprise.
In Africa, we started with three nights at a small lodge in Botswana, catching 5am game drives and evening river safaris through Chobe National Park. Seeing elephants wade through a river, hearing hippos snort and grunt, and observing a group of lions finish their morning snack all up close has been breathtaking, humbling and grounding. It’s a surreal ride, bouncing along in our open air jeep. Around any corner, anything could pop out. For example, our morning safari was coming to a close and we turned a bend and entered into what we dubbed Giraffeic Park: 18 giraffes grazing in a field.
Next, we spent three nights in a luxury tent (that put glamping to shame), where we walked the banks of, and helicoptered above, Victoria Falls. We also rafted the gorge below. Two nights ago we touched base in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve, which borders Kruger National Park. Instead of hunting for eggs, we spent Easter morning tracking a leopard and enjoying the most incredible Easter brunch in the bush. Our final stop of our four legged trip will be five nights in Cape Town. The kindness of the people, the flavours of the food (crocodile anyone?), the everchanging ecosystem, and the incredible diversity of up close wild animal encounters has been a true celebration, education, and inspiration.
As the dominant planner, having control is something that I surprisingly enjoyed letting go of. Saying “I don’t know” to any question related to my trip has been a source of conversation and levity. It’s kept me present, and I’m not even pondering about, or worried about the next leg of our journey. We’ve met wonderful explorers, adventurers, and locals, quickly finding our commonalities and connections no matter where we are from in the world. This has been the most surprising and wild gift.
In closing, please grab a glass of some sweet African wine. I’d like to make a toast:
- How amazing is Derrick? Cheers to him for his thoughtfulness, and the hours of planning and consulting, all to spark our anniversary celebrations. For knowing that quality time exploring is the best gift I could ask for. He is a special person, and I don’t thank him enough for being the beautiful partner that he is.
- I’ve been told how lucky I am to have Derrick in my life, and for him to plan this whole big adventure for us. And they’re right. I am lucky. Please let his example be your push to be your own dream maker. The little and the big things you do for yourself, and for others are what make this wild life the amazing safari it can be. Find any excuse for celebration and surprise in your life. Do things for each other. Uncover your happy.
- You still have that glass of wine? My toast is also in the spirit of surprise. This cheers is also for and about you! On Facebook, I shared a bit of this mystery happening in my life. I love that many of you were as curious and excited about this adventure as I was. Thank you for getting involved, and sharing the suspense with me. It wasn’t intentional to leave you hanging like a baboon: Our first week here has been disconnected, busy, and happy-tiring, without affording the energy to plug back in. I’d be lion if I didn’t express my gratitude to you for investing in our daytime soap opera cliffhanger. Thank you for humoring me and reading this post.
- Lastly, cheers and dankie to Africa! You’re beautiful, flavorful, kind, wild, and welcoming.
Speaking of wild beautiful Africa, there’s a large rare animal named Derrick who is about due to wake up from his nap. I better go snag a quick photo before he disappears into the horizon and heads to lunch without me.
Song of the Day: The Sweet Sound of a Cooing Baby Rhino