Have you ever thought about what makes a holiday the best ever? As a travel obsessed blogger, I am often asked what my favorite trip has been. With over 40 countries and almost 20 years of traveling under my belt, it is no easy task to come up with an absolute favorite.
Could it be that time I drove a rickshaw 4,000 km across India or perhaps when I rode a bicycle down the world’s most dangerous road. Maybe it is when I hiked up a holy Buddhist mountain to stay with monks in a monastery? Or that time I hung out with adorable Japanese snow monkeys or the week I spent fishing for piranha on the Amazon River? I just don’t know.
I have traveled as a backpacker, a flashpacker, a luxury traveler and in the past 8 years I have done all of the above with a kid in tow. We have been to a myriad of beach destinations, nature escapes and vibrant cities, all of which have their own unique qualities and attributes.
I am blessed to have had the opportunity to make memories all over the world, on my own, with friends, my husband and now with my son on our year adventure around the world.
So when Yellow Zebra Safaris put out a call for bloggers to write about their best trip ever for a competition to win a luxury safari in Tanzania, you can imagine the difficulty of choosing my best ever holiday. The analytical researcher in me set to work.
What actually makes a holiday ‘the best’ ever?
Do you know?
Is it how it makes you feel during the trip? How it makes you feel once you have returned? Is it the people you met? Or perhaps it is the actual destination itself? Or is it a combination of all of the above?
Thinking long and hard about this, my criteria for the best trip ever would include having the perfect mix of great company, fun times, beautiful accommodation and good food set in an exotic/exciting location.
Yep, that sounds pretty perfect to me!
However, as we all know, some things just can’t be defined. Maybe the best holiday ever just leaves you with a feeling, a longing in your soul to return. That trip for me has to be our family holiday to South Africa for my birthday.
A Once in a Lifetime Trip
From bush walks with rhino to fishing next to a herd of elephants to watching the cycle of life play out before us, going on safari in South Africa was everything I had dreamed it would be and more. Several years later, it continues to be one of my most treasured trips because it fulfilled a lifelong dream as well as continued to fuel my son’s passion of wanting to be a park ranger.
I dubbed it a trip of a lifetime, but I have hoped every day since our return that it will not be my only safari as it was truly amazing and one of the most spectacular experiences we have had together as a family.
This is the one trip that I continually think about on an almost daily basis. My son and I have a nightly routine where we check Instagram for updates on different animal reserves hoping to keep alive the feelings we experienced there. We keep up on the animals we ‘met’ there and wonder what they will be like on our next visit. That to me is the definition of the best holiday ever – one that just won’t let you go!
How can you explain to someone that getting up well before dawn to drive around for hours on end searching for wildlife is a dream vacation? I remember being shocked at our lodge when the people there had mentioned this was their 3rd and 4th safaris. What? How could you do the same trip over and over again.
And then I experienced it myself.
I hadn’t even made it through one whole day and I was already hoping and wishing for a return visit. Going on safari really is one of the most spectacular experiences you can have on this planet.
The opportunity to see animals, the first inhabitants of earth, in their natural habitat, to watch a herd of elephants with newborns walk around our jeep, to witness a pride of lions kill a buffalo mere feet from us, to listening to a group of monkeys frolic in the trees above us while watching the sunset. It is one of the most magical experiences you can give yourself and your child. Trust me, you will never forget it.
Spending 8 hours a day searching for, finding and photographing animals we had only ever seen in zoos was phenomenal. Even during the down time we would sit on our balcony spotting the animals on the river or take a bush walk or even go fishing near a herd of elephants. We just could not get enough.
My son likes to tell a tidbit from each of our trips, which he dubs “the classic”. However for our time in South Africa, he has so many “classic” stories to tell that it ends up taking over the entire conversation. From his hopes to see a lion kill prey that was realized on our VERY FIRST game drive to hiking with a rhino so close that we had to hide in a bush.
Or the day that we happened upon a dead hippo in a field of grass. While looking at this hippo, we didn’t notice the other hippo who came charging at his making us all scream “GO” to our driver sending ripples of adrenaline through us all.
To be one with nature, in the animal kingdom recognizing that we are the just visitors was life changing. I felt giddy at the excitement of seeing the life cycle unfold before my eyes, but also sad that we humans have destroyed so much of these majestic animals’ homes.
Hearing first hand stories from the rangers about poachers still finding their way into the reserves to kill rhino was heartbreaking. These experiences further cemented mine and my son’s dedication to seeing and helping the world’s most endangered animals before they are gone.
That is what safari in South Africa meant to us. It opened our eyes to the pain of the animal planet and what we as good humans need to do to rectify the wrongs of the many generations before us.
So maybe my best trip ever wasn’t because of where we stayed or what we did, rather it was the best ever because of the lasting impact it had on both me and my son. The inner passion that it ignited. The love for our planet that it fed.
Why I Want To Go on Safari Again
Even though I have been on safari, for as long as I can remember I have dreamed about going to Tanzania to experience the Serengeti and Ngorongoro. I had hoped to do this trip for my 40th birthday but instead a too-good-to-be-true airfare deal for South Africa popped up so that is where we went instead.
Ever since that trip though, our desire to get back to Africa has heightened.
I have dreams of throwing in my day job to train as a park ranger in Africa. My son has dreams of spending weeks on end exploring the tiny insects living on the jungle floors of Madagascar to seeking out the Big 5 in the savannas of Tanzania.
I long to be back in those fantastic open sided jeeps breathing in fresh air, searching the sand for fresh paw prints and increasing my son’s love of planet earth through wildlife and nature.
I believe with all my heart that it is up to us as parents to share this amazing world with our future generations, to show them the importance of protecting it and to provide them the tools to make it happen. This is why I want to go on safari again. My son has not only never forgotten his first experience seeing animals in their natural habitat, but it has continued to influence our trips each year.
His quest to see animals in their natural home is the energy that drives our holiday planning. His only wish for our year abroad is that we make our way back to Africa. I have no doubt that a return to the continent would continue to fuel his passion for saving the world’s wildlife one little footprint at a time.
And let’s be honest, I would also love to live the safari dream again for a few days pretending that I am a wildlife photographer! So I will continue to cross my fingers and hope that we are selected for this amazing adventure with Yellow Zebra Safaris.
Now I leave you with the very difficult question – what has been your best ever holiday? Does it meet any specific criteria or definition? Does it come down a moment, a day or just a feeling? Share with me your thoughts on what makes a holiday the best ever.