As you can see on the count down on the side bar, it’s only 18 more days until I depart for South Africa.
My trip will be 6 weeks long and I shall spend it visiting 3 different national parks in the north of the country (Zululand). I have had to ensure I am fully prepared for this trip as I am only able to visit the main villages once every two weeks, and even then I probably won’t be able to pick up things that I would desperately need, like trainers!
I started planning this trip just under 2 years ago (!) and I hadn’t even realised that I was almost leaving until about two weeks ago when I had to pay the company I was travelling with! The realisation hit me like a tonne of bricks and I’ve been living in a state of nervous excitement for the past couple of weeks.
So what have I done to prepare? Well the first thing I did was work out how much I had to save on a monthly basis in order to make sure I had enough to pay for my trip. As a student and someone who does lots of random work, I don’t have a steady income so it was a case of getting my name out there and doing lots of babysitting and dog walking – I even made my own business out of it!
I do have a confession: I am awful at saving money. As soon as I put it into my savings, I find reason to bring it back out again and spend it. So what did I do to solve that issue? I gave it all to my mum! She set up a bank account that only she could access and when I needed to pay for my flight or accommodation, she would give me back the exact amount that I needed. Sure, it’s a bit of a pain, but it made me save a lot faster so I highly recommend letting someone else help.
Surely there is more then saving money that needs to be done though, right? Correct! I had to write myself a list of everything I need to bring with me, and then (as the incredibly organised person I am) I colour coded everything: things I can buy now, things I already have, and things I can buy closer to the time. It came as a big shock when the colour ‘things I can buy closer to the time’ came around! I will write a list of all the things necessary to bring on a trip to a place like South Africa soon.
Through-out the whole process of saving and organising, there’s also the correspondence that I needed to keep on top of, and the travel. In regards to the correspondence, I had to organise a B&B to stay in for one night before I traveled to the National Park I am staying at, and I also had to talk to the person who runs the volunteer side of the company I am going with. I got sent many brochures, which I have read many times, and received lots of dates and numbers that I had to make sense of (dates of arrival, date of departure, deposits and currency exchange etc). I have made sure that I have copies of all the emails I have been sent, just in case I need them as you definitely cannot be too prepared.
The actual travel itself is a nerve wracking and stressful thing to book. As I am from England, it is an approx 15 hour plane journey, and that’s not all! I had to book a coach (2.5 hours) to the airport, and ensure that I left enough time so that I do not miss my plane (do you agree 4 hours is enough?!) and then I had to get an airport transfer on the other end too! The same had to be done on the way back as well.
One thing that I believe is really important and that I think a lot of people miss is building up your immune system. I always get ill when I go away! You can build up your immune system by ensuring you have a healthy diet and taking supplements. I don’t eat fish (because I don’t like it) so I’ve had to take fish oil tablets.
I have probably made this seem like a very daunting task, but over the span of 2 years, it does not take up much time at all, especially if you book in advance. I am very excited, and nervous at the same time, but once I get out there and settle in, I know I am going to have an amazing time helping to conserve the animals.