My desire to travel to Africa began approximately a year ago, while I was still working full-time. I had no idea where I was going, how I was going to get there, or why I wanted to go. I just felt compelled to travel to the continent. Sure, teaching African dance was a key element, and immersing myself in the culture may be beneficial to me as an instructor and in running the business, but to be honest, it was more than that, and I still can't explain it.
As I eventually left from my job and had more time and energy to devote to "Afrowithjeevi," my motivation grew greater. Several of the people who came to my Afrodance classes had previously lived in Africa, so I decided to start there. I began contacting members of my tribe and gathering as much information on traveling to Africa as I could. Each of them was so eager to help me realize my dream of traveling there that they began connecting me with more and more individuals who could either give me more information or offer their homes for me to stay. This process allowed me to connect with my community on a deeper level while also demonstrating what a wonderful community I had. I narrowed down the countries I intended to see, as well as the "must-sees" and "must-dos," based on the information I was gathering. My ex-boss eventually linked me with his best friend, who told me about a tour called G Adventures that he took approximately ten years ago. Though I had no intention of visiting for more than 3 weeks, I found myself booking G Adventures' "Ultimate Africa: Safari drives and the Savannah - 55 days, Cape Town to Nairobi" trip.
And so the preparations began, from flights to visas to vaccines to purchasing camping gear. I couldn't believe I was actually going to do this. It felt both frightening and exhilarating, and I knew I was about to embark on a trip of a lifetime. While many people were supportive of the trip, others warned me to be cautious and safe. Though I appreciated the worry and concerns, nothing could stop me from doing this. So the adventure began on November 17th, 2022.
Image - Our ride a.k.a the "Lando"
The adventure begins
When people ask me what my favorite parts of the trip were, it's difficult to limit it down to specific activities or experiences because there were so many. Every day was different, every country was different, and often found ourselves going from one extreme to another - from going hours with only us on the tour to crowds of people, from cities to villages, from cold to hot weather, from humid to dry conditions, from camping to resorts, from seeing poor living conditions to beautiful landscapes. Africa exposed me to so much, but it was the connection I had with nature, people and their culture, and myself that made this trip genuinely life-changing.
Connection to nature
Visiting the Masai Mara, Serengeti, South Luangwa National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, Etosha National Park, Lake Nakuru National Park, and the Gorilla Trek allowed us to learn about and get close to the animals in the wild. The campsites where we slept were frequently in the wild, which meant waking up to Buffalos, Elephants, and Hippos roaming around.
Going by road meant long journeys and doing something called "Bushy bushy," which was another term for going to the loo in the wilderness. My point is that our campsites, hiking, trekking, beaches, mountains, sand dunes, snorkeling, campfires and bushy bushy activities kept us very much in touch with nature in all forms for the majority of the vacation.
Image - The Ngorongoro Crater (saying "Zebra crossing" never got old)
Connection to the people and culture
The trip would not have been the same without our excellent tour leaders, Priviledge, Shadwell, and Patrick (Pato). Pato is from Kenya, while Priviledge and Shadwell are from Zimbabwe. They frequently went out of their way to look after us, and by the end of the trip, we all felt like family. I often looked forward to our dinners so that we could hear all of their stories about their history, culture, travels, and so much more. They prepared delicious meals for us that they would prepare for their families and even introduced us to their relatives and friends.
We were always warmly welcomed by the locals in every place we visited. My most memorable interaction with the locals occurred when we were in Malawi and spent the entire day with them in their community. We were able to visit their houses, hospitals, and schools, as well as spend time with the children and enjoy a home-cooked dinner, following which they wowed us with their dances and songs. It was a day I will never forget.
Image - The Maasai Tribe
Connection to self
We were able to unplug from the outside world and reconnect with ourselves due to the lack of wifi and spending so much time in nature. I'd never felt more "Jeevi'' than on this journey, and it reminded me of who I was. I was not "Jeevi'' the Sport Psychologist or African Dance Fitness Instructor. Even though I did a lot of dancing on the trip, I was dancing because it has always been a part of my life since I began dancing at the age of four and it was so much a part of the African culture that you can’t help but dance with them. People frequently say that we go on trips like this to "discover ourselves," and while that was not my intention, I did reconnect with myself in ways I hadn't in a long time, and it felt good!
My journey of a lifetime has come to an end after 55 days and ten countries - what an adventure! I had planned to extend my stay in Africa following the tour to spend some time in Nairobi. I'd been following a couple of dance classes and a dance foundation on Instagram and knew I had to pay them a visit before leaving. I attended African Dance classes with Empire Dance Academy. The excitement in those classes was indescribable, and I couldn't wait to go back.
I'd also been following the ChezaCheza Dance Foundation, which uses dance to empower children, and visiting the organization was one of the greatest days of my life. They were extremely friendly, and it was wonderful to be able to dance with them after they taught me some routines. I knew I had to contribute in some way, which led to a collaboration with the foundation, which I will explain in more detail in another piece.
A life-changing trip indeed that I know will inevitably come through my classes - if you’re keen to know more about my travels, do feel free to reach out to me on Instagram - @afrowithjeevi