How we’re getting to Africa

With less than a month to go until we begin our African overland adventure, the big question on our minds (and on your too, faithful readers) has been this: how are we going to get to Africa? Well, we finally have the answer…but unfortunately it’s not the one we hoped for. We’d simply run out of time, and none of the options that we explored so vigorously resulted in any viable solutions. So we bit the bullet. The big, Malaysia Airlines 737 bullet. And after coming over 43,000 kilometers and 12 time zones without leaving the earth’s surface, we will be (reluctantly) flying to South Africa.

To be more specific, we’ve booked a direct flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Johannesburg, South Africa, on April 16th. We’ll then be traveling by train from Johannesburg to Cape Town, where we begin our overland tour on April 23rd. We feel relieved to have finally booked something, and happy that it was affordable (the tickets were only $430 each). But we’re sad that it’s a flight. It’s caused us to reflect a bit on how our travels have taken shape over the last 8 months, and to talk a lot about the reasons that we’ve been trying so hard to avoid air travel. And I think it’s been enlightening.

As Meghan has already written in an earlier post, the original decision not to fly stemmed in part from the idea that it was the greener way to go. We’ve started to question whether or not that’s true, and we intend to look into it further, but we do know this: airplanes are not friends with the environment. In order to try and minimize the impact of this leg of our trip, we felt it was important to find a direct flight. The fewer take-offs and landings, the better. So even though there were cheaper flights that went through Tokyo or Dubai, we booked with Malaysia Airlines for a non-stop trip. It’s the least we could do.

Our other big reason for not flying was to gain a better appreciation for the journey itself. Traveling over land and sea has really exposed us to the joys of slow travel. We have gained such an appreciation for the vastness of this globe, and we love reflecting on the huge distances that we’ve covered so far. In deciding on slow travel, we knew that we wouldn’t necessarily be able to have a checklist of places around the world to visit. Rather, we decided that the in-between places that we would discover would be just as much a part of the trip as the bigger goals. This is where our idea of “wandering” came from. We had to abandon the idea of having a list of places we “had” to get to in favour of having an open mind and a willingness to go to places we hadn’t originally considered. Of course, with enough time, you can get everywhere overland eventually. Perhaps the most important ingredient for proper slow travel is, in fact, time. When time is no issue, it doesn’t matter if it takes a month or two months to get somewhere.

This all changes when you book a 4-month overland tour of Africa, complete with a start and end date. Suddenly time becomes a factor. Suddenly we have to be in Cape Town by April 23rd.

Unfortunately, as soon as time becomes a factor, so does money. The only ships that we found that were going to South Africa were either arriving too late or were absurdly expensive. One cruise ship was asking $15,000 for a 21 day journey. We just don’t have that kind of cash to throw away. So, these are the choices: if time was no issue, then we would just wait around until something cheaper came along. Or, if money was no issue, we would just pay through the nose for what’s available. Or, since neither of those apply, we fly.

This seems to be the maxim on which the popularity of air travel is founded. Simply put, flying is the cheapest, fastest, and most available way for people to get around. And even when you’re consciously trying to avoid it, it’s always there, whispering insidiously: “you could get there faster with us…and cheaper too…” And so we’ve succumbed. But hopefully only this once. We’re still optimistic that we can make it back to North America without any further flights, providing our finances last us that long.

In hindsight, the simplest way to have avoided this whole dilemma would have been to not have booked the African overland tour. Having an organized start date put a deadline on our wanderings that we had to stick to. On the flip side, we are beyond excited to be heading to Africa. Four months in Africa! It’s going to be unreal. And I’m sure it will be worth making this small concession for.

Comments

    Good. Go with the flow. I’m excited for your African adventures.

    Ma cousine Laurie Beaulieu travaile pour M√©decins sans Frontieres, au Kenya pour les six prochains mois. You met her when your gave your Shakesperian toast at her brother Alan’s wedding in Prince George many years ago.

    Also, my uncle Garnet’s wife Jan has relatives in South Africa. Give me the word and I’ll try to make the connection.

    They would all welcome you with open arms. Peut-etre que vous pourriez faire le travail bénévole pour le Médecins si vous obtenez une chance.

    Dad

    Aw, I wouldn’t feel bad about having to fly. You guys have done such a great job at traveling the way you set out to, and it’s perfectly natural to hit a small snag in the road. And I think you might be right – I’ve been trying to wrap my head about the idea of what would be more “e-friendly” – a flight or a 21-day cruise? I don’t have an answer but I suspect all forms of travel have their pros and cons for the environment. I like what Brian said about just going with the flow. Don’t beat yourselves up over it! I have a sneaking suspicion that Africa will be your greatest adventure yet! (Aside from Mike serenating you with his best rendition of David Bowie’s China Girl… wasn’t that incredible?)

    If you’re going to Krabi, you’re going climbing right?

    You both must be so excited about getting to Africa and you should be really proud that you have been able to travel so environmentally wisely. I am certainly proud of you and can’t wait to hear about your African adventures. Safe travels. xox

    Mon oncle Garnet a pass√© beaucoup de temps en Afrique et a des connexions beaucoup de monde. D’Afrique du Sud tout le long de la c√¥te est. N’oubliez pas qu’il est un zoologiste √† un point. J’ai eu une visite tr√®s gentil avec lui et quand ils et Jan permettez-moi de rester √† leur appartement quand j’√©tais √† Vancouver en Janvier. Garnet a beaucoup d’amis vous pouvez vous connecter avec le long de vos quatre mois de voyage en Afrique.

    Dad

    Have a GREAT time in Africa! I’m so excited for you, It is going to be such an amazing time and you are going to see so so so much…I’m WAY envious!! And the air thing, don’t beat yourselves up over it! The experience will be worth it, and you can always even out the carbon balance when you get back by putting in some volunteer time litter collecting or organising car pools and bike squads and stuff! Be safe! Lots of love
    Teeny

    So here’s the trick, Dude and Dudette. When you are flying, keep your feet off the floor – then it doesn’t really count. Okay? Got it? Have fun!
    <3 AL

    Thanks for the support and the tips y’all! I’m dreaming of cheetahs and gorillas every night now. I’ll be glad to get there quickly. Can’t hardly wait!

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