After our time in Mozambique, we headed up through the Kruger Park, and into Botswana for about 3 weeks. Our time in Botswana can only be described as wild… with a tiny population count and fences almost non-existent, it truly is the destination to head for if you want to take in African wildlife in its most authentic state. And although it is significantly more expensive than South Africa, it is vastly more affordable to visit (for wildlife) than Kenya or Tanzania. 

We exited Botswana and entered South Africa through the Kgalagadi border post, and on leaving the Kgalagadi National Park we headed straight to family in Kathu. After which we took time to explore the Drakensberg, the Wild Coast, and then slowly drove our way through the Garden Route before arriving home just before Christmas.

But! The point of this post is not to give account of our travels post Mozambique, its actually to wrap up a whole lot of thoughts I/we have had during our travels. You see, coming back into South Africa felt unexpectedly strange… we had landed back in the land of milk and honey, relatively speaking of course. And it was truly weird. Don’t get me wrong – we blissfully enjoyed the good roads and the feeling of cleanliness. But to suddenly have easy access to, well everything, was an odd sensation. I have found myself saying this to my lovely family and wondered why it has felt so surreal to be back… as though the past year of our lives feels something like a dream. I decided that writing a few things down would help me to process some thoughts about the year. So here they are… i hope you find them interesting, and that occasionally you find something that resonates with your soul.


🌍 One’s perception of a place can be greatly affected by 2 things… the weather and where you stay. Now obviously we have been staying in our little trailer every single night for the last 13 months, but the places where we ended up staying varied from car parks to petrol stations, from police stations to campsites (most rare of all), from the side of the road to abandoned quarries… you get the idea. Now we could be in the most amazing location – let’s take Addis Ababa for example… I mean, you don’t get to go to Addis Ababa every day, and indeed it is an incredible city. However, there are zero campsites there – not one. So we ended up staying in the car park of a rather shabby backstreet hotel, directly next to their rubbish dump, where the toilets we had to use were quite frankly beyond disgusting (I’ll save you the details). 

Another example would be that when we were driving through Namibia we experienced painfully hot and dry weather. Then as soon as we reached the Caprivi Strip in the north it turned beautifully green… how wonderful. But! It was when the rains started. And when I say rain, I mean RAIN!! And it didn’t stop until we reached the coast of Tanzania about 3 months later. Now rain itself is not an issue – in fact rain is amazing as are thunderstorms and lightning and the beautiful mists and moody grey skies that come with it. However, camping in the rain is a whole different matter, especially when you’re staying in a campsite that has decided to embrace loos in nature without a roof, or when camping wild where there are no toilets at all and the bush is your friend. Or when you just want to use a dry towel but can’t because everything (yep, everything) is in a constant state of soggy. 🤨

These things all sound pretty awful. But we soon decided that if our attitudes weren’t right we were heading straight for feeling very frustrated for a considerable amount of time. We said over and over and over to each other, ‘if we don’t laugh, we’ll cry’ and so, often we would end up managing to laugh at the things which might otherwise have tipped us over in completely the opposite direction! 

One of my favourite quotes of all time, by one of my all time favourite authors also repeated itself in my head time and again;

And I am almost certain that in every place we stayed we managed to find the good. If we didn’t, we simply hadn’t taken the time to look for it. 

🌍 Each country undeniably has a personality of its own… based largely on it’s politics both historical and current, it’s religion, it’s landscape and climate. However, there is a commonality… a few things that you come to expect throughout. For example; 

goats, cows, donkeys and dogs 

pigeons, yep… even in rain forests

roads with potholes

extortionate entry fees for national parks 

motorbikes, tuk-tuks, bicycles  EVERYWHERE 

sheer volume of people

colours of africa – orange soil and lush green, bold African prints

big mamas washing clothes

people walking with pangas and using them to cut grass

huge heavy looking items being carried on the head

babies being carried on the back

🌍 By and large, people live peacefully side by side. Although there is so much negative press about the inability of people of different religions finding it near enough impossible to coexist in the same town/ region/ country, we found the very opposite to be true. One example of this was on the little island of Lamu, off the coast of Kenya. We arrived on Lamu to the Muslim celebrations of Eid… there was laughter and feasting all over. We spoke to a Christian Orthodox gentleman and asked him how it was for him during this time. To summarise, he said that Christians and Muslims believe different things, but that does not stop them from celebrating with each other. He said that Eid was a joyous occasion for him as a Christian because his neighbour was happy. And that at Christmas or Easter time, the Christians give generously to the Muslim community around them which is joyfully received. 

🌍 There is devastating deforestation wherever you look. This is a tragically sad reality all over the face of Africa… over the past few decades, it has been stripped of it’s beautiful forests (excepting the DRC, which is on the cusp on being exploited as we speak). In fact, if it wasn’t for the revolution of nature conservation by a handful of activists in the 60’s we would be looking at very different continent right now. Not only are the very densely populated countries of Africa using every inch of available land for farming, but the exploitation of Africa’s rich land by outsiders like China and India for example, has ripped Africa of much of it’s indigenous forests for roads and mines. It’s devastating to drive through and see it happen… it left us speechless time and again throughout the year. 

🌍 Globalism is real, oh so real – the colonisation of Africa, and the World Wide Web has pretty much seen to this. One of the reasons I can say this confidently is because we had the privilege of travelling through Ethiopia. Ethiopia is the only country in Africa that was never colonised, and it is very evident. As a country they have maintained their uniqueness, which is pretty wonderful to see… their music is still unique to them, their clothes, their language… the list goes on. But everywhere else, you see Africa moulding itself into the image of the West – same clothes, same music, same building materials… you get the idea.

🌍 Despite popular belief that Africa is ‘disconnected’, it simply isn’t true… there is internet pretty much everywhere. It was undoubtedly one of our biggest worries before we left that we would not be able to work or do school efficiently because of the lack of connectivity. And indeed while there are large portions of each country that have no connection, the towns and cities definitely do. So it was largely a matter of getting work done, and sending it off when we got to a place of connectivity.

So what I’m actually saying, is that if you have ever allowed the thought of the possibility of poor connectivity stop you from doing something similar to us, it’s a myth and you should definitely just go! 😉

🌍 Doesn’t the idea of Wild Camping sound so romantic? And while there were times when it was truly amazing, there are few realities to what is basically choosing a spot, setting up camp there and calling it yours for x amount of time (considering that we had an entire trailer to set up) 😬

Firstly, Africa is FULL of people… really full. So you can find the most hidden spot and within a matter of minutes, you’ll have a little crowd staring at you like you’re a TV screen (making it particularly difficult to find a spot to go to the toilet… we have a few funny stories where that is concerned).

Secondly, you never know when you might be camping on someone else’s land whereby coming to an agreement with the local chief is the right thing to do… this inevitably caused a little bit of anxiety and/or hilarious moments (think all 5 of us crouching stock still in the trailer, Eugene holding his shush finger to his mouth, staring out at the landscape for a good 15 minutes because he’s convinced that there are people coming to fetch us).

Thirdly, you never know what wild animals might be around… we have woken up to large animal prints in the ground by our trailer and woken up in the middle of the night to the sound of hyenas right by our heads. Plus of course, the eternal presence of insects… outside, inside, in your food, in your drink…

Fourthly, there are no toilets… not sure how much I should say about this. But suffice to say that the biggest decision we had to make before we left on our journey was what we were going to use a ‘toilet’ when there wasn’t going to be one. We settled on making one, which we affectionately referred to as ‘the Poo chair’ throughout our travels. That’s as far as I’ll go… sorry if it’s too much info. 

Having said all this though, some of our best memories are of wild camping moments. In the words of Leo, “And if it hurts you know what? It’s probably worth it.”


🌍 Let it be said that Africa is not for sissies. There are many things that would be considered normal for African people, that make travelling through or living in Africa as a westerner quite something to get used to. Those things might be extreme weather conditions like humidity, excessive rain and heat (without the luxury of aircon, fireplaces, efficient shelter). Roads that are in terrible condition adding to the fact that their modes of transport are in constant need of being fixed. Crazy drivers whereby people walking on roads are petrified of oncoming traffic. Lack of sanitation and open sewerage systems/ the use of crouch toilets and long drops and bucket flush toilets which not only contribute to the spread of disease but just means that there is a consistently awful smell around any sort of toilet and on the streets. General filth and rubbish on the streets caused by lack of any refuse removal system and ignorance as to the consequences of littering. The presence of guns on the street, loaded or not, is rife in most countries in Africa… in some cultures guns are slung over the body like adornments, or used as walking sticks by children and adults alike. 

🌍 Being in the car for such long periods of time has its realities. Physically, it can become sore especially on roads which are far from being anywhere near smooth. Being in such close proximity to each other (and we are not small people) caused 4 things to happen; arguments, great conversations (as well as being comfortable with long periods of silence), great laughter and the constant need to stretch. BUT if there’s one thing we learnt from it, it’s that we had to make those long hours in the car count – our conclusion is that the drive by is as important as any destination. 

🌍 Which brings me to the next point. We realised very quickly that we were not going to be able to afford the majority of what would be considered the ‘destination’ places… the Serengeti, the Masai Mara, gorillas in Uganda, chimps in Tanzania… the list goes on. So, although admittedly it was quite disappointing at the time, this is what we learnt. That it’s not necessarily about seeking out what would be seen as the extraordinary. But that it is rather about the experienced journey together; absorbing the ordinary and realising that in itself the ordinary is spectacular.

🌍 Which brings me to the next point! Or rather a question… do you need money to enjoy Africa, to truly experience it? And the answer to that is that I guess it’s about what you’re after. Yes of course you do, if you want to tick off those cool experiences I was just talking about. Or if you want to go to Zanzibar and go deep sea diving and have as much food and as many cocktails in coconuts as you can possibly get down you, served to you on the edge of turquoise waters. 

But if you don’t mind a more gritty experience where street food is your friend, not knowing where you might sleep tonight and the possibility of not showering every day then no, money shouldn’t be your biggest stumbling block.

🌍 Something which crossed our minds whilst driving all those miles just taking things in, is that it can feel sometimes like Africa does not help itself… almost like Africa is stuck. The reason I say this is because one sees hundreds of thousands of people doing the same things that generations of people have done before them, waiting for outsiders (like China or India for example) to come and ‘help’, who come in the guise of aid. But actually what happens is that these outsiders come in and take advantage of their land and natural resources. Ultimately, this leaves Africa and her people dependent on them. And the cycle continues.

🌍 Justice vs charity, has been a thought thread running through my mind quite a bit over the last year, simply because we saw so many acts of charity happening throughout Africa.

‘Charity’ means the seeing of a need and the immediate act of helping to meet that need. Yes, it is incredibly necessary in so many respects and it is the generous act of one person/ group of people to another. But I was left thinking so many times that it does little to help at a deeper level and actually empowers very few. I realised that the concept of justice… the act of getting to the root of the problem and finding the best way to solve it, doing the right thing even if it causes some upheaval… was something that we saw little of throughout our time. 

🌍 I invented a new word this year… to desnob, or the act of becoming desnobbed. And the reason I invented it was because I needed a word to describe the way in which I felt layers of social conditioning begin to drop off of me. According to the dictionary, a snob ‘is a person with an exaggerated respect for high social position or wealth who seeks to associate with social superiors and looks down on those regarded as socially inferior, and who believes that their tastes in a particular area are superior to those of other people.’ Now while this definition doesn’t resonate too wildly with who I think I am, I am willing to make myself vulnerable and say that if I was to deny any association with the definition then I would be, plainly speaking, an ignorant ass. 

Here’s a few very tiny examples of some things I was confronted with and why, which revealed to me my snobbish ways, and the responses I learned to cultivate;

The necessity to have to use long life milk… and more than that, not the Clover or Woolies brands we are familiar with, and would tend to trust a little easier, because fresh milk was weirdly unavailable to buy (despite the enormous amount of cattle everywhere). Seriously Lara, are you really going to let this make you cringe every time you have to dollop some not fresh Ayrshire milk into your afternoon cuppa?

Having to use a bush or a crouch toilet because there is no sanitation system in the majority of areas, especially rurally. Lara, there is no other way. Suck up how gross this feels, how bad it smells, how you have to drip dry (let alone be without 2-ply), knowing that this is how things are here…. you won’t die. Be brave.

Not being able to wash as often because of the lack of access to water, and sometimes having to have a Portuguese shower (a quick once over with a wipe). Sweetie, you’re lucky to even have a packet of wipes… at least you don’t stink. Tomorrow is  a new day. 

Not being able to drink so many litres of water a day, because of not being accustomed to the fact that if you don’t buy water then you won’t have access to any if you’re in a rural area. O my goodness, we are so used to being told to drink so many litres of water a day for our health, and come to that we have so many hang ups in our society regarding food and being ultra healthy – in this place, we are blessed to be able just to access food. We are blessed.

Walking through markets with stinky fish and exposed animal carcasses with flies all over them. Let go of your nose Lara, it’s rude. This is how it’s done here… breathe it in. The cultural variations, the strong smells, the bustling activity, the dirty floors. You’ll wash and cook the dirt off. You won’t die. 

Sitting in a dirty taxi with trillions of super stinky people, being sat on and elbow jabbed and breathed on. Be gracious Lara, let it go. This is but a moment in time. Look at the people around you and smile. 

Walking amongst rubbish all the time, unable to get away from the piles of trash that Africans seem to cohabitate with. Lara, if you had no system of refuse removal at home, how would you deal with rubbish… where would you and your neighbours and friends put it? How would you deal with it? Be slow to pass judgement.

🌍 All of this brings me to the next point, entitlement. O how very entitled we are as a western society – how we have become so accustomed to things being in place. To the point where if they’re not, we become easily irritated. Here’s a mere sprinkling of things we take for granted, though there are many more;

  infrastructure; refuse removal, a sewerage system

  water on tap

  traffic lights

  fresh milk

–  variety of any sorts; food, drink, travel

–  clean, cool supermarkets


  drainage systems

🌍 One of my closest friends has helped me so much over the years by consistently and lovingly reminding my overthinking ADD brain to hold things lightly… i will forever be thankful for that gentle reminder.

One thing that has hit me this year though, is that there are some things in life that we simply do not treat with the seriousness they deserve, thereby allowing us to live in ignorance of the issues that lie right under our noses. I’m not about to chat about those things now, but I have asked myself so many times this year, what it will take for us as a human race or as a society or just as a living breathing soul, to stand up and act, to make a difference, to stand upon injustice.

🌍 The issue of time. Being on the road, there were many many times when we lost all sense of time. Indeed, if we hadn’t had any devices, we would have been completely disoriented! Because our travel was unpredictable, what we found happening was that we did things when we could as opposed to because it was a specific day, eg chores, working towards a deadline, school work. What it ended up meaning was that connection, worship, observing and thinking deeply were all things that matured in us.

It was utterly priceless.

🌍 Understanding poverty. I know this is a huge issue, but it is something we were confronted with time and again… I’ll try not to make heavy.

Poverty is a complex issue. It is multi-faceted and has many different layers. If you look at official definitions, there are various levels of poverty and they are very much about what the West has determined that people should have the right to, from access to clean drinking water to a certain standard of education and health care. And it is without question that every human should have access to drinking water, food and shelter – things which easily get wiped away by the ravages of war and natural disasters, the absence of which is defined as abject poverty. 

Our expectation was that we would see many examples of abject poverty on our travels. However, on our journey around 12 African countries (some said to be amongst the poorest in the world), we have struggled to see poverty in the official sense of the word. We just have not seen naked, starving or homeless people (in fact, I would say the worst homelessness we have seen is here at home in South Africa.) We have discovered that the reason for this is that in the majority of cultures and communities we have come across, there will rarely be a person left to fend for themselves. Everyone will get fed, everyone will have a roof to sleep under (even there are 11 other people sleeping in the same, small mud room.)… the community and the family unit are strong forces in Africa. They protect their own.

It is true, that education and health care systems in Africa may be lacking in terms of the standards that we are used to, or lacking altogether. And it is true that the norm is to walk to fetch water, food is fairly unvaried and that sleeping will happen on the ground. But, and here’s the truth bomb… painting with a broad brushstroke here, but people are HAPPY. Content! Unwanting. The truth is that there is a difference between being poor and poverty. Yes, the people of Africa are poor, especially compared to our western culture. But they are not impoverished. We concluded that the opposite of poverty is hope, and in the face of so many people we saw hope… because of community, because of small expectations, because of family, because of simple provision???

Sometimes I wondered if we as Westerners are not more impoverished – with our great expectations, our consumerism and materialistic ways, the loneliness our culture can breed. Just a thought.

🌍 The kindness of strangers is the title of a book I read some time ago about a journalist in war torn countries and how she encountered the beauty of people in the most unexpected places. And I literally couldn’t help but steal her title to describe the countless times we were on the receiving end of countless kindnesses that we had done nothing to deserve or earn. If I were to list each one, it wouldn’t surprise me if I could list a hundred instances. We have been humbled time and again by the sacrifices people made to help us with the expectation of nothing in return. My goodness, did we learn from the people of this beautiful continent we call home. 


🌍 It should come as no surprise that we had many expectations of how we thought this trip would go, whereby there were quite a few moments when we had to look reality in the face and accept it… here are a few examples;

Expectation/ Reality

We though we would be doing tons of hiking/ We ended up doing tons of sitting.

We honestly thought we would see more wildlife than we did/ But wildlife is confined to national parks and is impossibly expensive.

We thought we would be eating a super healthy diet… all those veggies and fruits you can buy on the side of the road/ We ended up eating a lot of deep fried food… that’s how it’s done in Africa.

We expected to meet lots of people doing something similar to what we were doing/ The reality is that for the first few months there was NO-ONE doing what we were doing (possibly because of COVID?), followed by a smattering of tourists towards the end.

Based on the stories we had heard people tell we expected bribery and extortion all the way/ While we did encounter some corruption, the decency of people far outweighed the negative experiences.

And in the same way, we expected lots of danger/ Instead we just experienced being welcomed and greeted with warmth everywhere we went.

We expected a lot of silence and solitude/ How wrong could we be!!! Africa is noisy and full to the brim with people.

So after all this, what are we left with? Of course there a myriad of things we will carry with us from this last year… some of which we realise now, and some we (especially the children I think) will only realise later.

Almost exactly a year ago i wrote my first blogpost in an attempt to unravel the reasons why we had decided to take a year out. What it really boiled down to is that our one desire was that we be moved as a family by the things we would encounter in the year. I can safely say that this has happened… our lives have been touched, our perceptions have been changed, we have seen things that we cannot un see. We have changed, we have matured, we have grown closer.

But to be honest, Eugene and I are quite terrified at the thought of just slipping back into normal life without managing to hold on to the things that have impacted us this year. It is SHOCKING how quickly one gets used to the little luxuries of life that we had learned to live without these last few months. I mean, I think that we have been left with a sense that we are very small, and that no matter how moved we are by what we see, it is impossible to change the world single-handedly… we simply aren’t able, neither are we supposed to.

And so, I think it is incredibly important that we remain determined to daily see the world through a new lens… this one that has been moved. To allow the things we have seen to change the way we live in the place we currently find ourselves in. The way we buy, the way we see people, the way we respond to people, the way we choose, the way we love in the greatest sense of the word… to be an extension of the Creator in a world that struggles to find magic. And to be those who do indeed find the magic, and help others to see it, regardless of the circumstances.  

And in this respect, i suppose this last year can be considered a pilgrimage – a journey to a sacred place. May we never treat it as anything less.