Should I Stay or Should I Go: A Trip of a Lifetime Update

Sometimes even the best-laid plans go array, especially when it comes to travel. Since December, I’ve eagerly awaited the time when I could announce where I’d take my niece for her 18th birthday.

In case you missed it, I decided in 2011 to give my niece the gift of travel. She and I would take a trip together anywhere in the world, before she went to university. Having never left the USA, except for a Mexican cruise port stop and maybe a walk across the Texas-Mexico border, I wanted her to have a passport, as well as a small taste of the world, before starting her studies.

I finally let her in on my little secret via this blog post on her birthday. In that letter, I asked her to narrow her choices to three. At Christmas, she’d decided on Patagonia, Iceland, or Kenya. Given the timing of the trip, I eliminated Patagonia, since it would be the middle of winter. Given her love of the outdoors, I found Iceland to be a very intriguing choice. However, I thought she’d have a greater chance of taking that trip on her own or with friends. Finally, there was Kenya. It wasn’t so much Kenya she was interested in, but rather a safari. Having raised and been around animals most of her life, I thought it was a perfect choice.

four seasons serengeti_5

In January, I began laying the groundwork for the summer 2016 trip. Piece by piece, the plans started coming together. There were a few hiccups along the way, but nothing that couldn’t be adjusted with a bit of effort. Once the ten-day time window was confirmed, I purchased the flights.

The plan was for her to fly from Houston to a destination that also connected to Kilimanjaro. I wanted her to get on the plane in Houston and step off and see my face. From there, we would fly to Africa. To keep the number of legs to two, we had four options: Doha, Dubai, Amsterdam, and Istanbul. I also had to account for our intra-African flights. With two flights per day on small planes, availability is limited. Given all of these parameters, Turkish Airlines into Istanbul was the very best option.

four seasons serengeti_2

Over the last six weeks, I had plenty of oh shit moments. Nervous already, I knew that my niece and her parents would be very concerned given the recent events in Turkey. Between the explosions in the city, the bomb outside the airport, and the coup, it was more than a novice traveler {and her parents} could take. Even though we only have short layovers in Istanbul, she recently decided that she would not go to Africa.

Of course, I am terribly disappointed. Not only did I want to share this special time with her, but I also believe this experience could open doors to opportunities she never would imagine. I’ve tried to put myself in her place in order to understand. We spoke, and although it’s not a decision I would make, I do respect it. I didn’t try to change her mind. The last thing I want is her boarding that Turkish Air flight because she feels pressured. Rather than cancel the trip, I’m continuing, not only on principle, but also because it’s absolutely a kick-ass trip.

four seasons serengeti_1

What exactly have I been planning the last seven months? On August 1, I’ll leave Paris for Kilimanjaro, where I’ll take a tiny plane to Seronera, an airstrip in Tanzania. From there, I’ll be whisked away to Four Seasons Serengeti. For four nights, I’ll experience game drives, a walking safari with a naturalist, and possibly a sunrise hot air balloon safari {fingers crossed for this one}. In addition to the nature aspect, I’m thrilled to be a guest at another Four Seasons, one of my favorite brands in the world. I’ll also be working on a multi-media story for Four Seasons Magazine, so stay tuned for that.

This isn’t the situation I wanted, but it’s the one I’m left with. Rather than allow the possibilities of what could happen derail these plans, I’m choosing to move forward with them {with a few amendments}. Rather than my niece, I’ve got a friend who will accompany me. It won’t be the same experience or have the same impact, but I’m still thrilled to finally step foot in Africa, despite the bittersweet taste in my mouth. I do hope my niece gets the first stamp in her passport soon, whether I’m with her or not.

Follow along on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat {LeahTravles} to see my Serengeti adventures unfold.LeahTravels_Snapchat

Photos copyright of Four Seasons

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  • Mike McLellan
    July 25, 2016

    Several years ago we made the “anywhere in the world” offer to our grandchildren. The only difference is that we said “in your thirteenth year”. Starting early. Last summer it was Paris and Normandy with granddaughter I. This year no one is of age so it is my wife and I go alone to Spain for a month. Next year, however, it is two weeks on safari in Africa with grandson. The next year is all of the literary centers of the U.K. I can see why people are nervous, but traveling to Africa is no more dangerous, in my mind, than a visit to New York. I too am a little nervous, but not enough to stay home. Safe travels to you.

    • Leah Walker
      August 24, 2016

      Those plans sound incredible! How lucky your grandchildren are. I think the two-week trip to Africa will be life changing for your grandson. I hate that it took me this long to visit.

  • Kelly
    July 26, 2016

    I would be nervous too but on principle I would go as well. Last year was my first time I was able to travel. I went to Paris, Berlin and Zurich. It was wonderful and really changed me in the best way. Have a wonderful trip!

    • Leah Walker
      August 24, 2016

      It sounds like a great first trip and it sounds like you may have been bitten by the travel bug.

  • Stephanie Farah
    July 26, 2016

    I’m so sorry about the unexpected speed-bump in your plans, but I admire you so much for continuing on with the journey regardless. I can’t wait to follow along and see Africa through your eyes. And I hope you and your niece can share an adventure in the future — or, ideally, many adventures. Indeed, “The road is life.” I’ll be in Paris once again in October and hope to see you then. Back to the Rive Droite, so perhaps you can share some of your recent Rive Gauche findings with me. Bon voyage!

    • Leah Walker
      August 24, 2016

      No way was I going to let a little turmoil end this trip. I just figure that if it’s my time, I’ve had a hell of a ride. Hopefully my niece will have another opportunity down the road. I’ll see you in October over a bottle of wine.

  • Amanda | Chasing My Sunshine
    July 27, 2016

    Oh no! I remember reading that post for her birthday and feeling so inspired. In fact, I don’t know if I told you this but I offered the same to one of my very dearest cousins when she graduates high school. 🙂 I have four years to save until that! I’m so sad to see this bump. Like you, I probably wouldn’t have made the same decision but I can see where she is coming from. That just stinks, plain and simple!

    Regardless, I can’t wait to see Africa through your eyes. Africa is one of those destinations that feels like I’ll never get there. I know it’s not true, but I’ll still be excited to be inspired through you!

    • Leah Walker
      August 24, 2016

      Oh, such a nice gift for your cousin! Hopefully, he/she appreciates the opportunity you’re offering.

  • J. Christina
    August 13, 2016

    Continue your journeys as we can not live in fear or let fear rule our lives. I had just returned to the USA four days prior to the November tragedy in Paris, and only one week prior to the bombing in Istanbul last year. I just returned from a month of travel to: Spain, Portugal and France and all was perfect. My life would be incomplete without my travels and dreams.

    • Leah Walker
      August 24, 2016

      I agree 100%. I never thought about not going. The trip was incredible, but was a bit bittersweet without my niece there to enjoy it with me.


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