Just Back: A Spring Break in Africa
Spring Break in Africa Unplugged, from a Teenager's Point of View
One teenager's take on the trip of a lifetime to South Africa, Zambia, and Mozambique with teenage friends and two sets of parents.
Surviving a 3-week safari with your parents is easy.
Sitting in the hotel restaurant in Johannesburg, we are back into the fast-paced life of the real world. Everywhere we look, faces are glowing from the reflection of smartphones. We all agreed to do a phone stack the first night back in service, which is when everyone gets out their phone and stacks them on one another and whoever grabs theirs first has to pay for the meal. We are looking at the phones in disgust because we just went two weeks without them. We realized that talking to one another and exchanging words between one another is fun! I think that it brought something to the surface for all of us.
Traveling with my parents has always been fun for me. As an 18-year-old guy, this is the point in life when your parents begin to become your friends. This is when they begin to trust me and there is no more worry in the air—they know that I will make the right decisions in any situation I put myself in. This being my “last” spring break with my family, my mom and I decided we wanted to go big, so we both agreed that we could not pass up the opportunity to go on a trip on the complete opposite side of the world. The trip was planned at a dinner party that my mom was at and she heard that the Cunninghams were going to Africa for spring break and they offered us to come along with them. It was an easy invitation to accept. I went to the same school as Chip and Sandy's daughters, Daisy and India, and we were all friends. But thinking that we were about to spend three weeks in Africa together randomly made the situation interesting.
"Traveling with my parents has always been fun for me."
Applying high school lessons to the real world.
Last year I did a semester program away in New York City called CityTerm that was keen on being vulnerable and exploration. We used terms such as “wander and wondering” and this reshaped how I should look at the world. The teachers at the program also talked a lot about denial and how we as humans will always get denied in our lives but we have to learn how to accept it. We did a lot of assignments where we would have to go out in the streets of New York City and ask strangers questions. Often, we would be shut down by these people and they would go on their way. But what made this game so hard for some people was getting back on your feet after being shut down by multiple people.
The trip came at a perfect time, as I was able to put what I learned last semester to the test and take myself out of my comfort zone and begin to explore. One of our first nights in Cape Town we were on the pier and there was a huge ferris wheel that would give a view of all of Cape Town. I wanted to get on the ferris wheel, but did not have any money. So I walked up to the lady and randomly asked her if we could have a free ride (expecting her to say no), and she smiled at me and said, “Yes, you can go around once.” So we loaded up on the next seats on the ferris wheel and got to see Cape Town from above. And I only became more aware of the exploration that was out there when we were forced to ditch our phones and be radically present.
The only part of the tech pause that was a bit difficult was not being able to listen to music. But in the absence of my favorite tunes, I found myself falling asleep to the sound of hippos grunting and baboons running across our roof. When we get something taken away, our phones for example, something must fill in the empty space, we begin to use different parts of our minds.
"I only became more aware of the exploration that was out there when we were forced to ditch our phones and be radically present."
Cape Town was way cooler than expected!
When I think of Africa, I think of the bush, animals, and a lot of wild, but Cape Town is a complete city. I was unaware that Cape Town was such a happening place to be, even for a group of teenagers on their first trip to Africa. It didn’t hurt that the food was wonderful, too!
The four of us kids decided to hike Table Mountain. There is a gondola that takes you straight to the top, but we didn’t fly halfway across the world to get in a gondola—we wanted to work for the view. So we put on the closest thing we had to hiking shoes and were on our way. The views were incredible and I found myself stopping multiple times to glance at the view of Cape Town. After practically walking up stairs for two hours, we finally reached the top and had a view of the ocean and all of the surrounding city. We sat at the top, ate some snacks, and then took the gondola back down.
Next, we were off to Zambia.
We made our transition from the fast-paced life of the city into the mellow life of living in the bush for 10 days. We landed and it was very green and there was a lot of moisture in the air. We entered into the game park where we spotted our first animal of the trip, a giraffe.
We had the opportunity to visit one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Victoria Falls, located on the Zambezi River in Zambia. After many conversations about it at dinner, we decided to go bungee jumping off a bridge right next to Victoria Falls. I have always been known for being a daredevil. I was the main influencer telling everyone else in the group to do it with me. I almost got all of the kids to do it, but the parents were not interested. “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, BUNGEE!” Falling through the air looking down on the Zambezi river was like flying temporarily, then there is a soft pull on your legs, and just like that, you have jumped 111 meters and survived!
Each camp left its own unique mark on all of us. We were creating different stories at each place. We had encounters with baboons, lions, leopards, and hippos. Toka Leya, Chitabe, Tubu Tree, and Duma Tao—at each camp, we created memorable moments with the guides and the crew. When we were in Tubu Tree, the guides set up a surprise dinner out in the bush with tables and a fire and delicious food. Once we wrapped up our meals and our stomachs were practically touching the table, it was time to get back in the vehicles and head back to camp. When we got in the car, our guide, Cruz, received a message that there were two male lions on the road. So we turned on the car and were on our way. We stopped at a hip on the road and Cruz shut off the car and said, “They are coming out right here”. We waited, staring at the red spotlight that filled the darkness of the African bush, and before we knew it, two male lions come trudging around the corner. We followed them down the road and before we knew it, we were following the lions right back into the campsite where we just ate dinner. The best part of this experience, besides the lions, was seeing the kitchen crew piled on top of each other in the back of a pickup truck holding on to each other for dear life.
"I have always been known for being a daredevil."
Grand finale on the coast of Mozambique.
We ended the our last leg of the trip in Santorini, Mozambique, where we swam in the Indian Ocean till the sun went down. At this point, this part of the trip was a time to reflect on what all we just packed into a three-week trip and try to find the highlights.
Something I have always regretted was missing out on something on a trip—something on the trip that I did not do, or was too scared to do. This was not the case on this trip. Every opportunity I had to do something new or out of the ordinary, I took it. This left me on a natural high throughout the whole trip.
Being in school and in Santa Fe creates a solid foundation with how to act and live. But when we are put into a different setting with a great group of people, we are able to broaden our horizons with other people and the people around us. It went from saying hello to the Cunningham family whenever I would see them, to having multiple dinners together. Had this trip not happened, I would have never known how great of a family they are and the laughs that we shared and continue to share.
On trips like these, you really learn what is important: Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram. All jokes aside, this was a trip where we were all able to wander and wonder around a new area and broaden our views on the world. From Cape Town, to the bush, to the beach, I can say that what I came to do on this trip was a success, making myself vulnerable, trying new things, meeting new people, and learning how to cherish amazing moments in new places.
Want to know more about traveling with your kids? Check out Sandy's story featuring the same trip from a parent's point of view.
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