Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Fuel Crisis

We've all watched in horror as the price of oil, and the resultant price of fuel, rises and rises and rises...

It's becoming hard to afford to commute, or travel to visit friends/family - and I realized that road-trips and other journeys may soon be prohibitively expensive!

With all of us being urged to save cash and fuel, how can I justify taking a huge pile of both simply to travel and see things? Granted, it's also supposed to be "educational", and the fulfilling of a life-long dream - yet it still worries me.

Will our plans simply fade away as the oil supplies on this planet quickly dwindle?

I hope not.... but I suspect it's true.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Dreaming through Reality

As big as my travel dreams are, reality sometimes settles in and makes me stop and think.

And the reality is that I'm not independently wealthy, nor am I ever likely to be. Food, petrol, accommodation all cost. I can only go so long without needing to find more cash.

In addition, before we can even plan to travel, there are a few more pressing needs in our lives that have to be taken care of. My son is outgrowing the space behind the couch that has been his "room" for 9 years. He's almost a teen, and needs his own place, his privacy, where he can be alone and do his own thing. And I simply can't afford to move on my current salary to a bigger place.

Something big is going to have to change - and it's my job.

So here are the options: go be employed by someone else while grinding my teeth as an underling, or stick it out a little bit longer here while I build up the business everyone is urging me to create.

I've decided to go with the latter. Not only will it be a lot better for us in the long-run (financially), but I know it will be more enjoyable than what I'm doing now. And that will give me more "go" to work with in my life.

For our travel plans - until we can do the Big One, we're going to take holidays and weekends and go explore, like we did this past weekend on our mini-trip. We've spotted a few great places to camp out nearby. We've spotted a few further afield. My current car may not be a 4x4, but it goes VERY well on the long-road, is tough and reliable - and can reach everywhere except the most remote parts. We're going to take advantage of its strengths.

Even if I have to put the Big Trip off for a little while, I WILL still do it. And do it knowing I've done it wisely.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Thorn Tree Advice

So I can keep the advice I've received at the Thorn Tree travel forum readily available, I'm posting it all here, including my original post and the subsequent replies.
Single Mom, Kid and the Continent!

I'm a single mom, planning to chuck in life as we know it in 2007, pack up the 13-year old kid and drive through Africa until we run out of road, cash or our vehicle simply won't make it another inch. At the moment we're planning on going alone, and making at least a year of it (4+ if we can manage to get to other continents too and the cash holds out). We may pick up fellow-travellers for a part of the journey, but not the entire trip (some folk WORK for a living!).

Education for my son? - well, we'll work that out as we go.

Trouble is, I've been preached at as to how unsafe it would be for a woman and kid to travel alone. We're planning to go the South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia - and then up through the East - route as far as Ethiopia at least. We'd love to end up in Egypt, then go on to North Africa, but again safety could be an issue (eg trying to get through Sudan...).

So I'm throwing this one out to the wide world of experienced travellers here. How safe will it be, really? We're pretty self-sufficient, can fix the vehicle (minor repairs), survive the bush and all that. It's the "rouge elements" in the countries we'll travel that I'm concerned about - people, not wildlife.

Would love to hear from those who think I'm on the right track - and those who think I'm nuts. Any info/help would be appreciated!

Posted: 29 Jun 2005

I think its the "rogue" elements you need to watch for. Red makeup shouldn't cause problems. :-)

Other than that, I can't offer anything except admiration and best wishes. I doubt there have been too many single mum and child travelling round Africa, but I think there has been one or two on this branch.

Posted: 29 Jun 2005

After visiting Africa I got the same idea.

My plans are still obscure (I just started to gather information) especially concerning dates and countries to visit (Ethiopia is a must!) - but the shape is like this: to buy a car in Jo'burg and then go south-east to Egypt, then maybe to Tunisia.

It is fantastic to meet across here a woman twice (if not thrice) more crazy than me. Esp. a woman that got used to easy life in rather prosperous country (I am from Russia), and - I believe - cannot imagine what problems expect her across Africa. Pls consider this as a compliment.

As for Sudan: a few weeks ago talked to a Sudanese pilot in Nairobi, he told me that rumours of dangers in Sudan are somewhat exaggerated. I guess Ethiopia countryside - where everybody has a Kalashnikov - is rather less safe.

Posted: 29 Jun 2005

Oops PeterScot - you got me on that one! :) I'm getting the impression I may be in a minority here, as many single moms might prefer to join a guided tour? But I'm still exploring the message boards...

gh0st - cool, so glad to know I'm not alone in my dreamings! Even if I'm considered somewhat nuts! :) I see it as a massive challenge to prove to myself what I'm made of, and come back a whole lot better as a person (my son too!). Thanks for the info on the Sudan - perhaps the best is just to check as you go for any problems coming up in the next country, as it seems to change so often. And talking Russia - what would it be like to cross it by vehicle? Possible? Easy/difficult?

Posted: 29 Jun 2005


And talking Russia - what would it be like to cross it by vehicle? Possible? Easy/difficult?

Don't think that after crossing Africa smth would seem difficult.
Nevertheless there are some problems like language barrier, winter, road police corruption, thinly populated regions etc. Anyway it is safer here than in Somalia, and the bears do not stroll about roads looking for travellers to take a bite. :)

Posted: 29 Jun 2005

Those problems are perhaps to be expected all over the world - except the hungry wildlife might differ from region to region... :) Believe me, I would NEVER attempt to cross Russia in the winter, especially camping outdoors.

Posted: 29 Jun 2005

About 2 years ago I have heard about kind of competition - some people from western countries without knowledge of Russian had crossed Russia from Moscow to Far East - hitchiking. Most of them have reached Vladivostok (the Far East port city near Japan).

In Russia we say there are two main problems here - the fools and the roads. All the rest is solvable.

Posted: 29 Jun 2005

I have no advice, but I think that's amazing and wish my mother had done it. Do you think he'll get as much out of it at 13 as he might at 16?

"we must not be afraid of dreaming the seemingly impossible if we want the seemingly impossible to become a reality" - Vaclav Havel

Posted: 29 Jun 2005

good for you and good luck! it can be done and it sounds like YOU can do it too...

sometimes you're lucky, sometimes you're not...

Posted: 29 Jun 2005

You can do it. You've got the mindset and your child is willing to go with you ...

I took my godson away to Morocco last year. The first few days were difficult for him, he was just 15 at the time. Once he got into the swing of things he relaxed and learnt to love it. I felt happy him being in the hostel and occasionally exploring nearby after day 6 or so .. he wasn't stupid and we'd talked a lot about what 'does go on' if you get swallowed up by it all.

Your son will benefit from it more at 13 I think ... at 16 they are getting too independant and may go off in a 'strop' (as my godson did to me in the middle of a souk in Marrakesh, I hid and he came back 5mins later looking very very worried about where I'd got to, but it taught him a lesson!)

Have fun ... and just go for it! You aren't headed to any warring countries so the relatives should relax!


Life is what you make it
Photo's of W & E Europe, Morocco, NZ & Tanzania
Medieval Cottage in Southern France for rent
French renovations

Posted: 29 Jun 2005

ghOst - you said, "to buy a car in Jo'burg and then go south-east to Egypt, then maybe to Tunisia."
Which map are you using?

The only thing that keeps me from realising my full potential is the depressing awareness that it probably wouldn't take much time or effort...

Posted: 29 Jun 2005


Great idea: just keep telling all your friends that you are going, and you eventually embarrass yourself into doing it!

Yes, lots of experience with travelling with kids Try this for some real travels in Africa

I guess on your own, you have to rely on yourself a lot more. I certainly felt responsible for making sure the family had a roof and food in front of them (and a beer for me) every evening.

Probably the only practical aspect would be to impress upon you the realities of life on the road travelling between countries in Africa.

I have heard some folk take vehicles (SA registered) up to East Africa, but getting much north of there can be a pain. Check into Carnets and work out what

or our vehicle simply won't make it another inch

actually means.

Safety wise, I would anticipate normal precautions will suffice. Have a cell phone etc for breakdowns etc.

The one instant that I can say you may have a problem would be in a situation where we had a flat in the middle of Hwange (about 70Km from anywhere) near dusk, and I had to post guards front AND back to watch out for hungry lions while I changed it :)

One other point (talking of reality check) is that I can only ever handle 6 months on the road (with or without kids). Maybe it's me, but after that amount of time, even if I still have cash in my pocket, I'm after a change, even if it's back to the office. Your milage may vary :)

Don't worry, you'll have a great, no, a FANTASTIC time.


Africa's a blast:
For a trip to remember,
Try our family web site

Posted: 29 Jun 2005

Good on ya
As a single guy approaching 65 i,ve travelled since age 34 & seen a few mom,s travelling with their siblings --in fact met a 48 year old mom & her 13 year old boy in Laos -he had been to as many countries as myself --boy i,d like to see his CV when he makes 65
Although dated try & grab a copy of African Overland by Trish Shepard & Iaan Finlay --it,s about a family who travel by public transport from Capetown to Cairo--i think the 2 children [a boy & a girl] are about 9 & 11---it may be outdated but it,s a great read & tells of day-to-day experiences good & not so good
Hope you go for it

Posted: 29 Jun 2005

Good on ya
As a single guy approaching 65 i,ve travelled since age 34 & seen a few mom,s travelling with their siblings --in fact met a 48 year old mom & her 13 year old boy in Laos -he had been to as many countries as myself --boy i,d like to see his CV when he makes 65
Although dated try & grab a copy of African Overland by Trish Shepard & Iaan Finlay --it,s about a family who travel by public transport from Capetown to Cairo--i think the 2 children [a boy & a girl] are about 9 & 11---it may be outdated but it,s a great read & tells of day-to-day experiences good & not so good
Hope you go for it

Posted: 29 Jun 2005


Which map are you using?

:) I meant north of course.

Posted: 30 Jun 2005

Thanks for all the encouragement and advice! It's invaluable as I plan and think and dream...

I think my son will handle it very well at 13 - and perhaps such a trip will stave off later mid-teen problems, like the 16-year-old blues? :) We'll see though - so far he's been a good kid, but I guess that's no real indication of what the future holds. (He does know though, that if he ends up with blue hair and multiple piercings I get to shave my head and wear a nose-ring - and so far just the thought of that is enough to put him off! :) ).

My main concerns (other than cash and possible vehicle breakdowns or limb-detaching medical emergencies...) are to do with handling the border officials, strangely enough. I'm not the most forceful/persuasive person, and fear being done in, taken advantage of etc. by these guys. Wild beasts I can deal with - bad people not. But I guess one learns and grows as you go.

By the way - some folk here have suggested I start learning French and Portuguese. What do you think? A good idea or not really necessary?

Posted: 30 Jun 2005

would always help to have some local language, even if you make a fist of it the worst you can do is be amusing

two drifters off to see the world
there's such a lot of world to see..

Posted: 01 Jul 2005

When in Botswana,South Africa and Namibia,give us a e-mail.
Always willing to help with Accommodation etc.


Posted: 01 Jul 2005

Thanks! Much appreciated.

Posted: 05 Jul 2005

I have a similar plan: going from Cairo to Cape Town, taking anything form half to on year. I would like to do i t in some ethnographic way, e.g. collecting songs (reording them on a dictaphone) or clothes or recipes or... I would like to start in August 2006.
I want to take my time, without using car, only public transport, stay as cheaply as possible.
Anybody wants to join?

Posted: 05 Jul 2005

Your chances of success are in direct proportion to your skills as a mechanic and problem solver.

Posted: 05 Jul 2005

Public transport is cheap and readily available. I would recommend you forget the car idea and plan on using public transport.

Posted: 05 Jul 2005

Its a wonderful idea. I admire you for even thinking of doing something like that. I do not want to be a wet blanket, but I think you would be taking a great risk with your son's future. His education should surely be your prime concern and he is going to lose out - not only short term, but in the long run too. I know all the arguements about travel broadening the mind and it being a better option to a formal education etc. But it does not work that way in real life. He will fall behind and it will take him years to catch up. Why not wait until he finishes his Matric - another 4 years is not that long to wait and then do the trip together. He will appreciate it more at that age, he will be able to help you more when the going gets rough, and he will have a far stronger foundation on which to build the rest of his life.

Posted: 05 Jul 2005

I want to second RudiK's comments. I had the same concerns. His future chance at formal education should not suffer because you want an adventure.
Try a long vacation traveling together and then let him return to finish.
Also be very honest with yourself about your budget and expenses. There will be no chance to work for money on the road in Africa, you should not plan on this supplying any income for you.

Posted: 06 Jul 2005

Rudi & Tessoro - yes, I realize that he does need formal education, but we were planning on going the home-school route for high school anyway. If we can manage both travel and schooling (even if it takes a few years more for him to complete), we'll do it. I've recently found some excellent computer-based study that would be perfect for our needs.

He's never been "into" school - when my mom asked him "don't you want to be top of the class", he said "what for?". He's struggled since grade 2 because he learns differently from the general herd and the current teaching methods just don't do it for him. He's intelligent and quick, excellent in certain subjects - simply not interested in others. And it reflects in his grades.

We're planning on going the apprenticeship route instead of university education after school if we can (for the practical training, and the fact that it's a lot cheaper...), and he knows he can change careers as many times as he feels like it - without having to stick to one forever. I've done the same thing, from cheesemaker, to secretary, to administrator, to project manager - and quite possibly the next options will involve expanding my food-related home industry and eventually a stint at organic farming.

We see life a bit differently from many others. And quite a few folk don't agree with our perspectives and priorities, but that's what makes us all unique! :)

Posted: 06 Jul 2005


By the way - some folk here have suggested I start learning French and Portuguese. What do you think? A good idea or not really necessary?

Try learn the basics at least, it will help if you're in a remote area and in need of assistance .

First time adventurer.

Posted: 06 Jul 2005

I agree with #21 I'd say ditch the car as an added expense. You can always rent one for special places, or meet up and do a rideshare. One of the joys about taking public transport is the added interaction with the other passangers. Making sure you are well covered medically with antimalarial protection, yellow fever cert, jabs, and comprehensive insurance. consider getting a teaching job somewhere, staying put in the same place and travelling extensively during the school holidays.
You'll have a great time but make sure that your child really wants to travel and is not just accompanying you as as to satsify your desire to travel.

Posted: 06 Jul 2005

Re #19 - a while back I was wondering "what would I collect if I travelled the world?" - and it came down to musical instruments! I'd love to obtain locally-crafted instruments and get the craftsman/local fundi to teach me the basics. I'm still holding out for a marimba - a BIG one - one day... :)

Re the car etc. - I prefer to have my own transport so I can go off on side-tracks at whim. I have considered settling briefly here and there to work.

This trip is not merely a desire to travel, but also a chance for my son to learn some of the skills and perspectives I did growing up in the war years in Zimbabwe. I want him to learn what it is to be self-sufficient and independant, and that there is a world out there that's wide and long and filled with things to learn and experience. I want him to see that he is able to achieve what he puts his mind to - and to teach him the value of hard work to reach a goal. This may not sound very trip-related, but it actually is. Experiencing the world up close, learning his part in how it works and learning respect for others all falls into it.

I may sound like an idealist - but as I said a few posts back, sometimes I see things way differently from everyone else... :) I know what can be, and I can see how to get there - and this trip is part of a much larger plan for our lives.

Posted: 06 Jul 2005

fantastic. what ever it is you end up doing you my lady are in for a fantastic trip. good luck and happy travels.

it's not a concert it's the Rolling Stones.

Posted: 06 Jul 2005

I am sorry to be a downer, but I don't think your idea will work out very well.

When I was a thirteen year old boy the idea of spending several years riding around in a car with only my mother (whom I love dearly) would have seemed like a death sentence. Where will he find peers to socialize with? The locals probably may not speak English and will be so different culturally that it will be hard for him to connect and other travellers will be too old. And anyone he meets will soon be long gone as you head off for another country. Other people have already commented on your plan for your son's education. I suppose some kind of home schooling/computer education is possible, it is difficult, especially at the secondary school level. How well do you know trigonometry, chemsitry, and Shakespeare?

I don't mean to be harsh, and I don't doubt that you want the best for your son. May I suggest as an alternative, that you work toward spending some time abroad with him in one place, perhaps doing some type of volunteer work. You all would expereince the advantages of living abroad, while avoiding the problems that an itinerant lifestyle would create.

Il faudrait essayer d'ĂȘtre heureux, ne serait-ce que pour donner l'exemple.
-Jacques Prévert

Posted: 06 Jul 2005

#29 - I guess it all depends on the relationship you have with your Mum when you are 13. As for connecting to peers - his experience will certainly be different from a 13-year old spending 1 year living in a semi-detached in a cul-de-sac playing football with his mates. But I am willing to bet that the experiences a boy will receive from travelling through Africa for a year like this will stand him in very good stead for connecting with his peers afterwards... As for the volunteer work suggestion - I think you miss the point of the exercise. Living abroad is nowhere near the same as travelling abroad. The goals the OP put very succinctly will not fully be achieved by this, IMHO.

The main concern for me would be the boys education. Although you have obviously thought the home schooling through, I can envisage it being VERY difficult to do this 'en route'. This is something you will have to put a lot of effort in finding a solution for, because you don't want him to fall behind too much at that age. All the positives you will have achieved might not make up for the fact that your son manages to get his GCSE's at the age of 18. Coz that would suck! :-)

Otherwise I think you are very brave and I wish you and your son all the luck and a GREAT voyage!!

Posted: 06 Jul 2005

And don't forget you'll need a big supply of roadmaps...

I am SO jealous! ;-)

Posted: 06 Jul 2005

I´m a single mom traveling through Mexico for as long as the money holds out...I suppose you could argue Mexico is safer than Africa...but it´s still an adventure for us! My daughter is 11 and we're having fun so far...we're 10 days into it. We plan to settle down in one spot in about 10 weeks, and then venture out from there. As for school, I'm homeschooling her this year so we'd have the flexibility to go when and where we wanted.

Good Luck!! South America and Africa are next on my list!

I need something clever to put here...

Posted: 06 Jul 2005

Wow! Thread of the Day with your first post! Congratulations!!!!

Posted: 06 Jul 2005

To be quite candid, IMHO anyone who takes a child of that age on a trip such as you are suggesting is being totally irresponsible and extremely selfish. It is not a question of having a different outlook or way of life to others. It is a question of being mature enough to face up to your responsibilities and not try to run away from them.

Posted: 06 Jul 2005

#34 it is not selfish at all! I'd have killed for a chance like that (yes, even as a 13year old). One year of home-schooling is nothing to freak out about... if he falls behind in one or two subjects, then he'll just have to work harder afterwards... not a big deal if he's gonna be homeschooled all the way through High-School anyway.

For me, High-School was an utter waste of time... I should have been homeschooled.

OP: feel free to ignore #34's ranting... what you're doing is GRRRREEEEAAAATTT!!!!!

Go look at my art!!!!!! ^_^

Posted: 06 Jul 2005

God, what a fantastic adventure! I'm very jealous, and I wish my folks could've done something like that with me.

The concern over your son's education is fair enough, but if both of you are committed to the homeschooling/correspondence path, then I can't see a problem. Make sure you've got a good laptop, with a lot of educational programs and encyclopedias on it so you can both access a wealth of knowledge. Also maybe have a good preparatory talk to a teacher or homeschooling service before you go. Learning some French/Swahili/Arabic/etc. would probably also help.

Basically, in terms of life experience, your son is going have get this in spades, which will put him in better stead than most of the junk he'd learn at school, and it will make him (and yourself) incredibly resilient, practical, and interesting people.

Have a fantastic time, good luck, and I can't wait to hear all about it on TT!

A religious war is like children fighting over who has the strongest imaginary friend.

Posted: 06 Jul 2005

I'm sorry but this homeschooling/irresponsible attitudes from posters here is not fair.

Her son will be 13 on the trip. From my own experience this is an ideal age to take a child away from home. I have had experience with this with a 14yr old godson, as previously mentioned who was sent the other side of the world by his single mum to spend a year in a different country with a different culture and to learn another language.

Admittedly he did go to school here. He didn't work at all if the truth be known but he learnt A LOT!!! I'm not talking about the academics but the 'reality' of life. He had to think for himself to some extent, he had me to fall back on but essentially he had to cope and become independent. He also learnt a language, eventually!!!

He has returned home to NZ, he's caught up on his work - not that he missed that much, apparently at this age they aren't 'progressing' as much as other ages. In maturity, I would say he's ahead of many boys his age now!

As for his mother, well; in my book she was entirely unselfish ... he did something that not many boys of his age have done or will ever do. She lost her eldest son for a year and paid a lot of money to fly him over here ... You are doing the same for your son ...

The question you DO have to ask him though - DOES HE WANT TO GO?

TT'ers were negative on a posting a year ago that I put up; whether to take him travelling around Morocco for a fortnight. I ignored the negativity and became positive, he WANTED to go, he didn't know what he would find when he got there and after 2 days of culture shock - HE LOVED IT!!!!!!

Ask him; get him to read these postings and discuss it together ... you might find out a lot more than you expect!


Life is what you make it
Photo's of W & E Europe, Morocco, NZ & Tanzania
Medieval Cottage in Southern France for rent
French renovations

Posted: 06 Jul 2005

I have absolutely no experience with Africa whatsoever. However, speaking as someone who got whirled abroad at 13--I think there is no better time to do so in terms of standard teenage milestones, figuring out your place in the world, etc. You know your child the best (i.e., whether he's enthused about this or not, your relationship, how homeschooling will work, etc). I would think that you would need a very structured plan to keep up with schoolwork, but that thirteen would be preferable to the high school years. Frequently kids who are homeschooled find a way to incorporate their interests into other subjects (as you mentioned in post 24); both homeschooling itself and aspects of the trip might give him a little boost!

Best of luck on an absolutely wonderful adventure....

Posted: 06 Jul 2005

Woah! I was pretty overwhelmed when I logged on this morning and saw so many responses! (And that this had become the thread of the day...)

Thanks all - both positive and negative. As I mentioned to someone yesterday, these message boards are the BEST place to get conflicting advice... :)

I do appreciate both perspectives, for and against. I realize most, OK all, of you don't know me from a bar of soap - which makes posting/commenting here so difficult. There's a history to what we're setting out to do that can't be put into mere words on a screen, and makes it difficult to explain to strangers where we're comng from. But I'll try respond to a couple of comments.

#29 - we tend to keep to ourselves a lot. He has one good friend who regularly irritates him, at which time he choses not to see him for a few weeks. We don't go out a lot, we enjoy each other's company and also spending time in the same vicinity but apart, doing our own thing within earshot of each other. I don't plan to coop him up in a car for a year - instead we plan short forages by car, and then getting ourselves out and about. We have friends from our Zimbabwe days all over the continent and plan to spend time with them - many of them with kids his own age. He makes friends quickly, and I think would do well.

Re the education - I've been very unhappy with the way school is done for a very long time. We're going to try a completely different approach - even if it means he takes a few extra years to get that piece of paper everyone's concerned about.. :)

RudiK - I've been a single mom since age 20, unsupported. I think I know what it is to face up to responsibility... This is by no means running away.

Yes, my son wants to go. Yes, he's enthusiastic. But it is going to take an adjustment for him from his couch-potato days - and it will be for his best.

Thanks again for all the comments. You guys have given a lot of advice and food for thought, and I do appreciate your taking the time to post what's on your minds.

Posted: 07 Jul 2005

"Education for my son? - well, we'll work that out as we go."

Do not worry about it. This trip would teach him things that he could never learn in a classroom and will last him a lifetime. It is a fantastic opportunity for him (and you!) and I hope you do not feel a need to make him do math drills when he could be really learning and exploring. Best of wishes for your trip.

Posted: 07 Jul 2005

I failed to mention I was homeschooled. We were very unstructured and I spent my highschool years volunteering and taking classes I fancied at the community college. University loved my experience as did other positions I have applied for. I would strongly encourage you, particularly if your son does not like school, to give it a rest. I believe that being a year behind (which he probably won't be, but rather behind in a few subjects) is far less dangerous than losing a passion for learning and exploration which I fear some children experience in structured settings. Feel free to PM me if you have any questions.

Posted: 07 Jul 2005

Thanks for your input! The kind of education I want for him is one where he learns how to practically apply those "math drills" (eg "how much petrol do we have left in the tank, and how long can we go on it?"), and yes - perhaps a year's break would do him wonders. I know boys, in particular, often need to start a year later than girls with formal education, and struggle if they don't. Good to hear from someone who knows from experience how the homeschooling thing works, and its benefits.

Posted: 07 Jul 2005

Hmmm, sounds like a great plan. Just one remark, do NOT go into Sudan, ive been working for an NGO in Khartoum last summer and even the capital is becoming a dangerous place. Do not believe people that try to tell you 'that it is not that bad' and 'things are exaggerated' There is a civil war going on and thousands of people are being killed every week (believe me, i've seen it and i wish i didn't)
But your plans are for 2007 so maybe it will have changed for the better then. Probably wishfull thinking but you never know.
It is a sad truth that in a lot of countries in Afrika women are considered weak and of little importance. That goes mainly for local woman, they most of the time are friendly and even shy to Western people.
Dont let me kill your spirit ;-) but you have to realize that it is a huge challenge but if you really want it, GO FOR IT

Alain x

Posted: 07 Jul 2005

I don't really have an opinion on whether this is a good idea or not as I don't know your son. One thing I will mention, though, which I think you need to consider, is the onset of puberty. It's one thing to plan a trip now with an enthusiastic child, it's another to set off with a young man. If he hits puberty on the road, or even between now and then, he's going to want and need a lot of space. Can you imagine how he's going to feel if he has a wet dream while sharing a tent or hotel room with his mother?

Zadig disait: «Je suis donc enfin heureux!» Mais il se trompait.

Posted: 07 Jul 2005

OP, since you've been through puberty just like the rest of us, I'm sure you've put some thought into that matter. But I do think Froghopper makes an excellent point (#44).

I was also raised by a single mom, and a lot of the things you've said in your posts remind me of her. She had me as a teenager, so in some ways we raised each other during my formative years. She was very adventurous, and loved travelling on what little money we had (granted, all of our forays were in North America). We also grew accustomed solely to each other's company; she wasn't the type to have friends or family around, we moved to different states frequently, and I was a very introverted kid without any friends. So for most of my childhood I relished her attention and our closeness, loved the trips we took together, and was content with her company.

That completely changed around the ages of 13 and 14. I desperately needed my own space and privacy, I needed to resent the power she wielded over my identity (despite the fact that she was more than happy to dye my hair blue), I insisted on having as much time away from her as possible. And for the first time, of course, it was no longer enough to randomly "play with the neighbor's kids" wherever I was (as kids under 12 do if so inclined). Despite being an introvert, I began to rely on close friends, long-term confidantes. I clung to youth culture despite an intellectual disdain for it. And I promptly lost interest in most of the things that appealed to me just a year before. Basically, an unconventional upbringing did nothing to prevent my being a completely normal adolescent. And despite having been 13 herself, my mother never quite understood what I was going through. Had she told me at 12 that we were going to spend a year travelling across Africa together, I'd have been thrilled. Had we done so when I was 13, I would have been miserable.

This is not to say that you shouldn't do it. Despite the many opportunities that will be lost with respect to a formal education (and you do need to be realistic about the limitations your son could face if his goals change later in life), I think the fears some have expressed are a bit overwrought. Your son will have to work much harder in some subjects but find himself miles ahead in others. And while the dangers of travelling in some areas are very real (a friend working in Sudan would strongly disagree with the aforementioned pilot's assessment of the current situation), most of Africa is more hospitable and navigable than it seems from afar. It could be the adventure of a lifetime for you both, but before you finalize your plans, I hope you'll put aside two notions. First, that of being able to casually pick up work as though you were backpacking in New Zealand. And more importantly, that of your son remaining the same person you know him to be now. He's very quickly becoming an emotionally volatile, irrepressibly sexual, independent person fully convinced of his manhood. You've raised him to be a nonconformist and to question authority; I applaud that, but get ready for it to backfire as he overthrows your authority with greater fervor than the average kid

With those things in mind, you might consider taking on one place (perhaps Botswana) as a base and exploring outward from there and back, so that he can develop a sense of familiarity somewhere, possibly make close friends that he won't have to constantly abandon, and most importantly, be able to spend plenty of time away from you.

Posted: 08 Jul 2005
2:32am (NEW!)

Thanks for these thoughts! Aaah - puberty. One thing that's the Great Unknown in all this! :) Everything you think you know might be wrong at that stage....

I'm still giving our plans a lot of thought, both for and against. I tend to play life by ear, so we'll see how it all ends up when the time comes - whether this becomes a short trip into a nearby area, or a long-drawn-out wander around the planet, or falls away for a while until the timing is better. There's so much going on in my head right now, so many branched roads ahead of me, that I'm feeling the waters in all directions to make sure we do the right thing.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Refresh my memory....?

Growing up in Zimbabwe I knew every animal, every bird - every track in the dust. I could see "through" the bush - best for finding animals. I could survive in the bush - I knew every edible plant and where to find it when. I could stalk and track and run away from the wild (brings back rather painful memories of bare-footing it through a patch of devils thorns with a couple of water buffalo in persuit...!).

Now I'm all citified and my brain seems to have turned to mush. I can't tell a waterbuck from a kudu (actually I can, sorta). I've forgotten the difference between the hoofprints of various buck and beasts, and would probably be run over by the water buffalo if I had to run from them now. The nearest I've gotten to a taste of bush food is a shot of Amarula a while back.

It's BAD, it's DISGUSTING - and I'm going to have to re-educate myself! :)

So saying, it's time to stock up on a few guides to the wildlife in Africa, the snakes and insects, the birds and trees, and all those things. Try dig into my head and retrieve all that info I KNOW is buried under the mess and rubbish.

Trouble is, the older you get, the more things refuse to rise to the surface. Instead of refreshing my memory, I may have to re-install it completely!

"When" not "If"

We've gotten to the stage in our trip planning where we're saying "when we go" and no longer "if we go". It's making it more real, easier to get excited - and forcing me to knuckle down to the nuts & bolts planning.

We have a timetable to work to, and only so much cash available, so in reality we're doing day-to-day things to get ready for our adventure. We can't just go out and blow the salary on this and that - each month a bit is put aside for one item or another. Today we start stocking the medical equipment container! (A good thing to have around, travel or not...)

But there's a downside to this too. I just want to get out of here and DO it already! :) Sitting at work, dealing with folk who give me hassles - and waking up at 3 in the morning when the neighbours upstairs come home, clomp around and slam doors - is getting me irritable. I've never really fitted in, in all the 9 years I've worked here. It's worse than ever with an "escape route" planned - now I simply don't WANT to fit in! And as for the humdrum of work and a desk job, while the sun shines and the birds pass the window and all is good out in creation - it's a mission to keep myself doing what I'm paid for.

However, the pay is what's enabling me to get where I want to go, so I truly DO have to stick it out and make the best of it.

There are still times when I find myself saying "if" and not "when" - usually when the prospect of walking a very different path to what society, my family and my friends expect gets to me. I wonder what I'm thinking sometimes! But the "when's" are coming more frequently and they're keeping me on track with this dream. Eyes front and centre, fixed on the goal ahead - that's the way to do it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Aah, the BIGGEST question of this entire enterprise! Where to find the cash to start and sustain it?

I guess there are a number of options.

1. Work my butt off until we leave - taking extra jobs after-hours such as baking/catering whatever. I've brought in extra cash now and then like this before, but not yet at the scale I would need. And after a day of office-sitting, all I usually want to do is veg in front of the TV or fall into bed! With the kid's homework to manage, and supper to make, and a household to run, who has the energy to work at a second job?

2. Get that business of mine started, sustainable and able to be managed from a distance - then hire someone to look after the day-to-day stuff while I take off. It would take some capital to start up, enough of which I have available - but can I trust someone else to keep it going in my absence? Will it grow sufficiently in the next year and a half (or so) to maintain momentum?

3. Resign and take my package cash. I'm going to have to resign anyway. I enquired about a "sabbatical" or leave of absence, and it seems that is only granted to a privaleged few... namely the top brass and those who can wheedle them. Resigning though will give me a retirement-savings pay-out, in addition to a few other pay-outs that will keep us going for a good while! If I can save as much as possible until then, I think it would work.

4. Travel and earn. Yeah right - like half the travelling world isn't trying to do this, and the market is glutted...! Especially in the areas of travel writing and photography. But then again, a single white woman and kid trekking across the planet might be a sufficiently unique angle to sell and article or two. I'm not counting on it though. Who wants to buy a book when you can read a travel blog for free? :) But I do have skills that I could market along the road (no, not those type of skills!!!) - in computers, teaching, food technolody and administration. Contract work might be had - who knows.

5. Find a sugar-daddy who is about to kick the bucket and who will leave me a few million in inheritance. Nope - sugar-daddies are more trouble than they're worth! (Been there, done that...)

The main thing is actually just to get started, I think. To work at it bit by bit, to build up equipment and supplies and experience as I go, and then take it from there.

Oh, and winning the lotto would help of course!

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Single Parent Issue

I hadn't considered this issue at all - thank goodness I checked in on the Lonely Planet forum and saw a related discussion!

I keep forgetting that others don't see us, the single parent & kid, as we do. I keep forgetting that there are assurances to be given that I haven't taken my kid along with me illegally. It's one of the biggest hassles of cross-border travel! When we flew to Australia recently to visit my parents, I had to get all sorts of signed and stamped affadavits regarding custody of my son, to prove I hadn't kidnapped him or was taking him out of the country illegally.

Trouble is, this is something that's never gone to court. I haven't seen my son's father since I was 3 months pregnant, and it's only recently I've started to hear from him. I don't have any legal documents giving me sole custody - only what I can come up with in sworn statements.

But it's something I'm going to have to look into. I need to ensure I won't have hassles at a border crossing with regard to the kid.

Perhaps this should finally go to court - once and for all.

Those who've gone before

There's nothing as inspiring as hearing the stories of others who have made journeys across Africa. And today I found out that our garden-lady, a wrinkled old British dame, was in the second group of people to cross the Sahara! She was a mere slip of an 18 year old, and made the trip by truck with the Foreign Legion. She says they were all ex-SS - tall and blonde and handsome, really nice guys, and just what a young girl needed to keep her safe in the desert.

She's had an absolutely fascinating life. Her son keeps urging her to get her memoirs down on tape, as he wants to make a movie of her life story. She says "what happened to me would never happen to you" - she's seen it all, done it all.

People like this are jewels - you're lucky if you find them, and even luckier if you can sit at their feet and hear their stories. I wish she'd let me do just that!

I've been hanging on every word I can find of people who have lived the adventure. There's nothing like a shot of inspiration when doubt creeps in!

Why do it?

Vascillating between "this is going to be so cool!" and "what the hell am I thinking?" last night, I tried to dig a bit deeper to find out just why I want to give up my comfy life and go do something way different. Here's what I came up with:

1. Because it's an adventure, and you don't get many of those these days. How many people do you know who truly live life as one big adventure, squeezing every moment for all it's worth and finding the excitement in the ordinary? How many people do you know who WISH they'd had one big adventure, but never took the time to do it? I'm not going to live with regret - I want my adventure, and I'll do what it takes to get it.

2. My son needs it. He's grown up "city-fied", lazy, soft and expecting everything to fall into his lap. He needs to see that there's more to life than that. Some folk struggle. Sometimes you need to make a plan to survive, and mostly it takes a lot of hard work. I want him to experience the African bush the way I did growing up. I want him to do something new and different and way outside what everyone would expect of a 13-year old. I want to get him out into a different way of life, where the boredom and routine and frustration and peer pressure of teenage years can dissipate into wide-open spaces. I want him to learn about other cultures and how to communicate across language and location barriers. I want to teach him hands-on respect for his environment, and what it takes to live WITH and not against nature. I want him to come out of this experience a stronger, wiser and more balanced kid - and to bring some amazing life-learning to his future.

3. I need it. City life gets me down. I long for the open road and endless horizons. I want to know that I possess what it takes to get my son and myself safely through the continent of Africa without starving or breaking down or being overwhelmed. I'm still seeking serenity (see my other blog), and know my soul will find it in Africa's dust, heat and bush. I need a slower pace of life, living in tune with my surroundings, taking time out to think and look and be. I need to grow strong and self-sufficient and confident in who I am - for too long I've let others define me.

4. This could be my only chance. If I let it slip away I'll never do it. While I have the strength, the health, the mind-set - I've got to do this. I don't want to get to retirement age and sit on the verandah with bad eyesight, bad knees, and a huge big regret that I never got around to fulfilling my dream.

5. I want to see the world! I've always said if I win the lotto I'm likely to blow it travelling and experiencing and seeing all those out-of-the-way places that are awaiting exploration. And why fly when you can drive? I love driving, even long-distance. It's in the journey, as well as the destination.

There are probably a good few more reasons, but let me send this one out into cyberspace while Blogger still works...

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Quest for the 'Drover

And here I thought oldish Land Rovers were WAY beyond my budget? Well - think again, blonde! Just found this site, with Landys for sale. And waddayaknow - they're not badly priced.

I'm not looking for a state-of-the-art anything, just something that's reliable, functional, will go the distance, and that I can find spares for in the heart of Africa. By all accounts, that would be an on-the-old-side Land Rover (though the debate continues between Landy and Toyota owners...). Still wondering about the merits of diesel vs petrol. Will have to speak to someone more knowledgeable than myself about that!

Next step? Talk to the bank.... Although I'd prefer not to get into debt for anything, I don't have cash lying around under the mattress, so would need a little "advance" on my "allowance", if you know what I mean. And with a low enough sale price, it would be not too much of an issue to repay it quickly. (The alternative is, of course, to take those payments, store them up and then go get one down the road cash!)

I don't rightly care what the beast looks like, and I don't care if I need to put a bit of elbow grease into it either. The more I get my hands dirty, the more I'll know what I'm doing later should problems arise. And getting my fingernails full of grease is what I plan on anyway.

So the quest has begun! So many Landys to choose from - which one will be mine?

First Steps

By pure chance I ran into a wonderful book on sale on Friday - 4x4 African Adventure, by Peter Baker. Calling it an investment, I snapped it up - and read it cover-to-cover within a day!

It's an excellent guide to travelling Africa, especially East Africa, from South Africa on up. Not only does it give his adventures, but a LOT of information regarding what to take, where to go, how to go, and many useful contacts here in SA. There's a full list of what should go in a medical kit, how a GPS works and an example of plotting a journey with one, what Malaria is all about, and a check-list of things to pack/take/acquire.

He writes the book with a huge sense of humour, and an equally large sense of adventure. He's a firm believer in fully experiencing every place he visits, getting to know the locals and treating the environment with respect as you go. I would love to sit down with him and talk for a couple of hours!

It's a beginning. I'm starting to get a feel for what we'll need in order to travel safely and not die of dehydration/starvation/disease/government official. It's a down-to-earth book, honest and clear.

Going through the list of things we'd need to take, I was amazed at how many of them I already have - and amazed at how many I will still need... A trip across Africa is by no means a cheap "let's get in the car and go" affair. It requires careful planning and a good deal of courage.

But I'm starting to really think it will work. Sure, I have some concerns. Including whether travelling as a single vehicle is wise or whether I should try get some travelling companions...

This morning one of our Botswana students was in my office, and I asked who would be best to speak to with regard to travelling in his country. He gave me a local contact at the Consulate, but also said he'd bring me a lot of extra info - stuff that they won't tell me, like dealing with the police etc. I aim to track down students from as many other countries we're likely to pass through as I can. We're blessed with representation from about 47 different countries, and I'm sure to find a couple that can give me insider info. The more I can learn before we leave, the better.

Today I get cracking on a bit more research into AA membership, insurance etc. Info-gathering supreme!

Here's to Dreams!

This is the start of it all - where fulfillment of a huge dream begins. Although I already have a blog, I've set this one up to document the planning, the thoughts, the doubts and inspiration that will go into our Africa Trek.

My plan is to pack up the kid at the beginning of 2007, sell or store all our possessions, and head north from Cape Town to wander the continent of Africa for at least a year. If cash and vehicle hold out, we plan to travel further - through Europe and Asia, perhaps ending up in Australia where my parents live (for which we will need to hitch a ride on a container ship...).

Planning our trip is a little like getting into the seat of the world's scariest roller-coaster. Once you're in, you're off! No getting out along the way, and scary as the ride may be, it's worth it!

Let's hope we can make this one a reality.