When I stop to think about some of the things I’ve done and the things I want to do in the future, one of the first thoughts that come to my mind is “I must be mad.” When people talk of the travel bug, they’re usually talking about itchy feet, or the desire to see more of the world but there’s a part of me that thinks there’s something more to it than that. When you’re out on the road, things that you wouldn’t dream of doing at home in your quiet little town suddenly becomes habit.
You book to stay in a room with six strangers. A stranger invites you out for a drink. You say yes. You invite a stranger our for a drink. They say yes. You loiter in a back alley drinking vodka straight from the bottle with a couple of strangers. You get into a car with someone you just met. You talk to the person who sits next to you on the bus.
Sure, some of these things might be a bit mundane and some people might quite happily do these things at home. I can tell you that if you talk to the person who sits on the bus in my home town and you don’t know them personally, the other person will think you are mental. Some of the things that you do, however, are ridiculous. You’d definitely not consider taking an illegal tour across Victoria Falls to Livingstone Island, would you? Well, turns out I did.
I was on a family holiday in Zambia, walking with my Dad close to the edge of Victoria Falls. This in itself is perhaps a little bit crazy but it was dry season and there were plenty of people about and obviously if other people are doing it then it must be fine. I remember a man called out to us and he told us we were going the wrong way. When you’re walking along the edge of a water fall, this is the kind of advice that you’re going to listen to. So we follow this helpful gent and he guides us across the edge of the falls, pointing out the places where not so sensible tourists have gone over the edge.
I later found out that there isn’t much of a tourists toppling over the edge death toll for Victoria Falls, but the thundering waters (in the wet season the rising mist is known as The Smoke That Thunders, brilliant) and the 100m drop and local knowledge is enough to convince you otherwise. Anyway, our friendly guide asks us if maybe we want to see Livingstone Island. This is the madness of the travel bug. Somebody presents you with an opportunity and without rationalization you say “yes please.” As we approached the island, our man in the know told us that there would be guards on the island and we would need to bribe them to be let on. So, we think, ok I guess that’s fair and we pay our bribe and have a walk on the island and enjoy a water before our guide decides it’s time to head back.
Back at usual edge of the falls, we thank our guide at which point he reveals himself not to be so kind and helpful but a businessman who is need of paying for his hard work of making sure we stayed safe on our journey. Fair enough, we figure and pay him what money we had left after bribing the island guards and head back to our resort where we are then find a notice advising us not to take unlicensed tours of the falls.
I look back on this today and I think, I was crazy. I’m being guided out across a sheer drop by a complete stranger in a country I don’t know and nobody knows where I am or what I’m doing. What would my Mother say? Well, actually, she said she was quite jealous but I’m pretty sure if I’d been at home it would have been quite another story. Don’t talk to strangers, don’t go off with strange men, you could have been hurt or worse.
Regardless, this madness has led me to do some truly wonderful things and I think has some hand in my desire to do more. Opportunity doesn’t have to knock, sometimes it can smash the door down and I welcome it with a half-crazed smile. Sometimes, a little bit of madness can go a long way!