Friends for the Long Road

If you ever take an extended family trip into a wilderness area, may I offer one bit of advice?

Take another family along with you.

Try to find a family that’s a good fit for your family, people who’ll tolerate graciously your own family’s peculiarities – who even like your peculiarities – who like you and love every one of your children.

All of them.

Meaning that they’ve been a central, unflagging support in the heaviest trial of your life, feeling the absence of your one child whom they, too, enjoyed so much and love still.

It helps if you have known each other in that way.

And if you’ve known each other nearly your whole lives.

(Does “since kindergarten” count as one’s whole life?)

If, for instance, the husbands have known each other since they were five years old, and if the wives have known each other’s husbands since high school, and if the wives themselves have known each other since college.

If you all grew up in the same four-mile radius.

That kind of knowing. Then you’re probably on the right track. Try, if possible, to find folks with that kind of shared history.

Then one more thing.

Make sure they’re geniuses.

Because if you’re not excessively bright yourself, it helps to have someone in your group who is. They’re there to explain stuff.

You see, they’ll bring a whole library full of guide books. Insect guides.

Flora/fauna guides.

Bird guides.

Mammal guides.

Worm guides.

Arachnoid guides.

And those are just the books implanted in their heads. Unlike you, they haven’t done a crash course to be ready for the wilderness. They’ve been storing up knowledge for decades.

It could just be that these lifelong friends happen to be scientists. And if they are, they can turn your wilderness trip into several running episodes of Through the Wormhole.

You’ll benefit from such friends if they’re not only scientists, but are specifically doctors of medicine. In case you’re attacked by charging rhinos, elephants or swarms of tsi-tsi flies.

Or if you’ve stepped on a thorn.

And if on top of all this these doctor-scientist friends of yours are respected skin cancer researchers, you’ll be assured sunscreen reapplication breaks every hour or so. (Of course, the melanoma specialist is the only one who’ll get the burn.)

This family you’re thinking of traveling with? It’s great if some of their children are close to the ages of some of your own. And if possible, be sure they’re easy going, inquisitive, non-bratty, adventuresome, incredibly droll, and delightfully photogenic children.

And check first to see if they’re fun. Because it is great and all to be a smart, skin-savvy, walking guide book. But you’ve all come a long way to this wilderness. So it should be fun, too.

But not just fun.


Inhale-your-lentils-whole, split-a-gut, outlaugh-the-hyenas kind of funny.

It’s good if your friends can make everyone — your children, your selves and the grazing water buffalo –– stop cold in their tracks, snorting and guffawing pawing the ground with laughter.

These smart funny friends might also be the sorts who’ll be eager to get up a couple of hours before dawn to drive way out into the savannah just to wait in complete silence while the sun slowly rises in order to catch a brief glimpse of this one majestic creature:

They’ll trudge anywhere following the Masai guide. . .

They’ll treat the local culture with respect and good humor.

They’ll make friends easily.

They’ll canoe blithely with you in hippo-inhabited waters.
Tanzania (Dec 2011) 012Tanzania (Dec 2011) 007

They’ll dance with you well into the night.
Tanzania (Dec 2011) 060


They won’t burp or jerk around, flip rubber bands or throw spit wads when you’re sitting five feet from these guys. . .

And they’ll ooh and ahh at every last ohh-and-ahh-able detail of this earth’s creation. . .

So much so, that when your wilderness adventure comes to its end, you’ll be as sad to leave them as you are to leave it.

Next post, let me introduce you to Albert and our other fabulous guides. They saved us from being washed away when a river suddenly flooded and took us to the boma (family village) of one of the Masai guides.

Please leave your comments:

Do you have a special travel memory? Did you share it with another person or family? What makes good travel partners? Where are you longing to travel still? Have you ever been in a decidedly non-Christmasy location for Christmas? What did you do, then, to celebrate that holiday in a meaningful, reverent way?


2 thoughts on “Friends for the Long Road

  1. You can definitely see your expertise within the work you write.
    The sector hopes for even more passionate writers like
    you who aren’t afraid to say how they believe. At all times follow your heart.

    • San- I appreciate this vote of confidence. An observer once complimented a woman I really respect for being “so yourself!!” To that, the woman I respect said, “Hmm. Well, I couldn’t think of anyone else to be!” I am that way. So glad you stopped by. Hope to see you again here.–M.

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