I’ve just returned from nearly three weeks in Namibia, the country bordering South Africa and Botswana that I’ve wanted to visit for years, for its wildlife, scenery and people. Although I’ve visited some 100 countries in a lifetime as a journalist, Namibia was a life-changing experience.
Here are some lessons learned.
Except for a sliver in the north, Namibia is a desert country, containing the world’s driest desert, the Namib, with the world’s tallest sand dunes. The one known as Big Daddy, in Sossusvlei, is just over 1,000 feet tall (325 meters). The one I climbed, above, is known as Dune 45, also for its height, in meters.
Water is precious in Namibia, and it is not wasted.
One guesthouse I stayed at had a plastic bucket in the shower to catch water before it gets hot enough for your shower, which they use for the landscaping. The bucket is less formal than sustainability programs by hotels around the world, including in Namibia, including recycling such so-called “grey water” for the gardens. Water conservation is one of the requirements to become a LEED certified green hotel in the USA, or a member of the Green Globe hotel program elsewhere in the world.
Lessons learned. Since I’ve been home, I’m more aware of water and how easy it is to stop wasting it.
- I turn on the tap with less force than before, because nobody needs full force to wash hands or the dishes. Half-force is more than enough.
- I turn off the tap while brushing my teeth, because nobody needs to waste water while scrubbing the pearly whites.
- I take shorter showers, because it’s wasteful to stand for long minutes after rinsing, wasting both water and the fuel to heat it.
- I save laundry for a full load, because it wastes water to do a mini-load. Ditto the dishwasher.
- And, I drink more water because I am wasting less and because it’s good for my health and my skin
Less is more
I spent a truly remarkable day with members of the San tribe, also known as Bushmen, on a protected reserve near Windhoek, Namibia’s capital city. These warm and gentle people live much as they have for the last thousand years, living off the land, including the natural medicines hidden within the plants and flowers of the desert, making fire with a flint and a stick, and owning only the most necessary possessions for survival, which include bows and arrows for hunting game that provide food and clothing.
Lessons learned. It’s okay not to be the first on your block with the newest and most fashionable clothing or newest and most technologically advanced anything, from mobile phones to mobile transportation.
- Sorry retailers, but I haven’t bought any new clothing since I returned. My closets already are bulging. Do I really need more?
- It’s okay to wear the same thing two days in a row
- It’s reconfirmed my mantra to use refillable water bottles instead of the throwaways that litter the countryside and add to landfill
- Family is more important than material possessions. But we all knew that already, although some of us need to be reminded, and often.
Lessons learned. Since I’ve been home, I leave a few moments earlier, so I don’t have to rush.
- Patience, as they say, is a virtue. If you doubt it, just ask me about the four hours I spent sitting in one spot at the famous and incredible watering hole in Etosha National Park (pictured here) waiting for and watching the parade of elephants, zebras, giraffes, springbok, eland, oryx and rhino.
Anybody who travels knows the frustration of slow and cranky internet connections. Your urban hotel or safari lodge promises only that it’s free, not that it’s fast or easy to connect. It was actually a relief to be completely disconnected for a day or two at a time, and focus instead on the joy of being “in the moment”. It’s something any number of cities, resort hotels and tour operators are marketing.
Lessons learned. Since I’ve been home, I check emails and social media less often.
- It’s not good for your psyche or your stress level to be plugged into emails and tweets as though they were intravenous medicine.
- Nobody will arrest me if I don’t Tweet, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest daily, and if that costs me a few followers, so be it.
What are your “lessons learned” from your favorite travel destinations?
All photos are (C) Copyright Evelyn Kanter and may not be duplicated or re-used without the express permission of Evelyn Kanter.