Hey, have you heard? It’s a new year or something. And we’re all supposed to make big resolutions or goals or intentions or whatever.
I’ll admit it: I do get caught up in that whole resolutions business. It’s just the excitement of closing a chapter on something old and getting a fresh new start on something new. If my unconventional, nomadic childhood taught me anything it’s that you can totally run away from your current, crappy situation and start all over somewhere else with a new fake life and backstory. (Just kidding. Mostly.)
But to be honest, 2018 wasn’t that bad for me. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t like earth shatteringly great of anything either, it was just…..there. I guess it was better than 2017, but not “my best year ever!” or anything. And that’s fine by me. There’s something to be said for just an average year with no major highs or lows.
Professionally, 2018 was a pretty good year. I’m getting the hang of the freelance life cycle. I had a couple of clients cut back or go away completely, had some new clients and new projects to work on, the usual ebb-and-flow, and I was prepared for all that, both financially and emotionally.
Last year, my professional freelancing resolution was two-fold. The first was: Say yes to everything, even things that I think I don’t know how to do or areas where I don’t consider myself an expert. And I did do that, for the most part. I took on projects in areas that were challenging and guess what? I figured it out. I had to Google a lot of stuff but I got it done.
The second part of my 2018 professional resolution was to walk away from projects that weren’t worth the time or trouble. Which I did in a couple of instances. I went with my gut and walked away from a couple of projects that were more stress than payoff.
Now, I find myself thinking about what I’d like 2019 to look like. And, I don’t really have any great answers yet. I’ve read a bunch of other blog posts on setting goals, listened to a couple of freelance podcasts, and even recently joined in on a freelancers Twitter chat on the topic.
And what I learned is, man, freelancers really REALLY love to make goals. Like, really specific, actionable goals. And they love to make lists of all those goals. Lots and lots of lists.
It made me think that I really need to get my shit together. To really sit down and think about this a whole freelancing business a whole lot more. Maybe I need to do like a whole Poe Communications Freelance Business Retreat.
So, after all this, my resolution is this: I resolve to make some really good resolutions at some point in the future. Maybe in like 2020.
But if you too are looking for some resolution inspiration and can’t wait for my retreat, the fine people at Goop have a list of some incredibly inspiring and impossible ones (because….of course they do). I do suggest, however, ignoring anything that Mario Batali has to say: he’s gross and we all know the real reason he wants to “unplug” from social media, emails and texts.
It’s not like this is my first African safari. Or even my second. No, this is the third time we are going on safari. You could say, we really, really, really like it.
I should know the drill by now.
Even still, in the last few months, I’ve vacillated between, “Nope, I have gobs of clothes, I don’t need to buy a single thing for this trip,” to “Oh my damn, I have nothing appropriate to take on safari, I better buy a whole new wardrobe.”
I have a few excuses. First of all, it’s a really long trip. We are going back to Serengeti Bushtops in Tanzania for eight days and Mara Bushtops in Kenya for five days (plus a couple of days in Zanzibar and one day in Nairobi on our way home, and a whole lot of time on very long flights). All told, I have to pack for 18 days, which is a LOT of days.
Secondly, I’ve lost a little weight since our last trip two years ago. Not a lot but enough to go down a size or two.
Third, I’ve purged my closet several times since our last trip and got rid of things I thought I’d probably never wear again, ie: clothes bought specifically for a safari. (Except my safari jacket. I wear that thing all the time).
And fourth, I also tend to buy really cheap items to take on safari (t-shirts from H&M or Old Navy, linen or cargo pants from Gap Factory or Kohl’s), and well, those don’t generally hold up that well. Which is fine, but obviously necessitated some shopping.
In case anyone is wondering, the reason I buy cheap, fast fashion stuff for safari (besides the cost, obviously) is that these clothes are going to take a bit of a beating. It’s not that safari is extremely physical (it’s not like your climbing a mountain or something) but you are getting in and out of a very tall Land Rover multiple times a day and walking through some dusty brush, primarily, at least in my case, to squat and pee.
You also really only need a couple of outfits since they do daily laundry at the safari camps we stay at. So the cost per wear is actually pretty high. Plus, if anything does happen to my safari clothes during the trip, say a laundry mishap or a tear from getting in and out of the truck, I won’t be bent out of shape about it.
I actually learned this lesson the hard way on our first safari to South Africa, where I bought these really nice $100 hiking pants from Athleta. I was so excited about these pants, I can’t even tell you. I ordered them online and put them right into my suitcase, still encased in plastic and everything. When I went to put them on our first morning in Sabi Sands, I saw (or felt, actually) that there was a big tear in the fabric, right across the right butt cheek. I was crushed. I used my little in-room sewing kit and stitched them right up but they were ruined, in my book. Lesson learned: no expensive, fancy safari clothes.
A few other considerations:
Colors: White and light colors are a bad idea since they show dirt so easily. And dark colors like black and navy attract mosquitoes and even tsetse flies, which hurt like hell.
As for agitating the animals with bright colors? Animals are mostly color blind, so the sight of bright colors doesn’t send them into a tizzy at all. Plus, you’re in a truck most of the time, so they just see you as part of a large, dark mass, and most likely think we’re all just another large animal. But, having said that, I tend to stick with neutral colors like gray, tan, olive. Especially if you go on a walking safari, when you definitely need to blend into the surroundings a bit.
Weather: It’s going to be pretty warm while we are on safari, highs mostly in the mid to upper 80s, lows in the upper 50s, low 60s. Still, I wear long pants and bring long sleeve shirts to help avoid bug bites. And a hat for sun protection. But not a pith helmet, or any other colonialist gear that smacks of racism and oppression.
And even though it’s the short rain season in the Masai Mara and Serengeti while we are there, we don’t need to bring waterproof gear. They usually have rain ponchos in the trucks (along with binoculars, which is why we don’t bring our own).
Dinners & downtime: This one is tricky and all over the map. Each camp has its own vibe and the dinner attire varies. Sometimes people wear the same clothes they wear on the game drives, which is fine. At Savanna Lodge in Sabi Sands, people (including the staff) got a bit dressed up for dinner (sundresses or linen pants and camisole tops for the women, pants and button up shirts for the men).
I try to just go with a happy medium and bring something nice, then wear it over and over and over again.
Here’s my safari packing list
2 long sleeve shirts (I’m taking two lightweight button downs to wear over t-shirts in the morning)
1 sweatshirt/fleece (I’m taking my olive cargo jacket)
2 pairs of cotton trousers/pants – a pair and a spare while the other is being washed.
2 light dresses/2 dressy tops/1 pair of jeans – for dinners while on safari and time in Zanzibar & Nairobi.
A scarf – good for blocking dust or sun or bundling up on a chilly morning.
4 pairs of socks
6 pairs of underwear (I also bring a net lingerie bag for our socks and underwear to keep them together and it just to make it a bit less embarrassing.)
3 bras (including one sports bra – VERY bumpy roads. I wash this by hand before dinner and let dry overnight.)
Sunglasses (for the dust as well as bright sun)
Pajamas/linen pants for hanging out in our tent.
Lightweight, durable, waterproof shoes (I’m taking this tennis/hiking shoe hybrid pair I already have. Not terribly lightweight, but durable.)
Sandals for around camp/wedges for dinner & city
Antihistamine (for bug bites/stings and allergic reactions)
Aspirin for pain/headaches
Mosquito repellant (I especially like the wipes or toilette versions)
A couple of large Ziploc bags (to keep things like your camera dry or free of dust)
Pepto Bismal plus something stronger (we travel with Cipro after the Great Peruvian Giardia Adventure of 2013)
Band aids/antibiotic ointment for blisters, cuts, scrapes
Personal toiletries in small travel sizes, including hair and skincare products, or formulas that aren’t liquid, ie: powder or stick sunscreen, solid shampoo/conditioner)
Minimal makeup – really, just the basics: tinted bb cream, mascara, tinted lip balm.
Prescription medications/spare glasses and contacts, in my case.
Tissues — (I found having little packs of these in the pockets of my jacket VERY useful when “checking the tires” — ie: peeing – during those 6-hour game drives.
Antiseptic gel or wipes (handy for washing your hands when there’s no water around)
Gadgets and Gizmos
Converter plug to fit local sockets (if needed. We did not need one on our last trip to Bushtop. All the plugs were universal.)
Camera (with zoom lenses/tripod/whatever. I just use a Canon point-and-shoot)
Extra memory card for your camera
Binoculars (Again, we found we didn’t really need them and our safari trucks had them)
Spare batteries and/or battery charger for electronics (Bushtop’s safari trucks even had USB ports to help keep batteries charged)
I-Pad or Kindle for all your entertainment needs
Cell phone. I don’t take my computer but I will take my cell phone. But, while the camps do have wifi, but it’s always a bit iffy. I try to just unplug and be in the moment, which is what safari (and any vacation, really) should be all about.
This week though, am I right? It’s felt like an entire year of bad news and gut-wrenching images rolled into one giant horrible week.
Which is why I think most of us are just really looking forward to sitting at home, drinking wine in our underpants this weekend. Like, REALLY looking forward to it.
Well, good news. 1) You can (at least, I think you still can in this current, messed up iteration of America) and 2) the Scandinavians have already beaten us to it and they even have a name for it. Because—of course, they do.
Yes, the genius people from the cluster of countries who have already brought us the awesome celebration of all things cozy and comfortable (#hygge4lyfe especially in winter), have now given us a new lifestyle/wellness trend. Or, if not new, at least have given us a name for it. Two, actually.
And, it’s specifically the Finnish who are responsible for this one. I don’t know any Finnish people (other than that they are consistently ranked as some of the happiest people on Earth), but I feel like it isn’t really overblown to describe them as geniuses.
I am all about self-care. I love to relax and escape. But not the type of self-care I have to actually leave the house to enjoy or participate in or be around other people to partake in. I get annoyed by people at THE SPA. Do you know what kind of self-involved, anti-social hermit you have to be to get annoyed by people at the spa??
So, it goes without saying that I’m only interested in self-care that can be practiced in the privacy of my own home in its utmost, laziest forms. This one, according to Finish journalist Miska Rantanen, simply involves “drinking at home, alone, in your underwear.”
Oh yeah. I’m (mostly) down. I do have a couple of slight alterations to make, though. 1) Change “underwear” to pajamas or loungewear, and 2) swap out “alone” for “with my beloved significant other who is in the same room but likely doing his own thing, with his own drink and doing it silently.”
I love this bit in the Elite Daily article, because holy hotdog, this roundup of activities just speaks to my soul.
“To be clear, at no point does Rantanen suggest that Päntsdrunk should be equated with binge drinking. Rather, it’s all about allowing yourself to relax while being totally sequestered from the ‘real world.’ An ideal Päntsdrunk night for me would assuredly be homemade cucumber jalapeño margaritas, along with a few seasons of Girls, a face mask or two, followed by a bedtime of 9 p.m. sharp……It allows everyone to do exactly what they’ve always wanted to do (and have probably already been doing in secret), without feeling bad for it on a Friday or Saturday night.”
Since I am so here for this trend, I want to offer up some wine pairings with some of my favorite self-care activities.
Reading celebrity magazines at the kitchen bar while XFE cooks us an amazing meal – This is one of my favorite activities, and one that I am very good at. I usually offer up a weak, “Anything I can do to help?” while distracting him with various celebrity gossip tidbits. Pairs well with a nice, rich Cabernet Sauvignon.
Playing with/grooming/caring for Pinot and Port (our cats. Yes, they’re named after wine) – There’s a bit of an age discrepancy here, so I actually have two wine pairings. For Port, who is just over a year old and very active, I recommend a glass of crisp, dry Sauvignon Blanc. Because odds are pretty good that either myself or the cat are going to knock the glass over and spill wine all over the cream living room rug, so white wine = easier clean up. For Pinot, who is 7 years old, kind of lazy and literally plays while laying down, a bold Pinot Noir, naturally.
Bubble bath and face mask – Light a scented candle, fill the tub with a healthy dollop of Laura Mercier bubble bath, slap on some Caudalie instant detox face mask, and pour yourself a glass of spicy Malbec. Just don’t fall asleep. I always do that and there’s nothing relaxing about being startled awake by a mouthful of heavily perfumed bubbles. Or spilled wine.
Organize and purge – There’s just something about color coordinating your closet/significant other’s tie rack/pet supplies and/or throwing out all your unused and unloved crap that is so, so satisfying and relaxing. You’ll need a mellow Chardonnay, some equally mellow music (Might I suggest some 90’s trip hop, ala Portishead or Sneaker Pimps?) and a couple of hours to just disappear into the trance that can only be brought on by Marie Kondo folding techniques.
Pinteresting – While I mostly think you’re supposed to keep distracting and upsetting technology at bay, I’m pretty sure Pinterest gets a pass. It is probably the most used app on my phone and my go-to when I want to kill time and dull brain cells. I can save and organize pretty pictures of pretty things all damn day. Plus, Pinteresting is just so hopeful for the future! Am I ever going to live in a mid-century modern bungalow in LA with a sauna room built in? Eh, probably not. But it doesn’t stop me from pinning every damn photo I see. Will I ever have a need to make frozen bowls with delicate herbs and greenery suspended in them to hold votives in? No! But their so pretty and Scandinavian! Do I really need to save all these fondue recipes when Trader Joe’s has a completely serviceable fondue kit? Nope. Not even a little bit. But I like to save and organize all these ideas. Which calls for a delicate and eminently drinkable Rose that can carry you through a wasted afternoon of picture sorting.
So go ahead. Get Päntsdrunk this weekend or sans-pants-drunk, if semi-nudity is your thing. We’ve all certainly earned it. Plus, we’ll probably need to store up our emotional wellness reserves to face the next 942 days.
Here we are a week into the new year and I must say my overwhelming feeling so far in 2018 is that the dumpster fire that was 2017 is far from over.
That seems mighty pessimistic, I know.
On a personal and professional level (and without getting too personal), last year was a bit bumpy, to put it mildly, pretty much from start to finish.
And the state of the world and society in general from a national and global level….well. I have thoughts and opinions.
You often hear people compare 2017 to a roller coaster. I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate. For one thing, some people really like roller coasters. And with a roller coaster, you can generally see the loops and dips and swoops that lie up ahead.
No, I think of 2017 as more like a pinball machine, where we’re all careening around recklessly, slapped about by seen flippers and slingshots yet also gut punched by those little knobs that pop up out of nowhere all the damn time.
And while I can’t do much about the state of the world and society (I’ll leave that to Oprah for now), I can do something about my personal and professional spheres of being.
One thing that I subconsciously did last year was improve my interpersonal relationships. I didn’t set out to do it…I’m actually a bit of a hermit crab who wants to stay home, curled up on the sofa in my yoga pants with a cat on my lap and a glass of wine within reach, watching anything that Bravo wants to put in front of my face.
But when I look back on 2017, the memories that pop out the most are the ones involving family and new and old friends. Times when I made an effort. Times when I stepped out of my comfort zone and reached out to people I barely knew or talked to people I had just met or reconnected with people I hadn’t talked to in a long time.
My sister came and visited me for the first time here in D.C. and we got to spend some time together for the first time in years. Some of it was great, like when I played tour guide and dragged her all over town in the freezing January cold or showed her some of my favorite Old Town spots. Some of it was difficult and uncomfortable as we sorted through some of our vastly different memories and perspectives on shared events.
And I made a point to visit her when I went to Texas for a freelance conference later in the year. Again, some of that visit was good and some of it was awkward as we continue to hash out the perimeters of our relationship, but I think that might be what family dynamics are all about. They’re not cut and dried. They’re actually quite hard. It’s a feeling and situation I’ve tended to avoid more often than not. But at least – on that relationship – we are making inroads, I think.
About that freelancing conference: it was, quite honestly, pretty much a bust (in my opinion) and I won’t be attending it again. But by just attending it, I met and learned a lot from my fellow attendees (we even joked about starting our own better-organized and useful, practical freelancer conference – maybe a goal for 2019?).
I also came back from that conference convinced that 1) I’m actually doing some things right in this old freelancing biz, 2) I have wisdom, experiences and advice that I’m happy to share with others, and 3) I shouldn’t be afraid to make friends, even with people I view as potential competitors. What I learned is that there’s honestly enough work out there for all of us.
When I got home, I doubled-down on attending networking events and reaching out to other freelancers for coffee, lunch and drinks. And I checked my motivation and expectations at the door. I made sure that my efforts were NOT for the purpose of generating job leads—which has never worked out for me at a networking event—but just to be social and have a laugh, and sometimes to commiserate and share advice. That’s something that I intend to continue throughout 2018.
That bummer of a conference also allowed me to reconnect with old Austin friends, some of whom I didn’t even think had missed me or would want to see me! I left Austin about 15 years ago and I figured we’d all just grown apart and moved on with our busy lives so it honestly didn’t occur to me that they would want to rearrange their schedules to meet up while I was in town. I just didn’t think we were “those type” of friends anymore. But they did! And I was so moved and humbled by that. It really made me reassess how I myself treat old friendships that I thought were “in the past.” I look forward to the work I need to do on improving those friendships in 2018.
So that’s my goal for 2018 — work on the stuff that I have control over, including and especially, relationships. That, and cut back on cussing, but that’s damn losing proposition.
I feel like a broken record, but hey there. I know, I know. I’ve been MIA in the blogging world.
Well, I am contributing to blogs, but they’ve been on behalf of clients. Not this blog. This blog has been neglected, like a lonely, unwanted redheaded stepchild.
Which is part of the “problem” and a good problem to have…..I’ve got clients and they need words!
But I miss writing on this blog all the time. There’s hardly a day that passes that I don’t think of or run across something that I think would be blogworthy. Or, more likely, something that I think I’d like to remember in the future and that I don’t trust my rusty, old brain to remember.
Throughout my teens and 20s, I wrote in my journal pretty much every night. I still have a lot—although not all–of them. Mostly, I have the ones from my late 20s. And they are hilarious and cringeworthy and poetic and wonderful—all at the same time. It’s a regular, low-rent, pre-social media version of Vanderpump Rules in there. I can usually only read a couple of entries before I become exasperated or embarrassed by the whole, ultra-meta exercise, but nevertheless, I’m so glad I have them and can refer back to them. And there are actually some really beautiful and moving bits in there that I’m really proud of, although those are the least likely items to ever be shared.
Anyway, now to the present. Or, actually, to thoughts of year end. As 2017 closes, I’ve been thinking a lot about how the past year has gone, especially professionally. It has been a bit of a rollercoaster career-wise, to say the least.
I guess if I had to sum up 2017, I would sum it up this way: How comfortable am I with uncertainty? And also, because I’m not in this alone: How comfortable is my partner with my work uncertainty?
The first two years of my freelance career were pretty dang awesome. I had a lot of former colleagues sign up as clients right away and I am so, so grateful for that. I was also smart enough to take my own freelancer financial advice: cut way back on the spending and kick up the saving, so I was able to put aside a good chunk of rainy day funds.
So, when a client decided not to renew my contract at the beginning of the year, I didn’t stress too much about it. I figured I’d find some other clients, and while I certainly have, they definitely haven’t been the lucrative, retainer-based client that I’d lost.
Another regular client has scaled back their needs quite a bit (but is still providing some work) and a couple of others who dropped off were never really consistent anyway, so again, I didn’t sweat it. I thought I’d just kick up the networking and new clients would be lining up.
It wasn’t exactly like that. It took a while to line up new clients and there has been a lag while we got up and running on projects and another lag between when I turn an item in and when I get paid.
For the first time since I started freelancing, I felt like I was churning and churning output and not feeling financially secure. For the first time, I had to dip into my rainy day fund to pay myself, which, mentally, that’s fine, that’s what it’s there for, but is still a bit scary nonetheless. Not just for me, but for my ever-patient, ever-supportive boyfriend. There were unspoken questions that hung in the air between us during every conversation about my money and freelancing: What’s my plan? How many months would I dip into my savings? Should I start applying for a steady job?
Luckily, it hasn’t gotten to that point. Slowly but surely, things have started to pick up again. In the past six months, I’ve taken on a variety of new projects – small ones that are big lifts with low pay but satisfying in other ways, medium-sized ones that are not the most exciting in scope or topic, but pay well and are consistent, and a large-sized project that is scary and challenging and is stretching my skills as a writer.
When I talk to other people who are looking to get into freelancing, one of the first questions they have is “how do you balance your projects so you aren’t taking on too much and still making enough?” I definitely do not have the answer to that. Three years in, I’m still figuring it out.
Right now, I’m saying yes to almost every project I get offered. I know that’s not sustainable long term and some difficult decisions will have to be made at some point. But for now, I’m going full throttle. As a result, this blog will get updated when I can. In fact, I’m also trying to set a better work schedule for myself in 2018, and blocking off time for blogging is definitely one of my work schedule goals. We’ll see.
So, back to my 2017 theme: how comfortable am I with uncertainty? Throughout this slow summer, I discovered that I am surprisingly comfortable with uncertainty. Blame it on my nomadic, gypsy childhood, or the fact that I’ve had to pull myself up by my bootstraps more than a few times in the past, but something makes me sure that I’ll figure it all out. That doesn’t mean I don’t have sleepless nights and anxiety attacks over all this uncertainty, but I just believe in myself. And so does my wonderful life partner/manpanion and boyfriend, who actually might believe in me even more than I do, and for which I am also very grateful.
My travel-buddy-for-life XFE and I just got back from a soccer roadtrip through the South, which was basically 3,000 miles of varying degrees of traffic and highways broken up by stops for soccer (go Tottenham), kitschy tourist locales (I’d never been to South of the Border, but I have now), barhopping at country honkytonks (Nashville might be my new favorite place ever), ice cream from gas stations (literally, every day) and tons of Southern food (hello pimento cheese)—all in all, pretty dang awesome.
But before we start down that 3,000 mile road, can we please just talk for a minute about Below Deck: Mediterranean? Because the reunion is tonight and I. Have. Thoughts.
First of all, killing me with those beautiful Croatian backdrops there, Bravo.
We went to Croatia in 2013, including Split and Dubrovnik, which are both prominently featured on the show. It was amazing to see the same medieval streets again on the TV screen and it really, really made me want to go back.
In fact, there was one scene where they went to pick up some guests from their hotel right outside of Split instead of at the dock. And wouldn’t you know it, they were actually picking up the guests from the same hotel we had stayed at, Le Meridien Lav (scene of the infamous French fry décor).
So yes. Killing me. Making me want to book another trip immediately.
But, more importantly, I think this was probably my favorite season of Below Deck. And that’s because I felt like this season really shined a light on the social hypocrisy that exists when it comes to gender stereotypes.
You already know what I’m talking about. There is, of course, the Malia-Adam-Wes love triangle. I cannot believe how much grief that poor girl got. And for what? For casually dating/getting to know two guys and figuring out which one she might like? Guys do this all the time and no one bats an eye about it. In fact, I believe Mr. Andy Cohen has a whole other show on one of the main networks where contestants date (and sometimes even kiss) three different people in the course of a week!
I was also very shocked that it wasn’t just the aggrieved, jilted Adam who was giving Malia grief. It was the other male deckhands and even the female stews. Hey ladies, how about you stop clutching your pearls over whether Malia is kissing two grown men and giving Malia a high-five for evening up the score a bit. #sistersdoingitforthemselves
I’m actually more bothered by the fact that they’re all co-workers. I’m a firm believer that you should not poop where you eat and dating co-workers falls into that category, which is why I’ve never dated a co-worker. (I’ve also never dated a boss and Wes was a blind idiot for making Malia his second-in-command over Bobby, who clearly has more experience).
Then there’s the whole Hannah-passenger-Jason and Bobby-passenger-Paola business. Again, do I think any of them should be smooching on passengers/clients? No, absolutely not. But the hysteria that surrounded Hannah’s transgression compared to the virtual shrugging of the shoulders when Bobby lurked (multiple times!) on his Tinder match (dude, what are you doing checking Tinder when you don’t even have the night off?) was so annoying and hypocritical.
Even Max admitted to how hypocritical his reaction towards the exact same situation involving crew getting involved with clients was when Bobby went creeping downstairs to get a smooch from a girl who may or may not have been a paid companion of the primary.
Anyway, it was a great season and hopefully, there will be more discussion of this sexist hypocrisy business at tonight’s reunion. After all, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, right? Or, as the Croatians say: Velike ribe male proždiru (big fish devour the small. I’m not sure that actually applies here, but I wanted to include a Croatian proverb).
No, not what I packed for essentially three weeks of travel (although, that would be my first question and the answer is: not that much). It’s not even whether we ever got bored of seeing many of the same animals day after day (answer: nope, not at all).
The question is: which African safari destination did we like better? Tanzania or South Africa?
The answer is a bit complicated. Actually, it’s not that complicated for me. It’s just that it’s a different answer than my travel-companion-for-life, XFE, and it always feels a tiny bit awkward when we don’t necessarily agree. Especially as he is the one who does most of the travel planning. It makes me feel like I’m being slightly ungrateful of all his hard work or something.
Anyway, XFE liked the Serengeti (Tanzania) slightly better. I preferred Sabi Sands (South Africa). Which is just fine. I don’t think either destination is going to pack up their tents and call it a day based on our meager little preferences. And guess what? Neither of them suck. Like, at all. So don’t worry. No bad decisions here.
Look, the Serengeti is beautiful. Vast grass plains that go on forever and ever. Little purple and white “tissue” flowers signaling the approaching of spring. Rocky outcroppings that allow animals to hide in plain sight. Completely empty savannas with just a single tree providing shade for a couple of leopard brothers. The viewing is plentiful and easy.
And, as far as sheer numbers of animals, you cannot beat the Serengeti. You don’t just see one lion, you see a whole pride of them, scattered out in a dry river bank, nursing their babies and snoozing and washing themselves and just generally being cats. The Serengeti has the Great Migration, and herds and herds of wildebeest participating in a truly awe-inspiring, bucket-list experience. We saw plenty of everything, especially the Big 5. (But between the two destinations, we saw the Big 7 – that’s the Big 5 plus cheetah and African wild dog).
We also saw plenty of death, which bummed me out and contributed to my personal preference for Sabi Sands.
But actually, for me, it comes down to the focus on conservation, which varies greatly between the Serengeti (a vast, open public park) and Sabi Sands (a private reserve set in the midst of a public park).
In Sabi Sands, the drivers and guides know the animals—they know who their parents were, they’ve given them names, they have whole identity kits on each of them and they have spent years acclimating the animals to their human sounds. They approach new or unknown animals very cautiously and respectfully, so as not to scare them.
The guides in Sabi Sands also coordinate over the radio so that there aren’t too many vehicles converging on an animal at once—a vehicle will drive up, spend a few minutes viewing the animal and then back out. And they only drive off the established trails when they’re chasing a Big 5 animal.
The Serengeti is a bit more casual, much more Wild West, if you will. And the guides there are a lot more focused on making sure you (the paying and tipping customer) get your NatGeo-worthy photo, rather than the comfort of the animals. For example, when we rolled up on some sleeping lions one day, our guide began clapping his hands to get the lion to wake up and look up, so we could get a better picture. We assured him that that was not at all necessary and to just let the lion be.
In addition, there are a lot more vehicles around in the Serengeti, including all sorts of private guides from outside the park. So there’s no coordination amongst them. The day we finally found black rhinos still makes me cringe, as about half a dozen (at least) trucks encircled the two rhinos. Even though most everyone kept their distance (to some extent), I still felt like we were pinning them in and they really had nowhere to go (they were trying to retreat back into the bush and trees along the river bank behind the trucks–including ours).
The guides in the Serengeti also do not know the names or lineage of the animals, and in fact, when I asked about the name of our first lion sighting, I got a bit of a strange look. And they definitely drive off the trails quite a bit, in pursuit of any animal. And I do mean pursuit. A couple of times it felt (to my sensitive soul, at least) like we were chasing animals, which I did not like.
There are a few other things: I much preferred the guides in Sabi Sands. They were knowledgeable and excited every day. Both locations are a little difficult to get to, but Tanzania was definitely more difficult. I also liked the safari style of Sabi Sands–morning game drive, break in the afternoon, evening game drive. There were no nighttime game drives in Tanzania, so it was an all-day safari drive. Although, eating breakfast and lunch out in the wild in the Serengeti was amazing in its own right.
But for me, it ultimately comes down to the entirely different focus—animals first or clients first. Neither is wrong, but I definitely preferred one approach over the other.
All of that (plus the end of “Breaking Bad” — sooooo good; and total work insanity), has distracted us from a true travesty: the end of unknown search terms.
You see, one of the greatest and most amusing features of WordPress was a feature that rounded up terms used in search engines like Yahoo, Google and Bing, that somehow led people to your blog. For example, someone found my blog recently by searching for “grand theft auto widow.”
Anyway, this list of search terms brought me a ton of pleasure and laughs. Whenever I found a particularly weird search term, I would post it on Facebook or Twitter as a Totally Random Search Term that Brought Someone to thePoelog, also known as TRSTBS for short. And I would speculate exactly what kind of person would have been searching for that term. Here’s an example from September 11: Totally random search term that brought someone to thePoeLog “rat on a treadmill videos.” Welcome, Pied Piper in training.
Sadly, the search term feature is being relocated to a nice family farm out in the country, never to be heard from again. Here’s what WordPress says:
In September 2013 Google started to rapidly expand the number of searches that it encrypts, which results in a higher proportion of “Unknown search terms” in your stats. According to some sources, this expansion will eventually result in encryption of all Google searches. This is being done for privacy reasons by Google when someone searches at Google.com, before a visitor arrives at your WordPress.com site. Therefore we don’t have any way to unhide the search terms. We recognize this means a loss of stats information for you and we will look for other ways to show you how users arrived at your site.
Damn you Google! And Edward Snowden! And NSA, who really, when you think about it, started this whole nonsense to begin with. Listen, I got nothing to hide. If NSA wants to look at pictures of my chubby cat and whatever deliciousness XFE has made us for dinner, knock yourselves out. I live my life loud and proud.
However, other people do not really feel the same way I do and like their privacy to remain intact. But now, NSA, you’ve gone and made everyone all wild-eyed and outraged and who pays the price? Cultural observers such as myself who get a snicker out of people finding my blog while searching for “Kate Middleton porno.” (Can’t you just imagine their disappointment?)
So far, however, I do have a list of the last month’s search terms that I’ve copied and saved. So, I thought we’d have a little Irish wake here, pour some wine (one for me and one for my fallen homies) and do a little Q&A using a small sampling of those last Totally Random Search Terms that Brought Someone to thePoeLog.
What to pack for doomsday — This is a very good question. Also, quite philosophical. On the one hand, does it really matter? After all, it’s doomsday. But, maybe our erstwhile searcher is an optimist and expects to survive and carry on the human species, perhaps with the assistance of one mighty fine Matthew McConaughey, for example. In that case, you might want to pack something lingerie, a nice sturdy box of wine, a sleeping bag, and a gun. The gun, mind you, isn’t to use on Matthew. It’s to protect Matthew from other the clutches of other lady survivors.
How to get in touch with duck dynasty — Well, shouldn’t be too hard. West Monroe is a pretty small place. Population is only 13,000. I think if you hung around the Circle K long enough, you’re bound to run into one of those long-bearded fellas. Or, you could probably start going to their church. Or just stop by Duck Commander headquarters. They say on their website that, “We would be HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY for you to come by and say “HEY”. You can even pay them to hang out with you, according to the website: for information on booking the Duckmen please visit WME Speakers at firstname.lastname@example.org
Is hilary from love it or list it pregnant — I haven’t been watching it lately (we’ve got three episodes hanging out on the DVR), so I don’t really know. But (and no offense here), she seems a bit old to be starting a family. I would guess the answer to this question would probably be no. Now Desta on the other hand, I believe she’s fairly recently married, so that would make sense. And if Hilary is pregnant, congratulations and good luck.
When is gold rush coming back on discovery channel — The Hoffman Knucklehead Crue are back on Discovery Channel on October 25. According to this blog: “In season four of GOLD RUSH, Todd Hoffman puts his life on the line, and asks his crew to do the same, braving malaria, poisonous snakes and quicksand to set up a mining operation in a patch of hostile jungle deep in Guyana, South America.” We saw a few preview episodes on Discovery a few months back, and it looks like plenty of bad decisions ahead.
Can you get brain eating amoebas feom bath water — I believe that should be “from” and my guess is yes. Brain eating amoebas are everywhere and we should all be afraid of them. Best to just take showers whilst holding your breath. But you might want to have a chair in the shower. If you pass out from holding your breath, amoeba-carrying water will definitely get up your nose and eat your brain.
When men reading shades of grey — I’m not familiar with the book “Shades of Grey,” so I’m guessing you mean “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Also, this query seems to be missing some very important connecting words here, which changes the possible answers a bit. If you are asking “When do you find men reading fifty shades of grey,” then the answer is most likely when they think they won’t be caught, so maybe when they’re in the tub enjoying a nice bubble bath? If your question is, “what to do when men [are?] reading fifty shades of grey,” my advice is to avert your eyes and calmly and slowly walk away without drawing attention to the awkward situation. The obvious caveat here is that no man should be reading Fifty Shades of Grey. Even Matthew McConaughey.
I feel nervous about an upcoming trip — Totally understandable. Travel can be exciting but scary. After all, a lot of things can happen — the plane might crash, your luggage might get lost, the car rental place might be closed, the hotel might have lost your reservation, the roads might be blocked by protesting fishermen, you might eat bad salami and be violently ill for 10 days in one of the world’s great gourmet regions. Or, you might get a brain eating amoeba from taking a bath while reading “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
But, it’s all worth it because travel provides you with an opportunity to brag about all the great places you’ve been and all the great things you’ve seen on your very own blog. See? Don’t you feel better already?