First published on the Relais & Châteaux Africa blog.
We have been inspired this week by a simple sentence. One shared by the Great Plains Conservation, the organisation encompassing a few of our favourite safari lodges and camps in Botswana and Kenya. The image accompanying the sentence, posted on Facebook, showed an elephant in the Selinda area, where Zarafa Camp can be found, lifting its trunk to its mouth for a drink from the river. In the foreground, a few hippos bob, while in the background a swathe of trees, alive and fallen, and bush, hopping a ride on a growing termite mound, fade into a blur. The sentence with it reads:
“Maybe the best thing about spending time in the wild and observing the animals who willingly share their space with us, is being reminded of the things in life that really matter.”
The words perfectly capture what it is that more and more of us are searching for in life – a feeling of purpose, an experience that goes deeper, that transforms, and that takes us away from the man-made and closer to our own wildness, to a natural pace and way. An experience that takes us closer to our own animal instincts and needs as well as our humanness – our vulnerability as well as our ability to feel gratitude and awe, and that speaks to our deep desire for belonging, meaning and fulfillment. An experience like a safari in the wild.
Time in the wild can never be taken away from you, unlike a material object. It can never be stolen. Experiences stay with us for a lifetime. As the book, Stuffocation: Why We’ve Had Enough of Stuff and Need Experience More Than Ever, by James Wallman, says, simply, “Memories live longer than things,” and, “the best place to find status, identity, meaning, and happiness is in experiences.”
The book discusses the emergence of a new type of person. Rather than a materialist, this new kind of seeker is the experientialist. A person who knows that the deep and genuinely meaningful connections and sense of individual happiness that we seek cannot be found in objects, but rather moments…
Watching a wild elephant go about a simple task like drinking is one of these moments. Having the camera to photograph the moment no doubt adds to it, because cameras are, in a way, tools of the experientialist, an experiential object, but the moment is no less powerful when you put the camera down. Most likely, it hits you even harder. Connects us more to the elephant, to the wild inside and out.
And, yes, it reminds of the things that really matter in life… like the beauty of wild things and the freedom of wild spaces and the need to protect them both.
Images from Great Plains Conservation.