As a kid I knew that I wanted to see the world, and when I saw the movie the Lion King the first place that I wanted to go was Africa. It’s also when my obsession with lions began, but more on that later. It started slowly with a trip to Cancun at 12, then as a teenager a trip to Kauai was amplified by a relative living out on the islands by sharing the local perspective which helped me understand the value of not ‘just visiting’ a destination but rather to be enveloped by it!
The first really independent feel to a vacation was in my senior year of high school, my brothers and I were left to our own devices in the Bahamas when we would Jet Ski, gamble in the casino, shop in the stores (room charge please!), and go into town. I remember when we went into town and in a gesture of free-spiritedness, I got a tattoo of our initials on my wrist. It’s our initials on our wrist, BB, as we all have names that start with B’s. I got each of them the same tattoo as their 18th birthday present, so now it’s a tattoo and symbol of unity. As you can imagine it wasn’t necessarily a popular decision with our parents at the time!
My junior year of College, my travels began to multiply, Sweden and Paris set my course that I was to travel, I would always be an explorer and crave to see and experience new places and new cultures. It also gave me one of my best friends and business partners. Did I have any idea the type of traveling or how much I would end up doing? No, but I’m glad because it made it that much more rewarding and thrilling as each opportunity presented itself.
Once I graduated from college and got my job and started making money is when the explorer really took a hold of me. For my college graduation present to myself, I decided I was going to go on an African safari alone. My mom wasn’t thrilled with that and found this place where you can volunteer and work with lions, so in my head it was a no brainer and I booked before her sales pitch was even over. I used the credit I had from the safari and changed it into to an 11-day tour of Morocco before my two weeks of volunteering in Johannesburg through Volunteer South Africa at the Lion Park. From seeing the families living in metal shacks in Soweto and us bringing them gifts and them thinking they had to sing to get them, it was as heartbreaking as it was eye opening. But then to experience bungee jumping from the two largest towers in that same town was surreal. I got to see where Apartheid happened; the museum dedicated to it and the cell that imprisoned Nelson Mandela for twenty-seven years on Robben Island. I now volunteer with the lions each year, and its the highlight of my year. It was that trip however that changed my life and who I was in so many ways and made me realize that traveling had formed who I am more than any formal education or any other life event has. Traveling shows you not only who you and others are, but allows you to take from those cultures and cultivate a better life and self than you can imagine.
“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends… The mind can never break off from the journey.” – Pat Conroy