by Monica Szczupider, Honolulu, HI
Monica's Dream Trip
African wildlife sojourn
I don't know that I could spend $25,000 on one trip and not be riddled with a guilt complex. I do know, however, where I would go: to beautiful Africa, where visceral contradictions abound. She persists in the spotlight, yet is somehow frequently forgotten. She hosts the second largest continuous tract of rainforest on the planet as well as an insatiable desert, devouring acres of land as it barrels southward.
Last year I traveled to Africa for the first time. I spent six months in inland Cameroon, volunteering for a chimpanzee rehabilitation center. Perhaps needless to say to those who have been to the mother continent, but I developed an affection so great for Africa that it plagues me. Returning has become an obsession, and I would love to go encased in some mission of conservation. The continent, rife with mystery to the Westerner, prolific in wildlife diversity, is on the cusp of unprecedented change. I want to be a part of the change, in whatever minimal way I can, to ensure that Africa, everyone's mother, holds tight to her childrenhuman and otherwise.
I would prefer traveling as a lobbyist of conservation. Perhaps I could volunteer to conduct a census of forest elephants in Gabon or lions of the Serengeti. Or maybe I could travel as an eco-tourist, the profits of the journey benefitting a regional environmental organization.
If they would do me the honor, I would ask my parents to accompany me (and my boyfriend!). My father, who inspired me as a child by countless viewings of Born Free and humbling visits to the ape house at the Lincoln Park Zoo, has always been intrigued by Africa. My mother, who would be harder to convince, would never shed the beauty of the experience. Accommodations do not have to be fancy, but perhaps for mom, something slightly fancier than a tent! We are happy with simple food, as wellmaybe peanut-spiced millet, eaten under the electrified sky.
Like most parents, I owe mine an immeasurable amount. Sharing this experience would be the very least I could give to repay them.
Monica's Travel Tips
• Malaria can manifest in your body months after your blood is invaded. Because European and North American doctors are less familiar with this parasite than their Asian, South American, and African counterparts, pick up a combative malaria treatment to take home, such as Coartem, before you leave the tropics. It beats waiting around for your regular physician's diagnosis and subsequent prescription, which can be incorrect and cost precious days.
• Listen to your surroundings. Whether it is a symphony composed of human voices, vocalizations of other animals, or the lilting rhythm of nature, find an opening for your voice and mold it in harmony.
• Scare yourself; it will haunt you later if you allow yourself to be trampled by challenges. Shimmy down a cliff-hugging rope, dive into a cave pool, or speak out against injustice. But pair your courage with research: Don't go breaking a leg or contracting leptospirosis.