Here's something wonderful: baby elephants splashing, rolling each other over in a muddy pond, and running around with what looks like glee.
These elephants, which are part of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Orphans Project, brought me so much hope and happiness last year when I saw them in Kenya's Tsavo East National Park. This is the kind of experience that I would like to share on this blog.
It's true that the elephants are orphans, many the victims of poaching. It's also true that now the elephants--which have names such as Kihari, Ishanga, Tassia, and Melia--have a new home, caretakers, and a chance to be rehabilitated and returned to the wild. Happiness can spring unexpectedly out of sadness. Growing up in Nebraska taught me that--seeing the purple crocus and fragrant hyacinth slowly rise out of the hard ground after a dreary, gray, Midwestern winter. Oie.
On November 10, my husband, Mike Vance, and I are going to begin a trip that we've been saving for and talking about for years. We're going to travel for six months to a year, depending on how long our money and energy lasts. We're planning to spend most of the few first months in West Africa, and then who knows where we'll go from there. The plan is not to plan.
Along the way, whatever way that is, I want to seek out happy people, places, and events. A lot of times when I tell people that I'm headed to Africa, their faces crinkle. They're thinking of the war, poverty, and disease that plagues the continent. They're worried about me. (Thanks for caring so much about me, mom and dad.)
I'm going to be very, very careful on this trip. But I'm also aware that Africa is a gigantic continent. We often only hear about one part of it in the news. The sad, negative part. While I don't expect to find any countries generally as blissed out as Denmark (although surprisingly Nigeria topped a happiness survey in 2003), I do expect I'll find occasions to smile in just about every place I go. I just finished reading Eric Weiner's book The Geography of Bliss, and I really enjoyed it. Weiner was searching for the happiest places on Earth. I'll just be looking for the happiest moments wherever I am. I hope they'll make you feel good, too. Please let me know if they do and share your own happy and humorous travel experiences in the comments section or send me a note.