Africa- Journal 1: The Start of the Trip of a Lifetime

Some of the many elephants spotted on safari. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

November 17, 2017

When it comes to epic trips to do in one’s lifetime, an African safari is certainly one that comes to my mind. It’s right up there with walking climbing the Great Wall of China or gazing upon the northern lights. Since I have a seemingly automatic and natural allure to these bucket list trips, I’m embarking on this very African extravaganza. Safari isn’t the only thing on my mind that this vast, beautiful, chaotic continent has to offer. Although I have done extensive research and planning into this trip, I can’t wait to see it all unfold over these next three and a half weeks, and share my experiences during and following my journeys.

Some of the fun to come – Atop Victoria Falls, on Livingstone Island, Zambia

As a write, I’m sitting at the bar in the international transfers terminal at the Istanbul Ataturk International Airport. At this point I’m still flush with excitement and anticipation of arriving in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, my first stop along the trip. So far it’s been a comfortable journey. It all got going with a great send-off from my Uncle Bob and Aunt Kim over some drinks at a brewery near the Chicago O’Hare airport. They’re the best hosts around and really know how to help kick the trip off right. Soon enough after, I whisked myself away through the airport security and the journey had officially begun.

Boarding a jet bound for Nairobi bound for Kigali.

Although the flight was standard with no surprises, I got the same thrill that I have every time I fly, particularly abroad. To me, there’s an incredible sensation about the moment when an airplane’s jets engage, propelling the vessel into motion, accelerating and accelerating to the point where suddenly feel a sudden lift in combination with the quick disappearance of the rumbling of the tire on the runway pavement, followed by the inclination of the plane’s nose towards the sky. There’s just something about disconnecting from where you were and knowing the next time you touch the ground is going to be somewhere totally different. This feeling is the strongest the moment I leave US soil because there’s something about being in a foreign land, and when the tether is severed for weeks at a time, it’s strangely liberating.

There’s something about reaching new nations. On Victoria Falls Bridge at the Zambian border.

Well my beer is finished here in Istanbul and I have the next leg of my transit to catch. Here we go!

Brian’s Packing List


Items to Pack 

This list may is not all-inclusive for all travelers and some items on this list may not be necessary for yourself on your travels. However, it is what I typically pack on a trip in my backpack and is a great starting point for your packing as well. Rememeber to pack smart! Whatever you pack you have to lug with you the rest of the way and be sure to leave room for souvenirs!

Here’s what to consider packing:

  • Outlet splitter or power strip to increase the number of things you can plug into one outlet/socket
  • 3-prong to 2-prong (Ground to no ground) converter, if necessary 
  • 3 copies of passport info page. One to keep hidden in backpack. One to keep on person when not carrying actual passport. State ID also good idea. And one for someone back home to hold on to.
  • Spare passport photos – optional in most cases.
  • Spare zipper-seal bags 
  • Printout of return flight confirmation (in case requested by immigration official) 
  • Pen and paper (pen at very least). Have on the plane with you for customs forms.
  • Spare credit/debit card(s)Leave one hidden in bag/at hostel 
  • Rain poncho 
  • Paper clip(s) for opening SIM card tray 
  • Back-up U.S. Dollars (keep hidden in bag/at hostel) 
  • Combination lock (mostly for hostel-goers for in-room lockers)
  • Small bottle opener 
  • Mini bottle of hand sanitizer 
  • Travel adapter or converters
  • Passport! 
  • Power bank (and spare batteries if needed) 
  • Sunglasses 
  • Clothes for warm, for chilly, and the beach. 
  • Travel-sized toiletries 
  • Miscellaneous equipment (e.g. camera, GoPro, laptop, selfie stick, etc.) 
  • Phone charger and other chargers 
  • Earbud headphones 
  • A couple of plastic grocery bags. One to store soiled or wet clothes. Another to keep sandals in. 
  • Toilet paper and/or sanitary wipes 
  • Medications (i.e. ibuprofen, acetaminophen, antacids, anti-diarrhea meds, etc.) 
  • Travel wallet/belt 
  • Luggage tag with contact info on baggage 
  • Travel insurance card if you obtained one.


Things to Do Before Departure

  • Download offline locations on Google Maps or on the app called
  • Contact credit/debit card companies to alert of foreign travel transactions 
  • Save (star) important locations (esp. acoommodations) on offline maps and Google Maps
  • Convert some cash to destination currency ahead of time – optional
  • Reserve seat on plane – optional 
  • Check-in for flight 24 hours ahead of time or per airline policy.