Five days and counting until my two month solo journey across the second largest continent in the world! This will be my first trip to eastern and southern Africa. On Friday, South African Airways will fly me via Joberg, South Africa as the locals say and onto Nairobi, Kenya—it’s going to be a looooong couple of days.
I will spend almost a month in Kenya. In early May, I will emerge from the bush, wash the dirt out of my teeth and hair to spend my birthday in Cape Town, South Africa (and no, I won’t tell you how old I am). Then on to Namibia, back to South Africa for Indaba (Africa’s largest trade show) and then a two day rest at Karkloff (unlimited spa treatments and a wildlife reserve in KwaZula Natal) before heading back into the wild…Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique.
A little bit about me and the mission…
In the spring of 2011, I joined the Adventure Travel Trade Association, a global membership organization to more than 700 responsible businesses, destinations and media who advocate for sustainability and justice worldwide, on an advisory meeting in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. When we touched down in a helicopter in La Palma, Chiapas we were greeted by the children of the town. Since then I haven’t been able to stop thinking about how to marry the world of luxury travel in which I work and helping the local people who make each destination so special.
In an interesting turn of events, a corporate reorganization left me with the time, means and passion to make it happen. I contacted Africa specialist, Askari Travel to help me, a solo female traveler, plan my epic journey across Africa. I will be exploring the lodging, food, wine and beaches, locate the BIG Five on safari, but most importantly the people who make each place unique. Whenever I return from a trip, it’s always the human connection that serves as my favorite memory. Tourism is the world’s largest industry and has the power to help people in need through sustainable initiatives. Luxury can have a conscience. And who isn’t interested in knowing how these safari lodges create such gourmet meals without running water?
On April 6, 2012, I depart for my two-month journey across southern and eastern Africa. In advance of my trip, I am launching a blog, OhThePeopleYouMeet.com (so you can learn about the interesting folks in each place) and posting weekly for JohnnyJet.com, so you can track my whereabouts, the FAB hotels & lodges, and use both as resources for planning your dream trip to Africa…and if Africa wasn’t on your bucket list, hopefully inspire you to reconsider.
Q. What is it about long-term travel that appeals to you?
A. I’ve never had the time off of work to travel. I feel like I am really going to be able to disconnect and truly engage with the amazing people I meet.
Q. Do you work when you’re on the road?
A. In my previous life, I traveled almost exclusively for work. So yes, I did, but this time I will be writing and researching from the road, but more because it’s a passion than work.
Q. Do you ever get lonely?
A. This will be my first time traveling by myself, not soley for business, and for such an extended period. I have plenty of books on my Kindle and will be writing lots of tips for you from the road. I am sure I will get lonely, but looking forward to getting out of my comfort zone and meeting as many people as possible!
Q. How do you plan your trips?
A. For vacation, I often plan on my own. But admittedly, I have worked in the travel industry for years, so I have the inside scoop. For this epic journey, I could not have done without the expert help, advice and connections of Muriel Trutter, owner of Askari Travel.
Q. Which travel apps do you use?
Q. What do you pack for a long journey?
A. OMG! The bane of my existence. Let’s face it, safari gear is not sexy. As a fairly fashionable NYer, this has been such a challenge. The patient folks at Paragon Sports have been fantastic at determining the color scheme of my bug repellant ware, zip of pants (North Face has a sliming pair) and polarized sunglasses (Maui Jim had a decently feminine selection). And one of my fave designers, Isabelle Marant has some stylish lightweight African pieces out right now—I will be rocking the light weight cotton one piece romper this trip that I bought at Mick&Margo in the West Village of Manhattan. Believe it or not, I am going with one rolly backpack with a zip off daypack. By the time you pack all the gear—malaria meds, camera (I went with the Sony Alpha Make Believe + Nex-5N zoom for safari—light weight was a key deciding factor), laptop, headlamp, etc., you don’t have much room for clothing. I have a few cotton dresses (nothing that needs to be dry cleaned), a few pairs of versatile pants, solid tanks and tees, a bathing suit, a pashmina, a fleece, and a linen blazer. I’ve been told that most of the lodges will do your laundry daily, with the exception of women’s underwear (so I packed a few extra). I’ve also been advised against bringing any expensive jewelry and what you do bring, try and wear. I snuck a fabulous horn necklace in from designer Michael Spirito sold in Sucre—it’s so in African theme—I couldn’t help myself!
The Samsonite Outlab with wheels and Michael Spirito necklace
Q. You’re a woman traveling alone. What precautions do you take?
A. I will caveat by saying that my dad, Michael Guzy, is a former homicide detective and currently works for the Sheriff’s Department, to say that I grew up mildly paranoid would be an understatement. Among his more helpful advice, “If there is a dark alley and no one is around, it’s likely a good indicator you shouldn’t be there.”
JUST USE COMMON SENSE and as my dad might say, if you don’t have any, then stay home. Stick with your guide if in the wilderness (lions won’t listen to excuses) or if in a city don’t walk around by yourself in secluded areas or at night. Work with a uniformed person at the hotel to map out your route if walking around during the day. Splurge for the taxi to and from your origin and destination. Always hide a little extra money on your person and a copy of your passport. It’s a bit nerdy, but I will carry my headlamp and a number of a local person (even a hotel contact) when out and about by myself. Limit your alcohol intake so you can be alert and always make eye contact—it shows confidence and you would be able to identify someone should there be any burglary or incident.
Q. Any other tips?
A. Don’t forget to visit your doctor to make sure all your vaccinations are up-to-date. Typhoid and yellow fever vaccinations are required for many African countries. Check out: wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel
Malaria medicine is also recommended for several destinations…if you don’t believe me, read “Malaria Dreams, an African Adventure” by Stuart Stevens for a comedic relief.
About Michaela S. Guzy:
Michaela most recently served as Vice President, overseeing the travel and development of new initiatives for all American Express Publishing brands – Travel+Leisure, Food&Wine, Executive Travel, Departures and Black Ink.
Michaela was awarded the “American Express Pubby Award for Business Innovation” for the successful launch of Vacationist; a member only flash sales site jointly created by Travel+Leisure and Luxury Link.
Michaela serves on the Advisory Board of Adventure Tourism Development Index and moderated International Luxury Travel Market’s (ILTM) launch of “Bright Young Things” workshop in Cannes (www.iltm.net/byt_summary). She also has guest segments as the “Female Road Warrior” on Peter Greenberg, CBS Travel Editor, radio show. Michaela was recently interviewed by GreenTeam interviewed for their video: “Meet the Awakening Consumer”, check out the interview here.
Michaela grew up with her mother, father, and three sisters in St. Louis, MO, graduated from Spring Hill College in Mobile, AL and resides in New York City, NY when she is not on the road. She serves as the Corporate Vice-Chair, Fundraising and Events, for the New York Center for Children’s Junior Committee. Follow her @Michaelaguzy.