This is a photo I took on my safari in 2011 and I think the bird sums up my attitude towards travel. Strange opening sentence, I know, but I think you might agree with me when I’m done.
We had just returned from a morning game walk and while some people had retired back to their rooms, I sat out on the deck that overlooked the landscape below. There was a tiny watering hole that brought many antelope species and warthogs within sight, and just before we arrived the night before, a leopard had been quenching his thirst there. The resident ranger showed us photos on his camera. The leopard never came back though.
I was sitting in a deck chair, cold beer by my side, camera in my lap, when I noticed this guy fly from one of the trees on my right. I watched him as he landed to my left, some 20 feet away. I didn’t move, save for raising my camera to my eye so I could get a photo of him. He paused, and then teetered towards me slowly, deliberately. He was off-kilter, leaning over sideways at times, very much looking like I do when I walk home drunk. But each cautious step brought him closer, and he started to lean in, to lean closer towards me. Clearly I wasn’t the first human this bird had ever seen, but his mannerisms led me to believe he might have been studying one for the first time. He looked almost quizzical. Was he sizing me up? Was he staring at me in wonderment as I was to him? To me, and remember, I am a bit strange, he had this look that said, “this is strange and unusual and awesome –and all at the same time”.
I have had that same look many times. And many times more on my travels. The look of anticipation. The look of joy. The look of fear of the unknown. It is a look I will never tire of wearing. My natural curiosity will keep me travelling. Hopefully I’ll always feel like writing down my experiences and sharing them. I know I’m fortunate that I have visited the places I have and seen what I have seen. I know many people will never have the opportunities that I have had.
And when I tread paths I have tread before, whether the fleeting moments of time have separated the journeys by hours or years, I will tread them as my friend the yellow-billed hornbill did; with wide eyes and expectation. The sights might not be foreign anymore, but at that moment in time, it is. I firmly believe you can re-see things for the first time. Moments and minutes can change us. We’ll never see the same things again the same way again. And that is beautiful. And I thank this little bird for helping me bring things together.