How to Walk on the Wild Side
The first time you go on safari (or even go to the zoo) you never forget seeing a lion, and it’s not just because you loved The Lion King as a kid… there’s just something about the majestic creatures that transcends movies and time and space. Because they’re just that cool. My family and I went on one of those typical safaris where you sit in the Jeep, listen to the interpreter talk about the water buffalo 50 yards up on the right, how the scratches on that tree trunk meant rhinos had passed through three days ago, and that tree over yonder was a favorite spot for the giraffes. We spent all day scouting for everything but lions, and I thought I was going to return home without seeing one when we rounded the corner, and spied a pride of glorious, well-groomed, elegant lions.
Our guide went on talking about their habits, their specific little characteristics, but I was more interested in just staring at them… had they always been so big? Were they likely to get any closer? Was there ever an animal who took charge of a place more than a lion? I could hear the twitterings behind me, the snapping of photos, the whispers of stories they’d read or heard about lions before, but I was totally zoned out, in tune with the pride’s upturned ears, pricked to hear our presence, or maybe the passing of an antelope for dinner, in utter control of their surrounding and lives. From then on I didn’t just want to see lions, I wanted to be one.
Thinking back, I probably should have listened to my guide a little closer rather than totally tuning out, because I would’ve come across these travel tips way before I managed to think them up for myself. But in the end, the lions got me out of the house, and the lions continue to help me have the best adventures around, just by being the king of Africa.
Here are my lion-inspired tricks for how to walk on the wild side.
Cats of all kinds have an ingrained sense of curiosity that leads to their playful side (and the saying that ‘curiosity killed the cat’). It’s a great way of keeping all of your plans and ideas fresh while you’re on the road. My tip is to never let your agenda get in the way of going on a waterfall hike that you found the day before, or taking part in a festival that you didn’t know about before you left home—that’s the great thing about travelling, the spontaneous parts. So don’t let them pass by without partaking.
Be an alpha
With lions, the alpha male leads the whole pride, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. While I don’t think it’s great to be a dictator if you’re in a group, I do think you need to take control of what you want while travelling.
Alpha characteristics are things like feeling comfortable flying solo, never being uncertain, feeling confident in your choices and opinions, and knowing how to get what you want, when you want it. While travelling, these traits can come in real handy, so it doesn’t matter what kind of person you are at home, be an alpha on the road. You’ll get more out of travelling, and you’ll feel better about it when you do.
Travel in packs (or prides)
The other thing thate lions get right is that they take their family wherever they go, and while I’m not suggesting that you do the same thing, I do think travelling with a buddy, or even a group, can be an incredible experience.
I have one travel buddy who goes on an adventure with me every year, and I don’t have a tighter bond with anyone than her because we’ve been through a lot of things together, and we’re better for having done it all together. Plus, when you’re travelling, sometimes it’s just great to be able to share a really great vista with someone. So don’t be afraid to invite your friends or family along, or even pick up a couple along the way and stick with them!
Lions are well-known for having voracious appetites, and for eating whatever is available (since hunting is hard and time consuming). When you’re travelling, you never quite know where your next meal is coming from, so eat, eat, eat while you can!
I don’t mean purge yourself to get full. I mean, be adventurous with your tastes and don’t wait until tomorrow to try the local delicacies. You may have to hunt through miles of market for the samosas that will change your life, or you might have to grin and bear it through a roasted insect or two, but you’ll tell better stories, make better memories, and ultimately have more fun every time you don’t hold yourself back from something. Which leads me to my next point…
The curious side of lions mean that they are, ultimately, pretty good about taking risks and hedging bets. Now while I’m not a gambler, I do believe that the things you want in life will take a little more effort than you imagine, and sometimes getting out of your comfort zone will put you exactly where you want to be. So don’t be shy about being curious about what Petra looks like up close, or wanting to try a hammam for yourself, or even what the Prague sex museum looks like—because all of these things, even if you turn out not to like them, are great for exercising your spontaneity skills. Down the road, there might be an even bigger risk you plan on taking, and getting a little practice in beforehand is a good idea.
Whether you’re on your way to the green of Ireland or to the green of Brazil, the red of Arizona or the red of Australia, the blue of the Pacific Ocean of the blue of a glacier in Iceland, there’s plenty to be learned about travel from the great cats that I fell in love with so many year ago. Do wait; get brave!