Thursday, July 3, 2008

Travel, "Life Lists" and Why Check It Off

Yesterday I was talking with a client about to depart on a Regent Seven Seas cruise on the Paul Gauguin around French Polynesia. We discussed taking a jetski tour around Bora Bora and the relatively unbelievable cost to do it. While I hate jetskis (as they are painfully noisy not only to the driver, but those on shore anywhere near them and they are dangerous - counterintuitively when you need to avoid something releasing the accelerator eliminates control), I know that for many they are a symbol of freedom and fun.

Clearly if rational sense was applied, the cost per minute of actual jetski time ($5.00 or so) would make one say, "No Way!". But knowing that one cold winter's evening while sitting in front of the fire, or one horrid day at work, there will be a quick thought about the experience of being on the water speeding around Bora Bora and it will bring a smile; making it all worth it.

I mentioned that on Friday I had checked off a "life list" experience: Sailing on an America's Cup yacht. Every morning for more years than I care to admit, I walk down the hall to my office passing lithographs from the America's Cup races going back to 1983...every day! And on Friday I was there doing it. OK, I was a 50 year old in faux races, but I was also on deck as a grinder. As one of my colleagues said, "I can now die a contended man."

But then I thought: "I AM PUTTING THIS BACK ON MY LIST! ONCE IS DEFINITELY NOT ENOUGH!"

I have been on two safaris in East Africa; one a more traditional "tourist" safari with pop-top minivans in Kenya and the other being a private safari in Tanzania the year it opened its border with Kenya (that is a whole 'nother story!). I was amazed by the number of people who were just interested in checking off the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, cape buffalo and rhino) rather than truly observing them.

On my private safari, as we had already checked off the Big Five (and many others, like 174 species of birds, cheetah, bat eared fox, some seriously poisonous snakes, etc.), we had no pressure to "check off" anything. So we found a pride of lion and waited...and waited...and waited for hours. And before we knew it we realized we were watching a hunt developing right before our eyes. The hunt took quite a bit of time...and then there it was: The Kill. Life List time, right? Wrong.

I will never forget watching the lionesses over the kill and then seeing this huge male lion bounding over tall golden grasses with the sun behind him (ala Clint Eastwood), letting out a roar that made the marrow inside your bones quake, then leaping on top of the kill, fighting off all of the lionesses. I was up all night thinking about that moment. It still brings chills to me when I think about it. That was most definitely a thing to check off my "Life List".

But then I thought, that was so personally enriching, so astounding, that I need to do it again. Erase that check mark! Next August I am taking my family on a private safari in Southern Africa.

In the truly rarefied world of luxury travel isn't that what it is all about? That unique experience? That really personal one that is based upon what you really are aching to do and not what someone else will think of you for doing it (for better or worse)?

So I am wondering if that jetski around Bora Bora will be a one time thing? Or maybe next time it will be in a sailboat? The beauty of it is that it doesn't matter if it is either.

The beauty is the inspiration of the moment.

The inspiration to...DO IT AGAIN!