Things always happen when I’m sleeping. I have the opposite of FOMO. I have no fear of missing out, I have complete acceptance, preferring my world of dreams over reality more often than not. After all, in my dreams I’ve danced with dolphins and lived in a glass house at the bottom of the sea with orcas poking their heads around my windows. In my dreams, I’ve seen the eye of the universe open above a cathedral at night, the galaxies unfurling before me, nebulas swirling above pointed steeples. No, I do not do drugs, if you were wondering.
And maybe that’s why I like traveling so much. It is the stuff of dreams. The colors, the smells, the experiences we have never had before. Aren’t the glow worm caves of New Zealand as brilliant as a galaxy above you? Haven’t I dipped my hands into the spray of water from a boat with dolphins gliding at the helm? But this leads us away from our tale, or perhaps towards it.
Because while I was sleeping I missed the male lion. Three days on safari and I thought what more could I see here, what could really pull me away from my dream bed at 6 in the morning? Only the king of the jungle, of course, but I couldn’t have known that then.
It was 2006 and I was traveling with my family and a group of family friends for a volunteer trip to a village outside Nairobi. To welcome us to the country, our group was shuttled off to the Serengeti for a safari adventure.
This was a last minute trip for me. I had just moved to Los Angeles and I heard my brother was going with my dad to Kenya and I thought, “Why not me?” I also learned that my dad’s best friend was bringing three of his four children and then I really thought, “Hey, wait a minute! Why am I not invited?” With about a month to go before departure and without being looped into any of the communications, I had finagled a plane ticket and a spot on the trip. No one thought to tell me that we would be stopping in the Netherlands in the middle of winter for a night before heading to the hot climes of Africa and I ended up wandering through the snow of Amsterdam in my sweatpants and sneakers.
It was a small price to pay to be seated in an open land cruiser on the Serengeti plains a few days later spotting not one, but practically all five, of the big game animals on safari. It took two days of driving around and singing at the top of our lungs while our driver did circles tracking down all the wild animals, but it was well worth it!
There were cheetahs relaxing in the shade of small trees.
Baby lions lapping up the blood of a fresh kill.
Baby elephants trailing after the herd with trunks reaching for elephant tails.
Hippos lounging in the river and buffaloes grazing in large packs.
We saw everything, I mean everything, except the pride of the pack, the male lion.
And that’s when my mistake was made. I chose sleep over getting up at 6 a.m. for one last try at the King himself. My brother and dad headed out in the morning and there he was, the male beast, a face covered with flies and scars from claws digging across his face at some point in his life. The real thing, not some CGIed representation of a lion, but the actual animal. Sure I got to see the pictures later and I had my share of female lions and their babies the day before (something I was ecstatic to have seen) but I could have been in that car as well if I had just set an alarm.
What is my point here? Wake up. Get out there. Do the thing that may be your one and only chance to do it. You paid to get halfway around the world to see cool shit so go see it. Dreams be damned. Is this a lesson I always remember to follow? No! I like my sleep. Did I get up and go swimming in the ocean while the sun rose over the sea in Thailand? No, I slept. But did I get some nice pictures of that sunrise from my boyfriend? Sure I did!
What’s my secondary point? Listen to your own advice sometimes and do that thing that might feel difficult in the moment but have larger pay off later in life. Go see that sunrise. Go meet that lion. As Nike told me in my youth, “Just do it!”
All images either taken by Michael Goode or Kenneth Goode…can’t remember who did which. Thanks guys!