Travels

Dumela, Africa!

My trip of a lifetime may have kicked off in London, but Botswana was the ultimate destination. After an almost 11 hour restless flight of cramping, exhaustion, anxiety and excitement, I finally landed in Africa. Granted, it was South Africa, so I still had a ways to go. Due to some bagging confusion (blaming British Airways for this one), I had to go through immigration and customs in Johannesburg, exit the airport, then go to the international terminal and do it all again – and try to catch my next flight without my luggage.

Luckily, it all panned out, I got an extra passport stamp and I was overjoyed to be in Africa. AFRICA! My third continent in two days. I started snapping pictures of everything in the airport, including the art, animal pelts and this here giraffe – my first “wildlife” sighting!

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I chatted with a bunch of people throughout the airport which was largely white and I was the youngest by at least three decades. But, I met a lot of wonderful people, many of whom were scared for my safety but I assured them I was a-okay (while also convincing myself this was the case) and I was meeting a friend in Botswana.

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Eventually, about 50 of us boarded a smaller propeller plane by walking on the tarmac and hopping on board. The plane landed in Maun, Botswana 2.5 hours later and three planes unload to the one immigration officer – we’re officially on Africa time. After too much time in the sweltering heat and my layers of clothing, I see the door swing open and catch a glimpse of my backpack and let out perhaps too loud of a sigh of relief. A bit later, I’m finally past immigration, scoop my pack up from “baggage claim,” which is a pile of bags on the floor and see Corey! We head across the street and grab a celebratory beer not knowing what kind of adventures we were going to experience the next two weeks…

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Source: my own 

London, London

London holds a special place in my heart.

London was the first city I ever visited outside of the United States in 2001, was the first foreign city I ever traveled to and explored by myself in 2011 (here, here, here and here), was the first stop on our friend Eurotrip in 2012 and arguably most importantly, was where I embarked on the life-changing journey that is the Harry Potter Studio Tour. Now, London was the first stop on a backpacking trip to my first time in Africa. Three continents in two days, all by myself.

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I arrived to London around 11 a.m. and headed through immigration without any trouble. After taking too long to figure out my route, I hopped on the tube and took it into Piccadilly Circus and began my hike.

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Having been to London a few times, I knew the hot spots that I wanted to visit, so I headed from Piccadilly down toward the River Thames, meandering through my favorite, Saint James Park. I grabbed a sub-par sandwich and an English beer and enjoyed it on a bench overlooking the park. That was, until the rain started. In true London fashion, it would rain for the entirety of my 9 hour layover.

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I fixed up my pack and applied the rain cover, desperate to keep my belongings for the next two weeks at least remotely dry, and headed down to Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey before cutting across and strolling along the riverwalk. I was a woman on a mission, determined to make it to Millennium Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral before I had to return to the airport. The only problem was the limited time frame, pouring rain and roughly 35 lb. pack on my back.

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All in all, I managed and was grateful to get to see all my favorite spots. The trek around the city served as the confidence booster I needed to make the next leg of the trip to Africa. The “I can do it” moment of conquering at least one city, despite the incredibly swollen, bruised shoulders and twitching muscles. Those, I did not expect nor enjoy.

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Alas, I was back at Heathrow and about to hop on the longest flight of my life. A rough 10.5 hour flight from London to Johannesburg, South Africa.

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Source: my own. Top to bottom: UK border, Piccadilly Circus, St. James Park, River Thames, Millennium Bridge & St. Paul’s Cathedral, pouring rain selfie & swollen shoulders.

Trip of a Lifetime

In March, 2015, my friend Corey announced he had been accepted into the Peace Corps and he was headed to Botswana. That’s when the wheels started turning. Fast forward to August 2015, and Corey was officially a Motswana. Click ahead a few months and that’s when the planning started to come together. In June, on my birthday, the tickets were purchased. I was going to Africa.

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I would mention the original contents of the plan, but that almost all changed and isn’t even worth mentioning. What did happen was a flight from O’Hare to London Heathrow, to Johannesburg, South Africa to Maun, Botswana, three days on a guided canoe trip, three days in the bush with the San people, three days of a self-drive safari and three days in Zambia and Zimbabwe checking out Victoria Falls.

How could I forget the near-death experiences, hundreds (thousands?) of animals, run-ins with criminals and swimming amongst hippos and crocodiles? Silly me. Well buckle up, because this blog is about to start on a two-week backpacking trip across Africa.

 

Source: my own and jillianbraun on Instagram

Seeking Inspiration

I’ve left you hanging for two months… My bad. The summer months had my traveling all around catching up with friends and family which is all fantastic but leaves little time for the blogosphere (how do you all do it!?). Lately, now that life has settled and the temperatures are dropping, I’m dipping into a more manageable schedule. Which, quite frankly, is driving me insane.

For the first time in months, I don’t have any trips planned, no apartment projects to finish, no web series episodes to write, no pet projects to execute and I am feeling a) lost b) uninspired, hence my lack of posting around these parts. The most exciting thing to happen lately is I snatched the hosting responsibilities for our end of summer Harry Potter themed book club but even the joy of HP can only take you so far. So as I Google volunteer opportunities and think of house projects and creative ways to spend this energy here’s a photo recap of the last few months.

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That is sailing with my family on Lake Michigan, visiting Washington Island in Wisconsin, taking my kayak on her maiden voyage on the Fox River and not pictured: hanging out in California and going to VidCon. 

More of that here: www.instagram.com/jillianbraun 

Life Lately

On top of finding a new apartment and moving across the city, this summer has already been full of travel. In the past few weeks I’ve been all over Illinois (Chicago, Bloomington, Peoria, Galena and suburbs in every direction), Kentucky and Colorado with little to no time for anything else. It’s 100% self-inflicted so I suppose the first step is admitting I have a problem. Instead, I’ll just plop in some pretty pictures and maybe change my ways next year…

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And nothing beats coming home to that little prickly lady.

Source: jillianbraun on Instagram

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