By Jay Jacobs

Working with campers for over thirty years, I often hear from parents whose children begin getting “cold feet” as summer approaches. For some it is the length of time that they will be away, for others it is the distance or both. Transitions are difficult for lots of people – at all ages – and I will admit to being one of them. Ironically, after speaking with one mother just a few weeks ago and giving her what I hoped were some helpful tips on how to help her son through his reticence about going to camp, I received an email inviting Mindy and I on a 12-day trip to Africa – departing in just over two weeks. That familiar pang of anxiousness hit my stomach.

The trip would start at the end of April and go through to early May. The flight to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania would be 18 hours with two refueling stops. We would be taking twelve additional flights, on all sorts of small aircraft, to a multitude of site visits in northern Tanzania, Kenya and ending up in Marrakesh, Morocco. Mainly “business,” the trip would include two safaris – something Mindy and I have been longing to do. The final stop in Marrakesh was a particular attraction as we had heard so many great things about it.

Nonetheless, my first reaction –and Mindy’s – was that we could not go. It was at the wrong time – camp was virtually upon us and there was so much work to be done. It was too far – 18 hours by plane! It was too long – being away from our kids, work, the dogs, our home – for 12 days? The shots didn’t bother me and the lack of preparation time to pack and get ready didn’t phase me either. But 18 hours away, for 12 days at this time of year – I wasn’t feeling it.

The good news is that I have lived quite a few years now and have experienced a lot. I know myself. And I am wise enough to know how to weigh the negatives causing my apprehension against the positives of an experience. I hated going to camp – well into my early teens. But I went – and I loved it – and still do, well into my early . . . . I hated the thought of going away to college and law school after that. But I did both of them, loved those experiences and wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. And, I would have gladly unpacked before each of the great vacations I’ve gone on, had they been cancelled on me. But they weren’t and I went and loved every one of them.

It is that life experience – that only years can provide – that helped me make the right decision and go to Africa. Most of the choices like these involve trade-offs. Like camp for a child: yes, it is relatively far away and, yes, 51 days is a long time. But the life experience, the social development, character building, strengthened confidence and self-esteem along with the new friends and skills learned make the positives far greater than the realities behind any of the apprehensions.

In the end, we went to Africa. To say that it was a “trip of a lifetime” captures the feeling both Mindy and I share. We saw virtually every one of the “big five” animals on our safaris, met some wonderful people in Africa, made several new friends and loved Marrakesh. What a mistake I would have made had we stayed home.