Rediscovering ‘that feeling’ in South Africa

“The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” ― Christopher McCandless

Words and images by Susie Thorne

The Joro tagline – the sentence to encapsulate and communicate all that we’re about – is ‘Journeys in pursuit of that feeling’. 

‘That feeling’ is instantly recognisable for anybody who has felt it, but simultaneously something too intangible to explain to anybody who hasn’t. Those privileged enough to have explored the world and to have felt ‘that feeling’ usually fall head over heels in love with it, often spending their lives in pursuit of it.

When I joined Joro in November 2021, reading our tagline stirred up serious nostalgia. Having been lucky enough to travel and work around the world in my 20s, being locked in one place throughout the pandemic subtly stole from me my sense of adventure and wanderlust. I turned from somebody who had notebooks full of plans for trips to far flung corners and boxes stuffed with tickets, maps and memories in foreign languages, to somebody just trying to fill their furlough hours with activities so as to not go completely mad. This slowly became the norm, even as life got ‘back to normal’. The trips turned from multi-week deep dives into unknown destinations, to holidays in tried-and-tested cities that were reliable, comfortable and easy.

Over the next two and a half years, as the first postponement came and went, then the second, the excitement turned into annoyance at the amount of admin to reschedule everything. As the start of 2022 drew closer, the ghost of excitement lingered, but so too did a trepidation and reluctance to throw myself into the unknown. Now, a more cautious person was setting off on a more intrepid person’s adventure. I told myself that I’d be able to enjoy it once I arrived; I berated myself for booking such a complex trip where so many things could go wrong due to lingering restrictions. 

By the time we got to our first safari lodge, I was tired, dusty and desperate for bed, but we only had an hour to shower, change and packed a bag to venture out on our first game drive. We were still sleepy with minds drifting to dreams of a soft pillow as we climbed into our safari vehicle. This is where everything changed.

Setting off into the dense rocky hills of the game reserve, with the sun beating down and the wind rushing past me, I didn’t have a moment to be sleepy. Nature shook it out of me. Around every twist and turn there was a new view, a sprawling landscape and the biggest skies I’ve ever seen. We saw curious giraffes – my childhood favourite animal – poke their heads above the trees to stare at us as we stared at them; watched a mother white rhino graze with her calf in a huge open plain; sat in excited silence as a pride of lions woke up on a mountain top to play in the sun. I didn’t have a moment to worry, there was no space in me for an anxious thought. I was full to the brim with childlike awe. The four hours were over far too quickly. As I sat around the fire in the boma, eating delicious meat from the braai, windswept and a little bruised from the bumpy ride, the admin and disruption of the trip was the furthest thing from my mind. There was nothing but thrilled excitement. I slept better that night than I had in months. The next morning I woke before my 5am alarm, ready to go out and see what new things this corner of the world had to show me. The following days on safari were so full – full of questions as my naturally curious mind was awoken; full of new encounters and experiences; full of awe. 

One moment in the trip that perfectly encapsulates this is when we had our first sighting of elephants. We watched serenely as the family interacted, getting closer and closer to us, from the four-week-old baby ducking in between mum’s heavy legs and a young elephant practising his trumpeting, to the huge bull elephant that had joined them for the day. He crossed in front of the car and turned left to walk beside us; the flank of his vast body almost brushed along the side of the car, passing less than a foot away from me. I felt such a sense of privilege to be able to be here, honoured by the animals’ permission to be close and content – to have the opportunity and means to be sat here in the moment, to have these beautiful animals here, just to exist here. I was totally present in the moment and full of gratitude. 

It’s so easy to become blinded by never-ending worries and to get stuck into the whole universe that exists inside ourselves. This moment gave me a jolt of perspective; I realised my insignificance in the world. This huge and gentle beast, this family of elephants, didn’t care about my to do list back at home. They didn’t care if I was sad or happy or feeling stuck. We were in harmony for a moment, and life is just a series of moments. We often live in the past, worried about what we should or could have done. Or we live in the future, planning for better days and preparing for the worst. Sometimes this is essential; sometimes we don’t have the capacity to thrive as we’re simply trying to survive. But when moments present themselves, forcing you to be present, realise your insignificance and throw away expectation, recognise these and indulge in every sight, sound, and feeling.

This trip totally reset me. I feel myself again. The intrepid, spontaneous self that had been forced to lay dormant to survive two years of a global pandemic was back again in full force. As we tumbled down into valleys in our 4×4 I was, for the first time in a long time, inspired to write, to push my boundaries, to plan future explorations. That’s what I think ‘that feeling’ might be when Joro says that we create ‘journeys in pursuit of that feeling’. At least for me, it’s a mixture of awe, serenity, inspiration and magic. It’s being thrown into the unknown and not only surviving – but thriving and finding a whole new perspective.


Susie Thorne Profile
Words and images by

Susie Thorne

The only thing that our marketing manager Susie loves more than writing (and reading) is travel, and she’s been exploring the globe since she caught the travel bug working in Italy in 2011. In a perfect collision of loves, she’s worked as a writer and marketing specialist in the travel industry for the past 8 years for a number of magazines and luxury travel companies.

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