Trust Locally Travel Safely from here to Timbuktu
This is our new mission statement.
What do we mean?
In a nutshell we mean that by trusting to your own intuition AND trusting the local perspective of your guide you can travel safely anywhere in the world.
Travel is the human being’s raison d’etre – we are the success we are today because we left forest to travel the plains across the globe to discover our planet. And we still, despite all our technology, nomads. We travel everyday – be it to the shop or work or to see a friend down the road or across the world. We travel every day because we trust in our innate ability to move through our environment and to seek local knowledge when we need it. We’ve been doing it since time began!
But travelling can be dangerous, especially to Africa!
Yes. There are cars and lorries, people on bycycles, children playing, donkeys and goats and dogs and geese all the way, so keep your eyes on the road.
If you go to on Safari to Tanzania there are lions. If you go looking for whales in the dep blue sea there are sharks. There are also the risks you face every day, but you are an expert at dodging death, you’ve been doing it since the day you were born!
Let’s be silly
Let’s take an extreme example. We would never advise anyone to go stumbling into an active conflict zone for obvious reasons, what’s the point? But wars don’t just happen, there is a long build up. But let’s say you have to go to a war zone. Say it is your job. You are a war correspondent. You are sent to Afghanistan with a mission to get an interview with the Taliban leader.
How would you go about this? Would you arrive in Kabul, get a bus or taxi to Talibanland and walk in saying “Hi I’m looking for your leader” and hope for the best? Of course not. Would you go in with the military? Probably wouldn’t work, if they could get you to him they might not be fighting him. A guide book? Out of date. Would you get your editor back home to plan your route on Google Earth or consult the Foreign Office website? What good are pictures from space and we know what the Foreign Office will say.
You don’t know what you are going to do. You decide to fly to Kabal and see how the ground lies. Then a colleague who has been before gives you the contact for a reliable guide. You meet up at your hotel and you tell him your mission and ask if it is possible. He might say no, but he will start to think, he’ll know someone who knows someone else who can check things out.
A lead comes through, a door can be opened, your guide negotiates the cost and in his negotiations judges his contact’s sincerity and credibility, like he and you do every day. If he is happy and sure of your way forward he will guide you through. If not, he will advise you to go home.
Ah but how can you be sure he will guide you in good faith you say!
Because you are his guest, his employer, his family’s liveilhood. He is responsible for you. If anything happens to you he is at fault. How would you treat your livelihood?
So now you are on your way to Taliban land to get your interview. Your guide has helped you arrange all the formalities you need to pass through whatever authorities are guarding the route. What if something happens on the road ahead? Well the most likely thing is an accident on the road, that can happen anywhere at anytime, beyond that there are the random wrong place wrong time risks of the road, but you are travelling fully aware of the risks, you are a war correspondent. If something serious happens ahead you will find out before you get there. A villager will have heard the news, a check point will block your way, an authority will tell you to wait until they know the way is clear. You are not in enemy territory.
And when you arrive in Taliban land? You are expected, you are still a guest, both you and your guide, they have invited you in, you are messengers from the outside world, you are no threat to them, why would they cause you harm? You are more useful as a messenger for them too. Your witness staement is trust worthy – you have seen them with your own eyes.
Now replace Afghanistan with somewhere not in active conflict. Jordan? Mali? Iran? Senegal? Morocco? There’s nothing holding you back you see, except the same risks you face every day – the road and the random. But you are a pro!
The From Here 2 Timbuktu Story that led to our new mission statement
On the road occasionally things happen, that’s life. On our journeys to Timbuktu over the past decade occasionally a vehicle broke down, occasionally a passport was lost, occassionally someone got ill and our journey had to change direction.
When a world financial crisis happened, we had to adapt our prices to a poorer world; when a war took place in Libya that had repercussions in our back yard in Mali we had to adapt our itineraries. Once, in 100,000s of miles over four decades of traveling the continent, we found ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, we had to adapt our journey when our guides told us to.
Then one day political crisis hit – Mali had a coup d’etat, our Tuareg friends became refugees. Politics kept the tourists away so we adapted to our new reality. went into exile with our guides, waited for times to change and then drove our nomad guides back to Timbuktu guided by travellers who had just been there and seen it was safe.
We were always safe on the road, we always reached Timbuktu, and from Timbuktu we all always whether as nomads, travellers, guides or refugees, returned home.
We were always “safe” because we always had two essential guides to rely upon – our own intuition and our local guides’ understanding and perspective of our road and our destination.
Trust Locally Travel Safely
Trust your local perspective, keep your eyes on the road ahead, and you can travel safely anywhere your heart desires.
Safety is in your hands, in your driver’s and guide’s hands. Safety is not in the politician’s hands, nor is it in the big wide world’s hands. Seize your own day! You are master of your universe.