One of the questions I frequently get asked by friends or family when I get back from a trip is, “Would I like it?” Most times it’s a fairly easy answer, “Sure, it’s not that different from [home]”. Maybe you, like me, don’t have a great idea of what Namibia is, beyond a vague connection to Angelina Jolie and some beautiful pics on Pinterest. We observed on our trip that Namibia is not everyone. Is it for you? Here are a few parameters to help form a more comprehensive picture.
Namibia is not for you IF*:
You need to be on the grid.
One of the things I loved most about our trip to Namibia was disappearing for a while. I had my man, several good books, our camera, and two wide-open eyes to entertain myself—and I found that six days away from the ceaseless cycle of news and endless streams of Facebook and Instagram were incredibly rejuvenating for both my mind and mindset. There is WiFi in Namibia, but it’s intermittent—usually found in only the common areas of hotels, and sometimes not available at all. Of course, you can bring your own hotspot (which we also had the option to do), but do you really need Netflix that much? That said, if you have a job or social life where you need to be plugged in all the time, this isn’t the trip for you.
You get carsick easily.
Namibia is a vast and sporadically populated country. You can fly from major city to major city, but the true beauty of it is best discovered by car. The only problem? There are very few tarred roads in Namibia. So you’ve not only got to be someone who enjoys long stretches in the car, but also someone who can handle the jostles and jolts of a gravel road at speed. You can read my post about tips for comfortable driving in Namibia here.
You don’t like bugs.
During our trip, we stayed at a very nice glamping spot just north of the Sossusvlei dunes. Luxury platform tents, private plunge pools…one if the nicest hotels I’ve ever stayed in. The first night, we overheard one of the other guests having an absolute meltdown over the grasshoppers on the paths. Her travel companions eyed her wryly. “What do you expect?” one said. “This is the wild.” Namibia IS wild—and you’ll experience that even in the most luxurious places. I found everything to be miraculously clean (bathrooms everywhere were meticulously well-kept and well-stocked), but you’ll still encounter ants, flies, mosquitos, big flying things and small flying things. It’s part of the country’s charm (and I say that as someone whose grandmother, upon hearing I was in Africa, said, “What the hell is she doing there? She hates bugs!”).
Pro-tip: try skipping the Deet and typical bug sprays and opt for essential oils—it’s a natural way to repel flies and mosquitoes, it doesn’t require coating your entire body, and it really works. I brought along a small bottle of citronella essential oil, and around sundown just dabbed behind my ears and on wrists and ankles, and didn’t get a bite.
You’re a particular eater.
All of the food we ate in Namibia was incredible—locally hunted gemsbock and kudu steaks, fried chicken, roasted veggies, house-baked bread, pillowy cakes served with Amarula cream sauce…and all of it was food Google warned us to avoid. #YOLO Obviously, if what you’re eating tastes off, it’s best avoided, but our experience was so much richer for sharing in Namibia’s food culture. Be prepared that you won’t likely won’t be able to customize food orders (though we found places to be very open to vegetarians).
I won’t lie, the day after we left Cape Town for Walvis Bay, I came down with an aggressive case of what I’ll politely term, “bush belly”—the African cousin of Montezuma’s Revenge. It was not a fun time. I am almost certain it was the water, so that will be my caveat—be open to trying the food, but be very careful of the water. Tap water is best avoided, even just for brushing teeth. And do double-check the seals on your bottled water to make sure they haven’t been broken. If it tastes off, don’t drink it.
In my research for our trip, I kept coming across one photo of a wooden sign in the desert that read, “Take me to Namibia, my soul needs to breathe”. The phrase ran through my head the whole time we were there, and as we trundled along the open road without another soul in sight, I couldn’t think of any truer line. My soul was breathing—inhaling and exhaling with such width and capacity that at times, I felt like a little balloon. I didn’t see the sign on our trip, maybe it doesn’t exist. But I think part of the feeling of breath and freedom came from being so in the moment all the time, free of distractions and particulars and worries and hangups. So if you can manage a week without consistent WiFi and some slight discomfort from a bumpy car ride, getting your pizza with mushrooms even though you hate them and flicking the odd ant off your pillow…I say it’s worth it.