January 15

14 Lessons I Learned From My African Travels

By David Ryan on
January 15, 2024

As a self-proclaimed travel enthusiast, in 2004, I found myself in a state of midlife confusion. Armed with nothing but dreams and an uncanny ability to ignore reality, I set out to revolutionise the safari industry in Africa! Fast forward to today, and Rhino Africa, the company I created, has once again been awarded the title of World's Leading Luxury Tour Operator. It's been quite the wild ride, filled with moments of clarity, insight, confusion, and a whole lot of comedy. In celebration of two decades, I'm sharing some of the valuable lessons learned from my African travels...

David Ryan, CEO und Founder of Rhino Africa with his son

I feel incredibly lucky to have spent so much of my life exploring this magnificent continent

20 Years of Travel Wisdom 

It’s been an wonderful 20 years, and we've remained dedicated to our purpose of "uplifting communities and protecting Africa's wildlife". 

With over 25 years of African travel experience under my belt, I thought I would take a moment and share some of the lessons I've learned through my African travels and becoming an online entrepreneur.

Discover Africa's Big 5 favourites with Rhino Africa

Discover Africa's Big 5 favourites with Rhino Africa

1. To Enjoy Experiences Over Things

Material possessions may be nice. However, it's life's experiences that truly bring lasting happiness. After all, in the end, we're nothing more than what we believe and the experiences we hold. 

Through travelling, particularly in Africa, we tend to form strong connections with people and nature, learn new skills, and create lasting memories.

2. To Leave Your Comfort Zone and Try New Things 

One of the most valuable lessons that travel has taught me is that life begins at the end of our comfort zone. When we travel, we're forced to leave behind the familiar and embrace the unknown. And it's when we step outside of our routines that we truly expand our horizons.

Go on a hot air balloon safari in Kenya to admire the landscapes and wildlife from above

Go on a hot air balloon safari in Kenya to admire the landscapes and wildlife from above

3. To Appreciate Different Cultures (And Our Similarities) 

One of the best parts of travelling, especially in Africa, is experiencing different cultures. When you visit, you become immersed in a culture's history, language, customs and cuisine. You'll eat like a local, and even try speaking a few phrases! As I've explored the cultural differences of Africa, I've come to find that we're all not so different after all.

4. To be Patient 

Travel, particularly in Africa, can be complex and is often full of small frustrations. But these obstacles teach us patience, and by the end of most of my trips, I've come to learn we truly are able to handle almost anything.

silvan safari

Game drives may not be a traditional way to make friends, but it sure is a fun way! 

5. How to Make New Friends

When we travel, we open ourselves to a world of human connection. Whether meeting fellow guests or connecting with our ranger and tracker on safari, I've always found that people are open to connecting, and some of my longest and favourite friendships have been made through travel.

6. To Never Take Nature for Granted 

Africa's natural beauty and incredible wildlife will undoubtedly leave you in awe. But it also reminds us of the fragility of our planet. Travel teaches us to appreciate every natural wonder and that we need to take care of our environment.

You never forget your first sunset in Africa

7. To be Spontaneous

Travel can be full of unexpected twists and turns, especially here in Africa! And if, like me, you're a planner at home, what I've learnt is that embracing our impulsive side and going with the flow can lead to incredible adventures and unforgettable memories.

8. To Appreciate the Little Things 

African travel, perhaps more so than anywhere else, slows us down and allows us to reflect on the beauty of human and natural connection. We learn to appreciate the little things, like watching a breathtaking sunset (gin and tonic in hand, of course), savouring a delicious meal under the African stars, and cherishing our relationships or friendships. Travel teaches us it's the little things that count!

9. To be Humble 

Travelling humbles us as we realise how small our footprint is in this enormous world. In Africa, you will encounter many acts of kindness and generosity from strangers who have far less than us, reminding us of the importance of humility.

Colleagues hugging

As you travel, you'll meet many inspiring people 

10. The Importance of Smiling

A genuine smile is a universal communicator of friendliness and gratitude. To learn a few phrases in the local African language means you can always count on a smile in return!

11. That You're Capable

The greatest gift of travel to me has been its teaching of confidence, independence, and problem-solving skills. Discovering our inner strength and realising our capabilities are among the most empowering aspects of African travel. This is a gift and education I look forward to passing on to my children.

Stargazing at Silvan Safari Lodge

An ocean of stars

12. The Value of Quality Time

The business of everyday life often gets in the way of being able to spend quality time with the people you love. In the bush, you can get away from the hustle and bustle. You can sit down and have engaging conversations with people without distractions coming at you from every angle. Africa provides the unique opportunity to connect with others in a way you just can't do anywhere else, which has made me appreciate it much more.

13. You Never Stop Learning 

Travel is one of the greatest teachers of all. It inspires awe and discovery, reminding us there's always something new to learn and experience. With every travel experience comes a myriad of lessons, learnings and things to be taken forward in life. 

14. Digital Detoxes Are Good for The Soul

It feels incredible to know I've played a hand in building the World's Best Luxury Safari Company. However, it's also important to get away from screens. 

I encourage everybody to try a seven-day digital detox once a year. For the past decade, every year, together with a group of friends, we cycle mountain bikes for Challenge4ACause across the Damaraland desert in Namibia. We do this both to raise awareness and funds for rural education. The experience is always life-changing, but the break from my screens is essential and liberating!

Hitting the deserts for Challenge4ACause

Hitting the deserts for Challenge4ACause

Make Africa Your Teacher

We'd love to show you our beautiful, big continent, and who knows what memorable lessons you may learn along with your unbelievable experiences. Our Travel Experts share the same love for our continent and exploring its vast allure. They can tailor a personalised journey for you, bringing in their first-hand experience to ensure it's a seamless, sensational sojourn! Reach out today, and let's start planning

I can't wait to hear about all the things you've learned from your African travels.

X Rhino Africa Consultants

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About the author 

David Ryan

David makes things happen! With a canny inability to sit still for a minute, it’s a miracle he actually sat down long enough to finish his degree in economics. David is a brave and pioneering entrepreneur with a true passion for Africa - especially Africa's wildlife. With his African Grey parrot by his side, there is more than a hint of the Dolittles about our intrepid leader. Before founding Rhino Africa David spent a number of years earning his stripes and cutting his teeth in the industry. David’s interests include photography and travel, and having travelled extensively through Africa most of the images on the Rhino Africa website hail from his well organised image library!

    • Dear Claire,

      We appreciate your time in reading our blog post. Our hope is that this piece serves as inspiration for numerous adventures, allowing you to immerse yourself in the beauty of nature, cultivating patience, making new friends, and embracing many more enriching experiences in Africa.

      Best regards,
      Unathi

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