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  • Life-Changing Travel Contest: Louise Orr

    The first time I went on an African safari (Okavango Delta in Botswana) I was overwhelmed by a feeling of “coming home,” a not-uncommon sensation felt by first time visitors to the continent. Upon my return I sold my home; downsized everything in my life and immediately booked another safari for the following year! My third safari (2 years later) was my personal reward to myself for having fought and survived cancer. Africa is my “soul” place, and the one destination I hope to see again and again before I die.

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    90 Responses

    1. becky carini says:

      louise’s story was very moving. it made me think about travel to africa, and i have not ever thought about it. i hope she wins.

    2. Nevia Mayers says:

      Very inspiring! I hope you win.

    3. Brandy Gregory says:

      I understand! I get it! I’ve not been to Africa, but I experienced the same “I’m here!” moment when I first glimpsed the little mountain paradise I now call home.

    4. Karen Hill says:

      I think Louise succinctly summarized what a real life-changing event feels like when you are traveling — her description of the feeling of “coming home” and finding her “soul” place really resonate with me.. I appreciate how she evoked a feeling in me of my own experience, continents away, when I entered Victoria Station for the first time. And I hadn’t thought about that wonderful experience for many years, until I read Louise’s words. I hope she wins the contest and goes on to remind us again of how travel can enrich our lives.

    5. MT Young says:

      Loved Louise Orr’s essay, reminded me of my trip to Kenya. Although it was a long time ago, I will never forget the magic of Africa.

    6. Britta Fanger says:

      CNN is publishing their Hero of the year.
      For me, Louise Orr is the hero of the year. Working endlessly with charityprojects in our comunity she really decerve to win.


    7. susan says:

      Would love to share that experience one day and hope you have many more opportunities to return to Africa. Hope my vote helps.

    8. Louise Orr says:

      This Life Changing Travel contest has stirred so many memories of my time in Africa; what a joy to rediscover some of them again!
      I recall on my first 2002 safari in the Okavango Delta of Bostwana, we spontaneously started to make toasts after dinner…matters of heart, or a choice episode of the day’s adventures to share around the table….sometimes in verse. Delightful!
      This was July 2002; less than a year after the 9-11 attacks on US. That night it was also July 4, our American Independence Day. I recall making notes as to what i would say that evening, and agonizing over my choice of words.
      My words were not only a tribute to the resilience of America, but also a salute to the long-standing independence of Botswana. My travel mates and I stood and made a toast to our African hosts, with quiet applause and tears from all. Another memorable moment, of many, that changed my life forever.

    9. Olga Alexander says:

      What a moving life experience for Louise, I hope she is selected to win this contest!

    10. Ellen Bolton says:

      I am voting for Louise and maybe I’ll tag along on her one of her trips to Africa.

    11. Vicki Castillo says:

      Thanks Louise, I have always wanted to travel to Africa on go on a safari. You have whetted my appetite even more.

    12. George Castillo says:

      Thanks for reminding me there are still many wonderful and unique places in the world I have not yet experienced. After two months in Europe last year (following after you in some places like Paris), I guess now Africa must be moved up on my Bucket List. You do make it tantalizing. Oh, by the way, thanks for all of your hard work in making Buenos Vecinos a successful charity here in Boquete, Republic of Panama, another wonderful and unique place.

    13. Louise Orr says:

      Back to the buffs and the cats! Cape Buffalo and lions are relentless enemies. The buffalo is a vegetarian that needs to constantly move and graze; the carnivore lion will fiercely protect its’ kill on those same grounds. So here we have a grounded vehicle with humans, a pride of lions not giving an inch, and a massive herd of Cape Buffalo moving towards us and the lions! Pretty exciting, and I will admit, a bit more than frightening.
      The guide advised we all stay in the rear seats of the Land Rover, as these vehicles are cantilevered, and the rear seats sat higher off the ground. The lions and buffalo are now within 50 yards and the fight is fierce! “Let’s hope they just ignore us humans,” I’m hoping.
      The lions give way; the buffalo move on, the vehicle is abandoned in lieu of a late-arriving replacement Land Rover. Our last sight is a hyena attacking the leather seating in the Rover (hyenas will eat anything!). What a memorable birthday!

    14. Louise Orr says:

      Well, I’m back on line, after a hectic day..one of many to come, helping to organize a large two day charity event in my community…with 3 more weeks of intense work pulling all the strings together! If you are interested, you can actually bid on some of our auction items via the internet at: http://www.bid4boquete.com. It’s the fifth annual this year, and we support four local charities. Kind of like the United Way, in that regard! As chairwoman of one of the four benefiting charities, my team has been hard at work for months gathering donations and working with the other groups to make this a huge success. Last year $68 K was raised, equally split among the four groups. It is a big part of my charity’s annual budget, so we MUST do our share to deserve the money.

      Africa on my mind, and in my dreams last night. I recall being in a remote, very small safari camp in southern Tanzania called KATAVI, on my birthday. There were only five guests; two of whom (an Australian couple) I still keep in close touch. The guide was new to the site; did not speak fluent Swahili, and seemed to consider his tracking skills superior to the comfort and safety of his clients.

      We went out in a typical open-sided game drive vehicle to look for lions reportedly nearby, protecting an overnight hippo kill. The track was on a dry bed lake. The terrain is called “black cotton.” Crusty on top, it can suddenly give way to mud and sticky, vehicle-sucking morass.

      All was fine…there were several big males and a female with her cub finishing the hippo from the previous night’s kill. We’re taking photos like mad, standing outside the vehicle. All of a sudden, two things occurred within minutes of each other. The Land Rover sank to its’ axle in the black cotton, and a huge herd of over 500 Cape Buffalo appeared on the horizon!

      To be continued….

    15. Louise Orr says:

      So many thanks to all my friends who have helped keep my dream alive to win this writing contest! I realize there’s another full week to go to gather votes and comments, but I must “back-off” a bit (not continue to pester my pals!), as the following 3 weeks see me totally time-and-energy-consumed with a huge two day charity event in my small community here in Panama.

      When I decided to challenge myself with a new chapter in my life, and consider the possibility of living outside the USA, my first desire was Africa, of course! Botswana, in particular. It is one of the few successful nations in southern Africa, with a functioning democracy, many natural resources, a tourism policy of “low impact” on the environment (particularly the fragile, awesome Okavango Delta) and a legacy of self-sufficiency, education and health care.

      Alas, it is a young person’s new challenge to live there, and especially in the bush. With many years of professional hospitality experience, I had hoped to parlay that into a position in a safari camp (as hostess/manager,etc). But, I am “of a certain age,” and the opportunities await the younger set of adventurers! I wish them well!

      I have channeled my energy into my new Panamanian community, chairing a food program that now has over 100 client families. My team of volunteers are not only some of my best friends, but also some of the most COMMITTED and FUN women I am privileged to know! We are justly proud of the important (and sometimes gritty) work we do to better our community.

      So, Africa and your wildlife-rich savannahs; your starlit nights; your immensity; your sights, smells and diverse cultures…your “womb of the world” history…all of you will be there for me again someday, I do hope. My soul place…

    16. Linda says:

      To downsize and sell a home after returning from a trip is certainly a life changing event. You have my vote.

    17. MLloyd says:

      Touching Story Louise. I never realized what a powerful women you were in spirit.
      Mary Lloyd

    18. Ann Marconi says:

      I have heard similiar thoughts by those who have been to Africa. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    19. Judy says:

      Louise – How lovely! There is no place on earth to compare with the Okavango. And, you have captured the spirit beautifully. I hope you are able to return soon (me too!).

    20. Nancy Halbert says:

      Great story, you go Louise!

    21. jane Vail says:

      Africa has just become within reach, thanks to Louise Orr’s article. She paints a compelling picture of Africa’s gifts.
      I vote for Louise Orr.
      Jane Vail

    22. Mary Kay Gardner says:

      I heard all about Louise’s wonderful trip and would love to see the area too. May she enjoy many trips with you.

    23. Cyndicy Coudray says:

      I’ve always dreames of Africa, particularly south africa, and am facinated by the natives/dutch settlers, animals and entire continent. Louise makes me want to share her dream. She gets my vote!

    24. Jennie Allen says:

      You brought so many happy memories back to life
      Safari, Elephants and wonderful scenery. Nothing better

    25. Louise Orr says:

      Having spent the weekend away with friends, I come back to my thoughts/dreams of Africa, inspired by this contest, now that I am home and in a more quiet space.

      ELEPHANTS! What can I say to adequately describe my fascination with them?! Matriarchal by nature; so incredibly massive in size; so silent even on the move; apparently very intelligent; perhaps even emotional. I do not like to ascribe human terms to wildlife, but when an elephant herd repeatedly returns to a fellow member’s site of death, and gently picks-up and moves the remaining bones…and will often stay for days without adequate food and water..is this not mourning or at least some elemental grief?

      ELEPHANTS! One of the joys, of course, is to spend a lot of time watching their behavior in the bush. Something altogether different and thrilling is to hear them mere feet from the canvas of your safari tent at night! Not a threat; just the most amazing thrill! I have been known to break the rules a bit on safari, and quietly step outside the canvas wall…adjust to the night light; listen closely; smell, and then be rewarded with a glimpse of an eye (with surprisingly long lashes!) or a soft snort in recognition of my small human presence within their sphere.

      Oh, ELEPHANTS! Louise

    26. Britta Fanger says:

      I have bin watching CNN:s Hero of the year.
      My hero of the year is Louise Orr.
      Despite her own problems, she is tirelessly helping the poor and disabled in our comunity to get a warm meal every day.
      She is a strong woman but I think she could need a break, and what would be better than some some time in her beloved Africa.
      You definitely have my vote.

    27. nairn cutten says:

      This is a place I have always wanted to visit. Louse’s story illustrates yet again the magic of this continent.

    28. Fene Cartlidge says:

      I have never been to Africa but I have heard that the “coming home” sensation is very primal and instinctive. Love that you found your soul place!

    29. Louise Orr says:

      Elizabeth, You hit a chord with your comment about life and death in Africa. It is an ever present reality…and I speak personally of the bush here and its’ wildlife, not the human toll such a poor continent suffers daily. I do try to help support an orphanage in northern Tanzania that provides a haven for HIV’s lost generation; young children left alone with the devastating toll this disease takes of their parents.

      In the bush, it is often an immediate and dramatic struggle between life and death. On a 2005 safari in southern Tanzania, our small group of travelers (including a Dutch couple with their kids…two teenagers and a 10 year old girl) happened upon an impala giving birth. We were mesmerized, of course! Barely two minutes after the foal was dropped and the impala was tending to her newborn, a pregnant cheetah took the foal in a split second!

      Surprisingly, the 10 year old child responded (after a few tears in her mother’s arms) with a mature and reflective comment. She understood that there are many, many impala, and few cheetahs, and that the pregnant cheetah needed to be able to kill and eat in order to protect her own health and strength in order to bring a new cheetah cub into the world.

      Life and death, and the daily struggle and beauty of the African experience.

    30. Ellie Simon says:

      I always enjoy your writing and it’s fun to vicariously experience new places and experiences with you. Thanks.

    31. Jordan Smith says:

      Great Story! Wish you luck! You get my vote!

    32. Jane says:

      Louise, I ‘wondered’ why Africa would be your soul mate. Now I know. Jane

    33. MT Young says:

      I too loved Africa. I went in 1971 before Aides, it was so amazing, it will always hold a special place in my heart. I was 22 everything in Africa was as it was supposed to be I would love to go back now and re live my memories.

    34. Africa is definitely a life changing place and I’ve been there at least 6 or 7 times but not for safaris. I remember the first time I went over there, to Mali. I visited the Dogon region and stayed with locals and ate their food….it was all so foreign and strange to me. It prepared me for more worldly travels which I now continue to do….I feel I have adapted to gypsy life!

    35. gail cody says:

      awesome Louise, have always enjoyed your writing. You make places real!!

    36. Carole Newsome says:

      Oh, Africa. What wonderful places I visited. It’s harsh realities, and balances of life and death.
      Beautiful plains, and deep forest shadows. Animals and people are vibrant.
      Living on the edge comes to mind.
      It makes you see life more clearly.

    37. Sharon says:

      What an adventure.

    38. Jim says:

      Home is where the heart is.

    39. A soul place… I know what you mean, Louise. For me, that place was Panama–an instantaneous recognition of “home.”

      I have always wanted to go on safari. What a gift that you’ve been multiple times. I’m sure it was life changing.


    40. Scott says:

      Louise . . . we are “soulmates” with you about Africa!

    41. jamie says:

      Hi Louise. Jonah and Chris’ Mom and a fellow writer. Good job and Happy travels.

    42. Ann says:

      What a unique experience Louise had. I hope she is able to visit Africa again!

    43. Betty Gray says:


      You persuade me that perhaps there is another side to Africa.
      I always thought it was a dreary and contentious place. Even
      Egypt has never tempted me. I am glad you see beauty there
      and I hope you find beauty wherever you go. Happy Travels.
      May you go far.

    44. Laura Long says:

      Traveling to Africa as a reward to yourself for hardships you endured turned out to be your turning point. My husband likes to say ‘its like taking a fork in the road’. This fork for you was life changing and i am glad you are writing about it for others to be inspired by your words.

    45. Joleen says:

      Louise –

      Honest a inspiring. That trip to Afirca certianly changed your life! I hope to one day see Africa…..hopefully by the time I get there the wildness will remain,

    46. Laurie says:

      Ah, Louise, I understand better your spirit of adventure. I hope you win and get the chance to re-visit your “soul” place!

    47. Prescott says:

      Hey Louise,

      Very nice story about coming home and finding priorities.


    48. RICHARD EVANS says:

      Louise Orr hit it dead on !!! If you listen to , and follow your heart …you will get as close to happiness as possible as humans on this wonderful planet !!!

    49. Andrea says:

      I like your story Louise. Good for you and I hope that you get there.

    50. Ronni Meier says:

      Greatly inspiring!

    51. Beth Gardner says:

      Any travel that profoundly changes a life, such as Louise’s trip to Africa is a successful trip. That is what travel is all about… Re-discovering you life

    52. Beverly Frost says:

      Ii read your comments on your Africa trip and reflected upon each time you returned. You were “overtaken” in a mysterious way and I recall your saying you hoped to return to Africa and likely would remain there at some point in your life. Fast forward and another friend is returning tomorrow from Tanzania – her email while in Amsterdam airport was “absolutely most fabulous trip ever”. Louise, you started the journey, may we all be fortunate enough to share much the same comments. Thank you

    53. Ruby McKenzie says:

      Thanks Louise for sharing your special feeling and place with me.

    54. Penny Ripple says:

      WOW….to find a place so far away that you would want to visit not one, but three times….makes me want to go to Botswana…thanks for the glimpse.

    55. Kathy says:

      I loved reading Louise’s article and would love to go on a safari myself. After reading about hers I think I will do it! Thanks Ms. Orr!

    56. Cora says:

      Louise hit the mark expressing the feeling when you experience a completely different environment, a different lifestyle and a yearning to find your real place in the world. It’s thrilling to be immersed in it for the first time!

    57. carol C S says:

      I have also wanted to go to Africa I love Cats and the bigger the better maybe one day

    58. franagain says:

      I have always wanted to see parts of Africa! Thanks for the story, Louise.

    59. Debby Merickel says:

      I’m going in March! I get it…nothing as special as this. I think rewarding oneself is a good idea too, we’re not getting younger:)

    60. What a great story. It was brief, to the point, and heart-felt.

    61. Shelia Given says:

      I was very impressed by the comment of Louise Orr. Made me want to travel to Botswana.

    62. Jack Mantia says:

      I also loved Africa. It would be nice to visit again with someone with your passion for Africa

    63. Wendy Catlin says:

      A very short, strong important story which makes the reader understand the impact of her African travel.

    64. Carol says:

      Love Louise Orr’s Africa. Home to me too.

    65. Louise Orr says:

      I strongly encourage you to make a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Africa! That being said, I must warn you that it WILL NOT be a one time trip!

      Just about everyone I know that has gone on a small group, eco-friendly safari cannot resist the urge to return! It is addictive, and each time you go, you dig further into the culture, the wildlife, the history…I would say Africa is the longest book I have ever picked-up, and I don’t expect to finish it anytime soon!

    66. Louise Orr says:

      The Eastern part of Africa is Swahili-speaking to a large degree. And what a fascinating history it has, with the Arab traders sailing to Zanzibar with spices; the whole exploratory history of 19th/early 20th Century Africa (“Dr. Livingston, I presume?”) and much of what we Westerners think of when we envision Africa….the Serengeti’ s great seasonal wildlife migrations, the Masai people, the vast savannahs…Nairobi, great capital of Kenya; Karen Blixin’s “Out of Africa” memoir; so much more.

      I spent some time in southern Tanzania in 2005 at lesser-known safari sites, and concluded my visit with a few nights on Zanzibar. A UNESCO World Heritage site NOT to be missed! The smell of cloves (something I usually love; reminds me of a ham Easter Dinner!) was overwhelming and rather uncomfortable in fact!

    67. Helga Koehrer-Wagner says:

      My husband and I have travelled to various places since many years. But have never managed to see Africa. When reading what Louise writes about her experiences I strongly feel that we will have to go there in the future. Thank’s Louise for sharing your feelings about that beautiful continent. If English would be my mother tongue, I could express much better, how much Louise awoke an urge to see the Okawango Delta by ourselves.
      I will keep my fingers cross, that you will win!

    68. Louise Orr says:

      It’s like you land and disembark from an aircraft after too many hours aloft, and all of a sudden you are in another world. A world, once again, that somehow seems familiar in a fundamental way…if you choose to remain still and attentive and absorb the experience.

      You can’t go to Africa with preconceptions. They will be blown away. Yes, there is extreme poverty, illness, corruption, but the average African is a survivor; with flexibility and strength that belies his/her poverty. This is one of the reasons I think we all can connect in a fundamental way with that continent. It’s where WE learned, many generations ago, to survive and thrive.

    69. Trish Christofferson says:

      I spent three weeks in Tanzania nine years ago. We had a very short safari since our goal was to make it to the top of Kilimanjaro. Reading Louise’s descriptions of her safaris makes me want to go back and do a longer safari. She gets my vote!

    70. Ken Campeau says:

      Enjoyed your writing, now we are ready to go to Africa.

    71. Ruth Francis says:

      I have never had a chance to see African and although it is a shame
      I do not travel well, Louise’s photos and stories of the wonderful times
      she has spent in Africa helps to enlighten all of us. She truly loves it.
      I hope she wins this contest. Thank you.

    72. Irene Haines says:

      Louise’s feeling mirror my own on my first visit to Africa.

    73. Alicia says:

      Your love of Africa shines through – I hope you win!

    74. Terri Kalaitzakis says:

      An African Safari is a lifetime dream of so many. I hope Louise gets
      the chance to see it again because she has a true love for it.

    75. Donna Alexander says:

      The times I have spoken with Louise , I never knew she was a cancer
      survivor. I thought she was just a pleasant happy go lucky woman
      with a zest for life. Louise has had her share of life changing experiences
      and everyone who knows her would love to see her win this contest for
      Life Changing Travel”. Thank you for your consideration.

    76. Bonnie Williams says:

      I, too, spent some time in Africa, albeit on the east coast. Ms. Orr captures a visitor’s primal feeling of the magic of the continent

    77. Dana says:

      It has been my dream for years to go to Africa. I have imagined that I would experience similar feelings to those you describe. May I tag along on your next trip?

    78. mark heyer says:

      Good work, Louise, you got my vote

    79. Sandi S says:

      beautifully written! africa’s on my MUST DO list. now even more so! thank you! sandi

    80. Nicholas Sammartino says:

      Wow how enriching, short and powerful. Change is inevitable but an experience/adventure which changes one’s perspective of life is more of a pilgrimage to another chapter in the journey. I find myself today where you were before your first trip to Africa. A new chapter, a need to downsize, to give back and the opportunity is always here and now. This is the year. Thank you for sharing your succinct and humbling adventure.

    81. Kerry Howard says:

      Louise’s words paint the heart of Africa. She has my vote!

    82. Louise Orr says:


      Brief it was; I thought the contest rules limited the number of words.

      At any rate, I just love the times I spent in the bush on 3 African safaris. The silence, with just the wind blowing through the savannah grasses; the smells of the wild sage; the breathtaking stars at night. Of course, the very best and most exciting experience on safari is being with an excellent guide and in astonishing proximity to the wildlife! My favorites are the elephants; I could watch a herd for hours on end. Fascinating creature and very intelligent.
      If I should be lucky enough to win this contest, I would use the airfare to return to Africa on safari, and to catch-up with the progress of the Mufundi Orphanage in Tanzania that I have supported for several years. Louise

    83. Nicole Salyer says:

      How amazing it is to be able to go on such a great adventure! By this I mean to fight and survive a battle with cancer! Then to be able to enjoy a safari as such a great reward for your hard work and journey to survival! Good luck to you! You are an inspiration to us all!

    84. Skip says:

      Always wanted to explore Africa. One of the last frontiers.

    85. Bob Cozza says:

      Very interesting but also very brief. Would like to read more about this adventure.

    86. Donna Jenkins says:

      I found this to be a very touching story of Louise’s personal journey.

    87. After traveling a lot and downsizing myself I thing her story should be rewarded with a win.

    88. Joe DiRenzi says:

      Very nice article. She gets my vote

    89. Mindy says:

      Wonderful submission Louise. I always love to read about your adventures!

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