“I’m going to South Africa, you can come if you want,” Julie infamously said to me about three years ago.
My hesitation was fueled by the sheer amount of preparation, time, and money it would take to make this vacation happen – oh, and did I mention the vaccinations? Approximately a year after Julie’s proclamation, we had learned enough from friends to confirm that yes, this type of trip requires all of those things, plus a lot of DEET, but it would be more than worth it, some even calling it life-changing.
Then the planning began. We like to plan, Julie more so than me, so she took the lead. A must-have for this type of vacation is a travel expert to guide us. Julie researched this as she would a new connection or project lead until she met Meg.
Meg stood out from the other travel agents because she handled all of the logistics, had the best knowledge of locations, lodgings, food (and of course wine), and most importantly, was willing to custom tailor our adventure as we didn’t want an off-the-shelf pre-planned group vacation. Meg took the time to get to know us and what our interests were, how we travel and of course, what our budget was. Meg balanced this with the fact that we both own our own businesses, so taking this much time away took some finesse. We wanted to make sure we made every minute count, but not to the point that we exhausted ourselves. As Meg started to show us locations and properties, our conversations went like this:
We have wonderful coastlines and towns in Massachusetts but we wanted to be even closer to the whales and the great whites. Meg amazed us with a small inn in Hermanus. It was classic in vernacular style, and yes, she knew we were in the design industry. It was ideally situated on a walking path along a rocky coastline with views of the harbor and town, minutes away by foot. It was a perfect springboard for our shark cage diving experience in Gansbaai.
Having already traveled globally for wine, Meg led us to stay in Franschhoek, not the more popular Stellenbosch. This allowed us to have a more intimate experience with the wine producers and stay on a working vineyard. She knocked it out of the park and the inn even had TRX bands at the gym – I felt very at home.
We don’t camp, it’s why we have a townhouse in Vermont, but you can’t go to South Africa without staying in a safari lodge. We are fine with limited power, spotty WIFI and looking out for the occasional guest, i.e. the hyena that surprised Julie on her way to the ladies’ room. After visiting Notten’s Bush Camp herself, Meg returned and told us this is where we needed to call home while we were on safari. We can’t recommend Notten’s Bush Camp enough, their hospitality and expertise in leading our safari drives made this an unforgettable experience ….and the food, wow!
To ensure all the moving parts of this vacation came together seamlessly, Capetown, Hermanus, Franschhoek, Kruger, Zambia and finally Johannesburg, Meg would email us the options along with her input on what she thought we would prefer, the best times for pick-ups, transfers and flights all the while being spot on with our budget. At some points, she would even call Julie at a very early or late South African time to make sure that we understood the developing itinerary and that we were happy. She nailed it. She covered everything from what to pack, what pack to get, and all the other incidentals. This expert gave us the road map to write the book of our adventure. It was worth all the effort as we have stories of this trip to last a lifetime.
We continue to share our trip with friends and sing Meg’s praises. Meg’s business model is one I certainly appreciate, bringing a similar personal approach for our clients and the adventure they set off on as they create their home. Our goal is that our dialogue leads to happiness as it too requires a great deal of time, preparation, money, and maybe even some convincing, but definitely no vaccinations!