If you told me coming to Queen’s that I would be spending the summer after first year hitch-hiking on the back of random trucks through rural Africa, heading towards the most remote locations of Botswana – I would laugh. I would laugh very hard. I’m a Type A science student who likes to have a plan A, B, C and D for every situation, and hitch-hiking through a continent, half way across the world, was on the bottom of my list of things I ever wanted to do in my life. But did it happen anyway? It sure did.

Last year, my travel bug drew me to QPID, Queen’s Project on International Development – and within a blink of an eye, I found myself in the corner of Botswana for a three-month journey (literally of a lifetime), living and working with a local community. My partner and I spent the bulk of the three months in a homestay in the village of Maun, right within the Okavango Delta. But as often as we could, we took the never-ending roads (when I say roads, I really mean dirt paths that we hoped were leading us in the right direction) and explored all that the country had to offer.

It was our last weekend in Botswana, and we were determined to make the most of it. We had heard of this elusive place, Goo-Moremi Gorge, from one or two people we knew, but hadn’t gotten much more information than “you need to go” and “you need a car”. At this point, we had gotten into enough random vehicles with random strangers (ambulances, cattle trucks, cars with dozens of baby chicks...) that we had a misled sense of security when it came to getting around the country.

It took us two days to get to our final destination, but the journey was so worth the time in between. On a bus going 160km/hr with doors wide open, we found ourselves making an impromptu visit to a Rhino Sanctuary. After seeing some of the last rhinos left on Earth, we bargained with all that we had with us, and sat on the back of a few more trucks to get to our final destination. 6 hours away from what we called home, and 80km into the bush without cell reception, we found ourselves in the midst of what I like to call the hidden gem of Botswana.

Tucked away under a large mountainous landscape, we were greeted with a beautiful, secluded, solar-powered chalet fit for a honeymoon. Waking up to the sun climbing past the horizon, and sleeping under a sky lit by more stars than I had ever seen in my life, it was the getaway that we were truly waiting for. We spent our time here exploring the gorge and climbing the mountains with a guide from the local village, and it was such a treat to experience this lush, green jungle, so unlike the dry desert we had been living in for months now.

I learned an important lesson this weekend, a parting gift of sorts from this brilliant country. Life should be lived without an agenda, it should be lived one decision at a time and focus should be placed on being present. Some of my greatest memories from these three months are from this weekend. They’re from the laughs, and the tears, and the ridiculous moments that we were lucky enough to encounter on our way to that final destination.

~Justin Lim '18