In 2011, Emily-Ann Elliot quit her day job as a journalist and set off on her very own grown up gap year, completing 30 challenges around the world before she turned 30. Emily-Ann thinks everybody, no matter what their age, should get the chance to experience a gap year and when she returned to the UK, she created The Grownup Gap Year to help to answer some of the practical questions about deciding how and when to take one, as well as pointing out some of the amazing places travellers might want to add to their own bucket list.
As you can probably tell if you’ve read any of my previous posts, I absolutely love travelling and exploring new cultures. Whenever I leave a country and I’m talking about it to friends back at home there are usually a few things which have stood out about a place which are always the aspects I end up talking about. That was definitely the case with the last country I visited, Zambia. So here are five of the things I loved about it:
I love the people
After my trip to South Africa earlier in the year, I was expecting the people of Zambia to be friendly and I wasn’t disappointed. Everywhere we went we were greeted with warmth and affection. My overwhelming memory is the laughter that followed us wherever we went. I was on a global health reporting trip and at one clinic we visited the staff actually had to go outside and tell the women waiting to quieten down as they were laughing so loudly. Conversations always take place with a hand on the arm to stress a point or a friendly hug if something funny is said and who can resist smiles like this?
I love the fashion
Women in Zambia know how to style it out. Every day we were greeted by our fixer Sally, who helped us set up interviews and visits. She always put us to shame by looking amazing. Even in the compounds (slums) the women dress in beautiful bright colours and there are tiny little clothes shops hidden away in the smallest buildings.
I love the food
Food always plays a big part in my trips and the first thing I like to do when I arrive at a place is head to a local restaurant to sample the food.
In Zambia we were lucky to be taken to a restaurant by Sally, which meant we had the added bonus of someone telling us what to order and explaining the different recipes to us. Zambian food is fresh, simple and very tasty and one of the things I really liked about it is that so little is wasted. Even the leaves from the vegetables were used to make other dishes.
I love the scenery
It’s hard to find the words to describe the majestic Victoria Falls. One of the biggest waterfalls in the world, it really is something you just have to stand and watch in awe.
The Zambezi river was also one of the highlights of my trip. It was so calm and peaceful and after a hectic day it was perfect to just sit and watch the sunset over it.
I love the positivity
During our reporting trip we met and interviewed a lot of people who have been given a difficult hand in life. We met people suffering from illnesses, children living in poverty and journalists who felt afraid to report their stories. At times it felt unbearably sad but what helped was the positivity that so many people managed to maintain despite everything they were going through.
We met health workers who were trying out new medical techniques, young graduates setting up technology start-ups and children working hard to get out of the slums. One of my favourite conversations was with a seven-year-old girl at one of the compound schools. She and her classmates were learning to use tablet computers which had opened up a whole new world to them. I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, expecting her to say a teacher like most of her friends, instead she gave me a big grin and said: “a tv producer”. An answer which seemed to perfectly encapsulate the optimism and determination of the Zambian people.