It served as a fine springboard for us to see sable and roan, among other species, in Mahango and enjoy the river-setting. From here, we are heading into the Caprivi Strip to spend some time at a luxury tented lodge, who have given us a very nice price due to our situation, near Horseshoe Lagoon deep in the Bwabwata bush and then we will enter Botswana and the northern section of Chobe as originally planned.
Even before Taleb coined the term, me and my colleagues at CEB were trying to teach the same essential concept to CFOs and Chief Risk Officers – the idea isn’t to merely build a risk management program that can survive planned risk events but an organization that adapts and improves from all experiences. Since many have asked or commented on it, both from home and as we have met them on the road, this idea – antifragility – is the core attribute that allowed us not only to continue our trip (even that first night in the hospital we were all in agreement on that) but that we would gain from the unexpected and unasked for opportunity. Sure we had to trade off some experiences, but we filled them with others we would have missed out on – like the pangolin last week and, over the last few days, seeing the largest meteorite on earth (Avital was busy studying the rock while Eliav and I tried to get it to hatch so we could meet the transformer inside), spending time with the Mbunza tribe (where they all pitched in to make bows and arrows for the kids) and illegally visiting Angola (well, that one was always in my plans thanks to Nkwazi Lodge). There is a key distinction Taleb wants to make by creating the term antifragile relative to existing terms like resilience. Resilience is the ability to withstand/resist risk – when travelling the two keys to resilience in the face of risk are time and money. In the past, we usually had one or the other – on our long trips we had time but money was tight; on shorter trips we could be freer with money even if we had little time – this trip we are lucky enough to have had both at our disposal. But antifragility is more, it isn’t about just absorbing the risk without cost but positioning oneself to benefit from the unexpected regardless of what it is. This can’t be bought with time or money, it requires approaching your travels from a wholly different perspective – embracing the opportunities that unfold in front of you, even when seemingly negative, regardless of how they relate to the ones you planned. This is the heart of what I have called in the past ‘no expectations travel’ – the idea that we don’t confuse our anticipation with what might happen with an expectation of what will happen instead keeping our mind open to and adaptable to what may come, even when that may be challenging in the moment. This is an overarching idea that I hope the kids learn from our past few weeks. The accident is something they are very comfortable talking about with strangers, they bring it up with almost everyone we meet, and they know it changed the nature of our trip (and it doesn’t always feel to them as if it was for the better). But we continue to emphasize the positive experiences we had because of those changes with them and they continue to engage and grow from those experiences – when it is all over, I expect the accident will be one of the many catalysts we have had along the way but not the defining moment of our adventure. On the subject of antifragility, the Hilux has held up well. As my off-roading instructor said when I asked for tips on driving an automatic 4×4, ‘I like them because I only have two feet.’ I was worried that it would be underpowered at times or not in the right gear when I needed it but that hasn’t been the case – we haven’t done a lot of off-roading yet but the few deep sand tracks we have been on have been no problem at all (we will test this more over the next week as we head off-road into the Kwando Sector of Bwabwata and then into Chobe in Botswana). I was also concerned about the comfort in the cab for four people and storage space in the back – both concerns have proven unfounded. In fact, with a few better equipment choices than our previous rental company, we are actually carrying more in the back now (our tent and chairs are still on the roof, but the bedding is in the back) with more extra room and the kids are fine in the double cab. Then you get the benefits of driving a car built with the driver in mind (something no one has ever accused Land Rover of) – the air conditioning vents are positioned in a way that makes sense, the rear-view camera is very handy and cruise control is a useful addition particularly on long straight stretches of tar like the ~260km on the B8 from Grootfontein to Rundu. It is on this road that we passed through the ‘Red Line’, or the veterinary cordon fence. These days, it is notionally there to prevent the spread of cattle diseases (like foot & mouth) from the North of the country into the South – but it functionally serves to separate the mostly white-owned profitable ranchland from the mostly black-owned communal pasture. The change in scenery is immediate – you go from individually fenced off ranches with the occasional town or city to the quintessential image of rural Africa, reed homesteads lining the road with cows and sheep roaming freely. Personally, I prefer the rural African scenery, but that seems like a harsh reason to keep them fenced in. We have spent the last two days at Ngepi Camp on the Okavango River (where me and the kids took a relaxingly chilly swim with crocs and hippos). Ngepi has a special place in my memory as it was the first place I visited with Karen that I tried to convince her to buy. Last time we were here we were entertained by the Thénardier-esque couple managing the place and an insane brit named Doop who had just been kicked out of Botswana and had an unnatural infatuation with Neil Diamond. Now, it is a much larger camp that has still managed to retain much if its bush charm if not the same personalities while catering to everyone from overland trucks to families to backpackers. It has been built to live ‘symbiotically’ with the nature around it and has incorporated some interesting designs concepts into their tree-houses and bush huts, not to mention their charcoal-based cooler room, to reflect that ethic.