The World Nomads Podcast: Botswana

Photographing wild animals, the San Bushmen, running into royalty, and the rude place names that prompted us to issue our first language warning (seriously, it's NSFW!).


Photo © Getty Images/Simon Phelps Photography

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The World Nomads Podcast: Botswana

Listen to this episode of the World Nomads Podcast on Botswana and learn about the San Bushmen, the adventurous photographer who spent a year camping her way across Africa, and we have some fun with the rude place names from around the world.

What’s in the Episode

01:46 Quiz Question

01:55 Australian TV personality in love with Botswana

04:15 Living in Maun

06:56 Stella's scare

09:09 Bumping into Royalty

12:07 Taking a year off work

14:33 The elephants that moved in

15:51 Giving back

17:00 Photgraphing the wildlife from a shipping container

20:32 Travel News (NSFW!)

26:06 Phil's standing ovation

26:37 What are we eating, where are we giving and what are we wearing?

33:13 The san Bushman of Botswana

35:35 The trance dance

38:37 Rwanda in 2018

40:46 Quiz Question answer

41:15 Next episode

Who is in the Episode

Simon Reeve is an Australian TV personality who moved to Botswana in 1999 with his partner Linda and daughter Stella, spending two and half years living in the Okavango Delta (documented here). Simon calls Africa his greatest passion and is a long-time patron for The Painted Dog Conservation Inc. “They are absolutely wonderful people John and Ange with every single dollar making it onto the ground for their projects in Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Namibia.”

Photo Credit: Simon Reeve

Kelsey Timmerman is the New York Times bestselling author of Where Am I Wearing?  A Global Tour to the Countries, Factories, and People That Make Our Clothes, Where Am I Eating? An Adventure Through the Global Food Economy and Where Am I Giving?Your gifts connect you to a world of giving. And if you effectively put them to use, you’ll live a longer, more meaningful life, and you just might change the world.”

If you want to read the full transcript of our interview with Kelsey, you can view it here at this G-drive link.

Bobby-Jo Vial 

is an Australian zookeeper who has a passion for photographing wild animals in Africa. This adventurous photographer has just finished a year camping her way across Africa, captured in this story. She also runs a photographic safari company, Dumas Safaris
Photo Credit: Bobby-Jo Photography

Heather Richardson is a full-time freelance journalist, writer, and editor, interested in conservation stories, emerging destinations, responsible luxury, areas of wilderness, inspiring people and cultures, and wildlife.

Resources & Links

Scholarships Newsletter: Sign up for scholarships news and see what opportunities are live here.

The Facing Project an NFP that connects people through stories to strengthen communities. The Facing Project was founded by Kelsey Timmerman.

The Askari Project, a registered not for profit organization set up to raise funding for the monitoring and protection of elephants including some of the last Great Tuskers of Africa through the conservation work of The Tsavo Trust.

The cities that sound dirty. Full list here.

Bird-watchers flock to Serbia's northern town of Kikinda every winter to see one of the world's largest roosting populations of long-eared owls (more here).

But a statue aiming to brand it as the city of owls has many arguing it resembles a phallus rather than an owl. You be the judge.

The Questionable Owl Statue

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About World Nomads & the Podcast

Explore your boundaries and discover your next adventure with The World Nomads Podcast. Hosted by Podcast Producer Kim Napier and World Nomads Phil Sylvester, each episode will take you around the world with insights into destinations from travelers and experts. They’ll share the latest in travel news, answer your travel questions and fill you in on what World Nomads is up to, including the latest scholarships and guides.

The World Nomads Podcast is not your usual travel Podcast. It’s everything for the adventurous, independent traveler. Don’t miss out. Subscribe today.

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Intro:                           Welcome to the World Nomads Podcast delivered by World Nomads, the travel, lifestyle, and insurance brand. It's not your usual travel podcast. It's everything for the adventurous, independent traveler.

Simon Reeve:               There were days when we were hugging each other in tears wondering why we'd done this, and then other days when you're looking at a sunset with a herd of elephants by a river drinking a cold can of Hansa beer and thinking, "Wow, this is the best thing I've ever done in my life."

Kim:                             That is Simon Reeve. He's an Australian TV personality who lived in Africa, and he has a love affair with it. In fact, you know Simon, Phil.

Phil:                             I do. I've known Simon quite a while. I actually knew his father before that as well over in Perth.

Kim:                             He gave you speech lessons.

Phil:                             I can see where you're going here, Kim.

Kim:                             No, I didn't, there's nothing that you can mispronounce in this podcast at all. Let's hope if you haven't already been there, this episode of the podcast focusing on Botswana will help shoot it to the top of your travel list.

Phil:                             Yeah, it's a landlocked country in Southern Africa, and it has a landscaped defined by the Kalahari Desert and the Okavango Delta which becomes a lush animal habitat during the seasonal floods. In fact, it's home to the world's largest population of elephants.

Kim:                             Yup. In this episode, we'll hear more from Simon, obviously, and another Australian who fell in love with photographing the wild animals of Africa. There's Kelsey Timmerman a New York Times best-selling author and a champion of global thinking and local action. He's in the episode, and award-winning travel journo Heather Richardson. She'll tell us about the San Bushmen of Botswana. But, we kickoff with your quiz question.

Phil:                             Pretty simple one, what is the major export of Botswana?

Kim:                             Find out, the end of the episode.

Phil:                             Indeed.

Kim:                             When I was researching this chat, I came across an article from a few years ago, and it starts off with, "He may be a sought after TV star-

Phil:                             May be.

Kim:                             ... who appears on a slew of seven shows, but, despite his rising profile, Simon Reeve's heart is with Africa." We've got him on the line now to chat Botswana. Simon, you are indeed a TV star.

Simon Reeve:               Well, probably was I think, Kim. That might have been, that rising profile, that might have been quite a few years ago. Now, I'm just hanging on with my fingernails, but it's all good. But, yes, most definitely, Phil and Kim, my heart is still across the Indian Ocean.

Phil:                             Well, explain to us, how did you make that connection? How did you fall in love with Botswana?

Simon Reeve:               I fell in love with Africa first on a Beyond 2000 shoot which was back in 1990. I stepped off a plane in Harare when Qantas used to fly there. Believe it or not, Qantas had flights every weekend to Johannesburg and into Harare as well in Zimbabwe, the country's capital.

                                    I stepped off the plane there, and it was just like a rush. It was visceral. It was the smells, the feel, the magic of the place, people and the bush as well.

                                    I returned from that trip and said to my dearly, long-suffering partner, Linda, I said, "Look, you can come too, but I'm going to go and live there for a period at some point in my life." Look, she very courageously said, "Yep, we're in."

                                    It took us a while for everything to line up, but I'd met some wonderful South African folks on another show that I worked for called Wildlife which took me to Africa quite a lot. They moved their operation, their safari operation to Botswana.

                                    I was able to convince them that it might be a good idea to attach a small production company to their safari operation, and lo and behold, next thing you know it, we packed up, took our then 20-month-old daughter, Stella, with us, and in 1999, we set sail for Botswana.

                                    We lived in a small town called Maun, M-A-U-N, which services the Okavango Delta and everything to the north. It's the safari hub I guess where everyone flies into from Johannesburg or other places, and then off they go into the delta to have their Botswana experience.

                                    We were there for two, two and half years and, absolutely, loved it.

Kim:                             It was that palpable when you stepped off the plane that this place was talking to you somehow?

Simon Reeve:               It was, Kim, it really was. I think that if there's anyone listening who has been to Africa, to any parts of Africa, I think they'll relate to what I'm saying here. I still have it. It has not gone. It's gotten worse I think over the years.

                                    As I sit here today, I'm pining to go back and have another hit, because it has that effect on you. It's very difficult I guess to put it into words, but it's overwhelming. If you fall in love with Africa, it's hook, line, and sinker.

                                    We went very much with eyes wide open to have a life experience, and we got that. We made great friends in Botswana who remain life-long friends of ours. It had a very profound impact, and not all good.

                                    Somebody said to me, I guess going back a few years when it was probably more acceptable to say this, but a good Afrikaans friend of mine said, "Simon, Africa is not for sissies." He was kind of right.

                                    There were days when we were hugging each other in tears wondering why we'd done this, and then other days when you're looking at a sunset with a herd of elephants by a river drinking a cold can of Hansa beer and thinking, "Wow, this is the best thing I've ever done in my life."

                                    To lie in a tent on a hot night in the Okavango Delta in October or November and listen to a lion's call across a savanna and across the wetlands that for me if that was the last thing I heard, I would die very happy.

Kim:                             Well, you've been very positive about Botswana. But, you did also say earlier that your mate had said, "Africa is not for sissies," and you did have times where you'd be in each other's arms with tears. What sort of things prompted that?

Simon Reeve:               Look, this is probably the best example I can give really was when we arrived in Botswana, so we had done Kruger Park, actually, we'd done about three weeks in Kruger Park. We bought a vehicle, so we had our L-plates on big time, let me tell you.

                                    By the time we arrived in Maun, I guess we'd been five or six weeks on the ground in Johannesburg and South Africa generally. Because of the time of year, because of where we'd been, our daughter at 20-months old on our first night in Maun had this raging fever. The people we were staying with in the middle of the night, we said, "Okay, we'll just have to keep her as cool as we can. We've got the Panedols and the Nurofens and all the rest of it. But, tomorrow morning, what can we do?"

                                    They said, "All right, well, the chemist opens at 7:30," and the chemist is a fellow called Christo, a lovely Afrikaans fellow, and he saw, Christo saw the look in our eyes and said, "Look, come in."

                                    He was able to do immediately a malaria test on our little girl. We're pricking her finger doing the prick test, and, in fact, I think Linda was doing the prick test on me at the time, "Why have you brought us here?"

                                    We were able to find out very quickly that no, she didn't have malaria, because that was our biggest fear. Me thinking, "Oh my god, in the first few days, I'm going to kill my child," not a good start. Those were the days when you do, you're reduced to this quivering mess thinking, "What have I done to my family?" We're not near first world medical care.

                                    But, you had these amazing experiences with these amazing people. That chemist, for example, in Botswana is able to dispense medicine. He's able to make practical calls about people's illnesses.

Kim:                             Nice.

Phil:                             You talked about the ordinary people that you meet that really make the trip as well. But, you met a few famous people, some royalty, perhaps?

Simon Reeve:               Yes, in one of the little bars, and there are only three of them in Maun, but by that time, this is in 2001, Harry, Princes Harry and William, and especially William at the time was a little bit older, they had fallen head over heels for Botswana as well. In particular, Botswana, because it was the place they could go where there was no paparazzi. They were truly off the beaten track. People, the local folks there treated them with great respect.

                                    There I was at the bar, somebody leans over and whispers to me and says, "Oh, there's the prince standing next to you." Sure enough, it was Prince William in this tiny bar. What do you do? Do you go, "Ha-ha, I love what you're doing?" "Yeah, hey, great night, huh?" Or something equally inane, and he was very, very charming and said, "Yes, I love this place," or whatever, as I skulked off high-fiving everybody back in our [inaudible 00:09:55].

                                    They still go there, and, in fact, a good friend of ours, a lovely guy called Map Ives, who knows more about the ecosystem of the Okavango Delta than anyone alive, he was invited by Harry, in fact, Harry is the patron of one, of one of Map's charities and wonderful rhino organizations. Map got to go to Harry and Meghan's wedding recently.

                                    In fact, there was a small bunch who went from Botswana who have known William and Harry since those dark days. Because, soon after Diana was killed, they were, they did go to Africa to escape everything. As kids, I think they fell in love with it, and their passion for Botswana in particular, it still burns as much as mine today.

Kim:                             Bobby Jo Vial is an Australian zookeeper who has a passion for photographing wild animals in Africa. Now, this adventurous photographer has just finished a year camping her way across Africa.

                                    Bobby Jo, how did you come up with that idea?

Bobby Jo Vial:               Oh, look, I've always loved Africa right from a little kid from watching BBC documentaries. Always wanted to get to Africa and, actually, pursued a zoo keeping role, I still am currently a zookeeper at Taronga Western Plains in Dubbo. I just started going to Africa around 2004 with a love of photography as well.

                                    It's really become my life now. I started a safari company with one of my best mates a couple years ago called Duma Safaris, and we decided to make our passion our work. We put together this safari company, and we actually take people over on photographic safaris and teach them how to get the best shots.

                                    Because, so many of my safaris, I've seen people really struggling with photographing wildlife and coming home and being disappointed with what they photographed. I thought it was a really nice little niche to get into. People can come away with something they're really proud of and hang on their walls when they get home.

                                    Then, I decided to take a year off work. My employers were very supportive of me taking a year off and just staying over in Africa for a full 12 months and giving my business, my photographic safari business a red hot go. That's kind of how it happened.

Kim:                             But, you did it as a nomad, didn't you? You weren't staying in, like when Phil went to South Africa you were in some luxury resorts.

Phil:                             Yeah, but it was an open camp.

Kim:                             Yeah, yeah, true.

Phil:                             You were camping, right? You are in the food chain?

Bobby Jo Vial:               Yeah, when I ... I did do a bit of glamping as well. My accommodations were all over the place to be honest. I camped with basically a tent out in the bush, but then I also took part in what we would refer to as glamping. Which is the comforts of home inside your tent, but you're still in the bush and, also, the lodges. I didn't necessarily camp the whole 12 months. I did have a bit of comfort from time to time.

Kim:                             Were there any scares? Because, I'm following Sarah Davis who we've interviewed on a podcast before. She's paddling the length of the Nile currently, and she was camping on the side of the river, and they weren't allowed out of their tents, because there was a hippo that was wandering around. Have you had any scary moments like that?

Bobby Jo Vial:               Oh, loads, loads, I can't even ... Yeah, lists long. But, I guess, I'm never really too scared around wildlife. I work with wildlife for a living, so I really embrace it and really love to be, oh, I cherish those close wildlife encounters.

                                    But, I've been on foot with lions, tracking lions in Zimbabwe at a place called Mana Pools and, unfortunately, misjudged where those lions were, and one shot out right in front of me. You kind of go through scenarios of what will I do, fight or flight?

                                    I definitely just stood my ground. Ultimately, animals are scared of us. I mentioned to someone the other day that we are like a giant baboon standing upright, so we are quite scary, especially, if we are on foot. I just held my ground, and this lion backed off, and then I backed off.

                                    I guess with knowing a bit about wildlife behavior, I find the encounters, I cherish them. But, safety's obviously always first as well.

                                    I've had elephants pushing up against my tent. I've had hyenas smelling my head at nighttime.

Phil:                             Oh, no.

Bobby Jo Vial:               Yeah, I've had guests, I've taken guests away to a place, a really wild place called South Luangwa in Zambia. Unfortunately, they couldn't access their tent for almost 24 hours, because the elephant family decided to come in, and there was a tree next to their tent, and they just wanted to eat all the fruits off this tree. They were out of accommodation for a whole day. They couldn't get into the tent.

Kim:                             Well, speaking of elephants, Botswana which this podcast is about is home to the world's largest number of elephants. You took some amazing photos of elephants in a dust storm in Botswana, and you do some conservation work there?

Bobby Jo Vial:               Yeah, so Botswana's one of my favorite destinations to go to. The images you're referring to were taken in the Okavango Delta, a reserve next to there called Moremi. Yeah, we had a group of elephants all dust bathing.

                                    Dust bathing is really important for an elephant, because it acts like a suncream for their skin. It helps with deterring insects and parasites, and it's also fun. Animals love throwing mud and throwing dirt.

                                    One of the cool things to watch is when a young elephant starts learning how to dust bathe. They look ridiculous. They don't know what they're doing. They're just copying their mums and their aunties and just throwing sand everywhere. It's kind of instinctive behavior, but it's also they learn it. They learn the finesse of it by watching the adults.

                                    We did, my partner, my business partner and I who run Duma Safaris, we also have a elephant charity that we run called The Askari Project. Whilst we do support conservation efforts in Botswana, most of our funding is actually sent to Kenya to Tsavo National Park where the home of the last super-tuskers live.

                                    A tusker, a lot of people think that a tusker is just a bull elephant with tusks. A tusker is a very special elephant. It's a male elephant, an adult male elephant that's tusks weigh in excess of 45 kilograms each. They call them hundred-pounders.

                                    There are only nine left of them, well, nine left in all of Africa, super tuskers, and they live in Tsavo in Kenya. A lot of our conservation money and work goes to helping provide protection for them.

                                    But, we do also, we visit many places in Botswana and support conservation there as well. In particular, one of my favorite places in Botswana is an area called the Tuli Block, very, very pretty place, big pink granite rocks and lots of elephants.

                                    There's actually a really special photographic hide that we go to where we photograph the elephants at their feet. The elephants will come right up to us. We're in a big shipping container under the ground, and the elephants are no more than 10 centimeters from your face, their feet. You're photographing this really unique angle. Botswana's amazing.

Kim:                             Does it make you sad then, and, this year, I don't know whether you're aware, Phil, that there was a poaching frenzy of elephants in Botswana.

Phil:                             Yup, I read that.

Kim:                             I think there were 87 found dead. What's going on there? Have they not got control over the poachers?

Bobby Jo Vial:               Look, it's a very tough situation to make comment on. The Botswanan government in the past have been absolutely amazing at wildlife protection and conservation. Even as far as they're not allowing trophy hunting in Botswana, so elephants are fairly well protected there.

                                    I guess it's not right of me to make comments, because I'm not experienced with the current government of Botswana. There has been obviously a new president come over. I guess we see a lot of this hype on social media. It's spread through social media. I guess it's always best to get the real facts before we jump to conclusions about what's happening with [inaudible 00:17:54] elephants in Botswana.

                                    But, there's no denying it. There's elephants being killed, but I'm not really sure if that's from lack of anti-poaching efforts, or it's really a tough one to comment on. But, it's incredibly sad.

Phil:                             When you go over to Botswana, what do you most look forward to seeing?

Bobby Jo Vial:               Elephants, for sure, so I travel to Botswana into the Tuli Block purely for elephants, and there's also very good leopard there as well. One of my favorite species which is a really amazing species that not many people know about is the African wild dog. Botswana has a very good population of wild dogs up near the delta.

                                    I just recently spent two weeks with the Botswanan Predator Conservation Trust photographing their conservation efforts only just in August. A good friend of mine, Dr. Neil Jordan, he runs that project.

                                    Wild dogs, they're being persecuted. People look at them as just a feral dog that attacks their livestock. They're under a lot of threats at the moment. I believe they might even be classified almost critically endangered. They're an amazing animal. Yeah, Botswana has a nice little stronghold left of wild dogs.

Kim:                             How you going adjusting to life within four walls again?

Bobby Jo Vial:               Yeah, it's funny you should say that. This morning I was walking around, it's feeling just out of sorts. I have four beautiful dogs that I'm very dedicated to that my mom takes care of whilst I'm away. It's amazing to spend time with them.

                                    Yeah, it can be tough. I can't hear ... I actually did ... Because, I work at Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo. I live only maybe a couple of kilometers from the zoo on a property, and this morning when I went out to my backyard to feed my dogs, I could hear the lions roaring from the zoo, because we've got a nice little pride of lions now, and it just made smile, it was just like, "Ah, yes, I still can hear a bit of Africa."

Kim:                             Okay, Phil, Bobby Jo loves the sound of a lion roaring. Simon said earlier if that was the last sound he heard before he'd die, he'd die happy. Give us a lion roaring.

Phil:                             Okay, I've got one for you. Here you go.

Kim:                             It's awesome.

Phil:                             It's not bad actually.

Kim:                             What's travel news.

Phil:                             Okay, our American listeners are just coming out of the other side of another Thanksgiving Day travel nightmare. Why do we do it to ourselves? Snow has blanketed much of the Northeast from New Hampshire to Pennsylvania just as millions hit the road for the holiday. We hope you made it to wherever you were going, had a great time, and made it home again safely.

                                    Speaking of getting to where you hope to be going, Kim, have you ever been diverted to somewhere on the way?

Kim:                             Oh, yeah.

Phil:                             Was it a good experience?

Kim:                             I've only been diverted within Australia. It took all day for me to get to the place that I was going which would normally be a one-hour flight.

Phil:                             Okay, you're going to love this one. A planeload of passengers on an Air France flight from Paris to Shanghai, the plane had a mechanical problem, so they had an unexpected three-day layover in Irkutsk in Siberia.

Kim:                             Oh, what?

Phil:                             Problem was, 264 passengers and the crew of 18 shipped to the hotels in the city, but they weren't dressed for the weather. It's minus 15 degrees.

Kim:                             Oh, you'd have to just ... You'd have to turn that experience around into a good one.

Phil:                             Well, that's what I'm saying. Look, Air France has apologized, and they said they're going to compensate them. But, I reckon this is actually a bonus. This is a really great, unexpected way to travel.

Kim:                             Absolutely, a good story over dinner.

Phil:                             It kind of reminds me ... Was it Nico from Jubel Travel.

Kim:                             Yes.

Phil:                             That we spoke to, organized secret trips, but this is really taking to the next level, all right. But, Siberia, why not?

                                    Irkutsk is near the fabulous Lake Baikal. You could try some of the local delicacies like pirogi which are pies basically with an assortment of either sweet or meat fillings. What about this one, you said there were no pronunciation problems today, but here we go, goroshnitsa-

Kim:                             Well, look-

Phil:                             ... goroshnitsa.

Kim:                             ... you made it sound like you know what you're talking about.

Phil:                             Do you want the recipe?

Kim:                             Yeah.

Phil:                             In order to make goroshnitsa, you need fat from the red fish that swims in the Angara River, grind dried peas into flour, mix with boiling water, and keep in a water bath, cool the mass, cut it into rectangular plates, and pour the visceral fish fat over the-

Kim:                             Oh my goodness.

Phil:                             Okay, how about a lovely dish of bear paw.

Kim:                             Oh, you can't.

Phil:                             First, the bear paws are marinated, fried, and then stewed for a long time. Long time, there's your hint.

Kim:                             Aw, so there tough as boots [crosstalk 00:22:47].

Phil:                             This recipe said the dish must be eaten hot. It's usually served as an appetizer to vodka and not for the faint-hearted.

Kim:                             Yeah, reckon you'd need a bottle of vodka before you even attempted that.

Phil:                             But, sadly, for the Air France passengers, no one could leave the hotel, because they didn't have Russian visas.

                                    But, speaking of Siberia-

Kim:                             That's so cool.

Phil:                             ... a row has erupted amongst twitches, that's bird watchers over a statue erected in the Siberian town of Kikinda. The region is known for sightings of the rare, long-eared owl.

                                    The town's put up a statue of one of the owls. But, it's in that blocky, soviet-style. It looks phallic. Look, we're going to put up a photo in the show notes, but I've looked at ... In a certain light-

Kim:                             Really?

Phil:                             Yeah, it's not so much owl-y as phallic-y.

                                    Which brings me to this, Kim, and here goes our clean rating all right.

Kim:                             Okay, oh, well.

Phil:                             Another blogger's come up with a list of 50 towns with suggestive names or at least double entendre names. Blue Ball, Pennsylvania, Intercourse, Pennsylvania, Climax, Pennsylvania, and Reamstown, Pennsylvania. Come on Pennsylvania, what's going on?

Kim:                             That's, aw, seriously?

Phil:                             Okay, all right, there's another one, and I'm pretty sure it's pronounced Anus, but it's Anus in France. The very famous Austrian town where they keep losing all the signs, the directional signs in the town, because it's called Fucking. There's Middelfart in Denmark, Long Dong in China, Muff, Ireland, Bumpass, Virginia, North Carolina is getting in on Pennsylvania's territory here with Erect which is on the other side of the country from Utah's Nipple.

Kim:                             I live in Nipple.

Phil:                             If you go up to the far Northeast in Newfoundland, you can go have a look at Dildo.

Kim:                             You can't tell me, you can't tell me.

Phil:                             Okay, what about Big Beaver in Saskatchewan?

Kim:                             Oh, no.

Phil:                             The British have a Wetwang in Britain. Aw, snorting, sorry. Three Cocks in Wales, Pennsylvania's back on the list, here we go, Moreheadville.

Kim:                             Someone on that council is having a laugh.

Phil:                             There's Bigknockerstown somewhere in Britain, and, of course, the Australian Blowhard, we have a Blowhard. But, can I just tell you, my absolute favorite?

Kim:                             Mm-hmm (affirmative), yep.

Phil:                             All right, it's in Japan.

Kim:                             Right.

Phil:                             Gofŭku. I'm sure it's Gofūku or something, but it certainly looks like Gofŭku.

Kim:                             It would be.

Phil:                             There goes the clean rating.

Kim:                             Aw, gee, that was worth it.

Phil:                             Aw, I got to just say, as the author of Just Wanderlust, where I picked up that blog, the author says, "I can't believe there's a Blue Ball in Pennsylvania when Intercourse is just 15 minutes away."

Kim:                             I think you've, I think you-

Phil:                             That's it.

Kim:                             I'm going to give you a standing ovation. That's the-

Phil:                             Thank you.

Kim:                             ... best, the best travel news, yes.

Phil:                             Oh, dear, thank you very much.

Kim:                             Kelsey Timmerman is The New York Times best-selling author of Where Am I Wearing? Where Am I Eating? Kelsey what's your latest book?

Kelsey T.:                      Yeah, it's Where Am I Giving?

Kim:                             Let me guess, is this when we give a donation of $2, where is that two bucks going?

Kelsey T.:                      Partly, so I followed some common ways that we give. For instance, I gave through Keeva and, then, followed it back to meet the people who were lent the money in Cambodia. I hung out with World Vision in Zambia. That's definitely part of it. But, the way the book came about was through my travels.

                                    In my first book, I looked into the garment industry, and I hung out with individuals who work in garment factories or sweatshops. My second book, I went to Colombia to meet coffee farmers, and I met a slave in West Africa.

                                    You see this inequality and injustice that exists in the world, then how do you process this? What do you do? What do you do to make a difference?

                                    I set off on this quest to answer, how can you be a good global and local citizen? Is there some type of equation that we can sort out? I went to the most generous country on the planet which is Myanmar, despite having ongoing ethnic cleansing and longest running genocide.

                                    I went to Cambodia. I went to India where I met Gandhi's great-grandson, and beyond.

Phil:                             Just back up there about Myanmar, is that per head how much money they give away as a government, is that how you worked that out?

Kelsey T.:                      There's something called the World Giving Index. They measure three things. They measure, have you given money over the last 30 days when they're doing the survey. Have you helped a stranger, and have you volunteered in the last 30 days. When they add all of those, factor all those things in, Myanmar has been at the top of the last I think for the last three to four years.

Kim:                             This is your latest book, Where Am I Giving? The one that you talk about the clothing industry, Where Am I Wearing? One thing that I was a bit confused about, are you telling us, because you got an outfit, and you trace your T-shirt and your thongs and your shorts or whatever back to the country of origin, and you meet the people that make it. Can you tell us more about that? Are you saying to us that we shouldn't be buying clothes made in Bangladesh, or are you saying to us, we should, so we support that economy?

Kelsey T.:                      Yeah, so I'll back up, and how it originally started was I love to travel, and you can go anywhere in the world and have adventures and meet people I found interesting. I just as this random act of travel, I decided to go wherever my T-shirt was made. It was made in Honduras, so I showed up there and had adventures and decided I should at least go to the factory.

                                    There outside that factory I met a guy who was my same age, at the time I was 25 years old. His name was Amilcar. Our lives were vastly different. The opportunities and privileges that had presented themselves to us were different. I think it's the first time I started to examine the privileges and opportunities of my own life.

                                    What I set out to do after meeting him was just to tell the story that is truest to the lives of the workers. Some of the workers, if you ask them, say, like in Cambodia, "Well, people in Australia and the United States think that we shouldn't buy the blue jeans that you make, because you're not paid well enough. You're not treated right." One of the young women was like, "Well, then I wouldn't have a job."

                                    That's partly right. When the global economic recession hit, millions of garment workers around the world lost their jobs. I'm not taking a stance one way or the other. I think it is much more complex than we're comfortable with it being.

Kim:                             You're basically putting a human face on globalization.

Kelsey T.:                      Exactly.

Kim:                             Isn't there such thing though as ethical trade where you should be paying a minimum amount of money an hour?

Kelsey T.:                      Yeah. There's been a lot of improvements too. There was, one of the worst disasters in history in the garment industry, and in industry period, was a factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2013, I believe, killing more than 1100 people.

                                    Since then, I think that was a real slap in the face to the industry. Definitely, in Bangladesh, the building codes have been worked on, and factories have been inspected, and that has improved.

                                    Also, there's a whole movement of fair trade clothing that didn't exist just six, seven years ago.

Kim:                             It still does my head in that they can pay somebody $10 to make a T-shirt but sell it for $120. That's a huge profit margin for that company, isn't it?

Kelsey T.:                      Yeah, it's like that in food too. When it comes to what a banana farmer in Costa Rica gets for lugging that banana on his back to the processing station, he gets like 1% of the price of that banana. Yeah, it's ...

                                    There is a lot of inequality and injustice in our world. I think that we all need to be aware of that inequality and injustice, and I think that we can see that we're connected with these individuals around the world, and we have some ... I think we should accept some responsibility that we can make an impact. The next question is, how are we going to act.

Phil:                             Yeah, exactly.

Kim:                             Well-

Phil:                             What do we do?

Kelsey T.:                      Yeah, so I think part of our job is being a responsible consumer. But, like I said, we're not going to shop our way to a better world.

                                    I think we have to look at our lives as global and local citizens and look at that balance. That's the whole point of Where Am I Giving? is trying to figure this out. One way is as donors. I've seen the footprint that you all have made in empowering travelers to give to the destinations that they have been to in line with the sustainable development goals by the U.N., I think that's fantastic.

                                    I think travel's a great way to become aware. Even our travel dollars themselves as we are traveling can be spent on with local groups and local businesses, and I think that can make a real difference.

Kim:                             Now, that was a really long chat with Kelsey that we had originally about his global tour of where he was wearing, eating, and giving. But, obviously, we only have so much time. We're going to offer a transcript of the full chat with all the stories of the people that he met in show notes, because it was super fascinating.

Phil:                             Well, worth the read and just fascinating stuff.

Kim:                             Heather Richardson is a full-time, freelance journalist. She's a writer and editor, award-winning, by the way. She's interested in conservation stories, emerging destinations, responsible luxury, areas of wilderness, inspiring people and cultures, and wildlife. She's written for us or is writing for us on Botswana. Welcome to the podcast.

Heather R.:                   Thank you.

Kim:                             Tell me about the San Bushmen.

Heather R.:                   The San Bushmen traditionally lived all over Southern Africa, and because of colonialism and various other factors, they've essentially been pushed into Botswana now, and that's really the only place you'll find them, and some in Namibia too. But, the beauty of going somewhere like Botswana is that you can actually still learn a bit about how they used to live.

                                    This is an ancient culture. They've been around for I think longer than most people in the world. They still keep their practices going today.

                                    They know the land better than anyone else. They are so in tune with everything. They've lived off the land. They're hunter-gatherers. It's going on a walk with them which you can do in Botswana in the Makgadigkadi Pans which is the salt flats in Botswana, just reveals just a tiny, little bit of what they know which is thousands and thousands of years worth of knowledge that they've gathered there.

                                    They're a really interesting community. Unfortunately, it is a dying culture just because of globalization, and young Bushmen wanting to go into cities and get formal education, which is good in many ways, but it does mean that the culture is dying out. The tourism interactions you get can be actually a good way of them sustaining that culture.

Phil:                             What's so special about their way of life then?

Heather R.:                   It's just very in tune with the environment. For example, when we were walking with them, they showed us how you can find water from a root. What I really liked about it is they didn't just dig up the root, squeeze out the water, and discard the root. They reburied it again, so they'd be able to re-access it on another walk.

                                    It's just a very, I think a very delicate way of dealing with the environment. It can teach us a lot I think as well about sustainability and about working with the environment and having humans and nature complement each other.

Kim:                             Did you take part in a trance-dance on this walk, or is that a separate experience you had in Botswana?

Heather R.:                   That was in the same trip. I didn't take part in it. We just witnessed it. We were ... They do them quite regularly I think. We were there, just happened to be on the right night. Essentially, it's just, they have a healer who's part of the group. They do lots of stomping and dancing around the fire, and that he eventually goes into a trance, and then he heals everyone, puts his hand on people, and treats them.

                                    It's a very ancient practice that they've done for years and years. They can go literally all night, and then do a 20-K walk afterwards as well. They're quite an incredible people in that way.

                                    The where I was in the Makgadigkadi, they have a good relationship with the camp I was staying at, because the owner was brought up with them. He's white. He's western, but he was brought up on the Pans and brought up with them, so speaks their language, and that's why you have access there to those kind of experiences.

Phil:                             Just paint a bit of a picture for me. What is the environment that they're in? What is it like, it's very dry?

Heather R.:                   Yeah, very. The Makgadigkadi, it used to be a lake the size of Switzerland, and it's since millions of years ago dried up. It's now these huge salt flats. It's just, it is a really epic environment actually.

                                    One of the things that you can do is you can go quad biking across them which takes you out to just experience the vastness of it. It's really barren. But, the great thing about being there is you realize that even though it seems like it should be such a harsh inhospitable environment, it's actually not.

                                    There are lots of animals who exist there, and they have them ... The Kalahari which is the bigger environment within, has a boom and bust system. They have nine years of dry weather and nine year of wet weather, and the kind of wildlife ebbs and flows with that.

                                    When we were there, we were catching a bit of a boom system. We had elephants walking past our tent. We saw lionesses fighting. Some male lions, watching big herds of zebra. Since then, I think maybe they've even seen some leopards, and wild dogs.

                                    It's amazing, because I don't think anyone thinks that you'd find that kind of wildlife in an environment like that. But, it's just an incredible place where wildlife adapts.

Phil:                             I've done some game jobs. I've done a little bit of safari myself. It is pretty amazing. But, there must be more to Africa that attracts you so much. Other people we've spoken to for this episode as well. You either love or you hate Africa, and a lot of people love it. What else is it that really gets you?

Heather R.:                   Right. It's not just safari that you can do here. Just as an example, I was recently in Rwanda. I was in Kigali which is the capital. That was a mind-blowingly amazing city because of the way the city has developed.

                                    Obviously, in 1994, they had the genocide in Rwanda. A million people killed over a hundred days. To see the way the country has bounced back and now operates, it's really inspiring.

                                    There's so much to learn. For one thing, it's probably the cleanest country in the whole of Africa. It has to be up there in the cleanest cities in the world. It was just crazy clean.

                                    One of the reasons is they banned plastic bags. There's less of that rubbish around. But, they also have a monthly day, I think it's the last Sunday of every month, when the whole country comes together to clean up and take part in community activities, for instance, like building new roads or something like that. It's just really ...

                                    You can't really think of it working anywhere else. But, obviously, it could, and it just shows what sort of different approach to leadership can achieve. There's those kind of things as well, where you see countries recovering from a tragedy, and how they've done that. That's fascinating too.

Kim:                             You keep traveling and creating amazing, award-winning content, and thank you so much for chatting to us. We'll share your website in our show notes.

Heather R.:                   Thank you.

Phil:                             That brings us to the end of our episode on Botswana except for, let me wrap it up with the answer to the quiz question. What's the major export of Botswana? It's diamonds. 1966, before independence, it was one of the poorest countries in Africa. A year after they gained independence, they discovered this massive diamond mine. Now they're absolutely shoveling them out of this mine. Now-

Kim:                             Isn't that controversial though?

Phil:                             .... they're one of the richest countries in Africa now. Well, blood diamonds all those that get smuggled out of the country. But, I think they've done a fair bit to make it a legit industry now.

                                    Other fact for you, Prince Harry you were talking about with Simon-

Kim:                             Yup.

Phil:                             ... in the podcast. His engagement ring with Meghan Markle had three diamonds on it. Two of the diamonds were from his mother, from Diana and the third diamond was from Botswana.

Kim:                             Good way to wrap up, I reckon.

                                    You can get in touch with us by emailing You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. You can download the Google Podcast app or ask Alexa and Google Home to play the World Nomads Podcast.

                                    Now, Phil, what's next week?

Phil:                             Next week, no more dirty place names.

Kim:                             Oh, damn.

Phil:                             We'll keep it clean next week, I'm sorry. But, we are going to have a bit of fun. We talk to a couple who have had the world's worst honeymoon.

Kim:                             See you then.

Phil:                             Bye.

Close:                           The World Nomads Podcast, explore your boundaries.


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