4 days. In 4 days I will board a plane out of scorching (ok, the heat hasn’t been unbearable yet, it’s for effect) Phoenix, my home for the past 7 years, on my first trip off the continent. I’m headed to South Africa, to the motherland, for the World Cup – and my first professional soccer game. You see, I don’t like to do anything small – go big or go home I suppose. So when my boyfriend Dave mentioned upon the early stages of our relationship that he would be traveling to South Africa for the World Cup, he asked, “So would you like to come?” Little did he probably assume at the time that I would say YES enthusiastically, but I did! You see, Dave has had this trip planned since the last World Cup in Germany – he’s got soccer in his blood. I, on the other hand, played soccer for 1 year in high school and probably made the team by default because they didn’t have enough players. I can’t help remembering that 1 goal that I made the entire season (again, a fluke) and the rush of adrenaline and excitement that followed.

“Soccer” in the US still seems relatively new to the mainstream professional sport arena. Most kids growing up want to be an NBA star like Michael, Shaq, Larry or Kobe, or an NFL legend like Vince, Brett, Barry or Peyton – not necessarily a football (the REAL name for soccer) great like David, Landon, Oguchi or Jose. I think one of the most exciting aspects of this trip to the World Cup for me will be witnessing the passion and wholeheartedness that stems from the countless other countries where football is king. Soccer (football) is named “The Beautiful Game” and it sure will be; unifying cultural differences and bringing together 32 countries for one ultimate competition and showmanship of the greatest skill each country has to offer.

I also can’t deny that I am eagerly looking forward to visiting Kruger National Park – home to the Big 5 – Lion, Elephant, Buffalo, Leopard and Rhino. Not to forget Giraffe, Hippo, Wildebeest, Bush Baby, Hyeena, Warthog, etc… I cannot wait to fall asleep to the sounds of the animals and I’m nervous but excited for the “Bush Walk,” walking with armed rangers out beyond the safety of the camp and vehicle, just us and the animals. Hopefully they’ve already had their breakfast…

Great White Shark diving. Yes, we are doing it. Cage diving that is (any better? not sure yet). So we take a boat out off the coast of Gansbaai, South Africa, slap on a wetsuit and get into a steel cage on the edge of the boat. From there, we hang out and check out these beautiful, deadly creatures. Bring it on!

Cape Town and Stellenbosch (Wine Country) are shaping up to be an incredible experience all their own. I think 3 days there won’t be enough to see all that we want to, but we are planning on visiting Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela spent most of his 27 years in prison) the V&A Waterfront, Table Mountain, Cape of Good Hope (time permitting), a game and anything else we can squeeze in.

This just scratches the surface – we’re also heading to the beautiful coastal city of Port Elizabeth and hopefully visiting a rehabilitation center where, yes, we can interact with lion cubs (insert screech of joy), Durban, the 3rd largest city in Africa and on the coast as well and Johannesburg and Soweto.

So in almost exactly 96 hours, I will be leaving Phoenix on my way to LA, hopping on over to Dubai for a 7 hour layover, then finally on to Johannesburg.

I could go on forever but I think I’ll leave this post with this quote:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

More to come soon…

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