Morris Kiruga looks back fondly on his school trips, even if he didn’t get to win the girls. But will travel ever be so unfettered again?
Here’s some free advice no one ever gave me. Not all trips are equal. Let me explain. Like most Kenyans, most of my early travel experiences were school related. I somehow went through all eight years of primary school with not one trip though. The fun began in high school. My first school trip was a drama festival event. I couldn’t wait. So the crisp white shirt was folded and shoes polished days before the trip. I wasn’t playing any role beyond coming along for the ride, so I was sure I would have free time to talk to girls and, urm, make more friends.
I was wrong.
Here’s what I learnt that day, and never forgot. On every trip, one kid from Form One is always brought along as an unwitting joyrider. Only when you get there do you find out you have the most important role of all: watching everyone else’s stuff as they go to their events and walk around, sneaking kisses and getting school addresses. Essentially, he becomes the Guardian of the Heap.
In my case, it was a mountain of shoes and costumes. I had to sit and watch this heap the entire day, and as people finished their events and added to it, it got smellier and smellier. Not exactly the way to attract the opposite sex. Definitely not the way I had envisioned my first school trip.
I paid my dues but it was the most boring day of my life.
But things got easier. A perk of being the school journalist meant travelling for everything. Sports? Check! Prefects trip? Check! Some random club’s trip? Check! I even went for one Maths symposium trip when my grades in that subject were below C-level. Like way below.
Travel then was mostly an escape from the monotony of a boys-only high school. Some trips were the right kind of chaos, like the time we had so much fun we almost missed the bus and had to chase after it. Others were absolutely boring, the only good thing about them being that we just weren’t in school. Every time, like clockwork, Pilot (as we called our bus driver) would be on duty and focused. Then he would disappear for ages at a time when he wasn’t needed, and bring me back a loaf of bread and random stories about his previous life as a long-distance lorry driver. I was in awe of how he seemed to know the directions to nearly every corner of the country.
Many a Kenyan student went on such trips, which became the biggest reason for joining any extra-curricular activity. Organising a trip was a joy by itself. The absolute win, though, was having your name on the list. Early in my school life, I heard legends of people who sneaked into the bus before daybreak. They would hide there until everyone else boarded and the bus left. There must have been some truth to them because teachers begun doing a pre-boarding check inside the bus, especially under the seats.
In campus, I joined the global, student-run body AIESEC by a fluke (read, because of a girl) and began another run at whirlwind trips. Only this time it was conferences and official work followed closely by absolute chaos. On one trip to Lake Nakuru National Park, someone bravely decided he would restock the party by walking to the nearest shopping centre. We heard him, but we didn’t really listen. Until he came back slightly bruised and in shock, having received unwarranted attention from a lone buffalo. When we were done laughing at his brush with death, we found another way to restock. There was a recklessness to all of it that I can never quite replicate.
Organising trips became harder, funnily enough, once we grew up and got money. There are now schedules to match, cars to hire, and hotels to book. There are adult things to do even when it’s for a holiday or just a quick getaway. Thinking about this the other day, it hit me that school-level travel experiences might be the only truly visceral travel experiences some might ever have. And that’s sad. Travel as a tax-paying adult shouldn’t just be for fun, it should be mandatory.
Morris Kiruga blogs about travel, culture and more at owaahh.com