How Irma Tested and Altered My Perspective – Sharleen Smith
Last week we had the pleasure of introducing Sharleen, who recently joined us at African Portfolio. She not only had to grapple with new systems, procedures and colleagues these past few weeks, but she also had to weather Hurricane Irma. With her internet finally re-connected a few days ago, she shares her reflections …
Having just gone through hurricane Irma, and I know so many people were affected by Hurricane Harvey, I have come up with a new way to test if I need something. I call it hurricane testing. Pretty simple really – If you have to evacuate for a hurricane (or any other disaster for that matter) what are the things you are packing in your car (or bag pack – depending on how much time you have). My husband and I are big DIY, which is great if it didn’t mean that we have 10 – 20 projects going at any given time. And many of our projects are in our yard or garage.
With notice that Hurricane Irma was bearing down on us we realized we had many things to secure before she showed us her teeth. Most people can do their prep and evacuation within about 3 – 8 hours. It took us 3 days and we pretty much only stopped running 3 hours before the storm was to hit. Irma was my first serious hurricane in the 10 years I have been in Florida. Among other things, it made me realize we have way too much “stuff”. The interesting thing though is that I was actually not really worried about it. I was mainly running because I did not want anything to be a possible projectile that could hurt one of my neighbors.We watched the storm closely (as one does) and it gradually moved closer and closer to our coast with predictions it was going to hit about 3 miles East of us. Now if you don’t know the ins and out of hurricanes the most important thing to know is that the brunt of the storm is on the North Eastern corner of the storm where the highest winds are and where most tornados form. We had picked out our safe room, and knew what to grab should our ears start popping and we heard the “freight train” heading for us. Not to be overly dramatic but it did cross my mind that I would be lucky if we made it with just our lives never mind photos or important documents. Of course as we know the stress was all for naught and she “wobbled” onto land in Naples before heading up to the peninsula. Irma sidelined us and we ended up having minimal damage.But it was certainly not all for naught for me. I realized that as long as we made it through with ourselves intact we would be just fine. It made me consider, even more strongly than I previously did, the importance of travel. I have been traveling for the past 20 years to a number of places around the world and hit almost every continent. It is these memories of the incredible places I have seen that I hold more dear than my possessions.Probably the best trip was my family trip to South Africa. I have a now 15 year old stepson and a 2 year old daughter. A little more than 6 years ago I took my husband and son to South Africa to show them where I grew up as well as a short safari. It is amazing how this trip impacted my sons life and the lifelong memories we made. Even though he was “too young” at 11 to do a safari he still talks about it like it was yesterday. Looking around my house I realized that nothing mattered except my memories.It makes me so happy to know that we are headed back to Africa in November as a family. Yes, I know a safari with a 2 year old is going to be challenging, but seeing the impact and education it gave my son, I will never hold back taking her places around the world she is “too young for”. Travel is not about where you go or how you do it but it is about the experiences you bring back with you.I am so privileged to work in a field where experiences trump all else. And I believe that is how we at African Portfolio make such a difference. Sure any one of us can put an African trip together for you in our sleep, just send you to a couple of iconic places and call it is safari. But the passion we have for each area is something that stands out. We take into account the things you want to experience and try and give you things you did not even know you wanted to experience. Our sole aim is to offer trips that help fashion memories to last a lifetime. Memories that continue far beyond the trip as you continue to reflect on the special times you had together.