I’m an extroverted introvert who travelled with strangers for a month. Here’s how that went.

written by Emma Cartwright June 4, 2024

My partner convinced me to go on a 30-day overland adventure with total strangers for our honeymoon. If like me you’re an extroverted introvert, here’s what you need to know.

I was sitting around a campfire in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, toasting marshmallows with a group of 15 people, when suddenly, there was a blood-curdling shriek from behind a nearby bush. We were all silent, panic etched on our faces.  

There was no one in this area except for our group. No electricity or facilities, just us, the guides and our tents. We had set up a small ‘toilet’ at the back of the camp (basically a hastily dug-out hole behind a few strategically placed bushes), and that’s where the scream came from.  

Suddenly, a girl from our group comes diving through said bushes, gasping for breath, closely pursued by her husband. She tries to explain that just as she was about to do her business, a huge crocodile had come out from behind her. The crocodile turned out to be a small monitor lizard (cue all our hysterics).  

At that moment, I was grateful to share this moment with such a big group of people, which isn’t something I thought I’d say two weeks ago when we joined this 30-day overland trip. 

For some context, I need to rewind and tell you a little bit about the aftermath of my wedding.  

Travelling around the continent of Africa has been a dream of mine. Throw in camping and I’m not 100 per cent sold, but sure. Add strangers to the mix? It’s a definite no from me. That is until I found myself agreeing to do just that – for my honeymoon.  

My husband, Murray, and I didn’t want to spend years planning and saving for our big day, so we planned a whirlwind wedding in half a year. During this time, we also quit our jobs and planned a six-month-long backpacking trip around sub-Saharan Africa. We left for Madagascar just three days after saying I do. 

We planned the first two months of our trip and left the rest open to spontaneity. To add to the adventure, we each planned 30 days of the two months of travel. I went first. Naturally, I made it complicated: public buses, 200-mile-long boat trips, hitchhiking, the works.  

Murray is more of a ‘work smart, not hard’ person, so for his month, we’d be doing a group trip. Murray told me he wanted to see a lot of places in Southern Africa, going through Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.  

For this, he had the perfect solution: a 30-day overland trip with Intrepid, a responsible travel company with a clear purpose of giving back to local people. Amazing, I was sold and thought no more about it. However, I hadn’t quite comprehended what this meant. 

We finished the month on our own in Madagascar, and it was time to join the group trip. For the next 30 days, we would travel with 15 adventure-loving, fun and friendly individuals from Cape Town to Johannesburg via Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. That’s when the reality of what I had agreed to dawned on me.  

I have done group trips before, but they’ve been short – a week or less, maybe. This was completely different. I’d be travelling with a new group of people for 30 days. For an extroverted introvert, that wasn’t going to be easy. 

I adore my friends and family, but after an evening at dinner with them, I’m ready for some more me time… for about a week or so. I’m also the type of person who will absolutely dread a work event for weeks, but once I’m there, I’ll be the life and soul of the party. Of course, I’ll then say I had a terrible time and start dreading the next one. It’s complicated. 

We arrived in Cape Town, travel-weary and looking haggard. Just my luck, we immediately bumped into our Intrepid leader, MJ. Of course, he’s delightful and excited to meet some members of his new group. He’s chatty, friendly, bubbly and keen to stop and talk before we get to our room. I like him, but my trepidation grows. I’m convinced his boundless enthusiasm will start to grate on me. 

Later that evening, we joined the welcome meeting. I sit beside Murray, keeping to myself.  

MJ says he wants everyone to muck in on this trip. We’ll be a jolly team of happy campers, with everyone taking their turn to do the dishes, clean out the van, put up the tents, cook the food and generally get stuck in. I’m happy to pitch in, but I’m worried about how there’s little room for me time when you’re working alongside one another most of the time.   

Then came the introductions. I was right to have my suspicions. Everyone is super interesting and eager to chat with each other and make friends. We have an Indigenous human rights lawyer from Australia, a newly single 65-year-old paramedic from rural Canada, a Dutch cruise ship builder, someone who’s just returned from a wild camping adventure in Mauritania, a newly graduated diplomat planning her trip to the Congo and the list went on. 

It’s safe to say our group was a dream, and truth be told, I didn’t need half as much me-time as I thought. I was far too busy listening to stories about Mauritanian road trips and learning how to build cruise ships. Plus, I was able to use long bus trips across dusty savannas between destinations to rest my eyes and recharge my social batteries. 

One month of group camping in Africa can bring out the worst in people. Being around people all day was as much a test of my character as the rugged overland travel lifestyle. 

We had long days and early starts. I don’t think I’ve ever seen 4 am as frequently as I did on this trip. There were challenging physical activities (like hiking up enormous sand dunes, the difficulty of which cannot be adequately described until you’ve done it yourself). 

We also had arguments. There weren’t any all-out bust-ups, but there were times when people got tired of each other and wanted their space, too. It turns out some people can be pretty petulant about needing to put a tent up and down each day. 

It can also bring out the best in people. You learn to get on with different people you might not have met otherwise. You look after each other and make sure everyone feels included and is enjoying themselves. For example, some days, I really didn’t want to talk to anybody and needed to clear my head.  

Everyone was very understanding, which I appreciated because it made me feel comfortable taking time out for myself. I would go for a walk around the campsite, write in my travel diary or read a book. Knowing I could step away when feeling overwhelmed helped me enjoy the trip more.  

Overlanding teaches you tolerance and endurance – you need to be ready to get up and go every day, and you never know what will be thrown at you.  

The payoff is worth it. There is nothing quite like spotting your first elephant in the African bushlands or the feeling of whitewater rafting down the Zambezi and immersing yourself entirely in the ruggedness of Etosha National Park.  

The best bit about it is that I have someone besides Murray to share those moments with, and they aren’t just people I knew for a week and then lost contact with. They’re now friends, who we even meet up with in other parts of the world on other travels. We visited the Dutch cruise ship builder and his wife in the Netherlands and will be visiting Canada soon to spend time with the paramedic.  

We never run out of things to talk about, whether it be reminiscing over canoeing down the Okavango Delta, meeting an incredible tribe of San people in Namibia, swimming in Victoria Falls, wild camping in the bush with crocodiles (or lizards) and hippos or any of the other things I won’t be able to explain to anyone else. 

Find your adventure crew on an overland journey with Intrepid.

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