I know we are meant to take this “up close” theme literally, but you know me.
To me, this photo exemplifies everything that is great about travel: the idea that you can reach out and confront, and sometimes actually touch, the things you had only read about, or imagined. The world somehow becomes simultaneously a little less and infinitely more mysterious – the more up-close you get to it.
In South Africa, we had the chance to visit an Elephant Sanctuary near Kruger Park. Going on safari is the ultimate in an up-close experience, but at the sanctuary we could actually witness firsthand the relationship between a rescued elephant and her keeper. After an introduction, we were allowed to greet the elephants ourselves. It remains one of the most profound and wonderful memories of my life.
Afterwards, we were given the opportunity to donate to the sanctuary. I donated on behalf of Petal, Kallie, Bette, and Dulary – the four elephants I had grown up visiting and viewing from afar at the Philadelphia Zoo. At the time, those elephants were part of a nationwide debate on the ethics of keeping elephants in zoos. Since then, Dulary was moved to the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, and Bette and Kallie were moved to Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Unfortunately, Petal died in Philadelphia in 2008, underscoring the urgent need to care for elephants both abroad in the wild and in captivity here at home.