It’s a daunting task stepping into the shoes of your mentor. For 28 years this letter has been written by the same extraordinary woman. A woman who, over the past 7 years, has taught me about the importance of living your truth. Not saying or writing one thing and existing another. Of being truly in love with life and with the world around you. They say that people with fresh eyes see things differently, sometimes more clearly… How then does Rièth to this day make everything she sees, hears and experiences seem like she’s living the moment for the very first time? There is no old news for her. No ‘been there, done that’. Every visit to any destination, though she has been there many times, seems like the very first. Every tree and bird and rhino and person seem new and exciting and undiscovered. Time and again she has shown me what true lust for life looks like. For adventures and for people. Sometimes it seems that she has met every person who comes across our path on our travels, or if not them she has met their mother. “Who are your people?”, she is prone to ask. And then more times than not she knows some of that person’s relatives. Remembers them from somewhere, somehow, many years ago. I may be three decades her junior, but Rièth teaches me on a daily basis how to be excited about the past, the future, and every second in between. When she or I are not out on an adventure, we’re in the office with our wonderfully inspiring team planning the next story to tell. And though I will be attempting to fill her shoes (mine leaning more toward vellies and sneakers than her ever-present heels) she will always remain our compass. This issue is dedicated to Rièth, Travel News Namibia’s Editor in Chief for the last almost three decades. You are everything we hope to be one day.
This last year has been a tough one. We’ve had to buckle down the hatches and make real survival plans. Resilience became the newest buzzword. COVID came at a time when the tourism industry in Namibia started to lose its shine for me, if I’m being quite honest. It was a scary notion for me to imagine operating a business in an industry that I had lost faith in. The size and scale and scope of the industry and some of its players was starting to rub me the wrong way. We were starting to lose focus of what makes Namibia one of the top global destinations. We were starting to chase dollar signs at the expense of what makes us unique. We were starting to lose our purpose. And then everything stopped for a beat. The beat became two and we had this wonderful opportunity to take a step back and reassess what is truly important. In life and work and relationships. In our relationships with each other as an industry and our relationship with our country itself. With nature and the way we were treating it. Treading not so lightly, extraneous hustling for that bigger Euro or US dollar tip.
I travelled a lot in 2020. Despite all odds. I was able to visit our clients and tourism friends all across the country and my misgivings were echoed by many of them. My travels gave me a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with what I now think of as honest travel. I rediscovered why travel matters. Why stories matter. People’s stories. Destination stories. Nature stories.
That’s what we will be attempting to do this year. Share stories that matter. You’ll find this issue, our first since COVID hit, to be filled with stories of purpose and hope. One of the most important in Namibia being the stories of communities who live alongside nature. Beguiling tales of fairies in the desert. The not to be overlooked north-eastern wetlands. The adventurous coast. And a list of lodges that we found to have retained the true purpose of Namibian tourism, and that know that what we do, say and how we act matters and that we should always be conscious of that.
I hope that you will find value in what we share. I hope that you will look, as Rièth does, with shimmering eyes at the beautiful natural world around you. And most of all I hope that we can welcome you to our spectacular country soon. There are so many stories waiting for you.
With love from Namibia,