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O.A.T.: Our Story

Growing the Business … and our Family

Harriet with Edward and Charlotte during a family trip to Costa Rica.

As we grew our new business, our young family was also growing, and we’re so grateful that we were able to bring our children, Edward and Charlotte, along for the ride. One of our first “soft adventure” trips as a family was to Costa Rica. We drove all over the place in a 4x4, and have so many stories from that trip … we explored the rain forest … hiked on the rim of a volcano ...and got close to the local birds and wildlife—particularly the howler monkey, which made a big impression on Alan:

We could hear the howler monkeys in the trees from the safety of our 4x4—which I had no intention of leaving. The kids, however, had other plans for me. They kept yelling at me: “Get out! Take pictures!” So I dutifully obliged … and the monkeys immediately started throwing sticks at me. I jumped back in and slammed the door while my new friends banged mercilessly on the roof.

We all had a good laugh over that one.

In fact, encounters with local wildlife come up quite often when we reminisce over our family adventures around the world. Harriet remembers certain moments like they happened yesterday:

Among Alan and Harriet’s favorite memories of Botswana: An unexpected—and exhilarating—encounter with an elephant at their lodge.

During our family trip to Botswana in August 1998, we had just had dinner and were walking to our lodge when I suddenly froze and said to Alan, “What’s that noise? I think it’s an elephant,” I told him. “No,” he said, “it is not an elephant.” I could still hear it, though—and it sounded heavy. Then I looked around and I said, “Oh, really?” I could’ve thrown a stone at the elephant—and I can’t throw a stone far. He was walking along, just pulling up trees like they were nothing. We were right by the kids’ tent and we went up on the porch to watch him. Suddenly, this huge trunk came toward us, like a big serpent. It got so close … so we decided it was time to go inside. He lost interest then, and continued on his way, walking through the campsite and pulling up trees.

Moments like that just happen in Africa. It is truly wild! But it’s the moments shared with local people, making connections that may only last a moment but stay with you for a lifetime, that are the real rewards of travel. The following story is one of our family’s favorites, and perhaps you’ve heard it before, but as long as we’re talking about Africa, we’d like to share it anyway …

The Lewis family serenaded their local guides with an off-key version of the “Star-Spangled Banner” while sitting around a campfire like this one.

“The Star-Spangled Banner” is not an easy song to sing. But as we sat around the fire on a deep, dark African night, the sound of our family’s voices (which perhaps fell short of actual “singing”) gave us goose bumps. Our guides had just sung their national anthem for us in their native dialect, and they asked us to share our own. Surrounded by the vast wilderness, it was quiet except for our voices and the distant sounds of animals. Our guides loved it, and hummed along as we sang of the “the land of the free.” We remember feeling so proud to be there, sharing our love for our country while we were thousands of miles away.

To be in Africa is to realize a love for the earth—to look around you, to see elephants being elephants and wildebeest being wildebeest, and think, this used to be the world. The people who live here have such enormous respect for the purity of their environment—and they’ll show it to you with such passion, such pride.

Moments like these are why we do what we do, and inspire us to keep getting better at it.

O.A.T.: Our Story
In the Beginning: Making Adventure our Business
Our Philosophy: Change is Good
» Growing the Business … and our Family
The Fundamentals: Small Groups, Small Ships
The Next Chapter: More Choices, Better Value
The Story Continues: O.A.T. and YOU ...

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