There was once a great moment where Jerry Seinfeld told Trevor Noah precisely why he wouldn’t want to travel to South Africa, Noah’s home country, to go on safari.
"So these elephants in the wild ... how similar are they to the other elephants I go to see? They're the same. Exactly the same." The comedians are chatting as part of Seinfeld's web series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.
I found myself rehashing this argument to a friend, shortly after accepting a safari trip to Kenya for an upcoming travel feature. Unlike Jerry, I was interested enough to go and see the animals for myself. But deep down, I really doubted my ability to be wowed. I was in Seinfeld’s camp.
“Dude, safari is like on the top five bucket-list for pretty much everyone,” said friend, desperate to convince me that I would have a good time. “Surely you’d rather go to the elephants than have the elephants come to you?”
Here the friend made a comparison he hoped I might relate to.
Rather than going to see a favourite band perform at a large stadium, with thousands of other people, I was being invited to watch the band jam in their sweaty hometown rehearsal room, so to speak. Wouldn’t that be way better, he asked?
Perhaps only partly. If you straw-polled the next 20,000-strong audience out of du Arena, I reckon you’d find the larger half happier with the idea of driving down the road to watch a polished performance, than flying to London or Los Angeles to camp out hopefully at a sweaty studio and see what happens.
But I got the point. For some fans such an experience would be priceless. It’s all a question of priorities, I guess – if I really loved the animals, I’d want to see them in their native environment. A fair-weather fan would be happy to watch them in the zoo.
Really the question is: how much inconvenience and expense am I prepared to endure, to enjoy a more “authentic” experience?
I could argue here about authenticity, expectation, perception, The Matrix and Descartes – but I'll save you the psychobabble, and say just this: sorry Seinfeld, but I'm going with the animals. See, I went on the safari, and was utterly blown away.
There’s simply no comparison. Imagine driving for six hours in the scorching sun in the flat, dry plains, and then stumbling on a family of wild elephants lazily munching their way across the landscape, with not another human in sight.
Now imagine queuing up for a ticket to the local zoo, and strolling to take photos through the bars, while rows of other mindless tourists next to you do the same thing.
The quest to find the real deal flows both ways – it’s harder work, for greater results.
And if there’s one lesson I’ll take away; it’s that it is always worth going the extra mile, because what you put in, you invariably take out.
Here’s hoping that Jerry will one day also make the effort.