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JetSetter Series – Dr. Jane Goodall, Part I

As we continue to celebrate inspirational women, we are lucky enough to have caught up with Jane Goodall, Ph.D., DBE, Founder, the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace. Throughout her career spanning more than 50 years, Dr. Goodall’s research and observations have redefined the relationship between humans and animals through landmark studies with chimpanzees. (Photo above courtesy of Thomas D. Mangelsen / Images by Nature.)

Today, Dr. Goodall continues to inspire action on behalf of endangered species and encouraging people to do their part to make the world a better place. Read on as Dr. Goodall shares some of her travel anecdotes in this latest two-part installment of the Jetsetter Series.

How do I choose just one story about travel? Since 1986 I have been “on the road” for some 300 days per year. Many people think how romantic this must be. For them, travel means visiting exotic places for a leisurely holiday. My reality is very different. A blur of airports, hotels, lecture venues and book signings ― packing, unpacking and repacking suitcases.

But of course some journeys stand out. There was one back in 1977, when I traveled from Gombe to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The trip required a three hour boat ride along the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika to the town of Kigoma, then a three day train journey (the planes were not flying in those days.)

I set off about 6 p.m. in a rubber dinghy, but shortly into the journey, the engine stalled and refused to start again. Wind was blowing me towards the rocks and it was almost dark. I had nothing for it but to row, but the dinghy had no oars; just two paddles of different lengths and no seat. At any rate, I put one suitcase on top of the other, sat down and started rowing. No matter how hard I worked, the strong wind was against me. The best I could do was keep off the rocks. Then, just as I was despairing, the wind dropped. When my arms got tired of pulling the paddles, I turned around and pushed…all the way to Kigoma. To top off the ordeal, I stepped out onto a slippery flat rock upon my arrival, crashed into the water and bashed both my knees!

Dr. Jane Goodall steps from a boat at Ngamba Island Sanctuary. (Photo courtesy of Anthony Collins / the Jane Goodall Institute.)

Dr. Jane Goodall steps from a boat at Ngamba Island Sanctuary. (Photo courtesy of Anthony Collins / the Jane Goodall Institute.)

I was then on to the train…where malaria seized me and made for a beastly journey. Still, I arrived safely – unlike the Canadian High Commissioner and his wife who had their luggage snatched through the window by thieves. The poor Canadians could not un-board the train as all their clothes had been stolen, leaving them in their underwear. They had to hide in the cabin while someone went to the second-hand clothes stall in the market!

I hate shopping unless it is for gifts or books. I wear the same clothes for years (so often I wish I was an animal with fur!) But one tour can include a whole mix of climates and functions and these days, climate change means uncertain conditions. So, I pack layers no matter where I go – just in case.

I also hate buying new suitcases. When you travel as much as I do, you realize that some brands just can’t keep up with the wear and tear I inflict. I mean, most luggage is not privileged to serve as a couch for a baboon – though my domestic animals have taken a special interest in making a bed of my bags. The last dog I had at home in England was always miserable every time I left. One morning, I went downstairs ready to leave when I discovered the contents of my suitcase strewn about the floor; my dog Whisky curled up inside. It brought tears to my eyes.

With all the traveling I do, it’s amazing that only one suitcase has ever been stolen. I desperately missed my clothes, but worse still, I had put my lecture slides in my checked luggage. That was before the digital age.

Baboon yawning and relaxing on Dr. Goodall's luggage. (Photo courtesy of Anthony Collins / the Jane Goodall Institute.)

Baboon yawning and relaxing on Dr. Goodall’s luggage. (Photo courtesy of Anthony Collins / the Jane Goodall Institute.)

My suitcases have had a number of adventures of their own by going off in different directions from where they were destined. The oddest was when I left San Francisco to travel to Austria via Paris. Neither of my bags were there on arrival and when they were traced, one had gone to Rio and the other to Durban!

Another time, in which my bags were lost, I had to attend a small dinner party the evening I arrived – but all I had were my old traveling clothes. The next morning, I was a guest on a talk show. They knew my plight and had a rail of clothes waiting for me to borrow. Unfortunately I had to reject them all – they were just “not me.” Instead, I wore a friend’s jumper that was too big, so we pinned it down the back.Then there was the time I traveled from Florida to San Francisco to Minnesota to New York, spending a day in each place. My suitcases made the same trip, but missed me at each stop, finally catching up in New York. It’s lucky that underwear dries overnight!

Luckily, I have had some help in these luggage-less situations. One man ordered his clothing store to open up at 5:30 a.m. so I could choose anything I liked. Another, in Austria, somehow produced shirts for me between midnight and 2 a.m.!

Stay tuned for the second installment of Dr. Goodall’s JetSetter Series post same time next week.

And, for more information on Dr. Jane Goodall or the work of the Jane Goodall Institute please visit and

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