OUT OF AFRICA
What would it feel like to uproot your life in Italy and move to Africa, never to return? Possibly a little bit like uprooting your life in England to move to a small island in the middle of a big ocean, quite far away.
I was recently introduced by one of my Ambassadors to Nella Nencini-Hutchings, owner of Tin Trunk Safari. It seemed only natural that the two of us should meet – we each have made unexpected choices in life, started our own businesses in a foreign country, and are driven by a passion for stories and style and adventure. Lots of adventure.
Nella and I quickly realized that we share many friends in common, as well as time spent on the beautiful freshwater Lake Naivasha in Kenya – Nella’s backyard.
Forever fascinated by people’s tales of courage, I was immediately enamored with Nella’s story, which here, begins with a divorce in sophisticated Florence, and ends with a marriage in the wilds of Africa.
An academic making olive oil in Tuscany, Nella was seemingly living the life. Except everything was falling apart, including her marriage. A close friend of Nella’s said it was perfectly clear what she needed to do: go to Africa.
And she did just that. On a whim. And little did she know a single safari on horseback would change the course of her life forever. Galloping along with giraffes and sleeping beside hippos on the riverbanks, Nella made lifelong friends and embraced Africa in its most raw form. Her reaction to this country was so visceral that she returned to the Western world only to pack her bags and say goodbye.
“I had a one-way ticket and no idea what was next,” Nella explained. “The only thing I did know was that my friend had been right. I needed to be in Africa. I would find my way. Somehow.”
Nella immersed herself in her new home. She determined that the best way to maneuver Africa is by plane, so she got her pilot’s license and bought a 185 Cessna called 5Y-BAD (with loads of juicy history). Soaring around like a modern-day Beryl Markham, Nella learned everything she could about the people, the animals, the land, and how to play her part in conservation.
When Nella set her sights on becoming a safari guide, she quickly learned that being an outsider (an American from Italy) in Africa, and being a woman posed many challenges. “It was scary at times,” she says. “I felt that for sure.”
There were moments when Nella doubted her ability to succeed in such a tradition-heavy industry. But she was determined and resilient and was able to make her way over time. Nella now boasts that being a foreigner and being female – the very qualities that raised eyebrows at the onset – have proved to be her greatest assets.
“One day I’m going to write a book titled ‘How to Survive a Dream Life in Tuscany … and then Move to Kenya,’” Nella jokes. She hasn’t written the book (yet) but it appears she is once again living a dream life. Flying among flamingos and overhead herds of elephants, Nella has found her true home. And herself.
Last fall Nella married James Hutchings, a Brit living in Kenya and a man she met over a decade ago on that first horseback safari. Nella arrived at her own wedding behind the wheel of 5Y-BAD, the skirt of her white dress in one hand and with a jam jar filled with wine in the other.
I admire Nella’s courage. I know firsthand what it means to take a life-changing risk. You have to be brave, you have to have the tenacity to go for it, and you have to believe in yourself. Especially in the face of opposition and at times when you think all is lost. To me, that is living an Extraordinary Life.