Dr. Livingstone, I Presume?

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume”?

These are the famous words of a Welsh journalist named H.M. Stanley. In 1871, Stanley arrived in Tanzania in search of the famous explorer, Dr. David Livingstone. Although Dr. Livingstone was the only other white man in the area, H.M. Stanley approached him with great formality and said, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”

David Livingstone was a Christian missionary and explorer from Scotland who came to the African continent in 1840. During his journeys, Livingstone became the first European to reach Victoria Falls; the mighty waterfalls of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Known to locals as “Mosi-oa-Tunya,” meaning “the smoke that thunders,” Though he usually called the places he visited by their local names, Livingstone did rename the falls in honor of his queen, Queen Victoria. Upon my first glimpse of the falls, I imagine the sense of awe Dr. Livingstone must have felt the first time he laid eyes on Victoria Falls!

During his lifetime, Dr. Livingstone travelled nearly 46,700 kilometers (29,000 miles) around the African continent, encountering hundreds of different villages, species’ of wildlife, and natural wonders along the way. His travel journals were published in Great Britain and helped to create European interest in learning more about the people and places of Africa.

As I travel through rural Zambia I try to imagine what Dr. Livingstone must have seen when he first visited this region. The capital city of Lusaka is bustling and busy like many developed cities, with concrete buildings and honking automobiles. But in the villages, most people live simpler lives, in houses made from mud bricks and thatched roofs, travelling from place to place by bicycle or on foot. Though I’m gaining a sense of what everyday life in Zambia is like, I’m certain that an entirely different experience awaits me on safari.