Alex Page, Project Trust’s new Overseas Director, recently visited Volunteers in Zambia and South Africa with John Fraser. We’ve compiled a light-hearted list of six things that Alex learned from John during their recent visit!

#1    Travelling can be tiring, so it’s important to catch some shut-eye when you can.

Alex tells us that he has been consistently impressed by John’s ability to make the most of opportunities to nod-off. John can fall asleep instantly anywhere, and his snoring indicates an especially notable ability to reach restorative deep sleep in record time. This means he’s always sharp and ready for action when the time comes.

6 Things Alex Learned

John and Alex, 0.001 seconds before John nods off

#2     In the event of becoming lost, keep spirits high with reminders of home.

Alex explains that the potentially stressful experience of getting lost in Lusaka was made endlessly more pleasant by John’s comforting playlist of Scottish folk music and accompanying sing-song. Alex was particularly appreciative as despite a somewhat tenuous knowledge of the actual lyrics, John was not deterred and made sure to maintain a healthy volume and consistent tone. By all accounts John also acted as something of an unofficial ambassador for the Scottish Ceilidh scene with locals becoming well acquainted with its reels and jigs as their 4X4 made several laps of the Zambian capital.

6 Things Alex Learned

John and Alex’s route through Lusaka

#3     Use technology to help you become more knowledgeable about the country you’re visiting.

Southern Africa is famous for its amazing wildlife, especially birdlife. With this in mind John downloaded an app of African bird calls prior to the trip, and he took advantage of the long-drives to make sure he became well acquainted with their sounds. Alex says that John made a particular effort to imitate the call of the famous black-bellied bustard, practising for hours on end in the car. John then impressed locals and even safari guides with his rendition.

6 Things Alex Learned

A birder in his element

#4     Everywhere you go, there’s no need to take the weather forecast with you.

Much of John’s long career was spent in an office with panoramic views across the fields, sea and sky of Coll. Years of occasionally glancing up from his desk at the clouds above have given him a somewhat clairvoyant capacity to forecast the weather ahead, even in an environment as harsh and changeable as the remote Hebridean Isle of Coll. In comparison, South African summer weather is a pretty straightforward affair. Alex confirmed that John approached the topic with characteristic self-assurance, informing him that getting caught out in afternoon thunderstorms is actually a predictably unpredictable feature of climatic conditions in the Southern Hemisphere.

6 Things Alex Learned

John’s alternative career path, had he not gone overseas with Project Trust in 1973

#5     You gotta love the open road, even when it’s not that open.

Alex has explained that John is technically a very good driver, with a similar style to the likes of Lewis Hamilton. When you are as good a driver as John is, the frequent bumps and potholes of an African highway pose far less of a hazard and can be approached with little need to regulate speed or change direction. Such skill has been honed through years of driving all manner of vehicles on the narrow and twisting roads of his island home where he nonetheless ensures that all passengers reach their destination in a timely, if somewhat unnerving, fashion.

6 Things Alex Learned

Table Mountain and the open road…

#6     Most of all, love every moment.

But most of all, Alex emphasises that even in comparison to his incredible vocal, technological and meteorological skills, what you notice most about John when spending three weeks with him in Southern Africa is his endless love for life and infectious enthusiasm for travel and all things Project Trust. When chatting to everyone – from airport staff, to Volunteers, to head teachers or politicians – John greets all with warmth and a genuine interest in their lives. He has a natural way of getting on with everyone and has an easy-going manner. These two traits have obviously stood him in good stead over the past 38 years and make him a joy to both travel and work alongside.

6 Things Alex Learned

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