When people hear I traveled for 9 months, naturally, many our intrigued. Then, they typically ask, “What did you do? What were you doing”
They wonder, “Were you volunteering, working or interning?
“No, I was traveling,” I respond.
Curiosity beckons and they inquire, “How did you fill your time?”
I’m always slightly thrown off as memories flood in of various days and experiences I had throughout my journey. Sure, in the beginning I stayed in a small, Westernized town of Moshi, for 6+ weeks as I enjoyed having a “home” base as I pondered my next step. While in Moshi, I often spent my days talking, writing emails at the internet cafe, hand washing my clothing and enjoying the simplicity of daily activity. While staying in Moshi at the Kilimanjaro Backpackers travelers were surprised to hear I was staying for more than a few days and didn’t possess an itineary.
I did have the luxury of time on my side but ultimately the questioning and curiosity shows how focused Westerners are in the need to always define and establish a purpose for everything we do. My intention to go to Africa to experience and witness other countries with my own eyes was exactly what I did. Yet this isn’t readily understood or necessarily accepted.
I wasn’t being paid nor getting university credit . Nor was I setting out to document a film, write a book or intern with an organization. I simply wanted to further my understanding and enrich my experience. My journey doesn’t fit a proscribed label.
Some days I was relaxing on the beach and reading a book or talking to locals, travelers, or volunteers; while other days I was in transit squashed with Africans en route to a new destination with bags heaped on our laps. Regardless of where I was or what I was doing (or not doing), everyday I was: participating, engaging, observing, talking, learning, experiencing, formulating new ideas and theories, gaining understanding, learning history, politics, cultural differences and traditions, and daily life and interaction.
Living. Living in the moment.
I was full of awareness and new ideas. I may not have been filling my time with activities or touristy things but some of my best days were ones where I spent my afternoon talking at the backpackers with other guests and employees (who felt like my sisters and brothers) and being surprised how morning easily drifted into mid afternoon. Walking down the street and engaging in conversation with the woman selling mangoes or talking with the Muslim man who owned a little restaurant selling the best samosas I’ve ever tasted and fresh squeezed passion fruit juice. I enjoyed my daily visits to his shop and sharing his place with other travelers who thought from appearances, the food would be too expensive, even though it was a place frequented by locals. Stepping into the food prep area because I was intrigued how the women made delicious passion fruit juice daily- slicing, squeezing, screening, removing pulp- not the easiest task but yet they did it effortlessly. A sip of juice and I instantly had a smile on my face.
It’s the little things. Daily life. Conversations and interactions are my fondest memories of my travels and in my life, no matter where I am. I notice now that I’m home, societal pressures and obligations, can make me feel conflicted with the idea I “should” always be doing “something.” I went against this very notion on my travels and I strive to incorporate this into my life now. Why is it that a conversation in a hostel for several hours is part of the expereince of being on the road but if I talk with someone who lives in Tanzania through instant messenger on the comforts of my couch in the middle of the day, somehow I feel guilty? As if I need to be “doing something” more productive or producing money or other goods, when I feel good and satisfied having a great conversation.
Value. What’s important to you? What do you value?
Now I simply need to honor my values and the society in which I live and go forth. Create the to-do list, if I must but not abide by it. Allow spontaneity and opportunities to come into my life and not worry about what hasn’t been done or needs to get done. Hakuna Matata, as they say in Kiswahili, Don’t worry. One day at a time. pole pole, Slowly, slowly. Pure wisdom.