Be Brave

I’m in no way an expert, but these are some things I’ve learnt through the years, so bear with me and excuse my rambles.

Know what you want out of your travels.
Do you want to see a city? Do you want to check out every museum there is? That’s cool. Do you want to lie on a beach and jump into the sea whenever you feel like it? That’s cool too. Are you an avid mountaineer? Awesome. Just know beforehand and don’t be disappointed when you might not be able to pack all of the things you want to do into one single trip.

Choose your travel partners wisely.
Traveling can be a real trial of friendship. Choose your partners carefully. Do they want the same things out of the trip as you? What kind of attitude do they have towards other countries and cultures?
If you think that you are too different from each other you might not be happy during your travels if you constantly have to cut back on what you want out of it.
If there are only minor differences, don’t let them deter you. Compromise on some things and you might be surprised to where this will lead you. This leads to my next point:

Embrace the unexpected.
Be spontaneous. Be daring. When can you if not now? Where if not here? Go out and try to see where your limits are. How far can you go? What can you endure and what not?
It’s exhilarating. Scary, yes, but it makes you feel alive.
It’s important to make plans. However, it’s equally important to be flexible enough to let the plans you made go and make new ones at the drop of a hat.

Take care of yourself.
In more than one way. Be careful with your money and who you trust. Get to know your surroundings and get a feel for what is safe to do and what not.
But also, take care of yourself on another level. Say you meet people along the road, you quickly befriend them but then realise you can’t see eye to eye on some things anymore, don’t be afraid to go your own way. In the end you shouldn’t hold back on what you truly want just because of others.
You need to be at peace with your decisions and experiences. If they’re being rude, if their  attitude towards other cultures doesn’t match your own, tell them. If nothing changes, go your own way.

Pack, cut in half, pack again.
So far I’ve never, ever worn all of the clothes I packed for a trip. I always came back home with a couple of still perfectly folded T-shirts or pants which I just never even took out of my suitcase or backpack.
You don’t need much on travels. And you know…. people know how to wash clothes in other countries as well….

Get to know the country you travel to.
What is the religion? How’s the weather? What is the political situation? Learn everything you can before you go there and then learn even more once you’re there. Be open and not afraid to be proven wrong. Being surprised is a wonderful thing.

Talk talk talk.
To natives, to other travelers, to the cook of the roadside restaurant. It doesn’t really matter. Ask questions. Never stop asking even what you might consider to be a stupid question because you will get a whole new experience out of it.
Still, be gentle and aware of cultural differences. Don’t come on too strong and respect the opinions of others.
Try to learn at least a few words and standard phrases in the local language. This will open you doors you’d never expected. People will view you differently. Even small words like “Hello“, “Please“ and “Thank you“ will make a huge difference.
Know when to accept, but also when to challenge and question.

Be patient.
Know that you’re not at home. Things will take time, things will most likely not go as planned but you will get to where you want to be eventually. Don’t stress. There’s no point in complaining that a bus is late or a merchant ripped you off. These things happen. Learn from them, embrace them,

Be open.
Try new things. Eat something you never have before. Reinvent yourself. This is your chance. Take it.

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Kindness

This post will be written out of pure, raw emotion and gratitude but I have to write as long as my emotions still are like this. Without rational feelings, without too many thoughts.

When we went out for dinner tonight we were not expecting too much. Just a regular evening together and some nice food. We went to one of our usual places, a small restaurant along the road. This “Mama Lisha” (it translates to “feeding woman”) is basically a wooden hut with a woman cooking local food. Rice (or ugali), beef and vegetables (which usually means there are beans thrown on the plate as well). There’s no electricity at all and you eat in the complete dark, apart from the occasional headlights from some passing cars.

After we were done we ordered some chai and continued our conversation, when a local guy sat down at our table. At some point he leaned over and started a conversation with us, saying how much he’d enjoy to once taste “Mzungu food”. Instead of being annoyed, as I would have been back in Austria, that this guy was disturbing us during dinner, I asked him “What exactly is ‘Mzungu food’?”
This is how one of the most interesting and pleasant conversations I’ve ever had with a local started. We talked about his work, about life in Europe, about if immigrating to Europe is even desirable and so on.
After about half an hour he stood up and said he’d have to leave. We thanked him for the nice conversation and shook hands, when he let us know that he already paid our dinner for us.

We were in shock.

Actually, we still are now.

After so many conversations about the topic of how locals only seem to see us as “white people with a lot of money” this man singlehandedly proved us wrong and made us feel ashamed. He filled our hearts with so much gratitude and awe, it’s hard to find the right words. It’s almost impossible to describe how much this simple gesture means. He, a local guy with a job at the military and aspirations to seek for a better life, paid for us four Mzungus.

After we regained our bearings and picked our jaws of off the floor, we invited him to our house for “Mzungu food”. He did not only pay for me and S. but for the two other guys we were with as well, even though they were not involved in our conversation at all. Also, he paid for us before the actual conversation had even started.

My mind finds it hard to process this. So much goodness happened today, my hands are shaking and my eyes are getting teary. I’ve experienced so much kindness and thoughtfulness today, here in Tanzania, a country in which I was finding it incredibly hard to connect with and understand the people.

I have a lot of thinking and re-thinking to do. This has changed everything. My heart feels so full.

Thank you, Chriss. Truly.

Musings

Today at uni I got into a conversation with a guy who’s been in most of my lectures and some of my seminars for years now. I frequently sat next to him, I saw him interact with his daughter, I knew his name.

During the conversation he said something to which I responded with „I bet your daughter really loves that.“

He stared at me.

„How do you know I have a daughter?“

And in that moment I realised that people forget that even though I notice them, they don’t notice me. That even though I pay attention, they don’t. I see a lot. I notice a lot. I just tend to keep to myself and people usually don’t seem to notice me.