10 Things I Realized On Re-Entry Back from Africa.
Travel changes you and Africa Makes You do a 180
Most Meaningful Experience: Understanding How Little One Really Needs In Life
Travel always changes you. You never return home the same person you were when you left. This was particularly striking for me when I returned home from Africa, with my perception of life, people and America completely different. So I thought I’d share 10 of the ways my view of the world was altered and how Africa has left a lasting impact on me.
10. Our fresh produce is expensive
When I returned home, I was constantly looking for fresh fruit and vegetables on the side of the road. This was how I’d found my nutrients while traveling in Africa, by eating on the side of the road. It made me realize just how unreasonably priced our fresh produce is and the impact this has on our diets.
9. My perception of homelessness changed
After having such a diverse array of experiences in Africa and traveling to so many different places, I no longer feared homeless shelters or homeless people. In fact, I began talking to them on the street and asking them what happened. I think this was the biggest change that took place within me. Instead of turning my head to avoid looking at homelessness and poverty, I now faced it and wanted to do something to make a difference. For example, I’ll now ask homeless people in San Francisco what happened to give attention to their circumstance and value them as people.
8. I craved the sunset
While I was in Africa, I watched the sun rise and set almost every day. I would always stop to watch the sunsets, which are so amazingly beautiful and powerful in Africa. So find the sunset – it’s a great way to wind down at the end of the day.
7. I needed less stuff
After traveling with my belongings crammed into a backpack, I realized how little I actually needed. While it’s not completely possible to own just a backpack while living a conventional life, it surely makes things easier, more simplistic, and more fulfilling. It’s also much less stressful because you realize how much time you no longer need to spend on things you don’t need.
6. We have more options than we need
When I arrived home from Africa, I was staying with my 13-year-old niece who’s a very picky eater. We’d go out to eat and she’d have so many options but would act as if she would die if she didn’t get to eat exactly what she wanted. It made me realize the abundance of options in our society and how this can lead to people being ungrateful and oftentimes spoiled.
5. Our natural resources are being depleted
On returning to the U.S., I suddenly saw it as a land of cars, auto dealers, retail malls and big highways backed up with traffic jams. There are cars everywhere! I feel that the structure of our country is vastly depleting our natural resources, with a focus on economic development rather than preserving nature. I felt sad to see how much is being compromised to build our economy.
4. We have so many unused resources
I also noticed that there are so many cars sitting in auto lots un-sold. Why do we have so many cars sitting around not being used? And why can’t we use our resources to help the homeless and better society? It’s not just cars, there are also so many RVs. I started wondering how could we send unused RVs back to Africa. Conclusion: It’s not impossible. It’s just expensive.
3. Everyone was so loud and abrasive
Africans tend to speak softly and in British accents, and I think this rubbed off on me. Americans are much louder and brasher – my niece kept asking me to speak louder as she couldn’t hear me. But it also shocked me when I was sitting in the food court at a shopping mall how I could hear everyone’s conversation and it drove me insane to hear what they were talking about.
2. Respecting water
Because I was taking bucket showers (particularly in rural areas), I gained new-found respect of water as a limited resource. This extended not only to washing but also drinking and was how I learned the power of three sips. Three sips of water can actually give you all the energy you need. I discovered the disparity between how abundant water is for Americans and how scarce it is in Africa, which has led me to cherish water and become irritated when I see it being wasted.
1. I saw people as souls
Rather than labeling people based on their color or status, I came to see people as “souls”. This was following a late-night excursion in Uganda when I heard a social gathering around the corner and wondered “what are these souls doing?” That thought continues to this day, no matter where I go, seeing people as “souls” and feeling naturally curious. Before, my natural response would have been to be fearful or even judgmental. But for some reason, my brain triggered curiosity instead, as I simply asked, “what on Earth are these souls doing?”