The other day I realized that my trip to Africa will account for the longest time I’ll be away from home. The last time I was gone for an extended stay I was in first grade and was visiting Japan. I remember the experience fondly. I learned how to ride a two-wheeler while I was there, it was my very first plane ride, and it was the first time I remember meeting strangers and feeling like they could be lifelong friends. I also remember feeling like the trip was really long – so much happened in my time there that it seemed to last forever. In preparing to go to Kenya, I’ve reflected on this a lot. I’ve never had to pack for 18 days before – spanning nations, cultures and weather patterns. Last time around, all I did was pack my carry-on. This time all the responsibility is on me.
The experience of preparing to travel is especially amusing to me because its the one area of my life that runs counter to all others. Growing up, I didn’t travel much partly because I didn’t think I like it. It turns out, I was wrong. Once I discovered how I like to travel, I realized I love it. And that way is this – with very little plans besides how I’ll get there, where I’ll stay and how I’ll return (and depending on the trip – the “where I stay” part is negotiable.) This is a response that tends to surprise people because in every other area of my life I’m so structured. But I travel for the adventure and when you have expectations of what that adventure will be, you miss out on all the great unexpected things that happened when you’re out of your routine. If you’ve scheduled every moment of your vacation, you tend to focus so much on getting the list of activities done, that you don’t truly appreciate any of them. Or at least that’s how it is for me. So when people have asked the last few days “what are you doing in Kenya”, I’ve replied, “oh, I’m visiting a friend.” and there’s not much I can do to satisfy their look of bewilderment. Outside of seeing someone who is very dear to me, there’s nothing much more to know. Not because I’m unwilling to share (which sounds a lot like me) but because I don’t have expectations of what the trip may bring. It doesn’t make packing very easy, but I think that without expectations, I’ll more fully appreciate the experience.
The journey of life is the same way. Now if only I could apply the same level of abandonment. 🙂