So the day has come that another journey must end. Tonight I have to leave my new home to return to the dear ol’ US of A for a couple months. I have so many mixed feelings regarding my departure – excitement, frustration, longing, anxiety. I have spent so much time building my vision, building this company and a respectable reputation among the people of my community here. It makes it very difficult to leave, even temporarily, at the culmination of a year and a half of work. As this journey has ended with me back in the big city of Dar es Salaam, I am reminded of the intensity of the world I came from. The lights, the huge buildings, traffic and bustling crowds of people, transfixed like robots on their solo path between A and B.
The white traveler in Africa is a unique being. In my experience the typical traveler here is in many ways a bizarre self-loathing outcast. Weather they are the white Land Rover-driving (as Theroux wrote) “agents of virtue” on a mission from God, or just a lone traveler here to experience the old world – they all shuffle rapidly about, in their fancy khaki 12 pocket shorts and wide brimmed hats and the second they see another white person, their eyes are fixed on the ground just hoping you’ll pass by without saying hello or asking questions. I have two conclusions for this unfortunate behavior; they want to pretend they are the only strangers to set foot in this foreign land, to pretend they are those ambitious one-of-a-kind adventurers that blazed trails here hundreds of years ago. The second is the more disappointing, but likely scenario. These travelers bring their fast paced lives with them to this lush environment, so caught up in the rat-race that they don’t want to waste even a moment of their predictable excursion to talk to some other white guy. Just as the sense of community is lost in most of the western world, they are bringing it here.
I am not ranting to poke fingers and tell people they’re wrong, I am simply stating facts in hopes that if you, the traveler, is out there, researching and planning an exciting new adventure, you really take the time to put yourself in a different state of mind before your departure. Africa is an unbelievably unique world, entirely incapable of being compared to the world I come from. So, just as the environment and community is different, so should your state of mind be. I beg you to let go, LET GO of the irritating quarrels with coworkers, let go of the fears of financial crisis, let go of your world. For as long as you’re here, be someone else. Sure, be the explorer of a new land, be the “agent of virtue”, but for your own sake, allow yourself to be swallowed up by the rich diversity of Africa. Again I beg of you, do not just fly into the closest airport to your desired national park, snap some shots and leave. Instead, pick an airport far away, a few days away, a few weeks away, whatever you can handle and truly immerse yourself. There is enough here to spend a lifetime exploring and still not see or understand it all. Don’t take the easy route. You will go home a different person.
“Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” -Miriam Beard