Some people say that Africa can really steal your heart. As a self-identified rational being, I thought that was something that might happen for carefree hippies, but certainly not myself. I haven’t travelled the world, but have been to my fair share of places and I wouldn’t say any place had captured my heart thus far and doubted any place would. I would miss a place after I leave, but I would generally prefer to go on a new adventure and walk on paths not yet embarked upon. The great big world has so much for me to see.
But, something about Africa captured me. It’s a place that I desperately would like to return to, even if I had my pick of anywhere I wanted to go to in the world right now. I don’t mind the dusty streets of Lusaka and the unwavering African sun. It’s the first place in the world where I grew organically. I literally knew zero persons when I landed at the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport. Immediately, I was talking politics with my cabbie. Then, I had several days of self-imposed isolation, but after I let myself out of my shell, I was finding myself in great company.
At the beginning, it was the stories of brave, fellow travelers who further fueled my sense of adventure and refreshed my tunnel-vision mind of natural experiments and randomized controlled trials. Through the stories of these 21st century vagabonds, I breathed my first breaths of what I felt was true freedom, an untethered mind. It felt like free jumping from a flying aircraft or diving into the deep blue Atlantic without any gear. In chasing after this newfound breath of fresh air, I ventured on from Zambia to South Africa and to Namibia. Finally, after about a month on the road, I felt that it was not enough. Being free, untethered to a place or norms about being a productive person in society, became a little bit sad for me.
I decided to return to being a person of society: establishing greater depth of understanding of one place, and developing deeper, longer lasting human relationships. Thus, I came back to the place that I started from. Of all the places that I went to, I preferred Lusaka as home base. I felt like Lusaka was about the right size for me to get around by foot and and friendly and safe enough for me to meet people. Moreover, it was more of a place where people lived and worked and didn’t attract as many tourists. As much as travelers’ tales helped me to open up to the African experience at the beginning, as I had become comfortable just being myself in Africa, I craved to learn more from the locals directly. As a social creature, I desperately wanted to understand this society that I launched myself into, rather than simply continue on a vagabond-esque journey.
In the following part of my trip, the generous friendships of locals really made me fall in love with Africa. By chance, I met a down-to-earth British lady volunteering for an organization in Lusaka. Because of how I admired her pure intentions, I expressed my interest in offering my service and shadowed her in her volunteer work. From then, because of my admiration for the big hearts of the volunteers and employees of the organization, I decided to volunteer my time with them. From this experience, I made many Zambian friends who are extremely dear to me. They made me feel at home immediately. I also made Zambian friends on the bus and at my accommodation. They are all amazing, talented individuals that I am incredibly glad to have acquainted with. On this writing, I miss them incredibly and cannot wait to see them again.
On another note, I also started to date a person that I met in Africa. He is not from Zambia, but a nearby country. I never thought that my trip to Africa would lead to first, my falling in love with Africa, and then, my falling in love with an African. And thus, my African story continues.
My takeaway is: don’t let that tunnel-vision block out everything else that is worth living for. When you get out of that tunnel, there are so many possibilities in life waiting to happen for you. Life can take on so many shapes and forms, you just have to try it out for yourself and see what works for you. Limits like tunnels are self-imposed. At least try to live outside of your comfort zone once in your life.