Africa Changed My Life – Lessons From Afar

How Africa Changed Me

It has been two weeks since I left Africa and I miss it.  Honestly, I have come to realize that a piece of my heart is still there yearning to stay connected to this magical land for as long as possible. Believe it or not, I didn’t want to go to Africa; not at first. Why would I want to go to a place so far away? Looking back, it was fear.

Fear of the unknown.

What do you mean I have to get immunizations and take malaria medication?

Caravan planes? How small are they and how long is the flight?

And, don’t forget your flashlight. In short, there are animals that want to eat you. Thank god there were Masai warriors with rifles to walk us back to our camps at night!

By the way, don’t wear black to avoid the dreaded Tsetse fly. Coincidentally, half of my wardrobe is black.

Lastly, don’t drink the water and avoid certain foods but just in case, here is an antibiotic to take if you get sick.

Yes, I think it is safe to say that fear was standing in the way of committing to this amazing trip.

And now, looking back, no one could have predicted that I would fall in love with this beautiful place and cry when I had to leave. Emotions were running high on my last day and sadly, as I climbed into the land rover with tears streaming down my face, I vowed to return.

Interestingly, my husband has been having a love affair of sorts with Africa for years. Neal has traveled all over the world and yet, when asked where his favorite places are, Africa is always at the top of the list. In truth,  he showed me hundreds of beautiful pictures. He tried to explain that Africa was indeed a special place. Regardless, I did not understand and I hesitated to join him on this trip.

Thank God that I did. Africa changed me in ways that I cannot describe. People have asked me what I loved so much and yet words somehow fail to capture the impact Africa had on me.

So, how do I share this deep and profound 10 day journey with all of you? What can I possibly say in a few written words that will demonstrate how Africa somehow stirred something deep within? Even now, I struggle to find ways to share my heart and to explain why I miss it so much. Here are a few thoughts from my heart:

  • Step outside of your comfort zone.  It is very easy to become too comfortable and fear can stand in the way of truly experiencing things in life. Fear of the unknown is common and yet it is sometimes when we face our fears and take risks, that we experience some of the most amazing and unforgettable things.  Fear can motivate you to take chances and to experience things like never before. It can propel people to step outside of their comfort zone and lead to making a dream come true. I am so thankful that I faced my fear and took this trip.
  • Don’t wait.  Take the trip. Write that book. Say I love you more. Call an old friend. Visit your parents. Move to a new place. Switch jobs. Have the donuts. Say yes. Sadly, people put of doing things they want to do or should do because they think they have all the time in the world. Somehow tomorrow justifies putting important things off. However, far too many people end up living in regret because they never get the chance and waited too long. Don’t wait. Don’t put off doing those things you desire and deserve. Life can change quickly.
  • Africa grounded me and reminded me about what was important.  Life is busy and for me, life often feels too busy and full of chaos. Everything felt so simple and it reminded me of how important it is to slow down and breathe. Finding a way to simplify our lives is key. I returned home yearning to find balance and establish calm. My goal is to say no more often, stop over-scheduling and to embrace every moment of every day. We only live once; I don’t want to miss it buried in things that don’t matter in the end.
  • Open your mind to the magic in the world.  Africa was nothing like what I had imagined or expected. I was afraid and yet once I was there, I felt no fear at all. I realize that I was in one part of Africa and like anywhere in the world, there is both good and bad. However, experiencing the diversity in this part of the world was part of what taught me the most. We drove through areas that shared a glimpse of how different life is and yet I was struck by how magical it was.
  • Beauty is everywhere.  Africa was incredibly beautiful. Tanzania and Kenya were both amazing places to visit. Spending time in the Serengeti, the Ngorongoro Crater and the Mara Masai simply took my breath away. It was stunning.  Africa reminded me that there is so much beauty in this world. The sunsets in Africa were gorgeous but I also know that no matter where you are there are beautiful sunsets to see. Embrace the beauty in and around your life. Open your eyes and take it in. Beauty is everywhere.
  • Life is an adventure.  Recently, I have become more fearful of doing things outside of the box. In my youth, I was much more adventurous. I engaged in activities that were exhilarating and stimulated me. In recent years, I have lost some of my adventurous spirit. Traveling to Africa reignited something in me and I was reminded that there is so much to experience and see. Every day was an adventure and I was in awe at every twist and turn. Riding in the open land rovers in search of the “big five” was an experience I will never forget. You could see for miles and there were animals everywhere. The animals were so incredibly beautiful and we were so close at times, we could almost reach out and touch them.
  • Find your peace.  During my trip to Africa I was at peace in a way I cannot describe. It was a spiritual experience and the time spent in this magical place left a footprint on my heart. Falling asleep with the sounds of the wild surrounding me somehow brought me comfort. Even now, I miss the serenity felt, as I struggle to fall asleep at night since I have been back. Africa reminded me that it is important to let go and to forgive.  Find your peace and fall asleep wherever you are knowing you did the right thing. You will sleep better at night and wake up feeling refreshed and happy.
  • Be kind.  One of the things that touched my heart on this trip was how kind the people were. We were welcomed with open arms and from the moment I arrived, I felt at home. There was no judgement, competition or adversity. There was love, kindness and joy. I met people who I felt I had known my entire life and it was incredibly hard to say goodbye. Kindness costs nothing and regardless of where you are in this world, kindness can change a life. Be kind. Find your joy. So much of what we do in this life comes down to choice. Choose to be happy and choose to be kind. It will make a difference and in truth, it will change your life.
  • Live in gratitude.  This trip served as yet another reminder that there is always something to be grateful for. Life is sometimes hard but even when things are tough, there is something to be thankful for. Appreciate what you have and appreciate every moment you are blessed to wake up and live another day. Embrace every moment and live each one as if it were your last. You never know what is around the next corner and sometimes it is something amazing and good. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to go on this trip but equally grateful for so many things in my life. Take nothing for granted and especially the people you love.

Africa changed me. Even now, it is hard to explain. I miss it and I want to go back. Somehow, I felt at home and it brought me comfort while I was there. Leaving left a hole in my heart and I fell in love with this special place on the other side of the world. While I have traveled to many places over the years, Africa holds a special place in my heart. One day, I will return and someday I hope to bring our kids.

Wrapping myself in the Masai blanket I brought back with me, I find myself longing to feel the freedom that enveloped me. I long to feel the breeze in my hair, the warm sun on my face and peace in my heart.

Thank you for changing my life. Thank you for showing me another magical and special place in this world. My heart is filled with gratitude and I know how truly blessed I am. Lessons learned will stay with me and Africa will be a part of me forever.

In peace,

Michele

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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