38 Simple Learnings After 38 Countries (Each In a Single Sentence)
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As I type this, I'm juggling a great number of memories.
I'm confronting an rickety-old carousel that's hurling memories at me.
That time in late October 2014 when I took a 30+ hours bus ride from Maracaibo, Venezuela to Bogota, Colombia with a stopover in Barranquilla. As we crossed the border, I had absolutely no money left since the Venezuelan currency would be pretty valueless in Colombia (so I had literally spent it ALL) and the money my mum had sent me was arriving in Colombia since as a foreigner you cannot receive money by Western Union in Venezuela. So I was penniless in that bus. Penniless to the point where a kind mother-daughter duo (God bless their souls!) offered to pay the border "tax" for me when the border officials just couldn't understand what I was doing travelling cashless.
That time in 2015 in semi-rural Romania when a bunch of teenage boys walked past the group I was with (I was the only person of African origin there) and they burst out laughing while pointing at me. I had normal clothes on, my hair was your quintessential afro (nothing threatening) and there was nothing in my teeth - I promise! This happened about a day after an 80-year-old grandmother happily recounted tales of her youth about an African student in her class whom they had all decided to nickname "the devil".
That beautiful day in 2010 when a bus from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam left my friend and I at the station while we were happily having (mandazis) breakfast in a next door restaurant. After getting over our state of panic and financial loss, we decided to hitch-hike in an industrial truck for a portion of the way till we got to Arusha where a friend rescued us.
That time in Serbia in early 2013 when I took a long-distance bus to Nis and as I was sleeping, the teenagers behind me decided they just needed to touch my natural hair. As they did that, they excitedly discussed its texture and commended each other's braveness for being extremely discrete and enlightened. All the while, I was half-awake debating whether the sensations on my head were real or just part of a random dream.
That unfortunate almost-two-week period at the end of 2013 when I suffered from a serious case of "Traveller's Tummy". I was in Recife, Brazil. It was all caused by the very ceremonious episode of excess crab-eating on my first night there. And just so you know, I've never eaten crab since then.
That time in Cabimas, Venezuela back in 2014 when I decided that the economic blessings of queueing for hours on end for a mere roll of toilet paper wasn't the ideal way to spend my time. So I switched to the perfect substitute. Serviettes/paper napkins. I stuck to this solution for about 6 months.
That night in the Philippines when I did a 13-hour island hopping adventure by taking a bike, a boat, a ferry, a van, another ferry and a bus in order to get from Boracay to Manila.
As I type this, I'm sitting in a lovely apartment in New Delhi, India. My tummy is ecstatic from the food I just gave it.
Eaten in the best way possible: by hand.
It's my second time in India. And I can't imagine it being any better than this.
What brought me here was a (first Indian) wedding I just had to attend, a chance to spend time with a bunch of creatives I was lucky enough to breathe the same air with during a Dabaki roadtrip in Cambodia and a superbly convenient e-visa that was really simple to apply for.
You see, every single country I've been to has a story to it. Every single story represents a set of moments. And every single moment is a useful punctuation on this thing called life.
Not every single moment is as distinct as those mentioned above. Others are fleeting. Others are pretty basic.
But one thing they all do, regardless, is leave me with some simple yet fantastic learnings.
I will attempt to give you thirty eight of them. Each in a single sentence.
They include travel hacks, life lessons, personal discoveries, internal reflections and realities about this interesting world we live in.
1. Travel is an ecclectic judge of character.
2. Memories are more valuable than material clutter; invest in experiences and not things.
3. Experiencing other cultures gives you permission to understand yours better.
4. The best experiences by far happen when you are travelling solo.
5. Nothing gives you more perspective than a long bus ride in a foreign land.
6. If the situation calls for it, open yourself up to possibility by working with flexi-tickets or if you're crazy enough, one-way tickets.
7. If you don't have a "powerful passport", mentally prepare for some form of passport discrimination and questioning at immigration when you land.
8. It's always great fun (and great for your budget) to experience living like a local.
9. There's always a flight deal at the end of the (flight search engine) tunnel.
10. It's no use being anything but the best possible representation of your country, culture, race, continent etc.
11. Get a PhD on the weather and the culture of where you're going before packing.
12. Don't waste time and space packing anything you will not want to wear twice or thrice in a week.
13. Mum, I love you to Wakanda and back.
14. Every now and then, choose the oh-my-God-I-never-knew-about-that country, city or town.
15. Don't be that person who plays the race card.
16. Never underestimate the knowledge and resourcefulness of your taxi driver.
17. Always be present to savour the random moments of wonder.
18. At the very least, learn the basics (or if you're like me, the expletives) of the language spoken by the locals.
19. Open up to the possibility of making for-the-rest-your-life-and-not-just-on-Facebook friends.
20. No doors, locks or keys - leave your mind as open as a freaking cave.
21. A lot of the world is different and a lot of it is the same.
22. Jetlag will mess with your sanity unless you do certain things after landing - apparently physical exercise right after settling in works wonders.
23. Currency differences will play hide-and-seek games with both your mind and your budget.
24. Make everything so much cheaper by being your own travel agent.
25. Travelling is an abstract form of art.
26. Pieces of your heart will be left in some countries in safe hands.
27. Become a sponge of the best things you pick up anywhere.
28. When a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity whispers "jump", get yourself a trampoline and ask how high.
29. There is obviously and surely no place quite like home.
30. But "home" can also be that place that marches to the beat of the same drum that tunes your heart.
31. You'll always find someone in some place who'll remind you of that other someone in some other place.
32. Not sure about mountains (cause I havn't climbed any) but I believe beaches speak to some epic divine artistry.
33. Everywhere you go, you'll experience angels in human form.
34. Make everywhere you go the place you were meant to see.
35. Every day represents a life-and-death course with everyone being both student and master.
36. Some moments are meant to be documented, others are meant to be lived and documented, and others are only meant to be lived.
37. You'll see places you've already seen in places you're in and places you're yet to see in places you've been.
38. Travel is encyclopaedic living.
There's a lot more where these came from which I'll share eventually in other posts. Do you relate to any of them? Which ones ring truest to you as you read them?